Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, February 28, 2005

Democracy spreading in the Middle East

Here are two stories that are interesting for several reasons:

Lebanon's pro-Syrian PM resigns

Egypt takes step toward free elections

The first story is great news, while the second is sort of so-so ... more reforms are needed in Egypt. But hey, it's a first step. Be sure to read both articles if you haven't already.

Here's the question as concerns U.S. politics -- what will the conservative reaction to these stories be? So far it has been tempered, to say the least. If they start to trumpet this news and call it great for the world, then good. After all, our President has stated that his top foreign-policy goal is to spread democracy in the Middle East.

If, however, the reaction continues to be as tepid as it has been, then one might begin to wonder about their true motives. One could be excused for suspecting that Bush's true motives are less about freeing oppressed people and more about securing oil reserves. Or, as the Ironic Times so eloquently put it:

Last week, in a story about President Bush's goals for his second term, we quoted him as saying: “My top priority is to recapture the Holy Land from the Muslims.” In fact, he said: “My top priority is to spread democracy in the Middle East.” We apologize for the error.

34 comments:

Dr. Strangelove said...

There certainly has been a lot of movement in the Middle East lately regarding democracy: minor elections in Saudi Arabia and the events in Egypt and Lebanon cited by Bell Curve. I cannot help noticing that all of these events have occured around the same time as the Iraqi and Palestinian elections.

Much as I am loathe to praise any part of a bad policy, I cannot help wondering if the widespread coverage of the elections in Iraq and Palestine in the Arab world may have prompted this turn of events. Could the images of veiled women with inked fingers have renewed interest in democracy among the Arab peoples? Could images of political rallies and people bravely lining up at the polling places to choose their own leaders--despite the fear of violence--have frightened Arab leaders into offering tidbits of democracy to forestall a revolution? Could Iraq truly be a beacon for democracy in the Middle East in this way? In other words, might the neo-cons actually be right?

Raised By Republicans said...

I think the Lebonese situation could be linked indirectly to Bush agressiveness. The crowds in Beirut see that an invasion/crack down by Syria would not be tolerated by the US and that gives them more freedom of action. Lebonon actually was moving towards something resembling a democracy before its civil war so this society has been almost ready for prime time for a while.

The Egyptian situation has been brewing for a while too. Palestinians have been nearly beatified by Arab dictators. I think the dictators around the Middle East have pegged so much political capital to identifying with the Palestinians that they are stuck now. If Palestinians can have elections why can't every Arab?

Of course Bush will claim credit for the Palestinian elections. But Palestinian Liberation Organization has been operating with supeficial nods to democratic rules for years. The problem has always been Arafat's grip on the results. This latest election is mostly different in that Arafat wasn't around. Bush can hardly claim credit for that. Of course he'll try.

Also, in both Lebonon and Egypt we're a LONG way from anything like a real democracy. Lebonon is occupied by Syrian troops. Egypt is still a de facto police state.

I'd also like to point out that neither Lebonon nor Egypt have any oil to speak up. Both countries' economies are poor but diverse by Arab standards. I've posted before about the importance of diverse economics to the development of democracy.

Bell Curve said...

Yeah, as long as the Syrian army is in Lebanon, the Lebanese are still in trouble. But hopefully this is a step towards getting them out of there.

It's too early to say whether the Bush administration has facilitated these events. Conservatives seem to have started taking credit for all of this, and they may be right. But let's see where it goes first.

Raised By Republicans said...

I heard an interview on NPR with a Lebanese protest leader. He said they were as inspired by recent events in Ukraine as events in other Arab countries.

I think that is the easily the most encouraging thing I've heard coming out of the Middle East in years. Arab exceptionalism is a HUGE problem. Western racists use it to excuse exploitation of Arabs and Arab racists use it to excuse the barbaric behavior of 99% of the Arab political leadership. Western Arabiphiles use it to excuse Arabic popular tolerance for the aforementioned barbaric leaders.

Finally, large numbers of Arabs are indentifying with PEOPLE not just Arabs.

The Economist has a story this week about Al Jazeera et al. They make the point that Al Jazeera has connected Arabs to the whole world by reporting news globally but with an Arabic perspective. So these folks in Lebanon probably saw the revolution in Ukraine on Al Jazeera.

The Law Talking Guy said...

First, of course, correlation is not causation. Second, the change is in US reportage, not the facts. Movement towards democracy in Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain since the early 1990s has gone unreported. Lebanon also has had elections in the interim period. Iran too. What's happened is that, to ingratiate themselves with the USA, certain Arab countries are trumpeting "democracy." The movement towards less authoritarian rule in the Middle East began with the end of the Cold War - the end of the influx of $$ from superpowers to client dictators. Where that democracy march is dead (Central Asia, Pakistan) it is because GWBush's "War on terrorism" pursues the same strategy of funding friendly dictators there.

Raised By Republicans said...

Great points LTG! Yes, this has been going on a very long time. And Pakistan was democratizing and even had a freely elected woman Prime Minister over ten years ago but that's all over with now. Thanks to our very good friend General Musharrif and his comrades in the Pakistani Army.

You also left out Tunisia which has been in a slow move towards a more liberal society for a few decades.

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