Remember the people in the middle east
I recently came by this great article on the website of the Boston Globe that sums up a main factor of this whole mess in the middle east very nicely: The fact that the US Government completely ignores the people of the middle east while it carries out its policy in the area, especially in Iraq.
I was moved to read the cri de coeur of a young computer engineer from Bahrain, Ali Abdulemam, who observed that the Americans "talk about how they will reorganize the region in a different way, but they never talk about the people."Touché.
Indeed, in all the post-9/11 theories that have emerged from the Bush administration about the transformative power of democracy in the Middle East, the one thing that keeps getting left out is the concept of the people themselves. Indeed, the administration's quagmire in Iraq was to an unprecedented degree an intellectuals' war, based on political theory formed by men with little to no experience in the Middle East.
The new "best and the brightest " had long felt that the United States was wasting an opportunity if it did not seize upon the defeat of the Soviet Union to bend the world to America's liking. When 9/11 came along early in President Bush's administration, they had a theory ready to fill the vacuum.Sure, why bother? After all, we are the only valid form of government, and the only superpower that counts, and anyone who chooses anything else is naive and needs our education to bring them onto the right path..
You hear the president repeatedly saying that his predecessors had mistakenly stressed stability over democracy in the Middle East, but that 9/11 had made that policy untenable. The president is not wrong to believe that democratic reform among autocratic regimes of the Middle East could lead to more open societies and fewer resentments and frustrations that turn to terrorism. But he seems to leave out the people actually involved, to forget that their version of the root causes that have to be addressed may not be the same as the administration's. The United States and Israel point to Hezbollah and Iran, for example, while most of the region's people would point to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas as a root cause.
Some of those President Bush chose to surround himself with had complete faith in the ability of American power to bend the world to its will, and in the idea that the American way could be imposed upon people who were just waiting for American-style democracy. It was the Cold War that formed their thinking. When the Soviet Union broke up, freeing the lands behind the Iron Curtain, the message seemed to them to be that democracy inevitably triumphs, and that those who sought accommodation with the Communists were misguided appeasers.
But the Middle East is not Eastern Europe, and, alas for this country, the Bush administration had no patience to understand the complicated interplay of ethnicities, religions, and tribal traditions of the peoples they wanted to transform. What did any of that matter? Democracy would solve everything, they said. Why bother about the people?
Thus followed what the writer Jacob Heilbrunn has called "the willful blindness of the Bush administration to Iraqi realities," which is another way of saying the Iraqi people were left out. All the administration had to do was remove Saddam Hussein, and Iraq would emerge as a true democracy, a light unto nations, transforming the region by example, as well as securing a reliable petroleum supply for the United States and, for some, ensuring the safety of Israel.Well well, who didn't see that coming..
The Pentagon's refusal to hear any arguments to the contrary before the Iraq invasion, and the failures of the young, ideological occupiers afterward , are now famous. But even today, you hear attitudinal echoes. Bush's bewilderment that Iraqi Shi'ites could demonstrate in favor of Hezbollah is an example, as is his sad insistence that Iraqi leaders demonstrate their gratitude. The president seems not to realize that the changes he has wrought in Iraq aren't going to be to America's advantage. He doesn't seem to realize that what the Shi'ite-led government wants is an Islamic government that may not be like Iran's, but will be more so than anything the Bush administration bargained for.Got anything to add? I don't.
When Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki came to make his puppet-like appearances before Congress, some Democrats, in a pathetic attempt to get to the right of the Republican Party on being faithful to Israel, threatened boycott because he seemed to favor Hezbollah over Israel. If you follow that logic, al-Maliki was being faulted for not being enough of a puppet.
The idea of Iraq as the laboratory in which all the neo conservative theories about transformational democracy could be proved has come unglued . Iraqis turned out not to be Poles, but then the actual people of the Middle East were never really considered.