I’ve been pretty sick for about a week, and today isn’t any better, hence the half-assed blogging of late with continue today. A good story that has already been commented on by some smart guys, so I’ll let them talk about it.
I will note that the East-West, Islamic world-Western world, Israel-Palestine, and broader War on Terror conflicts are some of the biggest political issues facing our world today, and that real solutions that move beyond our covert and often underhanded business-as-usual tactics in the region need to be proposed. The West needs to find a way to work productively and openly with the Islamic world; continuing to think we can simply ignore, or even worse or seek to covertly control, an enormous population spread across the globe is foolhardy in a world with the possibility of nuclear and WMD terror. And on a deeper level, I believe we have an moral obligation to find more common ground with people across the world and work not in the mindset of Machiavellian realpolitik. In an ever more globalized and interconnected world, it only harms us to reinforce and rigid “us vs them” mentality of mutually assured destruction.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went before the Knesset last Wednesday and argued that the Arab awakening was moving the Arab world “backward” and turning into an “Islamic, anti-Western, anti-liberal, anti-Israeli, undemocratic wave.” Ceding territory to the Palestinians was unwise at such a time, he said: “We can’t know who will end up with any piece of territory we give up.”
– Benjamin Netanyahu, as quoted from Thomas Friedman’s piece in the NYT
Netanyahu’s analysis of the dangers facing Israel is valid, and things could still get worse. What is wrong is Netanyahu’s diagnosis of how it happened and his prescription of what to do about it…This is such a delicate moment. It requires wise, farsighted Israeli leadership. The Arab awakening is coinciding with the last hopes for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. Israeli rightists will be tempted to do nothing, to insist the time is not right for risk-taking — and never will be — so Israel needs to occupy the West Bank and its Palestinians forever. That could be the greatest danger of all for Israel: to wake up one day and discover that, in response to the messy and turbulent Arab democratic awakening, the Jewish state sacrificed its own democratic character.
– Thomas Friedman, from the same article
Netanyahu’s view of the Arab Spring is wrong – in fact it is bizarre given recent events. In Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, the moderate Islamic groups that are assuming power have made it clear that they intend to respect minority rights, work within the system, maintain and enhance democracy and strengthen the rule of law. In the Egyptian case, a more fundamentalist party is, in fact, outflanking the Muslim Brotherhood on the right because the Brotherhood ended up being so moderate. Now, there may well be reversals in some areas as these parties try to impose their social conservatism on the societies, but that does not make them necessarily undemocratic….The history of countries from Indonesia to Pakistan suggests that over time, the more radical political elements lose their popular appeal because their mystical attraction was tied up in their opposition to the dictatorships. Once the dictatorships go, their appeal dwindles….So far, nothing justifies Netanyahu’s extreme pessimism about the Arab Spring. Sure, Egypt has taken a harder line on Israel and demonstrated stronger support for the Palestinians, but we always knew that was going to happen because the publics in these countries have long felt this way. Washington either bullied or bribed the dictators to suppress popular views on foreign policy. This shift is an example of democracy in action not anti-democratic forces!…The broader change in these countries is that they are now much more concerned about themselves – about good governance, social justice and economic growth. When you go to Egypt today, the vast majority of people talk about their own domestic politics. Yes, people have very tough views on Israel, but mostly what they’re concerned about is what’s going on at home. As Tip O’Neill said, all politics is local.
– Fareed Zakaria, in his response to Friedman’s article and to Netanyahu’s comments
At least publicly, the United States hopes to spread democracy to all countries, in the hypothetical fulfillment of our utopian foreign policy dream. Of course, for security and often other, more dubious reasons, we do not always support democracy if we fear the people will democratically choose political structures that we would not agree with. For the most part, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. If you support the spread of democracy, you must logically support the results of democratic uprisings against violent, repressive dictators, even if the new regime may not be as easily controlled or influenced by the US. To increase world stability, to bring the freedom that we Americans so cherish to the rest of the world, we must allow others to decide for themselves what their version of freedom is and how they want to govern themselves. We must learn to respect the sovereignty of foreign nations, rather than try to control them. We need to move past zero-sum foreign policy games and understand that the United States is not and can not be the global policeman. We only risk our own security by trying to force our own brand of imperial democracy upon other peoples and places.