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Michael Young examines why Arab dictators get away with murder.

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  • ||

    There are always citizens that believe their leader is right, or at least acting in their interests, despite what seems obvious to the others.

  • ||

    There are always citizens that believe their leader is right, or at least acting in their interests, despite what seems obvious to the others.

    Thank God!

  • God||

    You're welcome, George.

    Love your daughters, by the way.

  • Robert||

    There would've been another Stalin if not for Stalin. Quackdaffy reminds me more of Mussolini.

  • ||

    Love your daughters, by the way.

    What? In the Biblical sense? I hope you were safe. You know what happened last time.

  • ||

    Some of the biggest dictators had huge support from the citizenry, at least in the beginning.

    Hitler was very popular and elected.

  • ||

    What? In the Biblical sense? I hope you were safe. You know what happened last time.

    I think it is "know" in the biblical sense.

    Unless, "love" in the biblical sense is something that I don't know about

  • LarryA||

    One of the main problems in that part of the world is that there aren't enough Arabs.

    You have Syrians, Lebanese, Kuwaitis, Iraqis, Iranians, Palestinians, etc. But almost no Arabs.

    This may be a situation where the only road to peace is to let a Sunni-Shiite civil war wipe out one side or the other.

  • ||

    I think there's an inverse relationship between the intelligence of an article posted to H&R, and the quantity of comments posted in response. Congrats Mr Young, it's obviously a thoughtful article.

  • Scooby||

    "Unless, "love" in the biblical sense is something that I don't know about"

    Kinda changes the meaning of "love thy neighbor" in a way that conflicts with a couple of the Ten Commandments (adultery, coveting neighbor's wife, coveting neighbor's ass).

  • ||

    "Today, the Arab state system faces a new challenge: Bashar Assad's Syria."

    Just say "Bashar delendus est" already, and again and again, and again, Mr Young.

  • ||

    Ah, NOW Mr. Young realizes that the rule of law is a good thing to have in international affairs.

    I certainly agree that the law-respecting, UN-led, Franco-American-sponsored Hariri investigation is a spark of hope in the darkness that is the post-Iraq War Middle East.

    There is a smart way to operate on the global stage, and there is a stupid way. More of the smart way, please.

  • ||

    Warren | July 6, 2007, 4:36pm | #

    Love your daughters, by the way.

    What? In the Biblical sense? I hope you were safe. You know what happened last time.


    Love, know - whatever. Warren wins the thread, as far as I'm concerned.

  • on the other hand||

    Reading this made me wish the US had succeeded in Iraq and marched on into Iran and Syria, too. If the Arabs can't do it themselves, seems obvious an outside force is indeed needed. This keyhole in time, when the US had the strenght, but not the will, to change the world, will quickly pass as weaponry and methods put us at bay. Sometime in the future, another will be arise with both the will and the means to lead. Greek, Roman, Mongol, and ??

  • ||

    Arab thugs getting away with murder? How about American ones, Lyndon Johnson(Vietnam), Ronald Reagan(Nicaragua, supporting Iraq-Iran war), George Bush Senior and Junior(Iraq). And don't forget the CIA, the biggest of all. What makes you think American's hands are rid of blood?

  • TallDave||

    the darkness that is the post-Iraq War Middle East.

    As opposed to the sweetness and light of pre-Iraq War Middle East?

    Reading this made me wish the US had succeeded in Iraq

    We removed Hussein and seated a constitutional and relatively liberal democracy. There are now hundreds of independent media in Iraq. The death toll is far below the 7,000 per month average of the Hussein era. We have trained ~350,000 ISF.

    All isn't wine and roses, but it's not quite the disaster some would like to pretend either. The current violence seems extravagant to us, but it's not unusual by Iraqi standards. Believe it or not, a majority of non-Sunni-Arab Iraqis say life is "quite good" or "very good;" this is in the Iraq Index at Brookings.

  • ||

    If this was done everywhere, Amendment to ban Islam one wouldn't have so much murder by Arab dictators.

    "There's no need to fear; Underzog is here!"

  • ||

    TallDave,

    If things are going so well in Iraq, why are we sending more troops there instead of bringing them home?

  • ||

    It seems to me Stalin or El-Asad's motives are clear; they, as you mentioned, "destroying a system and replacing it with their own absolute ego." However, examining "leaders" such as General Aoun and Hassan Nassrallah...I am quite puzzled. Their immediate rewards are quite clear to me, however, the long-term results of their current actions seem quite dsturbing. When the seeds of democracy are finally planted in every Lebanese home, "leaders" such as the abovementioned ones will no longer be able to carry out Stalin's orders. Until then, we all stand watching Stalin satisfying his wicked ego and sadistic appetite.

  • ||

    wow, I haven't heard the "Iraq's not as bad as you think, pansy" argument in awhile. Most have switched to, "it will get worse if we leave" but talldave is old-school.

  • iih||

    Underdog:

    "If this was done everywhere, Amendment to ban Islam one wouldn't have so much murder by Arab dictators."

    Are you serious? What are you doing here in a Reason Forum?

    If Islam is gone, then there will be some other new good reasons to fight another religion/ideology, then another, then another,... and we are back to the point of this article: Our egos substitute the rule of law! If there is rule of law, why should we fear diverse ideologies/beliefs. That is the libertarian way!


    LarryA:

    "This may be a situation where the only road to peace is to let a Sunni-Shiite civil war wipe out one side or the other."

    Very twisted thinking. If it does happen on its own, then let it be (but trust me, coming from a Muslim, it will not be clean and it will not spare the US down the road from violence and further entanglement in middle-eastern mess). Now, if you are suggesting that the US actively pursue this route, well isn't that exactly the GWB way? Look at Iraq now. Wasn't that the French way? Look at Algeria now. Wasn't that the British way? Look at, for one, Israel/Palestine now. Wasn't that the Belgium way? Look at Rwanda in the 1990s. The list, my friend, can go on. Be wise!

  • ||

    We removed Hussein and seated a constitutional and relatively liberal democracy. There are now hundreds of independent media in Iraq.

    Dave, whats your drug of choice? Because if whatever you are smoking/snorting can make you believe this about Iraq, I want some too.

    Iraq is a chaotic, violent illiberal democracy. Its more akin to France during the Reign of Terror than modern Switzerland. And it will end, like all illiberal democracies do, in either endless civil strife or military dictatorship.

  • iih||

    Dave:

    Regardless about how one feels about Al-Jazeera, it is banned from operating in Iraq as far as I know.

  • iih||

    Underdog:

    "If this was done everywhere, Amendment to ban Islam one wouldn't have so much murder by Arab dictators."

    Oh, and by the way, you seem to link the Arab dictators' murderous regimes to Islam. Arab dictators are no more religious, or religiously-motivated in their behavior than Stalin's or the communist's rule religiosity. While on one side secular Arab regimes (in Syria, Egypt, Jordan, pre-war Iraq) oppressed religious expressions and religious groups (except Saudi Arabia), they defended "Sunnism" in their countries against Iranian/Shiite influnce not because of their love of Sunni Islam, but it is because of the revolutionary approach of the Shiite sect in its modern form (historically, Shiites always favored a form of church and state until Khomeiny came along).

    Saudi Arabia is a different story for two reasons: (1) they are seen as the hosts of Islam's most revered sites and, hence, have to "seem" like they stand up to the task (so they resist the Shiites of Iran), and (2) it does not oppress its extremests as much because the House of Saud earned its legitimacy in Saudi Arabia through the support of Wahhabi-oriented groups, without whose support, the royal family will loose power. So, SA has to really be viewed differently from Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the other Arab governments. But, what they share in common is the perception and conviction that Shiism is dengerous to their control over their peoples, and not because of a love for Islam.

    Hence, your linking "the murder by Arab dictators" to Islam is fallacious.

  • ||

    "What makes you think American's hands are rid of blood?"

    Hello, troll.

    Where did Mr. Young, or anyone in this comment thread, claim that America's hands were rid of blood?

    Sorry to disrupt your rehearsed argument. You've arrived at Reason Magazine's website. You'll find the wingnut conservatives you're clearly hoping to argue against down the block, third door on the right.

  • ||

    Also, to Underdog:

    The 'proposal' at that link is one of the most twisted and offensive things I've read in quite a while. I can only hope it's intended as satire, to lure the nutjobs out into the open.

  • ||

    """The death toll is far below the 7,000 per month average of the Hussein era. We have trained ~350,000 ISF"""

    Where do you get that death toll from? Can you really compare the death toll in a country that had a few wars on it's soil, to a country that hasn't seen a war on it's soil since the 1800s? How many Americans were killed under President Lincoln?

    Also, is a number of fighter you train a real meteric for this? Certainly, Saddam has trained more Iraqi troops than we have. As far as I can tell, neither his trained, or our trained ISF like to fight very much.

  • ||

    Wasn't most of our peacekeeping missions in the 1990s an attempt to prevent two sectarian side from killing each other?

    I think Iraq has morphed from the Iraq war to the Iraq peacekeeping mission and either our government hasn't noticed or they don't want to admit it.

  • ||

    Back in 2003, if I had predicted that the consequence of invading Iraq would be the "relatively liberal democracy" we see before us today, TallDave would have torn me a new one as a Saddam apologist - someone who was sick enough to get in the way of the liberation of Iraq for my own nefarious motives.

    BTW, the "7000 per month death toll" is arrived it by factoring in Saddam war with Iran in the early 80s and Kuwait in the early 90s - all before the Gulf War. There were not 7000 violent deaths per day in the years before Bush invaded. TallDave is just trying to fudge the "Before" picture.

  • ||

    Heck, there weren't even 7000 per month.

  • ||

    Reading this made me wish the US had succeeded in Iraq and marched on into Iran and Syria, too.

    We didn't, because it doesn't work that way.

    It would be nice if it did - it would certainly make foreign policy easier - but it doesn't.

  • LarryA||

    "This may be a situation where the only road to peace is to let a Sunni-Shiite civil war wipe out one side or the other."

    Very twisted thinking. If it does happen on its own, then let it be (but trust me, coming from a Muslim, it will not be clean and it will not spare the US down the road from violence and further entanglement in middle-eastern mess).

    I didn't say it was a good solution, or a clean one. But it would solve the immediate problem. Greeks no longer make war with Troy.

    Now, if you are suggesting that the US actively pursue this route, well isn't that exactly the GWB way? Look at Iraq now. Wasn't that the French way? Look at Algeria now. Wasn't that the British way? Look at, for one, Israel/Palestine now. Wasn't that the Belgium way?

    Uh, no. Each case you cite involves a more powerful country interceding to keep two rival factions from wiping each other out. A more accurate analogy would be when the U.S. Democratic Congress, mired in the Watergate mess, abandoned the South Vietnamese army. The North Vietnamese, backed by China, invaded. They then "reeducated" everyone who know how to read, and exterminated anyone showing any resistance. As a result, Vietnam is once more a unified country. (Other than the expatriates, many of whom fled here and thus remained free.)

    Once again, please note I don't think that was a good solution. But it brought peace.

    Look at Rwanda in the 1990s.

    Much closer. As I remember the genocide proceeded unchecked while the U.N. dithered.

    If this was done everywhere, Amendment to ban Islam one wouldn't have so much murder by Arab dictators.

    1) If it could be "done everywhere," it wouldn't need to be done anywhere.
    2) There is just as much violent cause in world history to ban Christianity and Judaism as Islam.

  • iih||

    "I didn't say it was a good solution, or a clean one. But it would solve the immediate problem. Greeks no longer make war with Troy."

    But that is not even a solution. For one thing, neither side will be permanently eliminated and, secondly, if one dominates the other, the defeated side will come back for revenge later (may be in a thousand years, but it will happen, probably sooner than anyone would think). Plus, the ensuing chaos will be terrible especially vis-a-vis war on terror. The best solution is for the two sides to find peace. The US and foreign powers should aide in finding that piece between Sunnis and Shiites... but then remains the fear that their unity will extend to fighting Western nations, but I argue that whenever there is peace between Shiites and Sunnis that peace (1) results in trying to keep the other side in check and hence not give a chance to jointly attack Wetsern interests, and (2) usually is in fact kept (remember that in Lebanon the fight was not between Sunnis and Shiites, who in fact coexisted peacefully and the same can be said of pre-Sadam Iraq.)

    Regarding:

    "Each case you cite involves a more powerful country interceding to keep two rival factions from wiping each other out."

    I still disagree, because usually this infighting results from a "divide and conquer" strategy that colonial powers tried to effect in order that the locals keep fighting each others instead of tying to gain access to resources only the colonial powers had control over. Best point where this did not work is when control over Suez canal by Europeans was compromised and the Nasser regime seized the canal. The response was the 1956 aggression by England, France, Israel. The reason "divide and conquer" did not work in this case is that the Egyptians, Muslim and Christian (in that era) were pretty much united/integrated in a Pan-Egyptian society.

    But I think that this topic is a tangent, but I would not mind defending my position.

    Regarding:

    "
    1) If it could be "done everywhere," it wouldn't need to be done anywhere.
    2) There is just as much violent cause in world history to ban Christianity and Judaism as Islam."

    Very much in agreement. As in Christianity, Muslims are undergoing their own "dark ages". Just a phase, whose outcome will be similar to that of Christianity's, but not necessarily along exactly the same lines as in the West.

  • ||

    LarryA,

    The French in Algeria and the Brits in Palestine did, in the end, abandon their efforts to keep the warring factions at bay, once it became clear that they weren't going to be able to impose their preferred political solution.

    That's what countries who commit imperial over-reach end up doing. Like the Democratic Congress at the end of the Vietnam War. It's certainly not a "good" thing when that happens, which is why people like me are so adamant that we not put our country in that situation, and why we aren't terribly impressed with the speed at which our columns can reach the capital of some far-off country we've determined we're going to turn into a satellite state.

  • iih||

    joe,

    What colonial powers came to understand is that they will eventually not be able to maintain/impose their preferred political solution. If the thesis of a movie like Syriana is correct, the next best thing is to maintain a state of chaos (short of a full fledged civil war), for, otherwise, governments and populations will start looking forward on how best to use, market and benefit from their resources, which implies that these resources will no longer be cheaply available to the former colonial powers.

    If outright civil wars, or a deeply rooted state of chaos is not achievable, the next best thing is to stand by, allowing corrupt rulers to take power. These corrupt rulers (and there are many of them) will then be easy to set deals with (think of the recent BAE-Prince Bandar fiasco, the corrupt Fatah, the corrupt Egyptian government, Mougaby, former, and probably current, Nigerian president,...), while the population is pretty oppressed to even try change the status quo.

  • iih||

    joe,

    ... and, I should add, the state of the oppressed downtrodden subjects of these regimes will come back to bite the West, ranging from simple hatred, to all-out terrorism. Terrorism in the middle east really started when in the 50s secular Arab regimes oppressed religious movements (in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq), which went underground until in the 80s assumed a violent "jihad" against these regimes which were also perceived as Western-backed (especially Egypt, Jordan and 1980s Iraq), which eventually led to 9/11.

    This is of course one theory/explanation, and I hope no one perceives it in any way as legitimizing these terrorist groups. They are illegitimate products of illegitimate Western policies.

    Thus, as a libertarian, some form of isolationism, freely and justly trading with, supporting and aiding (not financially, but culturally/politically) truly legitimate/just regimes (regardless of whether we agree with their own ideologies/beliefs), and respecting as equals those whom one day the West considered as "subhuman" and plain "subjects" of the empire, is the best way to combating terrorism and restoring the standing of the US in the world to that which dominated up to the 1950s era.

  • Anwiya||

    I'd like to first ask Michael Young why he is writing this article. His final line: "They hardly did the region any favors, but the Arab state system was always too flimsy anyway to sustain steadiness for very long." is ridiculous. Too flimsy? Are you kidding me. Mr. Young, what understanding do you have of Arab radicals? How dare you criticize Sadam Hussein when you have not even imagined yourself in his place. How can you expect someone to control a nation when the people he leads are unpredictable, extreme, devout Arabs? You can't teach love or loyalty to unruly men easily, so the most effective way is fear. If Sadam Hussein did not murder those who challenged him, then he could not keep control of Iraq. Of course, it is not right for him to remain a dictator, but there has to be a gradual change. If the American Government had any common sense, and if they weren't in Iraq for monetary gain, they would think diplomacy before forcing a wide-ranging revolution. From democracy to dictatorship- wow that is smart. The American revolution wasn't even that profound.

    And you criticize Sadam for going to war with Iran? Who do you think supported him during that war? The American Government.

    And this mentioning of free independent media- as if that was something amazing. A free press doesn't serve very well when an entire country is in chaos. Would you rather speak your mind and die or remain silent and live? The United States has programmed the most of us to give in to our fears, so the most of you would choose a silent life. You think Iraqis aren't the same? Who cares about independent media, when you don't know if you'll die the next time you walk next to an automobile with an IED planted inside.

    Why Arabs get dictators away with murder? Next time you try answering that question, don't generalize dictators. Sadam Hussein, Joseph Stalin, and Bashar Assad are not the same person with the same motives. Open your mind and try understand another people before you criticize them.

  • LarryA||

    For one thing, neither side will be permanently eliminated

    Tell that to the Trojans, or the South Vietnamese, or the Cambodians, or the Montanyards of Vietnam, or the Spanish Moors, or members of several Native American tribes, or the Acadians, or... It has happened before. It can happen again.

    Plus, the ensuing chaos will be terrible especially vis-a-vis war on terror.

    Quite likely. Genocide is an ugly solution. It is still a solution.

    The best solution is for the two sides to find peace.

    Amen. And that can happen too. One of the things that make me proud of being from the U.S. is the way many of our former enemies are now friends. We fought a war for independence, and less than a half-century later were allies of the British. We ended our Civil War without the excesses that would have perpetuated that conflict. The same is true of the Spanish American War. After WWII we helped rebuild both Japan and Germany, and now have friendly relations with them. Add Russia and China.

    Not that I'm saying our behavior has always been perfect. Cuba is still a problem. But at least we aren't still fighting 300-year-old battles. One of the primary reasons for that is that the U.S. has not, so far, experienced a religious war.

    I sincerely believe it would be a Good Thing for Sunnis and Shiites to make peace. I just think things will get a lot bloodier before that happens.

    Terrorism in the middle east really started when in the 50s

    That certainly was a catalytic time. But terrorism in the middle East was well underway when the Babylonians enslaved the Israelites.

    How can you expect someone to control a nation when the people he leads are unpredictable, extreme, devout Arabs? You can't teach love or loyalty to unruly men easily, so the most effective way is fear.

    Which is why the state is fragile. Which was Michael's point.

  • TallDave||

    joe,

    If I'd told you in 2002 that in a few years Iraq would have hundreds of independent media, 3 free and fair elections, and a majority of non-Sunni-Arabs would say life was "quite good" or "very good" you'd have said I was a cockeyed optimist.

    LOL Hell, you say that now.

    BTW, the "7000 per month death toll" is arrived it by factoring in Saddam war with Iran in the early 80s and Kuwait in the early 90s - all before the Gulf War.

    Your point being what? Are we supposed to ignore those actions, like they have no relevance to the nature of the Hussein regime? It makes far less sense to consider only the time Iraq was already being occupied, i.e. after 1991.

    But, hey, keep apologizing for Stalinists and downplaying the progress of liberty in Iraq. Your libertarian principles are really shining through.

  • TallDave||

    How many Americans were killed under President Lincoln?

    Something around half a million, but we give him a pass on that because the war freed a few million slaves. Similar numbers were killed under FDR, but we give him a pass because the war freed Western Europe.

    Saddam didn't free anyone.

  • ||

    TallDave,

    If I'd told you in 2002 that in a few years Iraq would have hundreds of independent media, 3 free and fair elections, and a majority of non-Sunni-Arabs would say life was "quite good" or "very good" you'd have said I was a cockeyed optimist.

    No, not really. Elections, media, and the most powerful factions in a country enjoying their newfound power are easy to set up, even in the most deplorable conditions, such as we see now. Now, if you'd said that there would be a sustainable, democratic, liberal government, I'd have called you cock-eyed optimist, and did. If you'd said there would be an advance of democracy throughout the region, I'd have called you that, and did. If you'd said that there would be less terrorism, I'd have called you that, and did. But staging elections, failing to shut down all of the media in an internet-wired country, and playing with statistics (a majority of non-Sunnis, eh? Care to slice that a little more) are cheap and easy accomplishments.

    Your point being what?

    My point being, to repeat what I've already written, and have been telling you for years now, "TallDave is just trying to fudge the "Before" picture."

    You're pretending that the alternative to this catastrophic invasion was Saddam as his most murderous, when in fact, he was sufficiently contained that he was utterly incapable of staging a Kuwait invasion, an Iran war, or even a Halabja. You might as well have written that a million people per year died in German concentration camps between 1939 and 1951, as an excuse to invade Germany in 1952.

    I don't think anyone, including you, is having even the slightest difficulty in seeing through your dishonest little stunt at this point, so I'm not going to belabor it any further. Suffice to say, you're busted, and you should probably just stop calling attention to that fact at this point.

    But, hey, keep apologizing for Stalinists and downplaying the progress of liberty in Iraq. Funny, that's exactly the same thing you said 3500 Americans, 150,000 Iraqis, and a civil war ago.

    People looking at Iraq in July 2007 and seeing liberty really ought to make more of an effort to take a closer look.

  • Mark Bahner||

    "Something around half a million, but we give him a pass on that because the war freed a few million slaves."

    I don't give Lincoln "a pass on that." As I pointed out on Eric Berger's "Science Guy" blog, historical evidence indicates that Lincoln simply wasn't a very good president:

    http://blogs.chron.com/sciguy/archives/2007/02/the_greater_pre.html

    1) The overwhelming majority of Southerners did not own slaves. Of the 1.6 million Southern families, only 384,000 (24 percent) owned slaves.

    2) Of those 384,000 (24 percent), 88 percent owned fewer than 20 slaves. So only 46,000 families (out of 1.6 million, or about 3 percent) owned more than 20 slaves.

    3) And only 3000 families (0.2 percent!) owned more than 100 slaves.

    4) Therefore, if the U.S. government had paid EVERYONE who owned less than 20 slaves full market value--or even greater--that would have covered 97 percent of all Southerners. And if the U.S. government had paid everyone who owned less than 100 slaves full market value, that would have covered 99.8 percent of all Southerners. (The remaining 0.2 percent might think they got a bad deal, but who really gives a damn about a few rich slave owners?)

    4) The total market value of the approximately 4 million slaves in the U.S. in 1860 has been estimated at $3.3 billion.

    5) This can be compared with an estimate of the Civil War's *immediate* costs of $9.3 billion ($6.2 billion for the North, and $3.0 billion for the South) Not to mention the deaths of 600,000 mostly-young male soldiers (the value of their lifetime earnings alone could easily have exceeded $3 billion). Not to mention the pensions for veterans that easily exceeded the immediate costs.

    Lincoln could have allowed the South to secede peacefully (except for the battle at Fort Sumter, where NOT ONE Union soldier was killed by a Confederate). He could have then urged Congress to make a reasonable offer to buy the freedom of ALL the slaves in the U.S. (including those in the Union!). If he had done so, it is certainly possible that the massive bloodshed, suffering, destruction, and expense of the Civil War could have been avoided.

  • ||

    TallDave,

    The problem with not revising your talking points every few years is that people pick up on the tricks you're using.

    See, back in your first comment you brought up mortality rates in Iraq to make a point about how much better things had gotten there:

    We removed Hussein and seated a constitutional and relatively liberal democracy. There are now hundreds of independent media in Iraq. The death toll is far below the 7,000 per month average of the Hussein era. We have trained ~350,000 ISF.

    All isn't wine and roses, but it's not quite the disaster some would like to pretend either. The current violence seems extravagant to us, but it's not unusual by Iraqi standards. Believe it or not, a majority of non-Sunni-Arab Iraqis say life is "quite good" or "very good;" this is in the Iraq Index at Brookings.


    Then, when I challenged you on the implication of that figure, you switched your argument to a point about Saddam Hussein being a bad person:

    Your point being what? Are we supposed to ignore those actions, like they have no relevance to the nature of the Hussein regime? It makes far less sense to consider only the time Iraq was already being occupied, i.e. after 1991.

    They were being occupied in 2003. George Bush could have maintained the status quo, or done something to change it.

    He did something, and it changed Iraq into a killing fields and a major security threat. Bushie, you're doing a heckuva job.

    Here's one for you: if Rick Barton had told me in 2002 that the invasion of Iraq would actually make that country more violent and more dangerous, I would have said he was crazy. But no, people are getting tortured just like before, people are getting the knock on the door in the middle of the night just like before, people are being put into mass graves just like before. But now, they don't even have law and order in public markets - they're getting carbombs.

    It's past time for serious people to recognize what this war has wrought, and re-evaluate.

    So don't fee like it's just you, or anything.

  • Middle East||

    Dictators are evils, but they are necessary evils to Arabian leaders.

  • iih||

    There seems an implicit message in some of these comments, especially by "middle east", that imply that "Arabs" are not rational and there is no way to control them except through dictatorship and iron rule.

    This is truly repulsive thinking and quite racist. Remember that most Arab nations have been struggling for decades (in some case almost 200 years, e.g. Algeria) against imperial dominance. From that, they found themselves in a post WWII brutal cold war, where each government had to act as a satellite government for either the West of the communists. Those who decided to keep away from both sides (especially the non-aligned 4: Nasser, Nihro, Tito and Sukarnu) were brutally put under pressure until they had to succumb.

    From there, there were the pressures that resulted from their oil, which put entire populations (especially, Iraq) under further pressures by both their puppet leaders (e.g., 1980s Sadam) and competing superpowers.

    So, please, think before you write. Or better, read something profoundly truthful than whatever it is you read that satisfies your egos and re-inforces your self-righteousness.

  • ||

    iih: If "imperial dominance" by Western nations is the reason for the lack of democracies in the middle east, how do you explain India?

  • iih||

    ron:

    "imperial dominance" is one of the reasons, not the only reason. It had a very strong influence, and, in many ways, still has.

    In the case of India, unlike other middle eastern countries, India is a huge country with a very diverse society --religiously, economically, educationally, and so on.

    India is one of the rare cases that managed to escape the Cold War tug of war between West and USSR, though it was a tight line to walk, with mostly Russian influence over the years (remember Pakistan was on US's side during the cold war).

  • ||

    "If "imperial dominance" by Western nations is the reason for the lack of democracies in the middle east, how do you explain India?"

    Well, for one thing, imperial divide-and-rule schemes led to partition and the subsequent riots that killed over 1 million people. The 100+ years of around 0% economic growth left the people poor, which means civil society isn't as strong as it could be in India. The state is often absent or not ruling well. The fact that Indian democracy has survived so much has often been called a miracle. Re-creating democracy elsewhere would be extremely hard. Also, for decades India was a one-party democracy in which the Congress Party did not have to worry about losing power, was run by the same family (which continues to a certain extent) and was not afraid to remove rival parties, as when the central government removed the Communists from power in Kerala after winning an election there. India also went through about three years of dictatorship under Indira Gandhi.

  • iih||

    Let me add a comparison of pre-British rule Egypt and post-British rule Egypt. Interestingly, this is inspired by an Egyptian film that I recently watched. The story is based on a Naguib Mahfouz (a Nobel Laureate) novel.

    In it, mid 1800s Egyptian society (remember that the British came to Egypt in 1882) was pretty well-structured. "Town Hall" meetings existed essentially at the "ally" level. Each alley had a leader unofficially appointed by the residents of the alley. This was the paradigm all over Egypt, whether we are talking about the bazaar area "downtown" of Cairo, or the Nile Delta country side. This leader, the "fittewa", has the role of the sheriff and was also there to stand up (opposition party if you will) to the government appointed "sheikh" (as in "leader" not in the religious or social status sense). The fittewa was essentially elected, not by paper ballots, but by consensus. Someone, anyone, could post himself as a challenger to the "fittewa" but he had to prove it by showing that the "fittewa" transformed into a corrupt politician and that he/she is better fit to protect the resident's rights. This structure, while not entirely democratic, gave Egyptian society a very strong civil society despite the fact that people were generally not as well educated as their counterparts in Europe at the time.

    After the British came, power was put entirely in the hands of the government and the government appoint "sheikh", who were eventually seen as nothing but the dictatorial representation of the oppressive British rulers imposed on the country. Social injustice started to spread. The injustice was mainly viewed as externally imposed and caused by the British. Take the cotton growers for example. They had to sell their cotton at dirt cheap prices otherwise they could be subjected to threats, heavy handed taxes, even murder and summary executions. This was all done at the hands of British appointed local governments. Eventually, civil society was destroyed and the only cause that united society was the resistance to the British occupation. Hence, there were several revolutions, that culminated in the 1952 revolution that rid the country of the King and eventually the British rule. At that point in time, while pan-Egyptianism was overwhelming, EGyptian society lacked the social and civil fabric that could sustain a viable republic.

  • iih||

    Correction: At some point I used "He/she" to describe a "fittewa". Obviously at that time, a "she" fittewa was not possible :-) It was certainly a male dominant society (not that that meant oppression to women by any means, or that at the upper echelons, women were barred from assuming crucial civil roles, both before and after British rule in Egypt).

  • ||

    And you criticize Sadam for going to war with Iran? Who do you think supported him during that war? The American Government.

    Anwiya;

    This is like an old episode of the gong show but you just can't gong away the same dumb memes.

    The US did not sell Saddam a single weapon system, nor did it give him any funds. The US did provide him with some intelligence on Iranian deployments, but provided some intelligence to Iran as well.

    The French gave Saddam planes, the Russians gave him tanks. The Kuwaitis, Egyptians, and Saudis gave him money and/or loans.

    US 'support' was actually miniscule and weak.


    Joe;

    He did something, and it changed Iraq into a killing fields and a major security threat. Bushie, you're doing a heckuva job.

    … Iraqis being brainless sheep with no minds of their own

  • iih||

    "… Iraqis being brainless sheep with no minds of their own"

    Very eloquent and intelligent indeed! If you do not have something reasonable to say, save us the useless (if not racist) name-calling.

    Iraqis are not sheep. They are humans just like me and you! They, not once, but twice in history hosted the seat of the most powerful, most enlightened governments/civilizations in the world at the times. And they can do it again. So please, some respect!

  • ||

    iih;

    The sarcasm went right over your head, or rather, right under your feet …

  • iih||

    zzz:

    Quite frankly it is sometimes hard to tell "sarcasm" from "serious talk". In any case, such references at the one made above are quite repeatedly used by many right-wing, neo-con ignorant nuts (not all "right-wing neo-cons" are ignorant nuts, but many are and almost always those who are turn out to be quite racist)... in any case, i generally prefer not to make references like yours even in sarcasm as they may erroneously imply something else.

  • ||

    iih,

    I agree completely. I believe in Arab democracy, and despair that this imperialist adventure has done so much to discredit democracy. Right now, all over the Middle East, defenders of dictatorial regimes are winning arguments against liberals by saying, "Democracy? So our city can be like Baghdad?" Sigh.

    Anyway, don't bother with the likes of zzz. Two years ago, he was proclaiming that every Arab who went to a pro-democracy march was proof that Bush Was Right!, and now he's reduced to pretending that the war we launched to change the political conditions in Iraq has had absolutely no effect at all on the political conditions in Iraq. Except when it did, which is all the good stuff.

  • iih||

    joe:

    Thanks, I think the discussion on this thread was pretty good. Thanks to Mr. Young of course.

    Regarding your last posting, on the positive side, democratic movements in the Middle East (especially in Egypt) is taking many forms from the secular (e.g., the populist/popular "Kifaya" movement) to the Islamist (e.g., Muslim Brotherhood, who are mostly still mistrusted by the general population). Also, these groups realize that democracy can never be implemented with foreign assistance. As I comment above, they have largely decided to go solo and go peaceful, no matter how many years it takes.

    If Western governments use some commonsense, they ought to help nourish such groups (without intervening) and pressure governments to work with them and yield powers to them according to democratic principles. Directly intervening would again be the dumb thing to do, otherwise the grassroots movements will loose their support for being perceived as Western-backed (i.e., puppet or corrupt movements a la Ahmad Chalaby and his current Syrian and Iranian counterparts). Supporting exiles would not work either. Exiles, even if respected, simply loose legitimacy once they *choose* to leave the mother countries for the West. Plus they usually end up loosing touch with the pulse of the people on the streets.

  • I Blame the Parents||

    "and despair that this imperialist adventure has done so much to discredit democracy."

    So all the other democracies in the world are now reconsidering, eh?


    "If Western governments use some commonsense, they ought to help nourish such groups (without intervening) and pressure governments to work with them and yield powers to them according to democratic principle"

    Doing that would be seen as imperialistic interference. I wouldn't want a foreign government 'nurturing' political groups in my own country.

    If people want democracy and reform badly enough, they will fight for it themselves. Just as you said - ', these groups realize that democracy can never be implemented with foreign assistance.'

  • iih||

    "Doing that would be seen as imperialistic interference. I wouldn't want a foreign government 'nurturing' political groups in my own country."

    No not really. It will be seen as international interaction as opposed to interference. So may be I should have said "interact with" instead of "nourish". Essentially, I guess, I am asking that they US pursue talks with people/givernments/groups it does not like to really talk too (a la Baker-Hamilton report vis-a-vis Syria, Iran, and, by extension, the Palestinians -- anyone who is in the government, opposition groups and NGOs.)

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