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Wednesday, February 09, 2011


I never thought I would see the day. Richard Cohen gets it.
What is amazing is that the Obama administration had a detailed, if cockamamie, plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace but seemed stunned that Egypt went haywire. Where was that plan? And if there was one, why wasn't it followed by saying the same thing day after day - praise for democracy and leave it at that? The ugly dilemma is that there is a conflict between our long-held principles and our immediate self-interests. A democratic Egypt that abrogates its treaty with Israel and becomes hospitable to radical Islamists is not in our interests.

Certain pro-democracy advocates in the Western media envision a transition period of months that will produce democratic bliss in the region. Not likely. The Middle East must first pass through somewhat the same process as did Central and Eastern Europe. Before World War I, it had no democracies. The region was ruled by monarchies.

After the war, nearly every state (the Soviet Union was the most prominent exception) was a democracy and one, the most culturally and politically advanced of them all, had an exemplary constitution and a resplendent bouquet of political parties. Nevertheless, this country reeled from Weimar Republic to Nazi dictatorship in virtually no time at all.

The rest of Central and Eastern Europe was different only in degree, not in kind. By the end of the 1930s, these countries were mostly right-wing dictatorships of one sort or another. It took another World War, a Cold War and lots of help for democracy to take root. Even so, some of these countries show twitches of recidivism.

To think that the Middle East will vault this process is endearing but dotty. The one advantage the region has is that it's relatively homogenous, mostly Sunni Arab. (The Copts of Egypt and the Christians of Lebanon are anxious for good reason.) Before the Middle Eastern countries can be put together as democracies, they will come apart as something else, possibly as Islamic republics. If Obama wants to know what will happen in the future, he need only consult the past. It is, just as the cliche says, prologue.

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At 1:22 AM, Blogger ais cotten19 said...

I think the question we should be asking is whether the international media itself is trying to push Mubarek out. This is less about democracy and more about undermining Israel. I get the feeling that a great deal of the people who are pushing for "change" are really just hoping for the most powerful Arab state to retake their stand as a force against Israel, Obama and the "journalists" included.

At 2:30 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Islamism is the wave of the future. The Middle East has tried every other flavor of totalitarian rule. Its not ready for democracy yet.


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