Friday, March 25, 2005

What the Future Holds for the Middle East according to Zinsmeister

I found a great article by Karl Zinsmeister, entitled In the Middle East, a New World at the American Entreprise Online. It's a long article, so I am just picking the cherries out for you:

I do not (as those of you who have read my books about the war know) claim that happy days are here again, that the future will bring nothing but a cheery whirl of American marshmallow roasts with the lovely people of the Middle East. For my entire lifetime, this has been the worst-governed part of the planet. Its economic policies are in a photo finish with Africa's as the globe's most counterproductive. Ignorance and illiteracy are widespread, and Middle Easterners nurse more superstitions, blood feuds, and ugly prejudices than any people I have ever traveled and worked among.

Many people think that democracy can not be built in Iraq until there is stability, but Zinsmeister claims that they are putting the carriage in front of the horse:

But that's exactly why America finally plunged in to help drain this swamp and plant seeds for a healthier future. The paralyzing error of "don't rock the boat" types like Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Pat Buchanan, Richard Clarke, and others who attacked the Iraq war as overambitious is the assumption that political and economic freedom can be brought to the Middle East only after it is already full of Rotary clubs and Wal-Marts. Note to so-called "realists": You've got your causation all backwards. It is liberty that creates peace, stability, and decency in a nation--not the reverse. If you wait until a country is serene and prosperous before introducing political and economic freedom, you will wait forever.

He also mentions something that has been worrying me lately:

Many daunting obstacles still lay ahead in the Middle East. Notice that the lead article in this issue, by Steven Vincent, warns how important it is that moderates in the Muslim world wrest control of their religion from the extremists who presently have far too much influence. In a chapter called "The Character Test" and elsewhere in Dawn Over Baghdad, I discuss some of the cultural baggage that Middle Easterners need to discard as they become self-ruling: pervasive dishonesty and graft, a shortage of altruism, destructive paranoia, widespread passivity and sloth, a weak ethic of personal responsibility, an attraction to strongmen.

Through reading various soldier blogs among others I have been picking up on the sense of disgust they have for the Iraqi Police and other people with a certain amount of power and comparably little sense of restraint. Not all, but there are enought bad apples for the Iraqi Police to have a brutal and corrupt reputation.

He goes on to express what he feels should be our role in helping Iraq create a democracy:

Introducing democracy does not mean that other people must remake themselves in our image. Beyond respecting basic human dignities, Iraqis should have the right to shape their society as they see best--including basing it on traditional Islamic precepts if they choose. We in the West must not anathematize Islamic law; our goal should instead be to housebreak Islamic fundamentalism, to link it to democratic due process so that the potential for tyrannizing and bellicosity is tamed out of it.


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