Sunday, March 13, 2011
Note to the U.S.: The View from the Arab Street
When the U.S. and the West wallows in heartfelt indecision on Libya, and decisive ambivalence about Mideast democratic revolutions in general, it sends a clear message to the Arab "Street" - as opposed to the Arab "throne", from which emanate winks, nods, and solemn, secret applause. The message is that the U.S., and the West,
WANT, NEED, tyrants in the Middle East. The U.S. and NATO want to avoid "instability". They can't "interfere" in "civil wars". The West will help with "humanitarian efforts" - the band-aids. But to get at the cause??? Well, everybody loves a tyrant!
Arabs on the Street see the West has adopted their much-loved "domino theory". If one tyrant goes, others could fall. And the U.S., apparently, NEEDS tyrants.
Oh yes, we condemned Qaddafi. Reagan even tried to assassinate him back in the day. And we have no problem with regime change, assassination, fomenting civil wars in other countries, or even occupying them. Just look at Iraq, and don't forget Vietnam. But Libya?? Heavens, no!
Why? Simple. We're not calling the shots. We didn't start the revolt. Libyans did. Therein lies the issue, the trigger-finger block. We loathe any revolution that wasn't, shall we say, "made in the U.S.A." If it wasn't our idea, to tell with it.
But...let's look more closely at this domino theory. We're not talking about nations falling to communist revolutions. We're talking about repressive regimes falling to democratic revolutions, about fights for freedom, democracy and representative government - the West's rhetorical ideals. We're talking about the very sorts of revolutions we've been blaming the Arabs for not having for decades, the lack of which has been brought out ad nauseum as proof of Arabs' "backwardness" and lack of "readiness for democracy". And now, here's your true-blood, liberal, Western-style revolt! These are not Islamists. They want a real, free democracy. They want out of dictatorships.
Yet the West gives credence to the worst of all regimes, buying into Qaddafi's "civil war" story, buying into his propaganda that his people "love" him. The West doesn't quibble with this, presumes - for their own convenience - that he has loyalists who have not been bought or terrorized into submission, and that these loyalists are fighting for what they conceive of as a legitimate cause.
The U.S. backed Mubarak until it became openly hideous to do so, and now backs Qaddafi by allowing him to decimate his population and call it a "civil war" instead of a massacre. It seems the U.S. is also trying to shore of Yemen's Ali Saleh, and OMG don't mention the Saudi regime - now there's one hell of a repressive regime if there ever was one! Let alone...please don't say it... the unmentionable, the sacred, the fetus-in-a-jar...Israel. (When Israel openly supports fellow democracies in the region instead of trying to decimate them in some way as per Lebanon, I'll stop calling it a fetus. A democracy that doesn't support democracy is not a democracy, but some kind of hybrid. Is the US trying to rebrand itself, too?)
So what is the Arab on the street to presume? That the West loves democracy? That they believe in human rights and freedom? Or that they only impose, by force of arms, "freedom" when it suits their needs, when they are in full control of that freedom. But isn't "freedom under someone's control" an oxymoron???