Zakaria on the New Middle East 

Zakaria on the New Middle East

Stanley Kurtz is correct: this piece by Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek is very thought-provoking. (via The Corner).

Give Bush his due. He has correctly and powerfully argued that blind assistance to the dictatorships of the Middle East was a policy that was producing repression and instability. But he has not yet found a way to genuinely assist in the promotion of political, economic and social reforms in the region. A large part of the problem is that the United States—and the West in general—are not seen as genuine well-wishers and allies of the peoples of these countries in their aspirations for a better life. We have stopped partnering with repressive Middle Eastern regimes, but we have not yet managed to forge a real partnership with Middle Eastern societies.

Not an easy piece to summarize, but Zakaria says there is a difference between achieving democracy and liberalism. There is a real increase in democracy in the Mid East; unfortunately, it is bringing about some strange growths, smacking of Islamic fundamentalism and even support for terrorism. The West is learning that liberalism is harder, but more important, to achieve. According to Zakaria, Bush has done far more good than harm--it is his initiative that has brought democracy so far, and made it possible to build liberalism. If martyrs become mayors, they should be seen as merely human, and expected to produce results. Islamic societies may remain "non-Western" in important ways, but: "It is important that religious intolerance and antimodern attitudes not be treated as cultural variations that must be respected. Whether it is Hindu intolerance in India, anti-Semitism in Europe or Muslim bigotry in Saudi Arabia, the modern world rightly condemns them all as violating universal values." Zakaria thinks there is a way to manage this new world: "We should recognize how varied these groups are: some violent, others not, some truly anti-modern, others not—and work to divide rather than unite them." One mistake Bush has made, for example, is to link Chechen rebels to the people bombing London. All too often Bush has spoken as if any Moslems committing violence, anywhere, are "terrorists."

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