Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Mystery of the Obvious

From GLORIA, April 17, 2007, by Barry Rubin ...

...we must be profoundly grateful when someone discovers the obvious. Here are three examples of this phenomenon.

The first comes from David Brooks, writing in the New York Times, April 8. Brooks attended one of the endless series of dialogues... supposed to be getting "Americans and moderate Arab reformers together to talk about Iraq, Iran, and any remaining prospects for democracy in the Middle East." ...All the Arab speakers wanted to discuss was Israel and its alleged control over U.S. policy. ....all the problems within the Middle East, too, stemmed from Israel. That includes not only the Arab-Israeli dispute but also all the crises in Lebanon, Iraq, and stemming from Iran's ambitions. The Americans tried to get their counterparts to discuss other things, including the need for modernization in the Arab world. They failed....

Another example of discovery comes from the well-known blogger who calls himself IraqPundit, an Iraqi exile. He writes of watching an al-Jazira television show, on which a Somali guest complained about Islamist terrorists making miserable the lives of Somalis.

The host responded, "You sound like the Iraqi government when it calls any act of resistance 'terrorism.'" This sent IraqPundit into a spin. Suddenly, all he could think of was, "Iraqi men, women, and children choking to death in a cloud of chlorine gas released by one of the noble resistance's truck bombs....I saw Iraqi girls who had gone to school and Iraqi mothers who had gone to the market, all murdered and lying in a sea of Iraqi blood."

He concludes, "But that's Arab Nationalism, isn't it? When the Baathist regime was overthrown, hardcore nationalists equated Arab 'honor' with the survival of brutal and tyrannical trash. Now, they equate 'resistance' with our slaughter."

My final example comes from an Islamist Internet site, courtesy of MEMRI's translation. One member posted an article opposing a nuclear attack on America by Islamists since the resulting U.S. retaliation against Muslims would be devastating. He also stated the Muslim religion permitted revenge only on those who directly commit an act of aggression and not on unarmed civilians.

Most responses strongly disagreed, starting with one that began, "This article was not written by a Muslim...but by an American... [probably from] one of their strategic centers for countering the Islamic jihad...." The notion was that anyone who opposed attacking a stronger adversary by killing millions of people must be an enemy agent. Of course, the great majority of Muslims reject doing any such thing, but the argument that those who speak in real-world terms are traitors is widespread, a constantly employed tactic.

There are two basically wrong responses to all this in the West. The first, the radical one, is that these claims about Israel's omnipotence, the virtues of Arab nationalist "resistance," and the right to murder Westerners are correct. The alternative, more "moderate" stance, which appeals to a far wider circle, is that since Arabs or Muslims truly believe these things, such grievances must be addressed by apologies, policy changes, and concessions.

When it comes to the Middle East, there is often nothing more difficult than discovering the obvious.

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