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May 23, 2005
Arab World Recognizes Democratization Policy's Power

I missed this yesterday in my busy day, but don't miss it if you haven't yet read it. For those who doubt whether George Bush's policy of democratization as a weapon against Islamist terror in the Middle East will prove successful, Fouad Ajami writes about his experiences on a tour of the region and the recognition and admiration that Bush has achieved from Arabs in giving them hope for modernization and liberty. His essay, adapted by Opinionjournal from a recent lecture, makes clear that pursuing Scowcroftian "stability" no longer remained a possibility:

"George W. Bush has unleashed a tsunami on this region," a shrewd Kuwaiti merchant who knows the way of his world said to me. The man had no patience with the standard refrain that Arab reform had to come from within, that a foreign power cannot alter the age-old ways of the Arabs. "Everything here--the borders of these states, the oil explorations that remade the life of this world, the political outcomes that favored the elites now in the saddle--came from the outside. This moment of possibility for the Arabs is no exception." A Jordanian of deep political experience at the highest reaches of Arab political life had no doubt as to why history suddenly broke in Lebanon, and could conceivably change in Syria itself before long. "The people in the streets of Beirut knew that no second Hama is possible; they knew that the rulers were under the gaze of American power, and knew that Bush would not permit a massive crackdown by the men in Damascus."

My informant's reference to Hama was telling: It had been there in 1982, in that city of the Syrian interior, that the Baathist-Alawite regime had broken and overwhelmed Syrian society. Hama had been a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood, a fortress of the Sunni middle class. It had rebelled, and the regime unleashed on it a merciless terror. There were estimates that 25,000 of its people perished in that fight. Thenceforth, the memory of Hama hung over the life of Syria--and Lebanon. But the people in the plazas of Beirut, and the Syrian intellectuals who have stepped forth to challenge the Baathist regime, have behind them the warrant, and the green light, of American power and protection.

Ajami toured through Kuwait, Qatar, Iraq, and Lebanon, and kept hearing this refrain over and over again. He discovered a new Arab optimism in the future where before had existed a bitter Arab culture of fatalism and conspiracy theories about their oppression. Now, with the power of self-determination within their grasp, the Arabs appear ready to abandon both.

Nowhere has that been more evident, according to Ajami's observances, than in their media. The press under the various dictatorships remained strictly controlled, and usually relied on accusations of conspiracy theories that imagined Zionist influences on Western capitalists ever ready to exploit the Arabs and extend their poverty and misery. Now, Ajami notes, the Arab press has flourished and suddenly discovered objective journalism, at least as a concept. Iraq has over 250 dailies represented a wide variety of editorial outlooks, and all challenging each other to report truth rather than the wildest and most paranoid rumors.

Read all of Ajami's essay. His reporting on the progress in the Middle East remains singular, both in the extent of the travel and research Ajami performed and his willingness to part with an American media pessimism that almost rivals that of Arab press in days gone by.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 23, 2005 5:40 AM

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» Monday, May 23, 2005 from The Neolibertarian
The Arab Street appears to be optimistic aboutor, at least open tothe idea of democratization. The burgeoning free press is playing a serious part in this. [Read More]

Tracked on May 23, 2005 6:55 AM

» Bush country from rgcombs.blog-city.com
Thanks to Captain Ed for pointing out Fouad Ajami's article in OpinionJournal (log in with BugMeNot). It's a remarkable account of his four weeks in the Middle East, and of the sea change in American foreign policy that has brought hope to Arabs long [Read More]

Tracked on May 23, 2005 9:11 AM

» Bush Country from Don Singleton
FREEDOM and LIBERTY.Two very powerful words. [Read More]

Tracked on May 23, 2005 9:20 AM



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