August 13, 2003

Why do Arabs Hate the

Why do Arabs Hate the West?

Is part of the title of an op-ed that recently appeared in Dar al Hayat.

Don't expect a far reaching inquiry into that complex question in the piece. But check out some particularly interesting snippets having to do with the author's contention that, while the Arab world often denigrates the West's impressive technological innovations of the past century, it uses said technologies in humiliating, self-defeating fashion.

Some key grafs:

"The invention of radio transmission, then television then satellite channels, then electronic communications devices. Most Arabs misused these means, and used them as channels for religious extremism, political provocation, and transmission of erroneous information. The young generation spends long hours on the Internet to view pornographic pictures, mainly in the highly conservative societies, which foster frustration. Before the modern communication means (visual and audio), we had enlightened religious scholars such as Mohamad Abdu and Jamaleddine Al Afghani. After the confusion resulting from these means, we have Sheikhs like bin Laden, Al Dhawahiri and many others we watch and hear on the Arab satellite channels.

The weapons were highly and unusually developed during the last century. From 1948 to this day, arms purchases in the Middle East occupied the first place among the countries in the world and reached between 1995 and 1997, about 38% from world purchases in comparison to 3% in South America, according to the U.S. State Department's report: "Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 1998." Most of these purchases were made under the pretext of liberating Palestine and fighting the enemies. They were either used against the people or during the civil wars or to attack neighboring countries. As for Israel, it remains the most powerful in terms of arms."

A depressing theme indeed. Technological advances in the West cause the Arab world to resent a vibrant, innovative West. Said achievements are denigrated (likely out of envy). And then, the very same technology is used to unfortunate and/or self-defeating ends ranging from internecine warfare, surfing cyber-porn in the environs of Riyadh, or broadcasting jihadist notions of theocratic barbarism via satellite television.

It's when you get depressed about the state of coalition efforts in Iraq that you might keep such broader realities in mind. Sure, Bush made a huge gamble and the post-war planning wasn't where it should have been. Its been a rocky summer. But the rewards, if we slog through and create a vibrant, democratic polity in Iraq, could still prove of major historical import.

Put simply, the area cannot continue to fester as it does today. Whether we had gone into Iraq or not--the region represents something of a ticking timebomb.

Just take a look at the demographics of the region. There are simply too many young individuals boiling with anger at the atrophying autocracies in the Levant and Maghreb, corrupt Gulf states, rising unemployment, limited educational opportunities, and the like.

These variables require urgent attention. The only question (too early to answer) is whether the invasion of Iraq made a bad situation worse or represented a historical pivot point for the better. I still think smart money is on the latter.

But let's not kid ourselves about the scope of the effort. If we are serious--it's a generational challenge--on par with the reconstruction of Europe after WWII. So we are going to need to do things like internationalize the effort so we have the requisite resources, create and field constabulatory forces, have experts on the ground who really understand the region, its languages, its mores.

Update: Bad news on the internationalization of the Iraq effort front. Contra Rumsfeld, I believe there is a middle ground between putting out a broad welcome mat to the likes of Paris, Delhi and Berlin in a fashion that would dangerously dilute the U.S. military's ability to effectively operate in the theater and relying solely on smaller countries that will likely provide merely de minimis contributions.

I mean, how much are the likes of Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Portugal and Thailand really going to contribute (whether troops or cash) to the effort?

That said, the Weisman piece may be another NYT style Rummy is running Washington piece that simplifies the state of bureaucratic play on the issue. I'd be surprised, for instance, if Jerry Bremer fully endorses a strategy that cuts out countries that might provide more significant military contingents at this early stage.

Not only because of need for troops, but also because if we get countries on board now on troop deployments via compromise U.N. resolutions and the like, said countries are also more likely to contribute significant funds to the reconstruction effort down the road.

Posted by Gregory at August 13, 2003 07:55 PM
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