Sunday, February 05, 2006

Fareed Zakaria loves to chase his own tail.

Now he is wondering aloud if the spread of democracy in the Middle East is turning into a disaster, citing Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq as indications that things are turning nasty. Yet, he also hints at positive aspects of those victories. He seems to think that the quest for democracy and liberty are two separate things. While noticing that decade upon decade of dictatorships in the region have turned the political landscape into a desert – he still frets that the political landscape is a….desert. On the one hand, Zakaria suggests that playing our cards right will help promote liberal democracy – though he’s vague on how to play those cards. Yet, he then says that democracy has “codified a reality that existed anyway.” I would suggest that democracy’s effect on the latter point is nothing but beneficial because it does a couple of things: 1) it puts the cards on the table; 2) it pressures those groups to actually govern.

Take Hamas: I’m not sure who was surprised that Hamas gained ground, surprised at the extent of their gains, perhaps, but not that they increased power. Nevertheless, we now have a better idea of the Palestinian state of mind. It ain’t pretty, but it’s better to know for sure what was previously an assumption. Zakaria wants us to better understand the cultures, elections helped achieve that.

Now that Hamas is in power, they have to worry about governing to stay in power, not just opposing. Assuming that there will be free and fair voting in the future (and that is a significant assumption) Hamas will either deliver on it’s new responsibilities or be replaced by someone else. It may be one election cycle, it may be ten – you can’t predict how long that political desert will take to become fertile.

Ever notice how Zakaria consistantly wants America to be more of a bully? Does that sound wrong? Consider a previous article about out-charming China, where Zakaria complained that the US did not force it’s participation on the East Asian summit. He’s always alluding to using our power to influence other regions, but is vague on how.

In this instance (Hamas) there is plenty of room for a US response to Hamas’s new position – without turning bully. We can insist that they renounce terror and acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and until Hamas has proven that they’ve done so, we cut off aid and diplomatic ties. Thus far, that’s essentially what we’re doing. While Zakaria vaguely asserts that we should use our influence, Bush has taken specific steps to do just that, yet Zakaria still charges Bush with arrogance.

We should not feed the fury that helps them win adherents. The Bush
administration's arrogance has been a great boon to the nastiest groups in the
Middle East, which are seen as the only ones who can stand up to the imperial
Presumably, Zakaria means that by going into Iraq we flamed the support of the nastiest groups. If so, it’s only a temporary outcome. The long term effect of Bush’s “arrogance” in introducing democracy to the region is that he drove a stake in radical Islam’s heart. That Hamas and Hizbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood may enjoy a boon from the swinging pendullum does not, in any way, make Bush’s position "awkward" or contradicting. While Zakaria shows little patience in the democracy project, at least Bush knows enough to sit back and let the people work out their own wrinkles. He also knows when to help keep things moving . Remember the good and wise deadlines used in Iraq? Not Kerry’s timelines for bringing troops home, but the deadlines for progress on the Iraqi constitution and voting? Iraqis are making their own future, but those deadlines and Bush's policies provided the catalyst to that future. If Zakaria thinks there’s a way to avoid a “rocky ride” in transforming the Middle East – he’s sorely mistaken. As he plainly states:
"….the rise and fall of Islamic fundamentalism was a broad and deep phenomenon,
born over decades. It could hardly reverse itself on the basis of a year's news.
Does anyone believe that if there had been no Iraq war, Hamas would have lost?
Or that the Danish cartoons would have been published with no response?"

It takes a Herculean effort transform such a region. While Zakaria sniffs around for greater understanding and second guesses tactics and laments mistakes, it’s comforting to know the President is sticking to the strategic decisions he made after 9/11.

1 comment:

Jeffrey said...

Those watching Fareed Zakaria on Global Public Square on CNN dated 9 May 2010 would have noticed his line-up to discuss radicalization of America's Muslim youth.

Strangely, he gathered a Canadian populist, a French philosopher and a Lebanese professor (teaching in London)to discuss what radicalizes some youth in USA. Zakaria would have found an expert who has been examining causes and consequences related to how radicalization is dealt in the West.

An important question raised by The Head of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies
at Britain's Aston University, Birmingham is that can we diffuse inter-ethnic conflicts and change the way the West pursues its security agenda by understanding the role of sexualised racism in the war on terror?

In asking such questions, Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya considers how the concepts of imperialism, feminism, terror and security can be applied, in order to build on the influential debates about the sexualised character of colonialism.

In her latest book, Dangerous Brown Men: Exploiting Sex, Violence and Feminism in the 'War on Terror' Professor Bhattacharyya
examines the way in which western imperial violence has been associated with the rhetoric of rights and democracy - a project of bombing for freedom that has called into question the validity of western conceptions of democracy, rights and feminism.

Such rhetoric has given rise to actions that go beyond simply protecting western interests or securing access to scarce resources and appear to be beyond instrumental reason. The articulations of racism that appear with the war on terror are animated by fears and sexual fantasies inexplicable by rational interest alone. There can be no resolution to this seemingly endless conflict without understanding the highly sexualised racism that animates it.

Such an understanding threatens to pierce the heart of imperial relations, revealing their intense contradictions and uncovering attempts to normalise violent expropriation, warns Bhattacharyya.

However, one still waits when works such as by Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya are discussed on what Fareed Zakaria claims to be a global public square?