May 13, 2004

Fouad Ajami - The Curse Of Pan-Arabia

I've been getting Laurie Mylroie's newsletter and assorted articles for the last few days and the best of the lot so far is this Fouad Ajami essay from the May 12 Wall Street Journal. For starters, the Johns Hopkins professor thinks that U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is exactly the wrong person to be influencing the political future of Iraq:

"...nothing in Mr. Brahimi's curriculum vitae gives him the tools, or the sympathy, to understand the life of Iraq's Shiite seminaries; nothing he did in his years of service in the Arab league exhibited concern for the cruelties visited on the Kurds in the 1980s. Mr. Brahimi hails from the very same political class that has wrecked the Arab world. He has partaken of the ways of that class: populism, anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism, and a preference for the centralized state. He came from the apex of the Algerian system of power that turned that country into a charnel house, inflicted on it a long-running war between the secular powers-that-be and the Islamists, and a tradition of hostility by the Arab power-holders toward the country's Berbers. No messenger more inappropriate could have been found if the aim was to introduce Iraqis to the ways of pluralism.

He warns of a new Pan-Arabism that would threaten a young Iraqi democracy, and addresses the prison abuse issue only in the context of where to go from here:

We have stumbled in Abu Ghraib. But the logic of Abu Ghraib isn't the logic of the Iraq war. We should be able to know the Arab world as it is. We should see through the motives of those in Cairo and Amman and Ramallah and Jeddah, now outraged by Abu Ghraib, who looked away from the terrors of Iraq under the Baathists. Our account is with the Iraqi people: It is their country we liberated, and it is their trust that a few depraved men and women, on the margins of a noble military expedition, have violated. We ought to give the Iraqis the best thing we can do now, reeling as we are under the impact of Abu Ghraib -- give them the example of our courts and the transparency of our public life. What we should not be doing is to seek absolution in other Arab lands.

Ajami says George Bush is apologizing in the wrong places, to Jordanian leaders and in Egyptian newspapers, instead of directly to the Iraqi people; "Why not take representatives of a budding Iraqi publication into the sanctuary of the Oval Office and offer a statement of contrition by our leader?"

Smart guy. I strongly urge you to read it all.

Posted by dan at May 13, 2004 12:21 AM