Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Part 9

Well if it is not poverty and education that are the primary reason for this tense state of affairs then what can it be. Is it simply that Arab and American cultures are too incompatible? Can it be that there is a fundamental difference of civilizations between liberal, progressive America and traditional, conservative Arab Nations? No. There is no clash of civilizations; there is a veritable war of sovereignty and independence. Arabs could care less whether all Americans walk around naked, drink alcohol and fornicate all day. It is not what goes on in America that matters to the Arabs; it is what goes on at home, their homes. The polls above have demonstrated that the divide is not one of values. Proponents of this clash-of-civilizations view forget that the United States itself is not a monolithic swath of liberalism. They ignore the resurgent conservatism that is taking over large parts of the United States. Likewise the Middle East is not a monolith; there is traditional Saudi Arabia, next to ultra progressive UAE and Qatar while risque Lebanese, Egyptian and Moroccan music videos spill across the Middle East. The word clash implies that there is an irreconcilable difference between the two regions but that is not true. In fact, Americans and Arabs are much closer in their moral values than Arabs and Europeans per se and Europeans are much closer, geographically, to the Middle East. Why aren’t European Capitals going up in flames for their excessive liberalism that is by far more progressive than American liberalism? Why don’t the majorities of most Arab nations hate France, Germany or Italy? In this context, “clash of civilizations” doesn’t make sense, unless “clash of civilizations” is code for “Islam’s incompatibility with modern civilization.”

Friday, November 11, 2005

part 8

Before we delve into further reasons for the Arab-American clash, let’s definitely say what it is not. Terrorism is not as some suggested a result of poverty in the region where extremism and fundamentalism can be bred more easily. Poverty may be a factor in the joining of some two terrorists the Al-Qaeda bandwagon but it definitely does not explain why a rich prince from one of the richest countries in the world, Saudi Arabia, went to live in barren southern Afghanistan and found many others willing to do his bidding and to follow him there. Poverty also does not explain the overall mood of Arabs toward the US in places as varied in per capita income as the UAE and Morocco. Poverty does not shed any light on the puzzle that vast majorities from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf are anti-America, especially when that region has the highest per capita income of all other developing regions. If terrorism was mostly caused by poverty then large swaths of Africa, South America, India and China would have much of it fermenting but that is really not the case. Anti-American terrorism is really confined to the Middle East. Another stated, but unsatisfactory, cause of terrorism that is highly connected to poverty is the level of education. According to the United Nations Arab Human Development Report, the Arab nations, while lag behind developed countries in education spending, are still the highest spenders on education of all other developing regions, including Southeast Asia and South America. So basically, the anti-Americanism in the Middle East is not caused by low levels of education and information but, perhaps, by the opposite, too many well informed Arabs dislike the US the more they learn about its role in their part of the world.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Part 7

On September 11, 2001, the president spoke to the nation in a televised address and stated that “America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.” Although we are the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world, we did not get attacked because of those reasons. It is quite cynical and naïve to think that we were attacked because we were sitting here in our homes, office buildings and malls enjoying our freedom and had nothing to do with what is going on in the Middle East. At best this is unlikely to happen but, really, we are a de facto power in the Middle East. We make decisions that directly affect the lives of Middle Easterners and we are frequent interventionists in Arab affairs and usually on the wrong side of human rights, democracy and freedom. The United States has traditionally been for democracy and freedom around the world but the Middle East has been an exception because of realpolitik policies that tend to be “practical” and “realistic” which in the case of the Middle East means American support and legitimization of monarchs and dictators for the sake of stability. The support comes in many forms including direct financial aid as in the case of Egypt and Jordan but also in valuable intelligence that keeps these regimes afloat as in the case of Saudi Arabia and many Gulf states. President Bush explicitly admitted America’s traditional anti-democratic stance in the Middle East when he spoke of aiding and abetting regimes that are hostile to popular participation in the political process.