Jewish World Review March 1, 2011 / 25 Adar I, 5771
The Arab Revolt
By Paul Greenberg
This time the Arabs are rebelling against their own hodgepodge of kings, dictators, autocrats, demagogues and all of the above. The crumbling old pillars of the region, long rotten from within, are falling one by one. Or at least trembling.
The Arab Revolt of 2011 spreads. And spreads and spreads. And not just among the Arabs. From west to east, from
The big surprise is that it should have taken so long in the face of years, decades, centuries of oppression. The stillborn or soon strangled Arab democracies set up after the First World War now stir again, like dry bones coming to life after all these years.
Something tells me Col. Lawrence would approve. Maybe what it took to revive his Arab Revolt was the Arabs themselves rather than another Englishman intoxicated with Arabia Deserta. Maybe what did it this time was another Western intervention -- the Internet and its latest high-speed forums, Twitter and
Perhaps the biggest surprise for those who long assumed that autocracy was a permanent feature of Arabdom was the revolt's appearance in, of all places,
This year's Arab Revolt is spreading even into the heart of Islam. A hundred thousand turned out to protest in oil-rich
At last report, even the guardian of
The Arab Revolt is back, this time with Arab leaders. Or at least a leadership vacuum as the world waits to see what will emerge, or if the new bosses will be just the old bosses with different names. The classic pattern of a modern Western revolution, familiar since the French in 1789, now repeats itself in the East as a series of successive shocks erupting from right to ever more left till it reaches its Thermidor, and the pendulum swings back.
The Arabs now have their Western revolution, too, but where is an Arab Edmund Burke to warn that liberty without order will not be liberty for long, but only a prelude to a new seizure of autocratic rule, this one disguised in democratic slogans. Much the way Bonaparte spoke of liberty, fraternity and equality even while crowning himself emperor.
For the moment all the old, unexamined assumptions about the
But the Arabists at the
Torn between different responses to this year's Arab Revolt, this country's foreign policy seems paralyzed. No single policy, or even single policymaker, has yet to emerge. As is clear from this administration's reactions to events in
In place of a foreign policy, Americans get a discussion group. In place of a president, a community organizer. Nothing has dated faster than his
Isn't it time the land of the free and home of the brave joined the Arab Revolt, too? This administration needs to make it clear that this country and its people are on the side of freedom, of an ordered liberty, of the future. Such an unambiguous policy, for all its dangers day to day, or its effect on ever fluctuating oil futures, would serve America's highest ideals. And the Arab world's highest aspirations.
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