The Arabs' Berlin Wall has crumbled
By Mark Steyn
Three years ago - April 6 2002, if you want to rummage through the old
Spectators in the attic - I wrote: "The stability junkies in the EU, UN and
elsewhere have, as usual, missed the point. The Middle East is too stable. So,
if you had to pick only one regime to topple, why not Iraq? Once you've got rid
of the ruling gang, it's the West's best shot at incubating a reasonably
non-insane polity. That's why the unravelling of the Middle East has to start
not in the West Bank but in Baghdad."
I don't like to say I told you so. But, actually, I do like to say I told you
so. What I don't like to do is the obligatory false self-deprecatory thing to
mitigate against the insufferableness of my saying I told you so. But
nevertheless I did.
Consider just the past couple of days' news: not the ever more desperate
depravity of the floundering "insurgency", but the real popular Arab resistance
the car-bombers and the head-hackers are flailing against: the Saudi foreign
minister, who by remarkable coincidence goes by the name of Prince Saud, told
Newsweek that women would be voting in the next Saudi election. "That is going
to be good for the election," he said, "because I think women are more sensible
voters than men."
Four-time Egyptian election winner - and with 90 per cent of the vote! -
President Mubarak announced that next polling day he wouldn't mind an opponent.
Ordering his stenographer to change the constitution to permit the first
multi-choice presidential elections in Egyptian history, His Excellency said
the country would benefit from "more freedom and democracy". The state-run TV
network hailed the president's speech as a "historical decision in the nation's
7,000-year-old march toward democracy". After 7,000 years on the march, they're
barely out of the parking lot, so Mubarak's move is, as they say, a step in the
Meanwhile in Damascus, Boy Assad, having badly overplayed his hand in Lebanon
and after months of denying that he was harbouring any refugee Saddamites,
suddenly discovered that - wouldja believe it? - Saddam's brother and 29 other
bigshot Baghdad Baathists were holed up in north-eastern Syria, and promptly
handed them over to the Iraqi government.
And, for perhaps the most remarkable development, consider this report from
Mohammed Ballas of Associated Press: "Palestinians expressed anger on Saturday
at an overnight suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed four Israelis and
threatened a fragile truce, a departure from former times when they welcomed
attacks on their Israeli foes."
No disrespect to Associated Press, but I was disinclined to take their word for
it. However, Charles Johnson, whose Little Green Footballs website has done an
invaluable job these past three years presenting the ugly truth about
Palestinian death-cultism, reported that he went hunting around the internet
for the usual photographs of deliriously happy Gazans dancing in the street and
handing out sweets to celebrate the latest addition to the pile of Jew corpses
- and, to his surprise, couldn't find any.
Why is all this happening? Answer: January 30. Don't take my word for it,
listen to Walid Jumblatt, big-time Lebanese Druze leader and a man of
impeccable anti-American credentials: "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw
the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the
start of a new Arab world. The Berlin Wall has fallen."
Just so. Left to their own devices, the House of Saud - which demanded all US
female air-traffic controllers be stood down for Crown Prince Abdullah's flight
to the Bush ranch in Crawford - would stick to their traditional line that
Wahhabi women have no place in a voting booth; instead, they have to dress like
a voting booth - a big black impenetrable curtain with a little slot to drop
your ballot through. Likewise, Hosni Mubarak has no desire to take part in
campaign debates with Hosno Name-Recognition. Boy Assad has no desire to hand
over his co-Baathists to the Great Satan's puppets in Baghdad.
But none of them has much of a choice. In the space of a month, the Iraq
election has become the prism through which all other events in the region are
Assad's regime knocks off a troublemaker in Lebanon. Big deal. They've done it
a gazillion times. But this time the streets are full of demonstrators
demanding an end to Syrian occupation.
A suicide bomber kills four Jews. So what's new? But this time the Palestinians
decline to celebrate. And some even question whether being a delivery system
for plastic explosives is really all life has to offer, even on the West Bank.
Mubarak announces the arrest of an opposition leader. Like, who cares? The
jails are full of 'em. But this time Condi Rice cancels her visit and the
Egyptian government notices that its annual cheque from Washington is a month
Three years ago, those of us in favour of destabilising the Middle East didn't
have to be far-sighted geniuses: it was a win/win proposition. As Sam Goldwyn
said, I'm sick of the old clichés, bring me some new clichés. The old clichés -
Pan-Arabism, Baathism, Islamism, Arafatism - brought us the sewer that led to
September 11. The new clichés could hardly be worse. Even if the old
thug-for-life had merely been replaced by a new thug-for-life, the latter would
come to power in the wake of the cautionary tale of the former.
But some of us - notably US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz - thought
things would go a lot better than that. Wolfowitz was right, and so was Bush,
and the Left, who were wrong about the Berlin Wall, were wrong again, the only
difference being that this time they were joined in the dunce's corner of
history by far too many British Tories. No surprise there. The EU's political
establishment doesn't trust its own people, so why would they trust anybody
else's? Bush trusts the American people, and he's happy to extend the same
courtesy to the Iraqi people, the Syrian people, the Iranian people, etc.
Prof Glenn Reynolds, America's Instapundit, observes that "democratisation is a
process, not an event". Far too often, it's treated like an event: ship in the
monitors, hold the election, get it approved by Jimmy Carter and the UN, and
that's it. Doesn't work like that. What's happening in the Middle East is the
start of a long-delayed process. Eight million Iraqis did more for the Arab
world on January 30 than 7,000 years of Mubarak-pace marching.
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