Monday, May 23, 2005
Fouad Ajami, as usual, is not mincing words:
To venture into the Arab world, as I did recently over four weeks in Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Iraq, is to travel into Bush Country. I was to encounter people from practically all Arab lands, to listen in on a great debate about the possibility of freedom and liberty. I met Lebanese giddy with the Cedar Revolution that liberated their country from the Syrian prison that had seemed an unalterable curse. They were under no illusions about the change that had come their way. They knew that this new history was the gift of an American president who had put the Syrian rulers on notice. The speed with which Syria quit Lebanon was astonishing, a race to the border to forestall an American strike that the regime could not discount. I met Syrians in the know who admitted that the fear of American power, and the example of American forces flushing Saddam Hussein out of his spider hole, now drive Syrian policy. They hang on George Bush's words in Damascus, I was told: the rulers wondering if Iraq was a crystal ball in which they could glimpse their future.What's most amazing about all this, to me, is that Arabs are now saying these things openly. Arab societies have been closed societies for a long, long time, where one spoke one's mind at considerable risk. But in Lebanon, in Iraq, in Egypt, in Kuwait, and even in Syria and Saudi Arabia, Arabs are not afraid to say what they think -- and what they think is that President George W. Bush has given them a gift, and a golden opportunity.
These aren't "Republican talking points" anymore, folks. Middle Eastern Arabs have no reason to be impressed with pretty American speeches, not with local strongmen on hand to crack heads. What has made an impact on all these people is not rhetoric, but results. And they've seen results! They've seen the Arab world's most powerful and brutal dictator, hauled out of a spider hole by American troops; they've seen millions of Arabs in Iraq and Muslims in Afghanistan, voting to secure their own future in their own way.
My neighbors, with their "no more Bush" and "let's not elect him in 2004 either" bumper stickers, must one day realize that they were wrong. They can continue to claim, if they want, that the Iraq war was mercilessly brutal to Iraqi Arabs -- but the Iraqis themselves, and their fellow Arabs across the Middle East, do not agree.
More about the willingness to speak out openly:
Pick up the Arabic papers today: They are curiously, and suddenly, readable. They describe the objective world; they give voice to recognition that the world has bypassed the Arabs. The doors have been thrown wide open, and the truth of that world laid bare.Thanks to The Instapundit for the link -- and as he would say, read the whole thing.
Grant Mr. Bush his due: The revolutionary message he brought forth was the simple belief that there was no Arab and Muslim "exceptionalism" to the appeal of liberty. For a people mired in historical pessimism, the message of this outsider was a powerful antidote to the culture of tyranny. Hitherto, no one had bothered to tell the Palestinians that they can't have terror and statehood at the same time, that the patronage of the world is contingent on a renunciation of old ways. This was the condition Mr. Bush attached to his support for the Palestinians.