Saturday, April 24, 2004

At The Risk of Becoming A Theme

Escaping Arab Failure

WE shouldn't be discouraged by the recent round of violence in Iraq. It was predictable. But there were two disheartening signs:

* We should be troubled that, in this bloody month, none of the insurgents waved an alternative constitution - unless we count their perversion of the Koran. None of those violent men is fighting for freedom - they're fighting to strangle liberty in the cradle. They are, without exception, forces of reaction, not liberation, no matter how madly al-Jazeera twists the facts.

* Nor did the general Arab population or its leaders take a public stand against those who would renew their oppression. And those who will not defend their own freedom do not deserve to be defended by others.

With sufficient troops, we can force Iraq's Arabs to behave. But we can't force them to succeed.

If Iraq collapses into medieval fantasies and blood feuds, we still may be proud of having given this crippled civilization a last, great chance to heal itself. We've made mistakes, but their impact is minor compared to the unwillingness of Iraq's Arabs, Sunni or Shi'a, to build a free and civil society of their own.

In the United States, campus-generated political correctness was never more than a joke - capable of turning somber conservatives purple but unable to alter anything that matters. The far more dangerous form of political correctness is that which prevails in the dream-world of diplomacy: We pretend that all civilizations have equal merit.

But they don't. It's time to face up to the functional and moral collapse of the Arab world - if we can't describe the problem honestly, we shall never deal with it effectively.

Arab civilization has failed.

Arab civilization offers its people no promising future, only rhetoric about a past whose achievements have been as exaggerated as they were impermanent. The present is a bloody, heartless muddle.

It's a matter of culture, not race. In the free atmosphere of America, Arabs do as well as anyone else. All populations have their share of talent - but the oppressive environment of the Middle East enervates those individuals it does not crush entirely.

The failure of Arab civilization in our time is the greatest such disaster in mankind's history. And, bitter though we find the proposition, the failure is so colossal that it cannot be neatly contained. Whether in Iraq today or elsewhere tomorrow, we cannot fully extract ourselves from this problem simply because our enemies won't let go.

If Iraq chooses failure, we can leave. But we'll be back, somewhere in the Middle East. Because, as we saw on 9/11, the Middle East will continue to come to us. Blame is the opium of the Arabs, and the sweetest blame for their failures is that directed at the United States (and, of course, Israel). It is our power itself, not its uses, that enrages Arabs trapped in their self-made weakness.

The oft-cited examples of the Arab world's problems, from a lack of interest in secular education and a poor work ethic to staggering corruption and the oppression of women, are symptoms, not root causes, of Arab failure. Past a certain analytical point, we come up against the wall of our own taboos - we cannot admit that the psychological premises of an entire civilization might be dysfunctional. Arab failure isn't about that which has been done to the Middle East, but that which the Middle East has done to itself.

Iraq still has a chance, if a slimmer one than we had hoped. But even if Iraq's Arabs disappoint our ambitions, our efforts will have been worthy and our losses not in vain. Intervention was unavoidable, whatever the critics say. Continued passivity in the face of the Middle East's implosion would only have made the price higher in the end.

We all would be better off were the Arabs to surprise us by building healthy, prosperous, modern societies. We would be foolish not to wish them well. But we would be equally foolish not to prepare ourselves for the consequences of their accelerating failure.

I truly believe this is the last chance for the middle east. They will get to the point of absolutely forcing Western civilization to go in one last time to put a stop to the nonsense going on in there. And, yes, I mean Europe will be there, sick and tired as anyone can be of it all. Weapons of mass destruction will be used, there will be no choice.

There is no escaping it.

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