Well, times are changing as Zakaria points out (and I’d offer that Americans are seeing the change through the lens of their ideals and current politics…the Left seeking its abstract ideals of democracy, equality and justice through protest never to be reached but certainly to be pursued…parts of the Right seeing only dangerous, violent unrest that is potentially a security threat):
‘…but there are two fundamental reasons the tensions that have been let loose in the Middle East over the past few weeks are unlikely to disappear, and they encompass two of the most powerful forces changing the world today: youth and technology.’
In Bahrain, one family has had nearly complete control for generations, in Egypt, Mubarak was in power for over 30 years…and how to stay in power?:
‘Those payments are a reminder that in the Middle East, there are two modes of control: mass repression and mass bribery.
A reasonable question to ask is have the conditions that created the autocratic and monarchic rulers within the people themselves been overcome? Also: is there a broader raft of what we would regard as individual freedoms in the Muslim world? Are there sources for such freedoms that stem from Islam? in law? from the West? in pockets of an educated elite…and cultural exchanges? from somewhere else?
Many in the West are rightly worried that the movement in the Middle-East to recapture a glorious Islam and past seizes power in some locations (we are currently engaging the most extreme examples with our military, which is probably not the best long-term solution). This vision radicalizes many poor, uneducated youth with little hope of a future into a pan Arab identity of righteous vengeance, guerilla-style fighting and impossible purity. More moderately, such movements can address the injustice of many Palestinians, say, in the charter of Hamas by refusing the right of Israel to exist (a recipe for potential disaster if they follow such logic to conclusions). In times of war and suffering, and in sudden change, people will yearn especially for social stability, cultural identity and purpose and….often Islam is the glue. This raises reasonable skepticism.
Addition: As a reader points out, quite well-educated folks like Mohammed Atta and the underwear bomber radicalized as well, but I suspect their primary grievance is with their own rulers and their own conditions (the common enemy of American interest, or drive the infidel from the Arabian peninsula, is secondary, however consequential). For many Afghans, it’s just more war, and as has been reasonably pointed out here, many Afghans are illiterate, very poor, living in tribal bands in often geographically isolated areas.
Just a few thoughts, feel free to highlight my ignorance. Zakaria finishes with:
‘Warren Buffett once said that when anyone tells him, “This time it’s different,” he reaches for his wallet because he fears he’s going to be swindled. Well, I have a feeling that this time in the Middle East, it’s different. But I have my hand on my wallet anyway.’
Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are?: Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy…From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work…From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington…From Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’