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The middle east: a future.
February 26, 2011 6:37 AM   Subscribe

The destiny of this pageant lies in the Kingdom of Oil: "our satraps are falling, and the people we paid them to control are making their own history – our right to meddle in their affairs (which we will, of course, continue to exercise) has been diminished for ever."
posted by SueDenim (27 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:50 AM on February 26, 2011


Relatedly, a piece from Al Jaz. about the pernicious influence of the terrorist label in shoring up dictatorships.
posted by stonepharisee at 8:32 AM on February 26, 2011


Robert Fisk is my new man-crush.

Don't miss his dispatch from Tripoli.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:42 AM on February 26, 2011


Fisk is much filled with himself...the essay babbles and seems all over the place without making a reasonable arguement that can be followed. Since we really do not know what is going to finally evolve in those nations now in turmoil, we know little more by reading this piece. Yes. Oil is important.
posted by Postroad at 9:13 AM on February 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


And democracy – the real, unfettered, flawed but brilliant version which we in the West have so far lovingly (and rightly) cultivated for ourselves – is not going, in the Arab world, to rest happy with Israel's pernicious treatment of Palestinians and its land theft in the West Bank.

I admire Fisk. He's invested enough into the region to be full or himself on the subject. He deserves some propers.

But when he writes about Israel - as he does above with such relish - he loses me entirely because there all of his objectivity is gone and so obviously so.
posted by three blind mice at 9:49 AM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Martyrs there were aplenty across the Muslim world – but not an Islamist banner to be seen.

Really? I could swear I saw at least a couple.
posted by contraption at 9:50 AM on February 26, 2011


the essay babbles and seems all over the place without making a reasonable arguement that can be followed

It's easier to follow when you're not shaking your head with your hands covering your ears and shouting "I can't hear you!".

I'm afraid you'll find that necessary for Chris Floyd too:
Muammar Gaddafi is not the only Arab tyrant using deadly violence against his people when they speak out against the destitution, repression and corruption that plague their country. In Iraq, the sectarian thugs put into power by American invaders are gunning down citizens in the streets. ...

And of course, the bitter, horrible irony of it all is that the tide now sweeping long-entrenched dictators from power in the Middle East would almost certainly be carrying off Saddam Hussein as well, if indeed he had not been removed by his own people before now. Hussein, who spent much of his career being aided to power and coddled in power by the American elite -- especially the Bush-Reagan-Rumsfeld wing -- would likely have chosen the Gaddafi exit strategy, with much attendant suffering; but this would have paled, by several orders of magnitude, before the million innocent people slaughtered as a result of the American aggression, the displacement of four million people from their homes, and the wholesale destruction of Iraqi society, once one of the most modern, secular and cosmopolitan in the Middle East, and now a sinkhole of murder, fear, violence and religious extremism.

But the old order of imperial domination, directly and by proxy, is crumbling before our eyes. It may be that the American aggression against Iraq was its high-water mark -- and its fatal overreach. The currents of the world are slipping out of the hands of the elites who believed they could always control them.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:54 AM on February 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


"The docile, supine, unregenerative, cringing Arabs of Orientalism have transformed themselves into fighters for the freedom, liberty and dignity which we Westerners have always assumed it was our unique role to play in the world."

?

"Who would have believed that the old man in the cave would suddenly have to step outside, dazzled, blinded by the sunlight of freedom rather than the Manichean darkness to which his eyes had become accustomed."

???

Fisk, you have no fucking clue what you're talking about and it shows. My gosh, is this man bigoted. The more I read the article, the more upset I get. It's like something I'd write in the ninth grade. Either that, or he must have typed this drunk. I've read his last two articles and they reek of the same idiocy. I really want to type a list of criticisms, but I can't. This is so devoid of analysis, I'd be writing the essay for him by commenting on it.

For decent opinion columns I'd check out the Opinions page on Al-Jazeera's website.
posted by lemuring at 10:30 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The docile, supine, unregenerative, cringing Arabs of Orientalism have transformed themselves into fighters for the freedom, liberty and dignity which we Westerners have always assumed it was our unique role to play in the world."

I read that as "A view of people in the region has been that they are The docile, supine, unregenerative, cringing Arabs of Orientalism and they have shown people who held that view that they are fighters for the freedom, liberty and dignity... "
posted by ambient2 at 10:55 AM on February 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Me too ambien2, I took it as Fisk holding up these events as proof positive the more condescending and insulting views of "the Arab World" that have been circulated since 9/11 were false.

Also, Postroad, I think the point he was making was that there is still enough influence from the House of Saud to muck things up and we shouldn't assume a bunch of new democracies are immediately going to result from this.
posted by Hoopo at 11:01 AM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


And democracy – the real, unfettered, flawed but brilliant version which we in the West have so far lovingly (and rightly) cultivated for ourselves – is not going, in the Arab world, to rest happy with Israel's pernicious treatment of Palestinians and its land theft in the West Bank.

But when he writes about Israel - as he does above with such relish - he loses me entirely because there all of his objectivity is gone and so obviously so.


Care to point out the objective, factual errors there?
posted by rodgerd at 11:03 AM on February 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Jesus Christ, Fisk, over write much??

"The docile, supine, unregenerative, cringing Arabs of Orientalism...."


I thought initially he was referring to the oligarchs, not the plebes.

Plus, I think he meant unregenerate.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:04 AM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


But when he writes about Israel - as he does above with such relish - he loses me entirely because there all of his objectivity is gone and so obviously so.

Like most people I'm not exactly objective on this subject, but it's hard to view these events without wondering what the effect will be on our allies in the region like Israel and Saudi Arabia. They make a very interesting contrast, and these recent events threaten both of them. I like that he's brought up Israel here, because should their neighbours become democracies it forces us to re-evaluate (at least the stated purpose) of our special relationship with Israel. Leaders in the West will finally have to drop the "Democratic Peace Theory" canard that has placed the lives of citizens lucky enough to live under democratic regimes at a premium, and finally acknowledge the very real possibility that democracy is not a check belligerence.
posted by Hoopo at 11:34 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


check *on* belligerence. Oops.
posted by Hoopo at 11:35 AM on February 26, 2011


the very real possibility that democracy is not a check on belligerence

My anecdotal evidence is that it's not.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:51 AM on February 26, 2011


Postroad - I think Fisk is right.
Angela Merkel to Bibi - You haven't made a single step to advance peace.
posted by adamvasco at 12:11 PM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pretty sure that that "docile, supine, unregenerative, cringing Arabs" is not an attack on Arabs; it's an attack on people who view Arabs as such.

Have you people who view it as an attack on Arabs never heard someone say something like "Democracy won't work in the Middle East; something's different about them; they just want tribalism and authoritarianism; it's built into them"?

I've heard things like that far too many times in recent years, including from people who are generally left-leaning on a wide variety of issues.

Fisk seems, to me, essentially to be saying "Yeah, what do you 'Arabs want authoritarianism' people have to say now?".
posted by Flunkie at 12:17 PM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sure he's shooting from the hip, but you can be damn sure that Fisk is on the side of the arabs and the revolution(s). Jeez.
posted by stonepharisee at 12:36 PM on February 26, 2011


Fisk seems, to me, essentially to be saying "Yeah, what do you 'Arabs want authoritarianism' people have to say now?".

Yeah, that's exactly what he's saying. He's criticizing Orientalism, which is a Western construct.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:37 PM on February 26, 2011


Egypt was always fairly belligerent towards Israel until the U.S. bought them off. By comparison, Turkey has a vastly stronger democratic tradition, but gets along just hunky dory with Israel, ongoing joint military exercises, etc.

For a war to be profitable, you must either (a) win valuable resource, (b) subsidize your military industrial complex, or (c) externalize internal instability. Israel has no natural resources. And they've repeatedly trounced the Arab nations before. Arab nations have no military industrial complexes being client states for the U.S. and E.U. And democracies bring about internal stability by giving the people some say.

Yes, we might see democratically elected Arab politicians hurting Israel through economic sanctions and public relations, i.e. unrestricted news coverage. Yet, if their electoral systems hold, they've little need for stability through conflict.

Saudi Arabia would otoh make a juicy target, assuming the U.S. cannot get involved.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:43 PM on February 26, 2011


And don't forget the reverse, Israel's approach to their neighbours. So many of their actions have been defined by external threats for so long. Does the threat just vanish if their neighbours become democratic? How does Israel change as an international player?
posted by Hoopo at 1:01 PM on February 26, 2011


Wow, have the big-L Liberals of MetaFilter taken over the old job of the Right Wing Warbloggers of "Fisking" Fisk?
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:12 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's all in motion and the future could be anywhere. The opportunity for peace is better without autocrats and despots scapegoating external enemies. The Western powers have played into that dynamic with the exaltation of "stability" over freedom and dignity.

Robert Fisk has thirty years experience in the region. He's been consistently on message about the importance of justice and dignity for the Muslim world. As a forecaster, he's been miles better than most of the spooks, soldiers and diplomats.

Gaddafi's invocation of the Al Qaida boogeyman shows how deeply the Western support of despotism is tied into Western agendas. When Col. Crazypants seized power in the late 60's, he (and the other tyrants) were fervid anti-communists. Now they're anti-Islamists.

So this is another turn of the Cold War worm.

Libya could pull this together, if some form of humane nationalism can bridge the divisions of tribe and region. Islam has been growing steadily in the direction of pluralistic democracy. It's not there yet, but the motion is perceptible. See Anthony Sadid's Legacy of the prophet

===

I think the fisking upthread is based on unfamiliarity with his work and a misreading.
posted by warbaby at 1:18 PM on February 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow, onefellswoop's link has a picture of Fisk speaking at my alma mater. It was from 2004 too, I don't know how I missed that talk.
posted by Hoopo at 1:23 PM on February 26, 2011


seriously Three Blind Mice, "pernicious treatment" and "land theft" are simple statements of fact in this case, hardly proof of a lack of objectivity.
posted by moorooka at 10:14 PM on February 26, 2011


There's a cute little talk by Clay Shirky arguing that leaderships really comes from the early followers.

It's conversely very enheartening seeing the protestors continue on tearing down the first round of old regime successors too, ala Suleiman and Ghannouchi. I believe they'll get reasonable leadership wherever they stick with protesting the old guard until some newer more reasonable options can organize themselves.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:18 PM on February 27, 2011


Here's Nick Kristoff saying pretty much the same thing about establishing democracy.
posted by warbaby at 6:59 PM on February 27, 2011


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