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Monarch in the Middle
March 19, 2013 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Amid the social and political transformations reshaping the Middle East, can King Abdullah II, the region's most pro-American Arab leader, liberalize Jordan, modernize its economy, and save his kingdom from capture by Islamist radicals? - Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic
posted by beisny (18 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
If "Islamist radicals" "capture" Jordan, it will be because they were voted into power.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:26 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Always felt sympathy for this guy. He has the right ideas, but his country is in the wrong place.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:32 AM on March 19, 2013


Loved him in Star Trek.
posted by Damienmce at 11:57 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


50% of country is Palestinian. They do not like the king and they seem rather to prefer to have their own state, be it Jordan, run by them, of a new state carved out of the mess that is the middle east.
posted by Postroad at 12:01 PM on March 19, 2013


I don't know if his majesty is a Mefite, but my advice is GTFO to Swtizerland with your loved ones while you can and live off comfortably with the billions you have stashed away there [trust me, they got billions stashed away there].

You seem like a nice enough guy, and it would be a shame if you and the queen got executed when the inevitable Muslim Brotherhood takeover happens.
posted by Renoroc at 2:01 PM on March 19, 2013


Early in his reign, he would occasionally dress as a peasant and mix with common people, to learn their desires and frustrations. I accompanied him on one such foray, to Zarqa, a city of disaffected Palestinians and perpetually enraged Islamists situated northeast of Amman.

Here's a NYT article expanding on the above story, in case anyone else was intrigued. Unfornately it doesn't involve the King and Goldberg disguised in a hijab fleeing burly guards with scimitars, like I originally imagined...
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 2:47 PM on March 19, 2013


save his kingdom from capture by Islamist radicals?

I find this phrasing really racist and imperialist. Since when have monarchies been a Good Thing? I thought we were meant to believe in democracy. Jordanians have a right to self-determination and the kid of government they want; it's probably not a monarchy.
posted by smoke at 3:44 PM on March 19, 2013


Smoke, it's probably not a democracy either; or a place where women and minority rights are respected. I don't pretend to have a have a solution for this, but the events in Egypt, Libya, and other regional countries should give us pause.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:58 PM on March 19, 2013


but the events in Egypt, Libya, and other regional countries should give us pause.

Oh you mean the Western-supported tyrants that were overthrown after literally decades of oppression and the democratic governments that were voted in during surprisingly fair elections that happen to not blindly support Western goals and beliefs in the region? The ones struggling to deal with the legacy of that oppression and trying to form fledging governments and rebuild shattered public services?

I'm sure it does give the Realist Neocons, pause.
posted by smoke at 5:53 PM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


The Muslim Brotherhood said the declaration would give "wives full rights to file legal complaints against husbands accusing them of rape or sexual harassment, obliging competent authorities to deal husbands punishments similar to those prescribed for raping or sexually harassing a stranger." link

Another link

Can we please try to not seem like just because Deposed Tyrant was bad, that voted-in guys are good? I know they got problems - good lord do they got problems. But since they have all that public infrastructure and trust in government and etc. to rebuild, maybe they could do that first? I guess maybe making sure half the population is unable to have equal access to legal and education systems is more important.
posted by rtha at 6:33 PM on March 19, 2013


smoke: save his kingdom from capture by Islamist radicals?

I find this phrasing really racist and imperialist.


It's racist how? That charge gets thrown around a lot.

Since when have monarchies been a Good Thing? I thought we were meant to believe in democracy. Jordanians have a right to self-determination and the kid of government they want; it's probably not a monarchy.

I don't know who "we" is, but a semi-constitutional monarchy is more than a little bit better than the illiberal "democracies" we see in Egypt, Iraq and Iran. Abdullah II is a more liberal leader than the government likely to form out of a vote held in Jordan today; and has been taking seemingly sincere steps to ease his country into a democratic mindset.

In other words, since when have Theocracies not been a Bad Thing?

democratic governments that were voted in during surprisingly fair elections

And then, in the case of Morsi, declared another emergency to give himself total power? Tunisia has been heartening. Egypt has not.
posted by spaltavian at 8:40 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


smoke: I'm sure it does give the Realist Neocons, pause.

By the way, Neoconservatives are not "realists" in this sense; they reject realpolitik. Foreign policy realists are skeptical and cynical. Neoconservatives are ideological and idealistic. They are two very different schools of thought.
posted by spaltavian at 9:32 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find this phrasing really racist and imperialist.

So you're saying that there are no Islamist radicals in the Middle East? How interesting.
posted by dhartung at 12:41 AM on March 20, 2013


So you're saying that there are no Islamist radicals in the Middle East? How interesting.

Real deep, everyone.

It's racist because it presumes Jordan can be "captured" by Islamists, when in fact Muslim Brotherhood parties and their cousins are actually - however much we may disagree with them - the most popular parties in many Arab countries, and, when given chance, the majority of the populaces in said countries seem to vote for them.

It's racist because it would not be a capture it would either a restoration or a handover, depending on how you look at it - and premising it as a "capture" basically denies the right of self-determination to the people in Jordan, and is incredibly groan-inducing coming from people whose countries have been happy to prop up the most brutal and repressive dictators in the region for decades. In recently-democratic Arab countries, the Brotherhood and fellow Islamists took power via the ballot box, rather than US tanks.

The idea that a constitutional monarchy (let alone this constitutional monarchy is "a little bit better" than the alternative in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, etc may be true from a Western perspective, but I suggest we ask the Jordanian people what they think. Of course the best method of doing that - elections - are hopelessly rigged and not at all democratic.

So that's why it's racist - and part of a long history of neo/colonial racism in the Arab world. I mean really, do we believe in democracy, or only when it suits us? Well, I guess we know the answer for a lot of Americans.

hey are two very different schools of thought.

Thanks, I know what the terms mean. This is one of the rare cases where they overlap well: Neocons get to trumpet about championing freedom and civilised values (as above); realists get to gloat about good locations for secret prisons and bases, well-established secret-police forces to monitor US unfriendlies, and convenient regional allies.
posted by smoke at 12:58 AM on March 20, 2013


It's racist
It's racist
So that's why it's racist

Well, that about sums up your grand argument, doesn't it? Oh, and it's not a bit personal or unfair, either.

One does not need to be racist to oppose Islamism, and opposing Islamism (and especially the phrase Islamist radicals) does not mean supporting imperialism. I can speak for myself, you know, without speaking for my own government or national interest.

We can all hail self-determination as an independent good, but when it has the potential to result in "illiberal democracy" we have a right to concern as well. I wouldn't want a quasi-theocratic government in the US, either, no matter how popular the damned thing was (and in many ways, of course, is). I think it's blinkered, great-man-theory journalism to focus on Abdullah here as some sort of savior of his people, but inasmuch as he is safeguarding minority rights, women's rights, and other things that could easily be wiped way in an Islamist coup, I can be guardedly, fractionally happy for that. As a US citizen I can also be happy that we have a government holding a country together with soft power instead of the barrel of a gun and a savage secret police force, given those features in the regimes you blame us for, but I don't think I am morally obligated to support -- again the phrase under discussion -- Islamist radicals even if they would be popularly elected. Nor am I obligated to be happy if these governments would have a tendency to forge an anti-American foreign policy a la Iran.

We did manage to see Islamist parties mature and work within constitutional systems, particularly in Turkey. But so far we have no guarantees that would be the rule and the change of power in Egypt in particular could still prove disastrous for us, for Israel, and for the region generally. Inasmuch as that also applies to Jordan, I don't need to be happy about those risks.

Yes, I will admit if you demand it, the US has exercised untoward power in many client states over particularly the postwar era but there are still independent goods that I can support regardless of that history, thank you very much. I mean, I have my agency, and my autonomy, right? I like Western-style democracy and I see trends set against those happy, perhaps quaint ideals. I don't think it's inappropriate to wish the best-fit outcome that I, personally, see among what may be equally problematic outcomes. That, unfortunately, is reality and is the basis of realpolitik in its purest, non-ideologically-distorted form, as opposed to your tabloid interpretation ("secret prisons" is a phrase I doubt can be found in Morgenthau).

If you would try not to toss out the R-word in your reply, I hope you will consider that I chose not to employ a number of Anglo-Saxon options at my own disposal.
posted by dhartung at 4:13 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can have poltical Islam and democracy, (i.e. Turkey), but that is not what we have seen in Egypt. Also, I explictly said Tunisia looks like it's working out, which you have chosen to ignore.

It's racist because it presumes Jordan can be "captured" by Islamists

Okay, that's called having a disagreement, not racism. You're complaining about lack of depth, but you haven't thought about what others have said.

The "capturing" is not the election of an Islamist government. It's when they turn around and subvert or overrule the democratic structures that brought them to power so they can maintain it. That's exact what we've seen in Egypt.

I mean really, do we believe in democracy, or only when it suits us?

I don't believe in a sham "democracy" that violates minority rights, or operates in authoritarian ways. Popular support does not absolve rank demagoguery.
posted by spaltavian at 7:32 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


hey are two very different schools of thought.

Thanks, I know what the terms mean. This is one of the rare cases where they overlap well: Neocons get to trumpet about championing freedom and civilised values (as above); realists get to gloat about good locations for secret prisons and bases, well-established secret-police forces to monitor US unfriendlies, and convenient regional allies.


No, you don't know what they mean. Neoconservatives wanted to invade Iraq specifically to trigger a "transformation" in the Middle East. Not that Iraq had anything to do with it, but they were actually envisioning something like the Arab Spring. Neoconservatives are no longer in power; and have been reduced to blaming Obama for not managing the change correctly as an explanation of why the Arab Spring has not brought about real democracy.

Realists are skeptical that popular uprisings will bring about democracy, freedom, stability or are in US interests. They will, however, work with whomever comes out on top, provided they play ball.
posted by spaltavian at 7:40 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


By the way, the UAE monarchy, monarchies in the seven emirates are vastly superior to what passes for democracies in this region. Oh by the way, ever wonder where the Muslim Brotherhood(s) gets their money?
posted by ambient2 at 12:33 PM on March 20, 2013


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