By Rogers Emerson
Years ago, an Iraqi thinker and writer, Kanan Makiya, suggested that the Arab world was delusional with respect to the violence and antipathies that crippled its political culture.
He wrote several books documenting this harsh reality, including Cruelty and Silence and The Republic of Fear, which he wrote using a pseudonym. Sadly, a quarter century later, there is little reason to question Makiya’s perspective or to think the Arab world has any clue how to thrive and survive in the modern world. But for oil, the region would be a morass of failure and poverty – not a single working democracy or successful cultural entity (Lebanon tries, but is besieged north and south and internally); not an ounce of serious tolerance for plurality or civil discourse; no serious and sustained commitment to a culture of inclusion and government of modern law.
I am not convinced that any Arab thinker or writer – past or present – could honestly make sense of the disaster that is playing out in the Middle East today. I include such eminent men of letters and historians as Albert Hourani, Fouad Ajami (rest in peace) or even Edward Said (Obama mentor and friend), who no doubt would be tossing out the same old excuses about Western imperialism.
You can try to blame the West, Israel, Bernard Lewis, George W. Bush or Obama. But in fact the mess belongs mostly and squarely on the shoulders of an anti-modern, tribalist and sectarian mentality that continue to roil the region in cruelty and violence. The dominant religion and its more extreme faithful followers are trapped in in a world view that remains Medieval and frightening.
From Syria, to Egypt, to Iraq – the recipe for rule is tyranny and the answer to every difficult problem is violence.