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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Elder's Second Rule

In recent weeks I've mentioned Elder's First Rule of Arab/Muslim Projection a number of times.

It it time to unveil a new rule:

Arabs/Muslims hate the West more than they hate each other - especially Israel.

There has been much wishful thinking on the part of analysts recently about how there is the possibility of a coalition of "moderate" Arabs and Muslims, presumably Sunnis, that would be willing to go against Iran's growing Shiite influence.

We've been down this road before. We've propped up one Arab/Muslim group against another only to find that the winners were worse than the losers.

Now, it is certainly possible to construct a scenario where, for purely selfish and short-term gains, some Arabs/Muslims may toe the Western line and help us out. But for each time that happens - for each time the A/Ms are perceived by their proud subjects as kowtowing to the hated West - they become weaker and more susceptible to popular, religious-based uprisings.

This is a corollary to the A/M sense of honor and pride (much more pronounced on the Arab side than the Muslim side, but potent in either case.) The perception that any A/M nation's leader is a puppet of the West means that it is just a matter of time before that leadership is gone. It may take decades but it is still going to happen.

Unfortunately, Westerners tend to think in terms of the short-term (effectively, the election cycle.) Propping up a government like Egypt to the tune of billions a year makes short term sense but there needs to be a longer-term policy where common interests have the chance of influencing behavior more than dollars.

Publicly siding with America is a death sentence in the Arab world and the leaders who do it lose all credibility. And while Saudi Arabia may be very scared by Iran and beholden to Western petrodollars, their seeming to side with the West is a short-term expediency. The average Saudi identifies more with a madman who stands up to America than with a prince who meekly cooperates.

Is there any long-term appreciation of the US in Kuwait for saving it? On the contrary - they hate the fact that they were so weak that they needed US help, an affront to their own pride.

Sunnis might hate Shias who might hate Salafists but they all agree that Islam must rule the world and the details can be worked out later. And in a region where chaos favors fundamentalism, the unintended results from any Western moves will often offset the intended results.

UPDATE: Once again, Shrinkwrapped wraps a marvelous analysis around this matter.