As Regimes Fall in Arab World, Al Qaeda Sees History Fly By
Scott Shane interviews Paul Pillar, Brian Fishman (from the New America Foundation), Steven Simon, Michael Scheuer and Christopher Boucek (from the Carnegie Endowment for Peace) for this news analysis.
The article is tailored to promote a view such as:
“These uprisings have shown that the new generation is not terribly interested in Al Qaeda’s ideology,” Mr. Simon said. He called the Zawahri statements “forlorn, if not pathetic.”
From what I read, Scheuer is the voice of reason. *gasp* (EoZ: Here's a video of Scheuer going on an anti-Zionist and cirtually anti-semitic rant on C-SPAN)
Mr. Scheuer says he believes that Americans, including many experts, have wildly misjudged the uprisings by focusing on the secular, English-speaking, Westernized protesters who are a natural draw for television. Thousands of Islamists have been released from prisons in Egypt alone, and the ouster of Al Qaeda’s enemy, Mr. Mubarak, will help revitalize every stripe of Islamism, including that of Al Qaeda and its allies, he said.
Boaz Ganor in the Jerusalem Post wrote
The revolutions and US euphoria
Talhami points out that it is still too early to tell where the Egyptian revolution is headed, but claims one conclusion is evident – this is Osama bin Laden’s nightmare, since peaceful masses, not the murder of innocents, overthrew the regime.This argument reflects an erroneous understanding of the essence and goals of al-Qaida. This terrorist organization, like most others, is not merely a group of bloodthirsty madmen who commit violence for violence’s sake. Al- Qaida carries out terror attacks to advance its religious-ideological goal – the foundation of a global Islamic caliphate governed by Shari’a. If the Egyptian process will eventually lead to an Iran-like state, al-Qaida will have gained greatly.
The loser is therefore al-Qaida, since it has tried to convince the Muslim masses that the only way to fulfill their ambitions is through violence.
The assumption that the loser is al- Qaida may lead to the erroneous conclusion that the winner is the bloc opposing al-Qaida – the Western nations led by the US. Such a victory may yet prove to be Pyrrhic.
This is similar (though the particulars are different) to what Barry Rubin's written recently about the need to be realistic not optimistic.
The Times article is marked by that optimism. True it's a great story. Millions of disenfranchised people across the region bring down entrenched autocrats using little more than Facebook. With the Facebook angle it is a great story for this era. The bonus of defeating the terrorists would be a wonderfully happy ending. Too bad that real life doesn't always follow a Hollywood plot line.
For what it's worth another writer for the Times does present the only fly in the ointment. Not surprisingly Roger Cohen sees Israel as a possible obstacle to the democratic paradise emerging in the Middle East.
Evoking Emerson Lake and Palmer, Cohen wrote a Paean to President Obama, Oh What a Lucky Man.
(Does Cohen even understand the song? It's about a man of war, not the man of peace he is portraying.)
In one case, Cohen channels his inner Walt and Mearsheimer.
By contrast, the American right has found itself tied up in knots, wondering how to disentangle the words “freedom” and “Arab,” the first demanding its hard-wired allegiance, the second demanding its Israel-dictated skepticism. Pity the poor Republican newbies, once so full of certainties, confronted by a nuanced world.
Why is the skepticism "Israel-dictated?" One would think that the return of Yousef al Qaradawi to huge crowds, the new smuggling into Gaza or increased persecution of Copts as reasons for skepticism about the direction of Egypt revolution. Instead Cohen turns to the first refuge of the foreign policy scoundrel and blames Israel.
Later Cohen writes:
How can the West help forge the new regional safe house of emergent Arab democracies? Obama must bring the best minds to bear on that question and a related one: How to coax Israel from its paralyzing siege mentality into seizing this moment to seek peace?"Siege mentality?" Israel negotiated with Arafat granting him land, arms and legitimacy while he encouraged terrorism. Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon only to see Hezbollah increase its influence and power and then saw the same thing happen when it withdrew from Gaza with Hamas. Now the major players in Egypt have made it clear that they view the peace treaty with Israel as a negative for their country. This isn't a "mentality" it's experience.
There's a lot more in Cohen's absurd op-ed. I'll leave it to others to fisk as an exercise.
Over at the Washington Post...The editors have questions, and they're pretty happy with the answers.
The Arab revolution swells
THREE QUESTIONS have driven discussion of the ongoing Arab revolt and how the United States should respond to it. Can it spread to all of the Arab states, including seemingly stable kingdoms, such as Saudi Arabia, and the most repressive police states, such as Syria? Can it be stopped with violence by regimes more ruthless than those of Tunisia and Egypt? And can entrenched power structures succeed in limiting the amount of change, through bribes or negotiation?
The answers are not yet in - but so far, the trends point toward a "no" to all three questions. That's an exciting prospect for supporters of democracy, above all young Arabs who yearn for their countries to refound themselves. But it also means more instabilility ahead in the region, along with some hard choices for the United States.
Richard Cohen (more and more he makes sense, what's happened?) has a different question. More importantly his question is based on history, and isn't asked (and answered) in a vacuum.
Can the Arab world leave anti-Semitism behind?
During World War II, the leader of the Palestinians lived in a Berlin villa, a gift from a very grateful Adolf Hitler, who clearly got his money's worth. Haj Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem and as such the titular leader of Muslim Palestinians, broadcast Nazi propaganda to the Middle East, recruited European Muslims for the SS, exulted in the Holocaust and after the war went on to represent his people in the Arab League. He died somewhat ignored but never repudiated.
Husseini might have been a Nazi to his very soul, but he was also a Palestinian nationalist with genuine support among his own people. The Allies originally considered him a war criminal, but to many Arabs, he was just a patriot. His exterminationist anti-Semitism was considered neither overly repugnant nor all that exceptional. The Arab world is saturated by Jew-hatred.
Some of this hatred was planted by Husseini and some of it long existed, but whatever the case, it remains a remarkable, if unremarked, feature of Arab nationalism. The other day, for instance, about 1 million Egyptians in Tahrir Square heard from Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an esteemed religious leader and Muslim Brotherhood figure whose anti-Semitic credentials are unimpeachable. Among other things, he has said that Hitler was sent by Allah as "divine punishment" for the Jews. His al-Jazeera program is one of that TV network's most popular.