March 13, 2005
Will the Mideast Bloom? (Youssef M. Ibrahim, March 13, 2005, Washington Post)
Nowadays, intellectuals, businessmen and working-class people alike can be caught lauding Bush's hard-edged posture on democracy and cheering his handling of Arab rulers who are U.S. allies. Many also admire Bush's unvarnished threats against Syria should it fail to pull its soldiers and spies out of Lebanon before the elections there next month -- a warning the United Nations reinforced last week with immediate effects. For Bush, it is not quite a lovefest but a celebration nonetheless.
"His talk about democracy is good," an Egyptian-born woman was telling companions at the Fatafeet (or "Crumbs") restaurant the other night, exuberant enough for her voice to carry to neighboring tables. "He keeps hitting this nail. That's good, by God, isn't it?" At another table, a Lebanese man was waxing enthusiastic over Bush's blunt and irreverent manner toward Arab autocrats. "It is good to light a fire under their feet," he said.
From Casablanca to Kuwait City, the writings of newspaper columnists and the chatter of pundits on Arabic language satellite television suggest a change in climate for advocates of human rights, constitutional reforms, business transparency, women's rights and limits on power. And while developments differ vastly from country to country, their common feature is a lifting -- albeit a tentative one -- of the fear that has for decades constricted the Arab mind.
Regardless of Bush's intentions -- which many Arabs and Muslims still view with suspicion -- the U.S. president and his neoconservative crowd are helping to spawn a spirit of reform and a new vigor to confront dynastic dictatorships and other assorted ills. It's enough for someone like me, who has felt that Bush's attitude toward the Mideast has been all wrong, to wonder whether his idea of setting the Muslim house in order is right.
Mr. Ibrahim was one of the louder claimants that it was a war for oil. Posted by Orrin Judd at March 13, 2005 9:24 AM