September 8, 2011

FROM WHICH POINT OF VIEW YOU'D HAVE TO SAY THAT 9-11 WORKED:

From 9/11 to the Arab Spring: The current uprising is directed not against foreign demons, but against cruel rulers who robbed their people of a decent life. (FOUAD AJAMI, 9/07/11, WSJ)

I traveled to Jeddah and Cairo in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In the splendid homes of wealthy American-educated businessmen, in the salons of perfectly polished men and women of letters, there was no small measure of admiration for Osama bin Laden. He was the avenger, the Arabs had been at the receiving end of Western power, and now the scales were righted. "Yes, but . . . ," said the Arab intellectual class, almost in unison. Those death pilots may have been zealous, but now the Americans know, and for the first time, what it means to be at the receiving end of power.

Very few Arabs believed that the landscape all around them--the tyrannical states, the growing poverty, the destruction of what little grace their old cities once possessed, the war across the generations between secular fathers and Islamist children--was the harvest of their own history. It was easier to believe that the Americans had willed those outcomes.

In truth, in the decade prior to 9/11, America had paid the Arab world scant attention. We had taken a holiday from history's exertions. But the Arabs had hung onto their belief that a willful America disposed of their fate. The Arab regimes possessed their own sources of power--fearsome security apparatuses, money in the oil states, official custodians of religion who gave repression their seal of approval. [...]

But the American war, and the sense of righteous violation, soon hit the Arab world itself. Saddam Hussein may not have been the Arab idol he was a decade earlier, but he was still a favored son of that Arab nation, its self-appointed defender. The toppling of his regime, some 18 months or so after 9/11, had brought the war closer to the Arabs. The spectacle of the Iraqi despot flushed out of his spider hole by American soldiers was a lesson to the Arabs as to the falseness and futility of radicalism.


Given how quickly and easily we changed these outcomes once we resumed paying attention, weren't they right? Al Qaeda just happened not to understand the Arab world as well as we did and understood America not at all.


Posted by at September 8, 2011 6:36 AM
  

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