Freedom is Now a Prospect Across Arab World

Excerpt from The Independent

From the mildewed, corrupted dictatorships – the cancer of the Middle East – is emerging a people reborn. Not without bloodshed, and not without much violence in front of them as well as behind them. But now at last the Arabs can hope to march into the bright sunlit uplands. Every Arab friend of mine has said exactly the same thing to me over the past weeks: “Never did I believe I would ever live to see this.”

We have watched these earthquake tremors turn to cracks and the cracks into crevasses. From Tunisia to Egypt to Libya, to Yemen – perhaps only 48 hours from freedom – to Morocco and to Bahrain and, yes, even now to Syria, the young and the brave have told the world that they want freedom. And freedom, over the coming weeks and months, they will undoubtedly obtain. These are happy words to write, but they must be said with the greatest caution.

Despite all the confidence of D Cameron, Esq, I am not at all sure that Libya is going to end happily. Indeed, I’m not sure I know how it is going to end at all, although the vain and preposterous US attack on Gaddafi’s compound – almost identical to the one that was staged in 1986 and took the life of Gaddafi’s adopted daughter – demonstrated beyond any doubt that the intention of Obama is regime liquidation. I’m not certain, either, that Bahrain is going to be an easily created democracy, especially when Saudi Arabia – the untouchable chalice almost as sacred from criticism as Israel – is sending its military riff-raff across the border bridge.

I have noticed, of course, the whinging of the likes of Robert Skidelsky who believes that the Bush-Blair fantasy “liberation” of Iraq – which has ended up with the country effectively controlled from Tehran – led to the street uprisings today “But Western democracies’ combination of freedom and order… is the product of a long history that cannot be replicated in short order,” he has been saying. “Most non-Western peoples rely upon the ruler’s personal virtues, not institutional limits on his power, to make their lives tolerable.” I get the point. Arabs cannot be trusted with democracy – indeed they aren’t ready for it like we smug Westerners are and, er, the Israelis of course. This is a bit like Israel saying – as it does say – that it is the only democracy in the Middle East, and then trying to ensure it stays that way by pleading for the Americans to keep Mubarak in power. Which is exactly what happened in January.

But Israel is a case worth examining. Usually capable of considerable forethought, its government and diplomats and overseas supporters have been hopelessly lazy and cackhanded in their response to the events thundering across the Arab world. Instead of embracing a new and democratic Egypt, they are sullenly warning of its volatility. For Israel’s government, it now appears, the fall of dictators whom they have many times compared to Hitler is even worse than the dictators’ preservation. We can see where the problem lies. A Mubarak would always obey orders – via Washington – from Israel. A new president will be under no such pressure. Voters in Egypt do not like the siege of Gaza. They are outraged by the theft of Arab land for Israeli colonies in the West Bank. No matter how big the bribes from Washington, no elected Egyptian president is going to be able to tolerate this state of affairs for long.

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