January 18, 2011

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

The message from the Mideast has been consistent and clear: When elections are held, or monarchs and autocrats overthrown, the masses will turn to leaders who will pull away from America and stand in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Turkey is a case in point. Before he invaded Iraq, Bush asked Ankara for permission to attack from its territory in the north, as well as Kuwait in the south. The Parliament of this NATO ally of 50 years refused permission.

Since then, Turkey has been moving away from America, away from Israel, and closer to the Islamic peoples of a region Ottoman Turks ruled for centuries.

George H.W. Bush abjured “the vision thing.” But George W. had a road-to-Damascus experience during 9/11. He became a true believer that the security of his country and the peace of the world depended on a global conversion to democracy. And he would do the converting.

This is the ideology of democratism. Bush’s zealotry in pursuing his new faith blinded him to the reality that whatever their failings, the kings of Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Mubarak are more reliable friends than any regime that might come out of one-man, one-vote elections.

Why, other than ideology, would a leader demand that a friendly regime hold elections if it were a near certainty the regime to come out of those elections would be more hostile to one’s own country?

Dwight Eisenhower preferred the Shah to Mohammad Mossadegh, though the latter had been elected. Ike backed the coup. Richard Nixon preferred Gen. Augusto Pinochet to Chile’s pro-Castro President Salvador Allende, who was elected. The general was with us.

Yet this raises anew the question: Why do they hate us?

In the 19th century, European monarchs disliked our republic, but their people loved us. Through World War II and much of the Cold War, the peoples of the Middle East saw America as the champion of liberation from imperial rule. We were first to throw the British out.

Perhaps we have lost the people of the Middle East, while winning the allegiance of their autocratic rulers, because we, too, have become an empire—and no longer see ourselves as others see us.


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