Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Arab street

In the aftermath of the Israeli war on Lebanon, Arab bloggers and writers have been very busy discussing "Who Won?" Marc Lynch at Abu Aardvark writes about the many, varied responses coming out of "the Arab street".

For reasons I've already discussed, it is quite clear to me that Hezbollah, bloody but unbowed, won the ground war. Clearly Lebanon the nation-state was the big loser: the United Nations is estimating that Lebanon's economy has been put back twenty years.

The most interesting thing from Lynch's blog isn't the various opinions on who won, but the fact that there is a great deal of diversity in Arab opinion. People are often tempted to lump diverse "others" into a single basket, like Bush's imaginary "Axis of Evil": with enemies and rivals Iraq and Iran, isolationist North Korea, and non-state terrorist organisation al Qaeda (enemy to both the secular Iraqi government and the wrong-sort-of-religion theocratic Iranian government) being treated as essentially identical. But in real life, people or nations don't come in two flavours of Us and Them.

There is, however, one sense in which the so-called Arab street is unified: their increasing anger and fury at the US, Israel, and their accomplices in the friendly Arab regimes.

Marc Lynch has a follow-up here. Both are worth reading.

Western, particularly American, political actions over the last few decades has been pushing the Muslim world to become more radicalized, more violent and angry. We (by which I mean the elites in government that rule in our names) have, whether by design, or stupidity, or accident, been pushing millions of Muslims into the welcoming arms of Islamic anti-Western Fundamentalists. I do not welcome the day that Hezbollah controls Lebanon's politics, but Israel's foolish, arrogant, wicked adventurism has made that day more likely. The people that we trust with keeping us safe from our enemies have been, through their short-sighted greed and hunger for power, been boosting the strength and power of those Medieval, vicious god-botherers who want to control how we dress, what we eat, how we wear our hair, and how we think.

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