President Bush recently gave what some observers have called the "seminal foreign policy" speech of his term. He laid out in clear and unusually precise terms his vision of a democratic Middle East.
He stated, "In many nations in the Middle East, countries of great strategic importance, democracy has not yet taken root." The truth of this statement is obvious. But when he likens the Middle East to Germany and Japan after WW II, the reality becomes pure rhetoric.
Germany and Japan did not have O-I-L. These countries did not have natural resources that the world covets. They would be strategic partners in consuming world’s resources.
What does this have to do with democracy?
The Arab and Muslim people believe that their freedoms have been kept at bay through a collusion of forces. Supporters of tyranny go back hundreds of years. The Ottoman Empire ruled through a system of proxy despots.
When the Ottoman Empire gave way to the British Empire, a new technique of control and manipulation surfaced. The British were masters at "divide and conquer" while occupying the Middle East.
It was also the British who gave the first "wink and a nod" for implanting the ultimate tool of divide and conquer; Israel. Harry Truman finished the "wink and a nod" by recognizing Israel within 10 seconds of its nomination as a state at the UN.
When the British Empire crumbled and democracy swept the entire world, the Middle East was excluded by the imperial powers. In the 20th Century, feudal Kings were installed by American and British global powers to quell democratic impulses. The price of their thrones was clear; they were caretakers for the natural resources desperately needed by the industrial world.
Of course democracy was not the goal of policy back then. It would have been easy to encourage democracy in the oil- rich region. So why did the powers opt for feudal rulers?
Simply put, the Arab and Muslim people would have voted the old powers out of their sphere. Oil flow would have been put at risk if democratic forces had their say. Middle Eastern nationalists would have CERTAINLY developed their resources with their countrymen’s interests at heart over Western interests.
But today, the US is running out of options. Proxy leaders (feudal Kings in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait) and regional dictators (Mubarak in Egypt and Musharaf in Pakistan to name two) will not be able to maintain power much longer. They must become increasingly repressive to maintain power and thus fuel the discontent articulated by Bin Laden.
But the Bush rhetoric of democracy has more of a hollow ring than one can possibly imagine. As long as Israel is ALLOWED to brutalize the Palestinian population through an inhuman occupation, there can be no credible talk of democracy. Israel is a symbol of imperial power.
This is not the article to more fully articulate the reasons behind this thinking. It is a fact that Arabs and Muslims hold such views. It is undeniable. These perceptions were not addressed by Bush. He doesn’t seem to engage these perceptions.
If one wishes to change perceptions, one ought to at least have a rudimentary understanding of them first.