03 February 2006

Middle East reaction to SOTU

    Example is leadership.
      Albert Schweitzer

Christopher Dickey wrote an article on the Middle East reaction to the SOTU. It's titled Battleground of Ideas. I read it yesterday, but it's stuck with me, so I figured I'd share it. Following are some exerpts that struck me, but you should read the whole thing.

So only a few people in the region listened to President George W. Bush deliver his State of the Union address last night. But they know the message, now, almost as well as they know the call of the muezzin; it has been repeated so often, so relentlessly, and so mechanically. The difference is that many believe the muezzin, and few believe Bush.

We shouldn't be surprised. The State of the Union, perhaps more than any other speech the president makes, defines the way the administration wants to see its world. But its narrative is so foreign to the thinking of most people in the Arab world that they've come to hear Bush's language as a kind of code: "liberation" means occupation, "freedom" means war, "victory" means victims, "reconstruction" means chaos, "democracy" means following directives from Washington. Bush, whatever his intentions—and I think he should be credited with some good ones—has come to be seen as a caricature, talking about strength and determination, projecting an image of stubbornness and confusion.

Those who are attacked or denigrated by the Bush administration, like the Baathist regime in Syria, find themselves lionized by the Arab public. Those applauded by Washington are dismissed as pawns. The result on the ground is often the opposite of the Bush administration's stated desires. "Democracy has a new enemy in the region, which is the support [for democracy] by the United States of America," says Safadi.

Ultimately, democracy is taught better by example than by declaration, and here, too, the Bush administration has failed in the eyes of many Arabs and Muslims. It's not that people in Iraq or Lebanon, Iran or Egypt do not want a voice in their governments, clearly they do. And they want change. They pray for it. But none of the changes they've been shown so far have been adequate to their hopes. Nor has their ever-growing contact with truth and justice the American way led them to see it as a shining example. The essence of democracy is public accountability.

There is so much more in the article. I found myself wanting to cut/paste damn near the whole thing. Check it out.

Cross-posted at BlueJersey.net.

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