So when the Arabs cry out for the very future that Obama outlined, we show them disrespect.
There is nothing like an Arab revolution to show up the hypocrisy of your friends. Especially if that revolution is one of civility and humanism and powered by an overwhelming demand for the kind of democracy that we enjoy in Europe and America. The pussyfooting nonsense uttered by Obama and La Clinton these past two weeks is only part of the problem. From „stability“ to „perfect storm“ – Gone With the Wind might have recommended itself to the State Department if they really must pilfer Hollywood for their failure to adopt moral values in the Middle East – we’ve ended up with the presidential „now-means-yesterday“, and „orderly transition“, which translates: no violence while ex-air force General Mubarak is put out to graze so that ex-intelligence General Suleiman can take over the regime on behalf of America and Israel.
Fox News has already told its viewers in America that the Muslim Brotherhood – about the „softest“ of Islamist groups in the Middle East – is behind the brave men and women who have dared to resist the state security police, while the mass of French „intellectuals“ (the quotation marks are essential for poseurs like Bernard-Henri Lévy have turned, in Le Monde’s imperishable headline, into „the intelligentsia of silence“.
And we all know why. Alain Finkelstein talks about his „admiration“ for the democrats but also the need for „vigilance“ – and this is surely a low point for any ‚philosophe‘ – „because today we know above all that we don’t know how everything is going to turn out.“ This almost Rumsfeldian quotation is gilded by Lévy’s own preposterous line that „it is essential to take into account the complexity of the situation“. Oddly enough that is exactly what the Israelis always say when some misguided Westerner suggests that Israel should stop stealing Arab land in the West Bank for its colonists.
Indeed Israel’s own reaction to the momentous events in Egypt – that this might not be the time for democracy in Egypt (thus allowing it to keep the title of „the only democracy in the Middle East“) – has been as implausible as it has been self-defeating. Israel will be much safer surrounded by real democracies than by vicious dictators and autocratic kings. To his enormous credit, the French historian Daniel Lindenberg told the truth this week. „We must, alas, admit the reality: many intellectuals believe, deep down, that the Arab people are congenitally backward.“
There is nothing new in this. It applies to our subterranean feelings about the whole Muslim world. Chancellor Merkel of Germany announces that multiculturalism doesn’t work, and a pretender to the Bavarian royal family told me not so long ago that there were too many Turks in Germany because „they didn’t want to be part of German society“. Yet when Turkey itself – as near a perfect blend of Islam and democracy as you can find in the Middle East right now – asks to join the European Union and share our Western civilisation, we search desperately for any remedy, however racist, to prevent her membership.
In other words, we want them to be like us, providing they stay away. And then, when they prove they want to be like us but don’t want to invade Europe, we do our best to install another American-trained general to rule them. Just as Paul Wolfowitz reacted to the Turkish parliament’s refusal to allow US troops to invade Iraq from southern Turkey by asking if „the generals don’t have something to say about this“, we are now reduced to listening while US defence secretary Robert Gates fawns over the Egyptian army for their „restraint“ – apparently failing to realise that it is the people of Egypt, the proponents of democracy, who should be praised for their restraint and non-violence, not a bunch of brigadiers.
So when the Arabs want dignity and self-respect, when they cry out for the very future which Obama outlined in his famous – now, I suppose, infamous – Cairo speech of June 2009, we show them disrespect and casuistry. Instead of welcoming democratic demands, we treat them as a disaster. It is an infinite relief to find serious American journalists like Roger Cohen going „behind the lines“ on Tahrir Square to tell the unvarnished truth about this hypocrisy of ours. It is an unmitigated disgrace when their leaders speak. Macmillan threw aside colonial pretensions of African unpreparedness for democracy by talking of the „wind of change“. Now the wind of change is blowing across the Arab world. And we turn our backs upon it.