Monday, June 20, 2005

Abu Aardvark. Not what you think, you can be sure...

This is about politics, not the zoo.
Mark Lynch, aka Abu Aardvark, sports a cv that will blow you away. His blog is one of the first places I look whenever I want to learn something about what's going on in the Middle East. Today he compares Condi Rice, whom he really likes, with Beheyya, a voice from Egypt who seems every bit an intellectual equal to our Secretary of State. Compare and contrast these two views of the emergence of Democracy in the ME:

Condolezza Rice said:

The United States, for 60 years, did not do all that it could to promote a free and democratic Middle East, and very often people talked about the Middle East somehow being different, that what we needed to worry about in the Middle East was stability. And what we learned is that we were getting neither stability nor liberty and freedom; we were getting instead a growth of extremism because people did not have channels through which to express themselves politically.

When we say that Jordan has many aspects that could be a model, it is that it is a state that is trying to reform. I will have a chance when I'm in Egypt to talk more about the need for reform, about the need for the Middle East and Middle Eastern leaders to hear the voices of their people and their people's desire for reform. But there is no plan. We are hoping that this is a call that will be taken up by people of the Middle East and by their governments, and indeed I think that you're seeing the conversation change pretty dramatically in the Middle East about the need for reform.

Baheyya said:

Egyptians have been struggling for decades to get democracy, with very modest results as we see all around us. But that’s the nature of the beast. It’s a truism by now, but no less true: democracy is the business of a couple of centuries, not decades but also not millennia. It would be utterly missing the point to dismiss today’s upheaval as fleeting or chaotic or confusing or ‘unorganised’. It’s the name of the game, political struggle is messy and noisy and above all, confusing. Even if it all ends tomorrow, it will still have added enormous value to the process of public deliberation that will surely revive on another day. Let’s not get bound up in the admittedly fascinating details and ignore the prize: movement, ferment, debate, disagreement, new ideas twining with old practices, even mistakes, charlatanism, perfidy, and all the rest. Getting democracy is not a fairy tale story but a noisy, chaotic canvas where even the ‘bad guys’ can be incorporated into the game peacefully. The real bad guys are those who would deny Egyptians and Arabs the right to have their noisy debates and struggles and the right to publicly deliberate on their institutions, policies, and other public choices. Bad guys want to shut down debate to ram through their own designs and neat little ideas for how others should live.

Good stuff there.
Better not go with a closed mind. Proceed at your own risk.

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