Thursday, March 10, 2005

Freedom: From, Of, or To? (Part One)

I'm coming to this late--but it's been a while since I've posted and this is a good topic. Apparently, AllahPundit still posts occasionally; and his Feb. 25th post is a link to this article by Martin Kramer.

Kramer, through a series of questions, cautiously critiques Natan Sharansky's optimism for freedom in the Middle East. But Kramer is not a member of the Michael Moore contingent. He is a specialist in the history and culture of the region and his criticism is thoughtful and worth consideration.

Kramer's first question is whether the continual tyranny of the region originates in the West or in the people who inhabit the region itself. He soundly rejects the idea that the West is primarily responsible for the turmoil and oppression--an answer with which I agree. I also find his affirmative reasons for the situation reasonable: tribalism, obsession with authority, corruption of the oil industry, past failures, and fear of foreigners and chaos. And he is certainly correct that the people of these nations are in some sense responsible for their predicament, having failed to gather the critical mass necessary to overthrow their corrupt leaders.

But this does not mean that movement to more Western-style governments and societies are not possible. Europe languished long in a similar situation. Both the Germans and the Japanese at the end of WWII faced many of the same difficulties. The difference for some in the Middle East is that they still have not been totally disillusioned and disappointed by their own worldview.

The Japanese were dismayed to find that their Emperor-God was not powerful enough to save them. The Germans were likewise devastated by the collapse of their 1900 year old mythology of the all-conquering Teutonic warriors who embarrassed the Roman Empire. Their fantastic hopes were permanently wiped away by Berlin, Remagen, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. They were not the Gods of Olympus and Americans were not stupid losers.

But Arabs are also beginning to realize the truth: they have been building their hopes on centuries-old puffery. When it was finally revealed that Americans had little trouble blowing through Iraq, Arabs in neighboring states were shocked to find that al Jazeera had deceived them. They had been assured that the Americans were helpless and hopeless.

The Iraqis were reportedly surprised that our military forces included many black men and women. They had been told over and over of our hatred for and oppression of blacks. We were supposed to be the backward and inferior fools who would not accept the superior way of Islam. Things were not as they appeared.

Like the pathological fear of Jews, the assurance that the West is weaker than the house of Islam (whether militarily, ideologically, morally, or socially) can only be shed with forced familiarity and close contact. The truth about the West is the best weapon in changing the East.

Tomorrow, I’ll investigate the rest of Kramer’s argument. Stay tuned!