Monday, May 23, 2005

The Middle East: Bush Country

All we hear, 24-7 in fact, is that the Muslim world ( i.e. The entirety of The Middle East ) hates America. Not so, according to Johns Hopkins professor, Fouad Ajami, in his recent lecture at the Hoover Institution. An excerpt of his speech appeared in Sunday's Opinion Journal of The Wall Street Journal and begins with the following quote from a shrewd Kuwaiti merchant who said:
George W. Bush has unleashed a tsunami on this region,...Everything here--the borders of these states, the oil explorations that remade the life of this world, the political outcomes that favored the elites now in the saddle--came from the outside. This moment of possibility for the Arabs is no exception.
Ajami himself goes on to describe his recent findings in the region:
To venture into the Arab world, as I did recently over four weeks in Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Iraq, is to travel into Bush Country. I was to encounter people from practically all Arab lands, to listen in on a great debate about the possibility of freedom and liberty. I met Lebanese giddy with the Cedar Revolution that liberated their country from the Syrian prison that had seemed an unalterable curse. They were under no illusions about the change that had put the Syrian rulers on notice. The speed with which Syria quit Lebanon was astonishing, a race to the border to forestall an American strike that the regime could not discount. I met Syrians in the know who admitted that the fear of American power, and the example of American forces flushing Saddam Hussein out of his spider hole, now drive Syrian policy. They hang on George Bush's words in Damascus, I was told: the rulers wondering if Iraq was a crystal ball in which they could glimpse their future.
Dr. Ajami goes on to describe a growing confidence in Egypt by those calling for democratic reform, women voting for the first time in Kuwait and a lively press in Iraq. It's funny what happens when you say what you mean and mean what you say.