Freedom & the Middle East: A Slippery Slope to Navigate

Discussion in 'General Global Topics' started by Adam's Apple, Mar 4, 2005.

  1. Adam's Apple

    Adam's Apple Senior Member

    Apr 25, 2004
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    Managing A Mideast Revolution
    By David Ignatius, The Washington Post
    March 2, 2005

    There's an obscure branch of mathematics known as "catastrophe theory," which looks at how a small perturbation in a previously stable system can suddenly produce dramatic change. A classic example of the theory is the way a bridge, after bearing immense weight for many years, can suddenly collapse because of a new stress.

    We are now watching a glorious catastrophe take place in the Middle East. The old system that had looked so stable is ripping apart, with each beam pulling another down as it falls. The sudden stress that produced the catastrophe was the American invasion of Iraq two years ago. But this Arab power structure has been rotting at the joints for a generation. The real force that's bringing it down is public anger.

    It's hard not to feel giddy, watching the dominoes fall. In Lebanon, "people power" forced the resignation Monday of Syria's puppet government; in Egypt, the Pharaonic Hosni Mubarak agreed Saturday to allow other candidates to challenge his presidency for life; in Iraq, the momentum of January's elections is still propelling the nation forward, despite bickering politicians and brutal suicide bombers.

    But catastrophic change is dangerous, even when it's bringing down a system people detest. This is not a time for U.S. triumphalism, or for gloating and lecturing to the Arabs. That kind of arrogance got us into trouble in Iraq during the first year of occupation. It was only when Iraqis began to take control of their own destinies that this project began to go right. The same rule holds for Lebanon, Egypt and the rest. America can help by keeping on the pressure, but it's their revolution.

    Here are some warning flags about challenges ahead. My list is drawn from conversations this week with Arabs who are part of the new revolution. They worry that Washington, in its current giddy mood, may miss the danger signs.

    © 2005 The Washington Post Company

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