2005/04/05

Krauthammer on the Middle East

I read this:

All this regional mischief-making is critical because we are at the dawn of an Arab Spring -- the first bloom of democracy in Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine and throughout the greater Middle East -- and its emerging mortal enemy is a new axis of evil whose fulcrum is Syria. The axis stretches from Iran, the other remaining terror state in the region, to Syria to the local terror groups -- Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad -- that are bent on destabilizing Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and destroying both Lebanese independence and the current Israeli-Palestinian rapprochement.

and thought "Where have I heard extremist, uncompromisingly black-and-white drivel like this before?" Then I remembered the anti-pornography feminists of the 1980s:


The year 1981 saw the publication of two major feminist attacks on pornography: Susan Griffin's Pornography and Silence and Andrea Dworkin's Pornography: Men Possessing Women. Griffin's study drew parallels between the porn industry's exploitation of women and the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Andrea Dworkin stated her case in the stereotypical and absolutist terms that would soon characterize the second wave feminist anti-porn crusade: "all pornography is made under conditions of inequality based on sex, overwhelmingly by poor, desperate, homeless, pimped women who were sexually abused as children".

The last figure in the equation of pornography = women hating was the idea that pornography was entirely produced and consumed by men with women as its hapless victims. According to Catharine MacKinnon, pornography is produced for, "men to masturbate to women being exposed, humiliated, violated, degraded, mutilated, dismembered, bound, gagged, tortured and killed". (emp mine)

First off, Krauthammer's reference to an "Arab Spring" evokes the term "Prague Spring" and images of Eastern Europeans struggling to cast off the communist yoke set upon them by the Soviet Union back in the glamorous and heady days of the late 1960s, when freedom was breaking out all over, only to be crushed by Nixon and Brezhnev, seemingly working together to snuff out the spirit of liberty and propel counter-revolution. As Professor Juan Cole points out, however, there is no single, monolithic enemy in the Arab world that comes anywhere close to playing the role that the Soviet Union played in Eastern Europe from the late 1940s to the end of the 1980s. Krauthammer's extremist and simplistic language evokes the anti-pornography feminists with pictures like "emerging mortal enemy is a new axis of evil whose fulcrum is Syria". This, for me, brings up images of hysterical, raving nutcases with wild hair, gleaming eyes and cries of "It's alive!", their background lit by flashes of lightning, rumbles of thunder and swelling organ music.
Unfortunately, Krauthammer's ravings would be amusing, but I fear he speaks for the Bush Administration and the Neocons who would like to extend "liberation" Iraq 2003-style over the whole of the Arab world, with Iran and Syria merely representing the enemies of the moment, with the guiding question on their part being "What is our oil doing under their sand?"
I was especially struck by the comment that: "Everyone also knows that Syria is abetting the terrorist insurgency in Iraq." Retired General Wesley Clark appears to leave open the possibility of a connection there:

Engage neighbors for better border security. Iraq is now a magnet for every jihadist in the Middle East. Closing the borders requires cooperation from the countries bordering Iraq. But currently, Syria and Iran don't want us to succeed because they fear they are next on our invasion list. Wes Clark recommends engaging Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia with both carrots and sticks. We have serious issues with each of these countries, but closing those borders is the most urgent priority right now. We must show Iraq's neighbors that cooperation with us is in their interest and will help their region.

Clark obviously does not refer to what "everybody knows" because (A) there is simply no proof of any serious role played by either country in the Iraqi resistance to the American occupation and (B) simply looking at the fact that virtually no reconstruction has taken place in Iraq over the past two years, along with other factors, seems quite sufficient to explain the resistance. The fact that Iraq also has veterans of past conflicts who were abruptly dismissed from service shortly after the American occupation began seems quite suffficient to explain where the expertise in recent attacks like that on Abu Ghraib in the past week were staffed by. It's also noteworthy that Clark explains possible Iranian and Syrian help to Iraqis as being a reasonable reaction to America's aggressive unilateralism over the past few years.

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