After Saddam ... Now What?





Mr. Pollack served on the staff of the National Security Council as Director for Persian Gulf Affairs (1999-2001) and Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs (1995-96). He was also the CIA's Iraq-Iran military analyst (1988-95) and is now Director of Research for the Saban Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the Brookings Institution.

The Middle East is in a great deal of difficulty right now, after Saddam Hussein and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Not only do we have a mess in Iraq to fix, but there is an even bigger mess out there in the larger Middle East. We're going to need to deal with that mess, too, if we are going to be able to defend our interests and our own security from the threats we now face in the region.

The Arab states are broken. They are absolutely stagnant, politically, economically, and socially. And their people know it. Arabs are deeply angry and frustrated with the situation they find themselves in because of the stagnation of the Arab world. We hear about how angry the "Arab street"
is, but I don't think most people realize what is really wrong in the Arab world.

EDUCATION

It all starts with education. Arab educational systems are by and large very poor. The vast majority of Arab schools don't teach anything useful to their students. They see knowledge as a set body of facts that students are supposed to memorize and simply regurgitate on set tests. And it's always the same, there's no effort to bring out the ingenuity, the creativity, of students.

These schools don't produce students who have useful job skills. Most of the students specialize in humanities, many of them aspire to be lawyers and Islamic scholars: two thirds of all of the Ph.D.s issued in Saudi Arabia every year are in Islamic studies. The scientists, engineers, and computer programmers come to the U.S. because they can't get a decent education in those sciences at home. So there's a brain drain. The best and brightest leave their countries, generally, and come here., where they contribute to our economy and progress.

As a result, you have an enormous group of people in Egypt, for instance, crop after crop of young, smart, educated middle-class students coming out of Egyptian universities who have degrees that have taught them nothing useful. No one will hire them. You can imagine what it does to a bright young person who believes that he should be part of that country's elite when he can't even get a job because no one has taught him anything useful.

It used to be the case that the Egyptian bureaucracy would scoop all these young people up. It's one of the reasons you
have such bloated bureaucracies in the Arab world,
particularly in Egypt. But the demographics have gotten so bad that even the massive Egyptian bureaucracy can no longer soak up these enormous pools of smart, ambitious young people.

LEGAL SYSTEM

The legal system in all the Arab countries is a disaster, which is one reason so few American companies invest there, except for the oil firms. In many of these countries rule of law is meaningless. The law is entirely arbitrary. Investment laws are set up to siphon money away from multinationals and to the central government. No one can count on what the central government is going to decide from one moment to the next.

For example, there are nearly 500 princes in the Saudi royal family, all of whom believe that they are entitled to live like princes. Even the Saudi royal family can't accommodate all of them, so the princes use their positions of power to work around the legal system to make additional money. They'll push a government contract to a certain place, or they'll find out early where the government has decided to build a school, a road, a bridge. Because Saudi Arabia is a rather new country and was made up originally of a lot of semi-literate Bedouins or recently settled townspeople, the deed system in Saudi Arabia isn't terrific. The princes find out where a new project is going to be built and have a deed for the land drawn up. When the rightful owner comes forward and takes the matter to court, the prince intercedes to get the judge to rule in his favor.

ECONOMY

All of these different problems contribute to larger economic problems. The economies of the Arab states are more or less broken. They tend to fall into two categories. For many years the oil states lived high off the hog. Even to this day Kuwaitis and UAE are doing well, the Bahrainis and Omanis are getting by, but the Saudis are having a real problem because in the 1960s-70s, when they had massive oil revenues, they created a cradle-to-grave welfare system. But the decrease in global oil prices, coupled with a massive rise in Saudi population, has reversed its affluence. Now, the Saudis are running deficits. They can no longer live or support their people the way they once did. But after 40 years of no one's having to work, there is almost no work ethic left in Saudi Arabia.

The oil states are all decrepit command economies. In the 1950s and '60s, they put in place a form of socialism, but they never ran it as well as the Soviets did. The Arab states put it in place not because they necessarily thought socialism was great, but because these kind of command economies put all the economic resources of the state tightly into the hands of the autocrats. It was another way for them to control their societies. Today, they're paying for it. None of them have industries that produce anything that anyone wants to buy.

So some of the Gulf oil states are still doing reasonably well, but the big state that matters, Saudi Arabia, is doing very poorly. And for the rest of the Arab world, there really isn't an economy to speak of. There isn't any kind of a cash crop like oil that they can use to subsidize these massive populations.

And of course all of this comes home to roost in the political situation because the people of the region are deeply frustrated. They understand that the rest of the world has taken off with globalization, even places like East Asia, which forty or fifty years ago was poor and worse off than they were. How did East Asia go from being behind them to being so far ahead of them? In every other part of the world, even in Africa, they see states that seem to be doing better than them. And they're deeply angry and frustrated. They can't find jobs, they can't make a living, and they've got no political recourse. Their governments aren't interested in their problems. The governments just feed them a steady diet of anti-Semitism and anti- Americanism, creating an intellectual class that blames its problems on us. The people are told that if they can't get a job, it's "because we have to stay mobilized to go to war against the Israelis." Or "it's because the Americans are manipulating our economy."

The only alternative out there is even worse: the Islamists. The Islamists at least stand up, and because they live in the mosque, the states have been very wary of going after them. The Islamists are willing to challenge the government. They tell the people "We know how bad your lives are. We know how unhappy you are. We have the answer: sharia. We need to go back to the 12th century and recreate the Islamic paradise that existed before the Mongols sacked Baghdad."

IRAQ

There's another important development going on out there, and that's what's happening in Iraq, Iraq really matters, for a variety of reasons.

First, if we get Iraq wrong and create a mess there, we will create chaos in the entire region. Iraq is a very important country. We've learned that if you allow a country to slide into chaos, to become a failed state, that chaos never stays within its borders. Remember Lebanon in the 1980s? The chaos there destabilized Syria and Israel. Many of the problems Israel has today stem from its involvement in Lebanon, which it was basically drawn into because of the instability there. Look at Afghanistan and how it destabilized Pakistan and started to destabilize Iran and some of the Central Asian states. Or the Congo. The Congo is a massive pit in the middle of Africa. It is nothing but death and chaos, and it has destabilized every single country around it.

And Iraq is important in and of itself, because it is the source of the second largest proven oil reserves in the world and because of the countries it borders: Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, and Jordan. If the chaos spreads to them, things could get very unpleasant. A lot of these states are tinderboxes right now. Saudi Arabia probably isn't going to blow up tomorrow, but I wouldn't make a bet as to whether it's still in its current state ten years from now, if it continues down the same road that it's been on for the last twenty years. And if it starts getting a push from chaos in Iraq, things could unravel there much faster.

In Jordan, there is the beloved King Abdullah. But King Abdullah does not sit easily on his throne. He presides over a population that's two thirds Palestinian, and those people are very unhappy with their lot in life. And they would like nothing better than to be able to control the levers of power inside Jordan. Add Syria, Turkey and Iran, and there aren't too many stable states neighboring Iraq.

LIBERAL DEMOCRACY

But Iraq is also important because of this larger issue of the region. Right now, there have traditionally been only two visions out there in the Arab world. There's the vision offered by the state autocrats, which basically says "Our political system's fine. The only problem is the Americans and Israelis. If Washington would just fix the peace process, everything would be beautiful." The only voice of opposition with any strength is the Islamists, who offer their own vision of an alternative.

But in the last ten or fifteen years, another voice has been developing in the Middle East. It's still very small and weak, but it's the voice that we should all be supporting. That's a group of liberal democratic Arabs who have been standing up and saying "These two alternatives are both equally bankrupt. Our choice should not be Mubarak's Egypt or the Ayatollah's Iran. Why can't we do what 140, 150 other countries around the world have done and start to
democratize, open up our economies, and build a free-market economy and a democratic system? We can build a democratic system that is perfectly compatible with Islam and with traditional Arab values."

It's a small, still voice right now, and if we get Iraq wrong, that voice is going to die. Because right now, as far as the Arabs are concerned, what we're doing in Iraq is embarking on a grand social-science experiment to try to build a democratic free-market society in an Arab state. Iraq is a pretty good Arab state. The Arabs know that the Iraqi population is among the most secular, best educated, most progressive, and most industrious in the Arab world. The Arabs say, "If you want to try to build democracy somewhere, Iraq is probably a pretty good place to try it."

If democracy fails in Iraq, it won't matter how we explain why the effort failed. To the Arabs, all that will matter is "The U.S. tried to build democracy and free-market economics in Iraq, threw 130,000 troops and $100 billion at it, and failed." And all the autocrats and all the Islamic fundamentalists are going to say, "If the Americans couldn't do it in Iraq, then it can't work anywhere in the Arab world. So the only alternatives you have are us." That's a lot at stake.

NATION-BUILDING

To get Iraq right requires us to do some hard things. We'll have to bring in the international community in a way that we haven't been willing to do yet. Not just its troops, but the skills that we don't have. The last countries that we tried to build as democracies, really, were Germany and Japan (and Panama, of course, but that was a tiny and unique case). Over the last 15 years, though, the UN, and particularly the UN Development Program, has reached out to a whole group of people who have embarked on these enterprises in Cambodia, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and East Timor.

Not all of these were successes, but these people were there doing it, and they learned and got better each time they did it. They were stunned when they weren't allowed to apply what they learned in Afghanistan. The same has been true in Iraq. We need to reach out to the UN and NGOs, who have the skills that we lack. They have Arabic speakers, they have people who understand how to go out into villages and teach people about democracy and organize them and build from the ground up, which we've found is the best way to do this.

We're also going to have to come to grips with our goals. We hear every day that this administration is deeply divided over what it wants in Iraq. One group believes in the idea of nation-building, looks at the things that were done in the 1980s and 1990s and says "We know how to do this. It's going to be hard, but it can be done if you do it the right way." Then another group says "Why bother? We got rid of the bad guy, if the place falls into chaos, who cares?" Still another group says "We've got our guy, his name is Ahmed Chalaby, we're going to put him in charge. He'll be an SOB, but he'll be our SOB."

These three groups fight over everything. Every decision about Iraq comes down to this question of what kind of an Iraq we want. This makes it impossible for the people out in the field to figure out what they're doing on a day-to-day basis. That's one of the reasons why Jerry Bremer has to keep coming back to Washington, to try to force them to sort this out. He's saying "I can do this. It'll be hard, it'll cost us, but I know how to do this if you will let me."
Until Washington sorts itself out and lets him do it, I don't think we're ever going to get there.

But the situation in Iraq is entirely salvageable. There is a lot of good raw material in Iraq. Since we've been there we've seen that there are a lot of positives. Our troops have done a magnificent job. They went into Iraq, took over the whole country, and basically after the fall of Baghdad for about six weeks they sat on their hands, hoping that somewhere there was a plan and someone who would tell them what to do. After six weeks, they figured out like the rest of us that there wasn't a plan. They rose to this and said "OK, we'll do it ourselves."

And that's what they've been doing. They've been out there making it up as they go: getting villages' water and power turned on, forming councils. There have been tremendous local successes all across Iraq, as both the soldiers and the Iraqis will tell you. But we're not building on these, because nobody in Baghdad or Washington has yet figured out what to do. If we can build on the positive developments, if we can get to a position where maybe five, ten or fifteen years down the road Iraq is a stable pluralist state, then you will start to see a lot of changes in the region.

It's not a matter of dominoes falling, it's something somewhat different. For the first time ever Arabs will be able to look at Iraq and see an Arab democracy. Often when we say democracy, Arabs hear Britney Spears, sex on TV, same-sex marriages and hip-hugger blue jeans. They know they don't want any of that. But once you get that first democracy formed in a region, it has a remarkable transformative effect. This is what the East Asian historians say about Japan. Fifteen, twenty years after the occupation of Japan was over, when there was a functional democracy in Japan, it changed a lot of perceptions throughout East Asia. For the first time East Asians could look at Japan and say "That's the kind of state that I could imagine living in."

Before Japan, East Asians thought about democracy the same way that Arabs do now. They thought of it as being an American or a European thing. Those were the only examples they had, and they knew they didn't want that. But then Japan came along and proved that you could build a democracy that was very different from a Western-style democracy. To me, Japan is more dissimilar from our form of democracy than Hosni Mubarak's Egypt is from our democracy. But it is a functional democracy that is consistent with Japan's values, traditions and history. And if we get it right in Iraq, for the first time there will be a democratic Arab state with a free-market economic system that will be consistent with Arab values, traditions and history.

And once that is out there, those small, still voices in the Arab world who are saying that there is an alternative will be tremendously reinforced. This is the challenge we face.

In his speech to the National Endowment for Democracy on November 6, President Bush said a lot of what I just said. I hope he means it, though I'm a little skeptical at this point in time. I've heard this speech from his administration before. Richard Haass, then head of policy planning, gave it in 2001, Colin Powell gave it in 2002, and Condi Rice wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post this past summer saying the exact same thing.

After each one of these speeches, the administration did nothing. Arabs ask, "If you're really serious about democracy, how about telling your friend Hosni Mubarak 'You get $2.1 billion a year from us. Well, next year, unless you start making some democratic changes, you're going to get less. And if you do make those changes, you'll get more.'

And how about telling U.S. defense contractors, 'Next time you want to get the Saudis to buy $4 billion worth of planes that they won't be able to fly, you can't. Because we need the Saudis to be able to put that money into their educational system, not into another 60 F-15s that do nothing but sit and bake in the sun.'" Until the president is willing to make some hard diplomatic and economic choices and tell the American people "I'm going to cut your tax rebate because we need to increase our foreign aid budget because we've got a real problem out there in the Middle East," no one in the Middle East is going to take it seriously. This isn't all abstract. This is stuff that comes home to roost. These deeper economic and political problems are what motivate the terrorists.

TERRORISM

We know a lot about terrorist recruiting. Hezbollah goes after the third and fourth and fifth sons of families in Lebanon. These are youth who have no prospects. The first son gets the land. The second son gets all the family's clout to get him some kind of job in the army or the bureaucracy. The third son has nothing: no education, no skills, no land; he probably can't get married as a result of all this. He is nothing but a burden on his family.

Hezbollah goes to those boys and says "We're going to give you a chance. You martyr yourself for us, and we will take care of your family forever. Forever we will be there helping them economically. This is your chance to do something for your family." And since there is nothing else for these kids, a lot of them do take Hezbollah up on their offer.

And we know a lot about how Al Qaeda recruits, too. It goes after the intellectuals, the sons of the middle class, the young men in Egypt who are smart, educated, well versed in Islamic studies, who believe that they are entitled to a decent job and a respectable life but can't get one because of the poverty of their education, because of the crippling corruption and poor legal systems in their societies. Al Qaeda goes after them and says "We know who's responsible.

It's the Americans, the Mubarak regime, the Saudi regime. We will help you take out your frustration on them. We have a channel for your rage. Help us and we will overturn this unjust system." The nineteen 9/11 hijackers weren't the poor downtrodden, these were the sons of the middle class of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. And this is why the regions' problems are more than just abstractions. You talk about draining the swamp? This is what draining the swamp means.

Relatd Links

  • Jonathan Dresner, "It's 1868 in Arabia?"

  • This piece appears courtesy of the Foreign Policy Research Institute .


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    More Comments:


    William Livingston - 2/9/2004

    It is both amusing and refreshing to read Liberal secular voices defending religious freedom and diversity. It would be more gratifying if those voices were to defend Christianity here at home from their fanatical secular brethern who seek to remove all expression of Christianity from the public square in this once largely Christian nation.


    William Livingston - 2/9/2004

    I like Michael Meo's attitude toward LA Dude, it's Will Rogersesque. Rogers very representative of the culture, the western Mid-West & eastern SW was fond of saying, "I never met a man didn't like" and "I never met a stranger." A common assumption in that culture is & was a man's word is gfood, until proven otherwise; a statement is to be tasken at face value, unless it is patently outrageous or false. For one, I, raised in that culture it is refreshing to encounter a voice, Michael's, that seemingly reflects some of the values of it. The phoney sophistication of urbanites which usually projects the assumption someone, if not everyone else is lying rapidly becomes quite tiresome to read. In short, give me a Michael Meo any day in preference to the one who thinks deceit, evasion and fraud are clever and normal.


    C.R.W. - 1/8/2004


    I would have to take pity on someone so mentally weak as to cast meaningless political aspersions on arguments in favor of Freedom of Religion (as if it were still a political issue).

    But in order to be entirely ideologically forthcoming, why not throw some Protocols of the Elders of Zion in, just for good measure.

    If freedom sucks so badly, here's an interesting sociological experiment: Lock yourself into a cage with no internet access. Or at least have us cut off a digit on your finger for each stupid post you leave. That way you could at least be consistent.


    C.R.W. - 1/8/2004


    It takes a "little" mind, indeed, to deny that a much greater degree of Freedom of Religion exists under the governments of the "fanatical fundamentalists of the Washington/Tel Aviv axis."

    By the way, remember to update me on how your attempted emigration to Iran is coming along? And all the repressed religious groups smuggling themselves into the religiously tolerant kingdom of Saudi Arabia... that shining minaret on the hill.


    Frank Little - 1/8/2004

    All the 'barbarism' evinced in this discussion so far has been entirely from the side of the fanatical fundamentalists of the of Washington/Tel Aviv axis.

    FL


    C.R.W. - 1/7/2004


    You cannot become a citizen of Saudi Arabia (arguably the most conservative applicant of Islamic law) without first converting to Islam.

    The U.S., on the other hand, has an immigration policy (at least when officially adhered to) that sets freedom, or in the context of immigration, "asylum," above any religious characteristics.

    There is a fundamental difference between our vision of a global society (hegemonized by freedom), and that of orthodox Muslims (hegemonized by dar al-Islam).


    Jerry West - 1/7/2004

    WE AMERICANS ARE A SUPERI0R RACE


    S.A. Smith - 1/7/2004

    Saleh,

    Have you noticed that whenever the subject of islam comes up, there is a rush on the part of many westerners to heap every conceivable accolade on islam while simultaneously diminishing or denigrating the west? Yet not one of these people who speak of the grand civilization of islam would deign set one foot in an islamic country. A curious phenomenon. You're being pandered to not by people with knowledgeable opinions but by what are essentially children who hate their daddy, so to speak. Were I you I'd resent the pity.


    David - 1/6/2004

    Saleh,

    Because Islam is anti-freedom and anti-progress, and it blows donkey balls.

    It's a cult that is more suitable to societies of the 7th century than to modern industrialized ones of the 21st century. It's adherents are forbidden to leave islam, and may receive the death sentence if they dare convert to other religions. This is certainly the case in Saudi Arabia (the heart of islam). If that's not a cult, I don't know what is.

    But then you come over to our prosperous and developed Western societies and pretend to tell us how to do it right. As if islam and "sharia law" have done one single thing to lift your muslim hordes up from the stinking sewers in which they live. You've got to be kidding.

    I'm sure you'll now tell us that muslim countries are a disaster only because sharia is not being applied properly, or maybe you'll blame it on "colonialism".

    Sure, whatever.


    C.R.W. - 1/6/2004


    To Michael Meo's post #27879. This new format reads well but can be a bit clunky in facilitating replies that follow the intended flow of the thread.

    In case the intervening portion of the thread continues to lengthen:

    http://hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=27879#27879


    C.R.W. - 1/6/2004


    If Montesquieu got separation of powers from the Chinese, I'll have to credit that. As for my larger point, that nothing short of a revolution in political philosophy occured in Western (i.e. European, and by extension, Colonial) civilization as a result of a particular series of steps with an intellectual effect of particular scale that made the inception and establishment of liberal democracy more tenable (i.e. a religious reformation leading to an enlightenment, an age of discovery and capitalism), well - I stand by that.

    As for the ambiguity of your second statement, let me try to parse it into something you might have actually intended as meaningful. If by "political advances" you mean bloody conquests advanced by the lesser jihad into East Europe and Spain, I'll grant you that military conquests by a superior civilization can bring beneficial "things" (*non-political* ideas, trade) into contact with the occupied. A pithy point but I'll let you have it. If by "political advances" you mean the fact that women could own property and have divorces, well, I won't let you have that because Islamic teachings did not largely spread into Europe or socially transform the continent. If by by "political advances" you mean the unitary (not to mention repressively constrained) nature of mosque and state, well, I can't let you have that one because having read my post, you'll see that I don't consider absolute theocracy to be an enlightened development in the theory or practice of government.

    I believe others would agree.


    Michael Meo - 1/6/2004

    . . . noting, of course, the explicit statements by Voltaire and Montesquieu of the superiority of Chinese modes of government.

    Tell me, CRW, did the Europeans have to admit the universal applicability of the political advances made by Mohammed before they could profit from the superior intellectual achievements of the Islamic Empire?


    Christophe Weibel - 1/6/2004

    In case anybody reads this, LA Dude was joking.

    The islamic revolution in Iran happened.
    The Baathist that made war against Iran
    were led by a guy named Saddam Hussein.
    They got much help from the US.

    (Whether you agree or not on that
    last point is moot. Baathists are NOT
    our friends)


    Caleb - 1/6/2004

    Well said David.


    David Hulbert - 1/5/2004

    I agree with Mr. Pollock's salient point regarding President Bush's tax cut while his administration attempts nothing less than the transformation of the entire Iraqi society.To cut back or defer entirely the massive foolhardy tax cut would be not only the right thing to do-but the only sane thing to do.

    Mr.Bush and Mr. Cheney claimed not to be enamored of 'nation building'when they campaigned.Well-they're up to their eyeballs in it now-and there's no turning back the clock.Any UN assistance we might get is supplemental.It's the US that took on the responsibility,and the US taxpayer will have to pay the piper.

    It won't be done in this term obviously-but after the election if he's re-elected,Bush won't be able to escape the inevitable grappling with reality.He'll have to make some attempt to exert leadership with his party-and begin paying for this war aftermath and nation building.


    C.R.W. - 1/5/2004


    As long as we're going to bring up issues of reconstruction and governance, I'd like to take the opportunity to bring up the historically newsworthy development of the Afghan constitution - at least until such time as HNN publishes an article on it, which could be tonight. Anyway, as I see it, (at least so far) the Afghani constitution - as great a compromise as it, or ANY constitution for that matter, is, there are at least 2 or 3 troubling flaws. Hopefully they will not be fatal flaws, but they impair our ability to be as successful as we were with for instance, the Japanese, to whose constitutions we *demanded* repeated revisions until such time as our satisfaction was met.

    1. Sharia is implicitly stated as inviolable.

    2. The constitution is not unambiguously sovereign to unratified international conventions.

    3. (Although this could be corrected later) - women are not guaranteed the right to not be "forced" into marriage. For those unaware, forcing women into marriages is seen as a way to "protect" them from further deprivations at the hands of rapacious "fiancees" or others who would kill them to preserve any honor they believe to be threatened by her having endured such disgusting actions.

    Hopefully we (or if need be, they) will find a way to correct such glaringly inconsistent errors before we help them build their army, police force and judiciary and send them on their way for one more disaster.

    If you like, you can read it for yourself:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-loyajirga5jan05,1,2766670.story?coll=la-home-headlines


    C.R.W. - 1/5/2004


    Thanks, Josh.

    You know, I would venture to guess that many of us have access to NYT and are somewhat familiar with major developments in the world, especially Iraq. I'm sure there are many potentially interesting and relevent points one could draw from or discuss based on this, but I don't know where to start...

    Was there a specific point or idea of your own you wanted to bring up?


    Josh Greenland - 1/5/2004

    US agrees to Kurdish autonomy in north of Iraq (and to massive privatization):

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/05/international/middleeast/05KURD.html?ex=1074272304&ei=1&en=9612a68c82a56692


    C.R.W. - 1/5/2004


    Perhaps I'm off on why someone would erroneously pronounce Islam to be the first civilization (a correction to the contrary being the perspective with which I would obviously agree), but my understanding is that Muslims believe everyone is born Muslim until they are corrupted by "lesser" religions, as taught to them by their parents. Maybe this is what Saleh means...?


    C.R.W. - 1/5/2004


    ...and Werner Heisenberg was an avid believer in the Nazi cause. The Nazis, incidentally took proactive population genetics to entirely new heights altogether - nevermind the fact that it was done in a manner a bit, shall we say, inconsistent with any ethical norms agreeable to humankind.

    Until the Islamic societies start grasping the superiority and universal applicability of the political advances conceived of and argued by Locke, Hume, Mills, Montiesquieu, Jefferson, et al, they can keep beating the thousand year-old bleating dead horse of all the advances they made in literature, science, math and architecture. It's no coincidence that the majority of Nobel prize winners live in free societies, a point probably not lost on the authors of the depressing U.N. Human Development report on the Arab world which was completed a couple years ago.

    As a research scientist I certainly prefer life in a free society to a even a technocratic theocracy, and fortunately for all of us, the choice is moot, anyway. The vast majority of productive human endeavors tend to thrive where freedom reigns.


    C.R.W. - 1/5/2004


    If only every broad sweeping generalization you posit were true.

    A way of life is fine, but when a way of life is forced on others under an Islamic government or any other theocracy - the result is tyranny. We can go over the shortcomings of forcing sharia on a society one by one if you like, but I think starting with a crash course on Sudan, where slavery is legal and Christians have been amputated, would be a good start.

    And I'm not a such a big fan, to say the least, of honor killings, either.


    Michael Meo - 1/5/2004

    I meant the 1979 Nobel Prize. It was shared with two others, Stephen Weinberg and Sheldon Glashow.


    Caleb - 1/5/2004

    An excellent point. Perhaps you have taken my analogy too far. My point was not to paint every Muslim with the same brush, just as that would have been foolish to paint every Christian with such a brush in the Middle Ages. Nevertheless, it would be difficult to demonstrate the the great Islamic empite that introduced algebra, astronomical, scientific, artistic, etc. to the world has continued into the present day, when many of the countries once on the forefront of achievement now stone women to death if they are found walking on the street without a male family member.

    I would submit that the people that advance in certain specific areas in the Muslims world do so in spite of their government and cultural limitations, not because of them.


    Michael Meo - 1/5/2004

    Caleb,

    Abdus Salam, a Pakistani, won the 1996 Nobel Prize in physics for his unification of the weak and electromagnetic forces.

    If the Islamic world today is in the course of developing, that does not put it in the same league of backwardness as medieval Europe.


    Caleb - 1/5/2004

    Saleh,
    No one can deny the great Islamic civilization and the advances in human knowledge that Muslims have contributed to. However, this was a thousand years ago. Within the past century, that rich and brilliant cultere has given way to a darker, more fundimentalist culture. Just as Muslims were discovering mathmetical theorems when Christians were going through the Dark Ages, so to is Christian culture thriving while Islam goes through its own dark ages.


    Michael Meo - 1/4/2004

    The Japanese have not won any friends by their failure to admit their aggressive invasion of their Asian neighbors.

    In a similar manner, Islamic intellectuals will not deflect criticism from their educational system by claiming to have begun civilization.

    Sumer, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Harappa, China, and others preceded you. Your claim to be first only confirms the truth of the charge.


    Saleh - 1/3/2004

    I think you are very wrong to say Arabs are illiterate, If you go back to history you shall see that civilization was started by the Muslims (Arabs), Islam brought civilization to this world, you have talked bad of their laws, That’s only because Islam is not followed properly, Let me give you an example in an Islamic law, Muslims are not forced to pay income revenue (tax), We see that Islam says a wealthy man should pay (zakkat) money, each year this money is distributed to the poor, but if you see capitalism rule, one has to pay taxes as long as he gets income without the consideration of his/ hers other problems. In capitalism tax is aimed to be paid from the income while Islam from the wealth.

    In regarding the education system, Islamic education is the best ever, where can you find a school where the pupils are thought that paradise lies beneath the mother’s feet?
    Muslims teach their children the way to lead a peaceful life.
    See the static’s of violent in America and Britain is school and compare with any Islamic countries, one will see that Muslims are very generous and polite.

    Islam is a way of life not just a religion.


    C.R.W. - 1/3/2004


    And I'm glad to hear it.

    But what I would like to ask you, is whether or not ethnic pluralism, and its contribution to democracy *within the framework of a stable constitutional government*, contributes to the discussion, or only frames it in demeaning and untutored terms.


    Who ? - 1/2/2004

    Right. Open up a six pack for all the American soldiers who are now in coffins so that you could rot your brain in front of a TV set.


    Drew - 1/2/2004

    Miller Time!


    Caleb - 1/2/2004

    Josh,
    I do not know about the whole region, but I have done some study on the development of the Egyptian bureaucracy and from what I have studied, the authors analysis is correct. The creation of Arab socialism under Gamal Nasser allowed the newly independent country (the Egyptian revolution to overthrow the puppet-King was only in 1952) to end some of the unemployment by simply hiring up its unemployed.

    As for the quality of the education itself, any normative evaluation requires some kind of value-laden base of comparison. Nevertheless, evidence of an education system loaded with inequity for women and pathological anti-Semitism do consistently surface in almost any analysis I have ever seen.


    F.H. Thomas - 1/2/2004


    The author indeed seems to generalize about the middle east in the most demeaning and untutored terms, and without ever discussing the essential cause of most of the problem: disastrously incompetent British colonial practices in the 20th century.

    The Brits not only made a country, Iraq, out of unmatched Kurds, Sunni Arabs, Assyrians and Iranians, but did the same thing in Nigeria (Ibo, Hausa, and Yoruba), Uganda (Tutsi and Hutu), South Africa (too many to mention), etc., to the great harm of all concerned. This was heedless colonial stupidity, as later admitted by Churchill, who said of Iraq, "...we should rightly have made it three countries".

    Then, as a solution, we have the most lame and tired of prescriptions, the "magic UN wand":

    "To get Iraq right requires us to do some hard things. We'll have to bring in the international community in a way that we haven't been willing to do yet. Not just its troops, but the skills that we don't have. The last countries that we tried to build as democracies, really, were Germany and Japan...Over the last 15 years, though, the UN...has reached out to ... Cambodia, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and East Timor.

    Not all of these were successes..."

    Actually, none of them were "successes", unless one can term Haiti and Somalia (God help us) as such. The US successes which he does acknowledge, in Germany and Japan, took place under the very same terms as Iraq: an overwhelming US military victory, and a long occupation to force the hard issues. Nasty and untidy as that prescription is, at least it worked.

    I believe that the author, his previous hypothesis about Iraq having been invalidated, is simply searching around among its fragments, for a new one.


    Lefty Gomez - 1/2/2004


    Saddam is one mean nasty righthanded running dog lackey. And a war criminal too. And that was very, very, very obvious in 1983 and 1984. And it was obvious too. And anyone shaking hands and wheeling and dealing with him back then should be behind bars doing hard labor for life.

    Here is a three point plan for the crooks running the Pentagon and its military-Halliburton-non-thinkingtanks
    complex:

    1. Impeachment
    2. Conviction
    3. Incarceration


    Lefty Gomez - 1/2/2004


    Josh Greenland - 1/2/2004

    I wonder if any of the academics on this board could comment on the author's summation of the state of education in the Middle East?


    Michael Meo - 1/1/2004

    Just to add specifics: how could anyone refer to Israel as "secure and internationally beloved" seriously?

    I am willing to entertain the prospect that the author is a brainless twit, but I am unwilling to assume that without more evidence.


    Michael Meo - 1/1/2004

    Caleb, you're wasting electronic energy to no avail until LA Dude makes clear whether his rant is intended seriously.


    Michael Meo - 1/1/2004

    Mr Daly,

    You take LA Dude seriously. With that, I have a problem.


    Caleb - 1/1/2004

    LA Dude,
    I am not sure what your problem is with the article, which I consider to be an excellent summary of some of the problems facing the region.

    To get to some specifics about your rant,
    1) "We all know that everything is okay in the Mideast except that countries there, other than Israel of course, are infested with evil terrorists."

    Couldn't such a broad identification of the problem include the US and Europe as well, since we have terrorists living among us also? Besides, your comment does not get to the question the author is trying to understand, which is WHY these countries are "infested" with terrorists.

    2) "We have to blow them up as fast as possible. Nothing else matters."

    What are you suggesting here, a carpet bombing campaign across the entire region?

    3) "Look at Israel. Does Pollack suppose that it got to be the prosperous, secure, and internationally beloved country it is today by investing in education of Arabislamoterrorists ?"

    Actually, I have always admired the fact that Israel has tried to take the moral high ground for much of the present conflict. If Israelis simply decided to carpet bomb all the occupied territories, it sure would be a lot harder to defend them against those who call them violent belligerents.

    4) "These terrorists understand one thing only, and we need to show them they can't mess with us."

    So far, military analysts agree that responding with blanket rage and arbitrary military actions without any other actions that address the problems the author discusses only helps to swell the ranks of our enemies. The present problem in Iraq illustrates this point very well.

    5) "God Bless our great President, George W. Bush !"

    God does not need to bless him... the Supreme Court already did. Let us hope the mistake of 2000 can be corrected in 2004. Happy New Year.


    Phil Daly - 1/1/2004

    Dear Mr Meo:

    You are either

    (1) incapable of comment on the subject of "After Saddam", or
    (2) you are unfamiliar with the prevailing abundance cliche-ridden comments on HNN (being parodied by LA Dude) or
    (3) you are in denial as to the absurd and mind-numbing overuse of the terms "Left" and "leftist" on HNN.

    I think the underlying message of LA Dude is that theoretically nice ideas about America promoting democracy and education in Iraq and the Mideast are to little avail so long as America is governed by half-educated bunglers who, like their brainwashed supporters here, tend to see almost every policy choice in terms of "left" and "right".

    I would basically agree with LA Dude on that.


    Michael Meo - 1/1/2004

    I quite agree with your high opinion of the logic of the article, Caleb.

    The question, as your last paragraph hints, whether the United States will even consider adopting any of the policy choices that it needs to according to the well-informed author. I do not think it likely, but not because I have confidence that Dubya will be re-elected.

    Corporate elites have been running the 'Republic' for some time. For the latest egregious example, the very same steps to limit Mad Cow Disease that the feds have now adopted were rejected by Congress (thanks to I wonder what lobby?) a month ago.

    Do corporate elites have a good grasp of their elightened self-interest? Based on the last 40 years of history, I would doubt it. If that is the case, when the Democrats and Dean come in in 2004, they still won't make the "hard policy choices" needed in the Mideast.


    Michael Meo - 1/1/2004

    Dear LA Guy,

    You are either 1) unintentionally humorous, in which case you are quite successful, or
    2) your post is 100% sarcasm, and unworthy to be read, or
    3) you believe a string of cliches overrides reasonable argument.

    Of course, you could be 1) and 3) both.


    Caleb - 12/31/2003

    I think the article is an excellent analysis and the author certainly has the credentials behind him. Given the limited amount of space for these articles, I do not fault him for defining every element and background for every country he is referring to.

    My own suspicion of what will happen now that Saddam is captured is that little will change in Iraq, other than the satisfaction of Iraqis that their monster has finally been taken down for good. In fact, this might prompt more opposition from Shia radicals who have thus far held back, fearing a return of Saddam to power should the US leave. I believe that our troops are not being attacked because the people want Saddam back, simply because they want the US out.

    On the homefront however, the capture is politically important for Bush's re-election campaign in 2004. His victory is assured, I suspect, if the trial is before the election, bringing attention to the gross atrocities of the regime (not that we went in there for humanitarian purposes originally). If the trial is after the election, he will still have to tell Americans why Iraq was a larger priority than Al Queda, N.Korea, Iran, Syria, or numerous other authoritarian human rights violators.


    Caleb - 12/31/2003

    David,
    You say
    "All we've heard from the Leftist naysayers is that we're fools to try to impose an alien ideology on the Arab people, or that they aren't ready for democracy, or that Bush's efforts to impose democracy on Iraq will fail, etc, etc."

    Actually, the main issue liberals tend to dwell on is the fact that the primary rationale for going to war (WMD, 9/11) were false or at least have not yet proven accurate. Your rant is simply trying to create a straw man argument that you can complain about and does not conform to the history of liberal interventionaism in the US.

    The rest of your post is similarly divorced from reality.


    Josh Greenland - 12/31/2003

    I don't think much of the author's article, from the poorly-supported gross negative generalizations the Middle East (a region he does not define), to his love and acceptance of U.S. imperial practices.

    I'd like to see other readers of this forum respond to the title and take a stab at what you think is likely to happen now that Saddam has captured.


    LA dude - 12/31/2003


    Pollack is nothing but an underhanded lefty wimp, who couldn't hit the broad side of a barn door with a wet noodle.

    We all know that everything is okay in the Mideast except that countries there, other than Israel of course, are infested with evil terrorists. We have to blow them up as fast as possible. Nothing else matters. Look at Israel. Does Pollack suppose that it got to be the prosperous, secure, and internationally beloved country it is today by investing in education of Arabislamoterrorists ? !! What nonsense.

    These terrorists understand one thing only, and we need to show them they can't mess with us. Whatever it takes. If there is an Islamic revolution in Iran, then by golly our farsighted President wouldn't dream of wasting time on leftist pipe dreams about education or democratization over there. You can bet he'd get the help of proven anti-Islamists, like our allies the Baathists, and pronto.

    God Bless our great President, George W. Bush !