The Arab World's Leadership Deficit

News Abroad

Ibrahim Al-Marashi is Assistant Professor of Contemporary History at IE University in Madrid, Spain. He is co-author of "Iraq's Armed Forces: An Analytical History" (Routledge, 2008). This article originally appeared at History & Policy.

There were underlying reasons for the Egyptian Revolution that created a perfect storm for Hosni Mubarak's overthrow: corruption, unemployment, frustration, humiliation and restive youth. However one factor not stated for the revolt is a leadership deficit. President Hosni Mubarak was not a leader with the inherent charisma to galvanise the population. It is a problem that faces the entire region.

I am not suggesting that lack of leadership is the causal variable in the unrest that began in Tunisia. Rather, it is the process of how leaders emerge that serves as an important symbolic element. In the vast majority of Arab states, leaders have emerged through military or palace coups, or happened to be the leader of the strongest tribe when colonial powers delineated the boundaries of the Middle East. For example, both the late Hafiz al-Asad of Syria and Hosni Mubarak rose to power due to their position as head of the air force. It was their military post rather than a plebiscite that propelled them to leadership. Thus most Arab heads of governments have emerged through processes that did not include the general will or consent of the people. In other words the leadership deficit is linked to a lack of legitimacy. In the majority of Arab states, the leader stays in power by either coercion or subsidizing loyalty. In the absence of state leaders that the Arab street can call 'heroes', those heroes are often resuscitated from the past. In the Arab world, 'heroes' were created out of those leaders who resisted colonial efforts to rule them. In the early 1830s Imam Shamil fled the Chechens against the Russians in a struggle that lasted 30 years. His contemporary Abd al-Qadir rallied the Algerians against the French in the mid-1800s. In 1882 Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi of the Sudan began his struggle against the British. Abd el-Krim rallied the Moroccan resistance against the Spanish and Umar al-Mukhtar of Libya resisted the Italians throughout the 1920s. Yet they failed to defeat those who attempted to colonize them. The only leader in the Muslim world who defeated a colonial attempt at subjugation was Mustafa Kemal Pasha, otherwise known as Ataturk of Turkey.

The Arabs have few victories to claim, going back a millennium, all the way to 1187 to celebrate a leader, Salah al-Din and his victory in Jerusalem during the Crusades. What remains after that date are only a few de facto victories. Victories defined in terms of survival. In 1956, when the Egyptian President Jamal Abdul Nasser lost a war against Britain, France and Israel, the Arabs claimed it a victory because he stood up to the 'West'. Even then, the highly popular Egyptian leader was feared among the elites in Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. When Saddam Hussein was soundly defeated by Coalition forces in the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraqi leader claimed it a victory because he stood up to the 'West' and survived.

Some in the Arab world claim that a new Crusade is being launched against them and that all the Arabs really need is a new Salah al-Din to unite and pull them to better times. They ask, 'Who will unite us and revive our past glories? Where is our modern-day Salah al-Din?' In fact, an entire series broadcast during Ramadan on Al-Jazeera asked that very question, 'Where is the Salah al-Din?' Saddam tried to fill that role in 1991 and 2003, oblivious to the fact that standing up to the world's superpower was more difficult than standing up to the Crusaders. Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Shia Hizbullah, emerged as a hero in 2006 due to the beating the Lebanese Islamist movement gave Israeli forces during the Lebanon war. Yet even Nasrallah is victim to the Sunni-Shia polemics that rage through the region.

The Middle Eastern leadership deficit is manifested in other ways. Without leaders to emulate, heroes emerge in the most unusual places. In Iran, the Shahab-3 missile and the nuclear programme have emerged as a nationalist folk hero, even amongst opponents to the Islamic Republic, as it signifies the nation's progress. In Iraq, a folk hero was the Scud missile because it was able to strike Israel. After 2003, the Iraqis never had their version of a Konrad Adenauer, Charles De Gaulle or Nelson Mandela to unite their nation after a conflict. Other heroes emerged in the chaos, such as the Baghdad Sniper, a man who had killed numerous American soldiers, until his capture.

The Bush administration prescribed democracy as the solution to the Middle East's illness: terrorism. Such a solution only dealt with the symptoms of a much greater problem: corruption, unemployment, frustration, humiliation. Some states suffer a resource curse a resource curse that forces Arabs to watch the region's vast oil reserves being concentrated in the hands of a few, which provides the pretext for Western powers to divide, intervene and subjugate their landsI witnessed these elements personally. Humiliation and frustration expressed by the unemployed Tunisian wasting his day sitting in a café. The stateless Palestinian in Egypt desperately seeking a home. An Iraqi waiter serving American soldiers who curses them under his breath for destroying Falluja, yet wishes for a visa to the US.

At the same time, elements within Arab society project on their leaders both patriarchal and patrimonial functions. It is the leader then that is the symbolic head of a system expected to deal with the afflictions of the Arabs: humiliation, foreign intervention, frustration, and corruption.

I had travelled to at least eighteen countries in the Middle East, and it was only in Turkey, that I witnessed something different. I could not even count the number of political party offices I saw in Istanbul. Most Middle Eastern countries have only one state-sponsored party, if any, while some allow a few parties to operate with no chance of influencing politics. In Turkey, numerous newspapers criticized the government, rather than serving as its mouthpiece, as was common in the Arab world. Elections were contested, not fixed as in most Middle Eastern states. My positive assessment of the Turkish system is based on the fact that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected, albeit with by under 50% of the vote. While he is unpopular with elements of the population, particularly urban elites, he emerged from within a political system and process that at least enjoys legitimacy among the Turkish public.

The events that occurred in Egypt are revolutionary. For the first time in the history of the Middle East, it is the people who are shaping their nation's destiny. The only regime changes that occurred in the past were through either military coups or foreign invasion. If a popular and capable leader can emerge out of the masses fueling the Egyptian Revolution it would mark one of the first steps in overcoming the region's leadership deficit.

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N. Friedman - 3/10/2011


1. Strike: "Further, the Arabs attacked the migrants, using the very same rationale that reactionaries in the US (and throughout the world) attack immigrants to the US."


Further, the Arabs attacked the migrants, using the very same rationale that reactionaries in the US (and throughout the world) attack immigrants.

2. Strike: "And, in due course, what was added was the argument that Jews needed to be annihilated, an argument fed by racist lunatics lie the bigoted Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who did all he could to help Hitler exterminate Europe's Jews."


And, in due course, what was added was the argument that Jews needed to be annihilated, an argument fed by racist lunatics like the bigoted Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who did all he could to help Hitler exterminate Europe's Jews.

N. Friedman - 3/10/2011


The problem with your view is that the migrants bought the land they settled on, acted at the behest of no foreign power - Jews, after all, were powerless in Europe and the Arab regions - and, as such, could not come as colonialists. They came as migrants.

Further, the Arabs attacked the migrants, using the very same rationale that reactionaries in the US (and throughout the world) attack immigrants to the US. Which is to say, the argument made against immigrants is always that they are not us, they bring unusual customs, they will undermine our interests, they will take over, etc., etc. Such arguments are not the arguments made against colonialists.

I would understand Arabs who argue that we, the Arabs, were well settled in the country and, as such, should have primary say in the governance of the country; someday, when you are as well established as we are, you will have an equal say in governance. That, of course, is not your argument. Instead, your argument is that the migrants, before they had done anything but bought land, needed to be expelled, which is the reactionaries argument. And, in due course, what was added was the argument that Jews needed to be annihilated, an argument fed by racist lunatics lie the bigoted Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who did all he could to help Hitler exterminate Europe's Jews.

So, I find your argument totally fascinating but, frankly, were it made about a population anywhere in the world other than against Jews, you would be laughed out of the room as a reactionary crazy-head.

omar ibrahim baker - 3/9/2011

A more honest parallelism, to depict the Israeli colonialist conquest of Palestine would have completed your truncated sentence which runs as:
", that oppressed, poor and/or persecuted migrants have the right to immigrate to any land where refuge is made available."
" then DISLOCATE, DISPOSSESS, DISFRANCHISE and SUBJUGATE the indigenous people of the land they emigrated to AND Denied those absentees therefrom from RETURNING to their homeland "
Is that what the USA debate leading to?
Obviously you can not stand the WHOLE TRUTH.

N. Friedman - 3/9/2011


In the United States, we are, in fact, having a debate on the immigration. You would benefit from knowing that your most vocal allies in the US pretty much all seem to agree with me, namely, that oppressed, poor and/or persecuted migrants have the right to immigrate to any land where refuge is made available.

So, I hope you keep making your argument. It helps my position.

omar ibrahim baker - 3/9/2011

There are books around to show almost every thing and most books show indiscutably that Herzel and Co were intent on forming a Jewish state in what was then a predominantly Arab, Moslem and Christian,Palestine for the last 14 centuries IRRESPECTIVE of the will and OPPOSITION of its population;
Which they NEVER sought!

Ben Gurion was acutely aware that with this plan in mind Jews were bound to be resisted and dealt with as enemies.
One book shows nothing and proves less!

However; I note you ignore comment on some major points you yourself raised re EMMIGRATION as a human RIGHT!
Equally you ignore comment about my response to your rediculous suggestion that Jews wanted to SHARE PALESTINE with its indigenous population.
My point was, still is, :
_Does NOT a desire to SHARE require, preconditions, the approval of the Partner with whom a partnership is sought?

N. Friedman - 3/7/2011


Notwithstanding your non-responsive post, I provided you with a book by the founder of the Zionist movement showing that Jews sought joint government with Arabs. I also pointed you to the fact that the same view was held, and used in speeches, etc., by the leader of the right wing party involved in Zionism.

In response, you ignore that evidence and refer to fellow human beings as "ALIENS." Placing the word in all-caps does not show that my evidence is wrong. Calling the "ALIENS" racist does not make my evidence wrong.

Your response is out of the al-Husseini play book. Were you actually interested in fact, events and history - as opposed to calling Zionists who, as the record show, share the very same genetic material as you likely do (closer than any group on Earth), "racist" -, you would acknowledge that fact and present an actual argument for understanding that fact or otherwise moving forward.

Instead, for any reader to see plainly, you posit the notion of the "ALIEN." By demonizing your enemies, you advance the notion of annihilating the "ALIENS." Or, in simple words, your vocabulary is the vocabulary of genocide, something which is the official position of groups like HAMAS.

omar ibrahim baker - 3/4/2011

No amount of verbosity and pseudo erudition can ever hide, or camouflage, the reality of Israel.
Your incessant recourse to presumably scholarly works can NOT hide the ESSENTIAL irrefutable fact that ALIENS assembled according to strict RACIST criteria dislocated, dispossessed, disfranchised an indigenous people from and in his homeland and denied him the most basic of human rights : the right to live in one's homeland!

RE your claim:" Your theory is based on the notion that migration is not a right."
As a prelude to conquest and colonization it is indeed certainly NOT a right.
Even if bona fide it is still DEPENDENT on the right of the receiving people to accept it or reject it.
Or are you for people forcing their way into which ever country they wish to live in??
Your pathetic attempt , not the first of its kind of course, to depict Israeli colonization of Palestine as a "humanitarian " effort has been uncovered by the whole world as a sham and belied BEST with the outright RACIST and human rights denying "nation/state" it gave birth to .
Now it, that ploy, is mocked all over the world and, far more interesting and ominous to you and yours, as another mega swindle that sustains old beliefs about the total unreliability of those who managed it .
Historically I am afraid nothing will vindicate and substantiate historical anti Jewish feelings as much as the saga of how Israel came to be and what Israel turned out to be once in power with the wherewithal to act true to nature.
In this sense I contend it will turn out to be, universally, the worst thing that ever happened to Jews by (Zionist) Jews.

N. Friedman - 3/4/2011


Regarding Herzl, he wrote a book in which he advocated a joint state with Arabs. Jabotinsky stated the same thing in an article, among other places. So, you may think it a fiction but, frankly, it was not. And, I rather doubt either of them were stuck on what the name of the country would be. We went through this point before and I brought all of this to your attention, including the title of Herzl's book, Altneuland.

The rest of your comment is racist garbage. In the US, where I live, there has been widespread immigration, some of it illegal, from Mexico. Some of those immigrants believe in a greater Mexico that would encompass the South of the US (and there are those in Mexican politics who have pushed that agenda), such having been Mexican land until the US captured it in a war. That result, of course, is not going to happen but, the second demand commonly made by immigrants, to be part of the politics of the US, is granted and, for those who migrated here, even illegally, should be granted. However, given that the US is a democracy, there is no imaginable reason why the US cannot protect the legitimate interests of Mexican Americans, such that there is no reason for a separate new state; that point, even so Mexican culture is substantially different from the culture of the US.

The problem with your point, however, is not only the above but also a slightly different point. There was no state for Palestinian Arabs, as there is a state for immigrants and others here in the US or in Spain, and there most certainly has never been a Palestinian Arab state, from the beginning of time to the present and there had not been any local state in historic Palestine since ancient times - i.e., since pre-Roman Empire times.

Instead, what there was when Jews returned to their ancestral home consisted of land that had been ruled for centuries by the Ottoman Empire but which, in short order, that Empire lost in a war. So, what was needed was for those who lived in that land to create a state - one for the benefit of its inhabitants, not just Arabs. Jews, who migrated to the land by the same authority that all people have migrated from the beginning of time - i.e. the ruler of the land did not object or, in the case of the Ottoman authorities and the British, at times promoted such migration -, were part of the fabric of the country at the time that it became possible for the local inhabitants to build a state. The bigoted followers of al-Husseini believed that only Arabs had rights and, more specifically, that Jews were a vile people who deserved no part in the country's governance. That appears to be your theory, since you use language such as "Colons."

Your theory, to be blunt, denies the basic human right to migrate to a place where refuge becomes available and it denies the right of those who migrate to participate in the governance of the land into which migration occurred. My view is that the objection - just like the objection in the US to Mexican migration - is bigoted.

It is thus not a surprise that the Nazi lover and advocate of annihilating all of the world's Jews opposed Jews playing any role in the country or even living there. His viewpoint was an extreme version of the very far right in US politics and, on top of that, was that of a rabid racist bigot.

Your theory is based on the notion that migration is not a right. However, it is a right and it is not only a major source of the morality of modern states but a major right from ancient times to the present. Someday, Palestinian Arabs will come to realize, when they stop acting as if they were uniquely harmed, that humans are not plants and can thrive in many places and even with people of different backgrounds. Migration is as much a part of human history as the history of those lucky enough, like most Arabs, to have conquered lands. Migrants have rights. It is time you take that point in and understand that its meaning makes your version of advancing Palestinian Arab rights - rights that I admit are legitimate to the extent that they do not deny the rights of others in the region, including Jews - a form of gross bigotry.

omar ibrahim baker - 3/4/2011

the "history" you rehash is much more fiction, wishful thinking and wisdom , and justification, after the act.
The feel good factor that all criminals need after the act and the unending mission to LIE and FABRICATE to justify the unjustifiable.
I really often wonder whether you are serious when you say such things or just acting .

Back to your amazing History!
So ,once again, you claim that:
-Herzel was for ( cordially ??) establishing a Jewish state,to be called Israel, with the Arabs; with or without Arab consent ,of course!
And Jabotinsky was for a Jewish state with the Arabs secured by an Iron Shield....against whom one would wonder.

You dwell a dream land that few other dreamers share!

How about , say, the Chinese wanting to build a Chinese state with the Californians or, more to the point as far as recent history is concerned, the Mexicans wanting to build a Mexican state with the New Mexicans or the Texans .
As, presumably, an American patriot would you support that ??

Going by your logic you would be for that! Would you NOT?

How about the Arabs wanting to build an Arab state with the Spaniards and/ or the Portugese in Iberia ? That should also should secure your support!
Would it NOT?

N....If you fail to see the innate perversity and fundamental inanity of your "logic" then, since you come out so openly with it, you would consider all readers of HNN as idiots that a few contrived words would placate!

I propose you show more respect for the intelligence of others!

The mere fact that you persist with such a "logic", though I do NOT believe that you yourself sincerely accept it, says all there is to say about the utter futility of any sort of dialogue.
All the more is the pity!

N. Friedman - 3/3/2011

One correction: I do not mean to imply that there were no Jews who made it difficult for all involved to settle differences. I mean, instead, that al-Husseini was centrally important in preventing the dispute from being resolved and that his form of politics poisoned and continues to poison the dispute, more than anything else.

N. Friedman - 3/3/2011


Jews focused on building the state that became Israel because Arabs attacked them. The original plan was to build a state with Arabs, with joint rule, sharing the premiership. Such was the position of both Herzl and Jabotinsky - i.e. the Jewish left and right.

The mistake Arabs made was to fall in behind a radical Antisemite - which is what al-Husseini was - and Hitler supporter. And, as the record shows, al-Husseini's alliance with Hitler was not merely one of convenience that related to undermining a Jewish state. It was also set an alliance to annihilate all of the world's Jews. His language became the language of your people's cause and it remains so to this day.

To note, as shown by Prof. Karsh, many Arab leaders of the time around 1947 knew full well and said that al-Husseini was dangerous, bigoted, intolerant and harming Arab interests in Palestine and elsewhere, creating an unnecessary war. But, he was good at demagoguery and politics and shared common cause, as Art's friend Prof. Herf shows, with the Muslim Brotherhood to further Hitler's cause to rid the world of Jews. The Brotherhood took Hitler's cause as its cause and retains that aim.

The fact is that there was a basis for a settlement between the two sides. It required better political leaders than the likes of al-Husseini. It required someone who was not driven primarily by hate and was not a demagogue.

Now, the fact remains that even after the idea of a joint state lost its feasibility due to Arab attacks on Jews beginning in the 1920's, the 1936 compromise was possible, as was the 1947 compromise. No one would have been displaced, especially in the 1947 compromise, which was the more prominent proposal, since it was proposed by the UN. Arabs would have made up large plurality of the Jewish state and the Arab state would have had a small Jewish population. They would have had an economic union. So, all of the issues that concern you - except the one which, I suspect, hurts your pride (and that of most other Palestinian Arabs) and is the reason there is no settlement, namely, having any Jews participating in the governance of any part of the country is an anathema - could have been resolved with no one hurt and with no one displaced, all to the betterment of all involved.

All that was really required was some normal good will by Arab leaders like al-Husseini towards the Jewish population instead of referring them as pigs and monkeys, as "colons," as an infection, as a disease, an invader, etc., etc. If you think that demagogues like al-Husseini, who preached killing all Jews, were not a disaster for all involved, especially but not only Arabs who lost their homes and have, since then, picked up the noted bigoted language as if it were a substantive descriptive - rather than a bold faced lie -, you are in dreamland. If you do not realize that such talk is the talk of genocide advocacy, you are in dreamland. It is a disaster for both sides.

Why, frankly, would those described maliciously as "colons" or an infection want to give anything to those who say such garbage with seemingly complete sincerity? If the Israelis were to do so, they would have to be the stupidest people on Earth. It would be a dumber mistake than Troy made in opening the door to invaders after speaking with Sinon.

omar ibrahim baker - 3/3/2011

Your perverted logic never seizes to amaze.
-Am I , are we, to understand from what you claim* that had the Palestinians led by the Late Hajj Amin NOT joined the Nazis, as you allege, the Zionist movement would have abandoned its dreams and plans of a Jewish state in Palestine ??
-Is it the, presumed, Arab "alliance" with Nazi Germany that made Jews covet Palestine ??

-Had the Palestinans allied themselves with , say, the Soviets or Chinese, Jews would then have established their colony in,say, Australia?

"Your contention is that Jews committed a grave crime against Palestinian Arabs. I think that is not so. I think Palestinian Arabs committed a grave crime against their own interest, making common cause with the Nazi lover, Hajj Amin al-Husseini. "

Joseph Mutik - 3/3/2011

I only hope that this time something good will get out of the upheavals in the Arab world. The statistics show that in Gaza the infant mortality and life expectancy have better numbers than Turkey:


Of course blame the Jews for it!
The only foreseeable leadership in the Arab world is, for now, a military one or a hateful one born out of failing religious ideology. Institutionalized democracy is a long process. In France took about 100 years from the French revolution to a real democratic system (1789 till the end of the 19th century). The Arab world is a medieval society having, still, a big quarrel with the modern world. 99% of the Arab world is composed of failing political, social and economic systems. About 50% of the Arab population (the women) is discriminated and kept in a subservient status. I believe that any real Arab leader that wants real change has to begin with changing the status of the Arab women away from the present tribal/religious backwardness.
Mubarak was sponsored by the west but Muammar Gaddafi had his power based on his country's oil and his tribe's power. Now, in the old Arab tradition, Muammar Gaddafi kills his country's citizens and gives them speeches


I only hope for the best but I have my doubts!?

N. Friedman - 3/3/2011


Your first point, that each group of people decides for itself, is well taken. However, the rest of your comment appears to argue something pretty close to asserting that Arabs are a noble people. It is not exactly that but such an interpretation of your position is not far off.

Your contention is that Jews committed a grave crime against Palestinian Arabs. I think that is not so. I think Palestinian Arabs committed a grave crime against their own interest, making common cause with the Nazi lover, Hajj Amin al-Husseini. He, more than anyone else, led Palestinian Arabs to view any accommodation to non-Arabs in Palestine as treason and to the view that Jews were particularly perfidious. That, to me, was a mistake which led to making an unnecessary war. You are free, of course, to disagree with that interpretation but, I think, my interpretation squares with the facts, so it is, whether or not you accept it, a valid interpretation.

As for joining the rest of the world, I note the obvious, which is that, at present, the contribution by today's Arabs to the stock of human knowledge is essentially non-existent. Moreover, the contribution of Arabs to interfering with the ability of others to make actual contributions is very great. So, while there may be other values which Arab hold dear and which may be perfectly valid, as a non-Arab, they do nothing for me except cause me to have to go through stupid lines at airports when I travel - a waste of time caused by Arabs, most particularly, Arab Muslims, who refuse to accept modernity and its values. So, your point of view may be valid but, frankly, when the oil runs out, if your societies have not managed to join the project which has excited the passions and values of the rest of the world, it is Arabs who will suffer.

You, an engineer, should understand my point well. Contemplate that, while you work using a computer filled with Israeli, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, American and European designed parts and software, pretty much without any Arab designed parts and software and employ those groups' inventions, which require a society based on modern, not medieval, values. That, at least I hope, is what those protesting in your part of the world want to be part of. If not, that is their own funeral, as the saying goes.

omar ibrahim baker - 3/3/2011

You did MISSTATE my view; never did I claim or believe that Arabs are "nobler" than other humans .
My Point was,still is, whatever others decide is up to them and binds ONLY them .Period.
As to joining the world ; I find your implication amusing in that it preordains, preconditions, submission to aggression and denial of one's inalienable human rights to qualify !

What kind of a world would that BE???

Is not your argument a rehash of the old arguments addressed to slaves, namely, " why not accept your lot and enjoy it( and join the white world; as slaves)??"
Your self interest in advancing such a rationale and corollary argument tells us a lot about modern Zionism which runs, except with the incurable diehards, as, roughly of course:
" Yes we committed a grave crime against the Palestinians , why do not they forget and forgive?? (And join the world)??"
I will tell you why NOT :
-we believe in justice , we abhor aggression, we can not allow anybody to trample on our rights, culture and land and we look to a better future for our children in which the aggressor DOES NOT enjoy the fruits of his aggression and in which they will regain whatever is rightly theirs including, of course, the right to live free and prosperous in their own homeland!.

N. Friedman - 3/2/2011


If I have misstated your view, then I am mistaken about that. However, my recollection is that you pooh-poohed Fahrettin's argument that Turks had far greater losses than Arabs, including most particularly millions of people displaced, yet decided to join the world, something Arabs have until now shown little inclination to do. Do you disagree with Fahrettin's position? If so, why?

Your comment that Israel is in Palestine makes no sense if one considers your view that Israel has no right to be in any location it currently rules. Countries do not exist in the abstract.

The rest of your comment fails to respond to any of my points. So, do you have an explanation how, in fact, there was to be unity among Arabs when Arabs were fighting each other? And, do you have an explanation showing that pan-Arabism was anything other than a disaster? I doubt it.

omar ibrahim baker - 3/2/2011

You stand by your comments as much as you stand by your bias, hatred, complexes and fears which, in its own way, stands for why we need unity and why Israel is, for now, in Palestine .
Your defense of the LYING Prof comes at an inopportune time since you seem to tend to join him in outright LYING with your :" You have no rebuttal to that than the argument that Arabs are more noble than other humans "

-Whose argument is that??

- Who is the "You" you refer to above ?
Is that a plural denoting Arabs or a singular denoting a certain addressee?

Need I remind that, not long ago, the Prof made such an allegation about" more noble" that despite your and his efforts was uncovered as an outright LIE by the editor of HNN ??

I really hope you are not making the same allegation , otherwise you would sadly join the sad Prof!

N. Friedman - 3/2/2011


You mischaracterize my views entirely.

One has to be ignorant to ignore the fact that Arab civilization - a civilization which, at one time, made great accomplishments -, has, for centuries now, made one bad mistake after the next and accomplished almost nothing. The engineering you practice, Omar, is almost entirely the work of Europeans and Jews. The lands where humans have some sense of dignity are more or less nowhere ruled by Arabs.

One can blame the West for a lot of things including some that effect Arabs. But, the West did not force pan-Arabism or Baathism on Arabs. While Baathism draws some ideology from the Nazis and the Communists, it was an ideology advanced by Arabs, to the detriment of Arabs. Arabs have, instead of, as Fahrettin as argued repeatedly to, on your part, deaf ears, that Turks lost a lot more than Arabs yet, unlike Arabs, made peace with the world and decided to join the world. You have no rebuttal to that than the argument that Arabs are more noble than other humans (hence, evidently, more willing to behave as if we lived in the Middle Ages).

Now, we have Arabs who seem intent on joining the world. We shall see what develops, of course, but we have Arabs doing something that, if things work out - the word "if" being something to keep in mind - may be the beginning of an Arab world which might develop ideologies which are not so obviously self-destructive and stupid. I certainly hope so. I hope you hope so as well, since it is you who are directly impacted, not me.

Now, there was little chance, at the end of WWI, for one pan-Arab state. As Art has pointed out, Hussein of Arabia, was not such a man. (T.E. Lawrence thought that his son Faisal might be a man to unite parts of the Arab regions.) However, as Art also points out, al-Saud had different ideas and pushed Hussein out, so the issue is academic. So, there was no united Arab state likely on the horizon.

Moreover, the ideologies that existed, especially pan-Arabism, were a disaster. It did nothing for Arabs in places where the ruler claimed it. It did not build bridges, feed people, educate people, keep people secure, etc., etc.. Instead, it created stupid wars and led to money plundered by incompetent, but brutal leaders.

So, I stand by my comment, one you try to deflect into something it had nothing to do with.

omar ibrahim baker - 3/1/2011

WOW WOW hail the Prof , childish reaction not expected of a Friedman

omar ibrahim baker - 3/1/2011

Seldom is the innate fear from and enmity to Arabs put out as openly as in Mr Friedman's :
" The former - unless you believe that it would be a good thing to create an ideologically charged pan-Arab state - the only other possibility at the time -, most likely based on an ideology akin to Ba'athism - would have been a disaster for the world, ....."

There is more here about WHY ISRAEL IN PALESTINE than in many volumes.

Mr Friedman's, a devout Zionist, abhorence of , fear from and enmity to any form of Arab unity is perfectly understandable .

That, however, is the ultimate enjeu!

omar ibrahim baker - 3/1/2011

Knowledgeable, perceptive and to the point Except that it is NOT a question of leadership and leader ,per se, as much as a common “doctrine”/cause that gives rise to and sustains a leader(s).

The concurrence of turmoil in both Al Mashrek and Al Maghreb denotes a common yearning, a common need and a common search.
At one time Arabism was the doctrine and Nasser’s pan Arab leadership sprung there from.
Now the likely candidate is Islamism as embodied by Hassan Nasr Allah whose leadership will, inter alia, bring Arab and Persian together or, more likely, a Turk or an Arab who will bring in Arab and Turk together in alliance with the Persian .

omar ibrahim baker - 3/1/2011

Seldom is brazen hatred and explicit racism voiced as in "A more basic set of issues (#147165)
by Donald Wolberg on February 23, 2011 at 9:56 AM "

Mr. Wolberg claims to believe in BASICS, a sound approach by any standard, which makes one wonder; what is it that he desires, aspires to ,dreams of and wants?

Assuming his Basics are all as he depicted it and that he is 100% right:
what remedy does he prescribe for that "wretched" human community:
a- anhilation, decimation?
b-colonization and long lasting domination ?
c-further fragmentation and dispersal all over the globe?
d-deArabizing ( that would include Christian Arabs) , de Islamizing and de culturation
e-(d) to be followed by re education and re culturation??

Should Mr Wolberg temper his wrath with a few positive ideas many here would gladly listen to what he has to say.

james joseph butler - 2/28/2011

Buzz, buzz, buzz, went the bumblebee... Last I checked the "finest hour" was in response Germans bombing the UK. As per my earlier comment regarding the most dangerous critter and that being a non-sequiter via 1916, or 1940, Arabia, y'all need to recognize truth and technology.

And as long as I'm using Apis Mellifera as the trope du jour, one brain many organisms, I'll choose the singular, lovely and talented, Mr. Peter respond to. "The protestors in the Arab world certainly don't" care about Sykes Picot, Churchill poison gas 1920, Iran 1953, or Albright sanctions, half a million dead Iraqi children. Right again Peter. After all you, me, and my fellow HNN believers recognize that history is this decade, yesterday, or next week.

So let's see, Israel vs. Arabs this decade = Israel v Lebanon and Israel v Gaza, kill ratio 100 to one in favor of Israel. What happens when F-16's and Apaches do battle with Roman Candles and ghost dancers? 100 to 1 kill ratio.. Super Great you win Whoopee!!!!!! Wait a second, Hezabollah is good, ok, bad. Dangerous.

You're right, who needs fossils like Albright, Churchill, 1953 Iran, Sykes Who!? We've got Mavi Marmari 2010. As always, Israel, like any self respecting fearful colonial entity will attempt to control truth; see American media, but Al-Jazeera sings true, more than ever, thank you American capitalist supported stupid main stream self defeating media. Katie swears to tell the truth.

Who would Libiyans believe? CBS, NBC, ABC, VOA, or Al Jazeera? Why?

All this for what? Any half way intelligent observer would've said that Israel, like Egypt, is due for a reality check. In the future,soon. Hurry America, bail out now.

art eckstein - 2/27/2011

Ignorant Butler writes:
"Do you think Churchill or Albright would've countenanced the deaths of Scandinavians in the same manner as they did Arabs?"

Butler: Winston Churchill not only countenanced but intentionally engineered the deaths of 600,000 German civilians by bombing during World War II.

I remember well, during the run up to desert storm, some ignorant idiot saying to an administration official, "They wouldn't bomb EUROPEANS like this!! Only Arabs!!"
To which the official calmly said, "Really? Maybe you should ask the Germans."

So, the "only Arabs" line doesn't work.

Facts, Butler, are stubborn things. You might wish to learn a few.

(Oh, who am I kidding?)

Elliott Aron Green - 2/27/2011

Do you think Churchill or Albright would've countenanced the deaths of Scandinavians in the same manner as they did Arabs?

Would you have a problem with a Muslim country, Iraq for instance, killing a half a million Americans because they thought it might may them safer?

What you're doing here is setting up a straw man by putting words into Peter's mouth. You're accusing him of taking positions that he had not taken. That's one of the irritating things about your arguments, your self-righteous ignorance. How would you like it if I told you that your understanding of the world came from Father Charles Coughlin's weekly effusions on radio, or maybe your parents got their understanding from that source and passed it on to you.
Would it be fair of me to imply or insinuate that you are a Coughlinite?

Be that as it may, jjb, I think that NF gave you a good answer on this issue of killing Scandinavians. But I will go further. The UK & US both "countenanced" the mass murder of Jews by the Germans during WW2. Can you refute that? If so, pray [to Father Coughlin, perhaps?] tell us, what either the UK or US did to stop the Nazis from murdering Jews during the war. In fact, both powers did little to save Jews, despite your fantasy of Jewish control of the USGovt. The UK indeed violated its international law obligation to foster development of the Jewish National Home. The UK effectively cut off Israel as a refuge for Jews when the Jews most needed a refuge. By so doing, the UK can be considered an accomplice to Nazi genocide. This was part of a declared Brit policy announced in the 1939 "Palestine White Paper."

Methinks that there are many things in heaven and earth, dear James, that are not dreamt of in your phoolosophy.

Elliott Aron Green - 2/27/2011

an "Agreement" which effectively removed control from themselves

JJB, Before we argue, let's get a couple of elementary mistakes out of the way. In the quote from you above, you indicate that you think that the Euro imperialists took "control" of Arab lands away from Arab rulers. In fact, the areas that we are talking about were all parts of the Ottoman Empire. They were not "removed" from Arab control. Furthermore, as hard as it may be for you to grasp, most Arabs were content with the Ottoman Empire which was a Muslim empire in which many Arabs held high posts. The Arab historian Zeine N Zeini called it an Arab-Turkish empire. The Turkish sociologist Ziya Gok Alp agreed. I elaborate on this point in this article:

[I will continue in another comment post]

N. Friedman - 2/26/2011


This could not be said any better. James is refuted again.

art eckstein - 2/25/2011

Mr. Friedman is correct that the Sherif of Mecca's ambitions were to seize all of Arabia, Syria (i.e., the current Syria plus Israel, the WB and Gaza, all of which = Syria in 1916) and Iraq for HIMSELF. There wouldn't have been any "Arab national state", and there was no "Arab national state" out of which the Arabs were cheated. Hussein bin Ali felt HE had been cheated, out of Syria (including the Palestine Mandate), but it is highly doubtful that he was guaranteed the area that became the Palestine Mandate. He was cheated out of Syria, yes. The "Arabs", however, were not.

Hussein wanted to be proclaimed Calif, that's the scope of this ambitious man's ambitions. As it was, his sons ended up as King of Iraq and King of Jordan. Not too bad for someone who was a minor figure in 1916!! (He couldn't hold the Hejaz in the 1920s against Ibn Saud, even with British help. Think about that.)

Later, of course, in 1948, his son Abdullah, as King of Jordan, tried to conquer all the Mandate. He did conquer the West Bank. No one objected then when he formally and officially encorporated the WB into Jordan. And so it remained two decades.

Abdullah, of course, is the ACTUAL destroyer of the Palestinian (Partition) state that could have come into existence in 1948. There could've been a Palestinian state on the WB and Gaza from 1948. Abdullah made sure it didn't happen.

Egypt for its part took Gaza in 1948, and formally and officially encorporated it into Egypt. No one objected to that, either.

As long as Butler is trying to give history lessons, he'd be better off learning some history first. But the problem is...real history is COMPLEX.

art eckstein - 2/25/2011

Ignorant Butler writes:
"Do you think Churchill or Albright would've countenanced the deaths of Scandinavians in the same manner as they did Arabs?"

Jimmy, Churchill not only countenanced but intentionally engineered the deaths of 600,000 German civilians by bombing during World War II.

I remember well, during the run up to desert storm, some ignorant idiot saying to an administration official, "They wouldn't bomb EUROPEANS like this!! Only Arabs!!"
To which the official calmly said, "Really? Maybe you should ask the Germans."

So, the "only Arabs" line doesn't work.

Facts, Butler, are stubborn things. You might wish to learn a few.

(Oh, who am I kidding?)

N. Friedman - 2/25/2011


I stand by my assertion. The creation of a state - were such even possible, which is very unlikely -, bridging all of the Arab regions, would have been a disaster for the world and for Arabs. This has nothing to do with Arab civilization, which is a high level civilization. It has everything to do with the political ideas and the long standing rivalry between Europeans and Arabs.

Instead of BS'ing, how about finding me the leader who would or even could have united all of the Arab lands, notwithstanding the rivalries that existed? You can't because there was none. How about explaining to me why the offspring of Sherif Hussein bin Ali, Sharif and Emir of Mecca, were not suitable leaders for the Europeans to negotiate with? You can't because, in fact, they were viewed at the time as legitimate, just like Jordan's King Abdullah is viewed as legitimate today.

Europeans had no moral obligation to create new super powers to act against Europeans. You have no answer to this obvious point, which is why your post resorts to misstating my views, referring to irrelevant movies and, to be blunt, mindless ranting. Lastly, you resort, in the end, to showing your true moral essence, which cannot, as previously noted, imagine a Jew having interests in Arab civilization that do not relate to Israel. And, as Art noted previously, you employ Antisemitic tropes "oii." Get real, James.

james joseph butler - 2/25/2011

"A disaster for the world" is how Mr. Friedman describes the idea of an independent Arab state post WWI. In his words this would be "an ideologically charged pan-Arab state".

NF I recognize that I also go over the top at moments but the notion that an independent Arab state, circa 1918, would have been a "disaster for the world" is illustrative of your own "prejudice problem".

"Lawrence of Arabia" is a marvelous movie, can we agree? Can we also agree that the Arabs are depicted as noble savages? The Turks are another story, but, the Arabs ride horses and camels well and they're similiar to American Indians: savy, simple, less than civilized. These riders of the dunes whose realities revolve around water well rights pose an existential threat to the world. What am I missing? Indiana Jones? Whoops, wrong Germans.

Pardon me for being another cinematically obsessed American but when you use such extraordinary verbiage as "A diaster for the world" regarding a bunch of raghead camel jockeys you might want to press 'reality check', because the last I checked I'm not afraid of anybody who's not technologically proficient. I dont care whether it's 1916 or 2011. Al Queda had one day in 2001 the Nazis had a decade. Why? The Nazis were Germans. Is that sufficiently racist?

Point being. If you're gonna describe "disaster for the world" you might wanna think about whether that's nuke in their hand,OK 1919, fleet, an artillery battery, tanks planes bombs, or horses and guns,

Oiii, prejudice. The absurdity of your not testifying to your allegiance to Israel as your raison 'd etre for being here. LOL. Are you kidding? Are you really trying to say that you're here NOW because you're engaged with truth and justice? NF you are here because of BLOOD. Don't insult my HNN.

N. Friedman - 2/24/2011

James writes: 'Anyone who thinks that Arabs with brains, those not in the backpockets of their colonial masters, approved of an "Agreement" which effectively removed control from themselves and instead gave to London and Paris because that's A-OK is a fool.'

Which Arabs, other than their existing political leaders, should the allies have asked? These leaders, most particularly, the Banu Hashim who then ruled Arabia and whose children were capable of being rulers, were the leaders that existed. So, your point is basically ignorant.

You also conflate two things, one, how the Arab countries would be set up with, two, how they would be ruled.

The former - unless you believe that it would be a good thing to create an ideologically charged pan-Arab state - the only other possibility at the time -, most likely based on an ideology akin to Ba'athism - would have been a disaster for the world, if it could have been accomplished despite the internal divisions among Arab peoples.

The latter issue is another story. However, the treaty that was created resulted within a short period of time, a matter of a few decades, in states which had influence in the world. Or, do you think that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, etc., have no influence, notwithstanding their oil wealth, on world affairs? So, I think your point is nonsense.

Another thing you get wrong is that the Arab regions are filled with undereducated people, with humongous numbers of completely illiterate people. The fact of there being numbers of uneducated people pre-dates Sykes-Picot by centuries and has a great deal to do with the problems that exist in the Arab regions. Consider - you could learn something - that, until the 19th Century, Muslim Arabs had no printing press. That was due to Muslim religious leaders and to Muslim political leaders, the former believing that the sacred language, Arabic, ought not be debased by allowing the printing of books in that language, and the latter, thinking that allowing the printing press would mean a challenge to the political leadership. Guess what, James? This was not the doing of Westerners. In fact, Westerners pushed for the introduction of printed books. So, you can blame the West for some things but, the woeful lack of literacy and its political implications (e.g. that religious demagogues could play an oversized role in society) are self-induced tragedies, not something which the West caused or perpetuated.

You throw Israel into the mix as if it were my sole interest. Guess what, James? It is not. You, not I, want to make this about Israel. My comment was that you had your facts wrong. That was it. But you, with your Judeocentric bigotry, think that I can only understand things in terms of Israel. You clearly do, thinking anything that can be said against Israel must be correct, even if it is wholesale slander. Do you wonder why I think you have a prejudice problem?

james joseph butler - 2/24/2011

You know I was about to engage in a point by point defense of my piece but I had to stop. Anyone who thinks that Arabs with brains, those not in the backpockets of their colonial masters, approved of an "Agreement" which effectively removed control from themselves and instead gave to London and Paris because that's A-OK is a fool.

American patriots died for the right of self-determination during the American Revolution and you would say, "Wait a minute, I found some loyal believers who think, 'I'm not so bright, those people thousands of miles away know more than I do. I will abide by their decisions' Or, 'I got it good right now thanks, George III or Muammar Quadaffi, why should I care about the rest of the country?"

This is not to say that some Arabs didn't "approve". Some American Indians approved of the 800 or so treaties signed to protect their rights. Virtually none of those treaties were ever approved by Congress. Why waste time on clueless savages? They won't know the difference anyway. What kind of "rights" did American Indians possess in 1880? Approximately the same kind of rights as Arabs in 1919. Educated 21st century thinkers who defend such agreements are ipso facto racists or fools.

You might pause a moment and ask yourself, "How high a price will I pay to defend Israel?" Heck you're not defending Israel you're just telling like it is. Those stone age A-rabs need us smart folks, folks as smart as GW Bush, Sarah Palin, and what's your name? Nathan, peter, colonial pumpkin eater.

It's 2011. And you're defending colonialism. Hillary Clinton has a job for you.

N. Friedman - 2/24/2011

James writes: "Do you believe that the Sykes-Picot Agreement was fair to Arabs?"

Professor Ephraim Karsh, an authority on the topic, writes in his book, Islamic Imperialism: A History, that Arab leaders participated at the highest level in carving up the region including drawing the map. In fact, they played an important, perhaps a decisive, role, with their approval taken by the British and French as necessary pre-conditions for peace in that region. In other words, the British and French drew lines that had been expressly approved by Arab leaders, who thought them in the interest of the Arabs. So, the answer to your question is, it was not a great injustice to the Arabs, given the world as it then existed.

And, the alternative, to create a big Arab state would have served the interest of creating a rival to Europe. Would you want Europe faced by a major state, with a population of hundreds of millions of people, and a likely foreign policy which, if history is a guide, would be hostile to Europe. Would that have been good for the Arabs? Would it have been good for Europe? You have a smug certainty, using 20/20 hindsight but ignoring the world as it then was (or is today). I think it fair to say that it was in the interest of all involved that a powerful superpower not be created by Europe, in the interest of satisfying pan-Arabism.

You write: "Do you think Churchill or Albright would've countenanced the deaths of Scandinavians in the same manner as they did Arabs?"

Well, Churchill did watch Scandinavians die at the start of WWII. So, he probably would not see the issue you see. Albright was not a leader in those days. I suspect that if it would advance American interests, the US would have as little regard for Scandinavians as it may have for Arabs. Witness how the US treated its enemies during WWII, destroying cities, etc., sometimes for gaining mere marginal advantages. So, I think your point is a nonsense point.

As for invading countries, I think it can be said definitively that if Arabs had the upper hand, they would not have any more qualms than the US has in attacking. Which is to say, I think your concept ignores basic understanding of human nature and about politics.

Your comment that the US played a role in the ouster of the Iranian government is open to debate. Some historians say it is so. Others say it is not. Assuming that it is so, the beneficiary of that ouster was supported by those who now rule Iran. In fact, they were the main opponents to the government that had been in place. So, their objection rings more than a bit hollow. As for the Iranian people, well, the Shah was, by all standards, the most liberal ruler in the history of Iran. That, of course, does not say much but, if we compare his rule to that of the current rulers, we are talking day and night, with the current bunch being in league with the prince of darkness. So, I have trouble with your analogies but do note that the US ought, absent extreme circumstances, not undermine existing governments.

Peter Kovachev - 2/23/2011

Jimmy, who cares about your questions? The protestors in the Arab world right now certainly don't, since to the horror of the leftards out there, there's nary a mention of Sykes-Picot, ARAMCO, colonialism or even the dreaded "Zionist entity" and the perennial "Palestinians." Perhaps, just maybe, some are starting to realize that the world is a rough place for everyone everywhere and that it pays to deal with the here and now, rather than getting worked up over distractions .

Quoting Churchill and Albright out of context and trying to drag me into endless pedantic debates over matters we'll never agree on is pointless, especially since you cannot distinguish facts from opinion and ideology. To spare you the effort of guessing my views and, yes, to enjoy the image of you reeling back in disgust, I happen to think that Western colonialism was, on the average, better for the colonized than what came before and what came after. When it worked well, it worked because a lot of the colonized peoples welcomed their liberation from their own tyrants, the security and improved economy at least for some. It broke down when the colonizers became too greedy and vicious, and the colonized too eager to grab the reigns of power while being unprepared.

james joseph butler - 2/23/2011

Peter I often make the mistake of assuming a modicum of knowledge on the part of my reader. Which is to say I traffic in facts rather than your baggies of perceived thought, be they Marxist or post-modernist.

Do you believe that the Sykes-Picot Agreement was fair to Arabs? Do you believe that it was OK for the CIA to overthrow a democratic government in Iran 1953 so Aramco could have its way? Do you think Churchill or Albright would've countenanced the deaths of Scandinavians in the same manner as they did Arabs?

Would you have a problem with a Muslim country, Iraq for instance, killing a half a million Americans because they thought it might may them safer?

I trust that these questions are sufficiently concrete for you to respond in a yes or no fashion. Please accept my humble apology for my previous post's ellipitcal nature. I would be happy to respond to a similiar, 'What do you think?' survey from yourself.

Peter if you want to understand me or others you differ with ask simple questions. If your intention is not to understand but to belittle and tease I get it, you're just like me.

Peter Kovachev - 2/23/2011

You are babbling a bit there, Jimmy. Sykes Picot, ARAMCO, Albright, Churchill, and of course, the obligatory scratch at your antisemitic itch, AIPAC and the "racist myth, Israel." What's this you cobbled together for us today, gestalt-based paleo-Marxist, anti-colonialist, post-Modern free association channelling of the 'zactly-likes? A wild enough mix to put into little plastic baggies and sell to the believers here, I'd say.

james joseph butler - 2/23/2011

Always a pleasure to listen to Americans bemoan the "ignorance and dysfunction" of those foreigners whose inadequacies may impinge on the price on the pump. Why can't they be like be us?

I have to remind myself this is HNN because when I read the whining about 'them' I have to ask what don't 'they' know about the history of the region? I know Sykes Picot is a little difficult but ARAMCO is easy. Did Madeline Albright consider Winston Churchill's recommendation, "I am strongly in favour of using poison gas on uncivilised tribes." 1920, when she remarked that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children, "was worth it" if it meant the end of the Great Satan. When did the West's 'leaders' start being better than the autocrats of the Middle East?

Of course this is not to absolve those Arabs or Persians or North Africans of the ordinary human sins: self-interest, me, myself, I, and my tribe. Those who think my tribe is evidence of primordial primitivism might wonder why AIPAC's membership is as cohesive as it is.

"These are cultures that fear the notion of equality" when it interferes with their bottom line, nonlobbyist mediated competition, or their favorite racist myth, Israel.

Peter Kovachev - 2/23/2011

Uh, sorry for the sad reminder, Donald, but one of the two "islands," Turkey, is sinking rather rapidly.

Donald Wolberg - 2/23/2011

One looks in concern at the state of North Africa, the Middle East and West Asis, as a great swath of ignorance and dysfunction. Except for the islands of Israel and Turkey, there is no substantive modernity except the glitter of wealth's creation in a few of the sand dunes that overlie seas of oil. And even the modernity of skyscrapers and paved highways seems as shifting as the sands upon which they rest. There is no substance to these nations hacked from the Ottomans other than a seventh and eighth century set of religious beliefs that makes death and conquest of others goals. These are cultures that fear notions of equality and live in a world of dominant and brutal conquest from which characters that pose as leaders emerge. The shouting and burning of mobs now, will likely lead to new brutal characters who emerge as the next gemeration of leaders. This is all tribalism with cell phones and not much more.

Peter Kovachev - 2/22/2011

It's impossible to take this stuff seriously: "If a popular and capable leader can emerge out of the masses fueling the Egyptian Revolution it would mark one of the first steps in overcoming the region's leadership deficit."

"Egyptian revolution"? Let's not get ahead of ourselves, here. So far it all looks like the “region’s” garden variety military coup, where the real plotters and schemers hide behind a tiny minority of idealists, realists and desperate folks. We can all have hopes and dreams, but the likely scenario is that the relatively few idealists will be cast aside and ignored if they're lucky or, more likely, will be viciously hunted down and brutalized as soon as the world’s interest wanes and obediently turns to the boiler plate issues (wild guess: the Zionist Entity).

And then, it's back to the perennial longing for the heroic fuehrer who will fix it all. And as this familiar hope for a charismatic and miraclous strongman plays itself out, the dream will congeal into a faux-Saladin golem, who is to unite all Muslims and vanquish all their enemies amidst the usual rivers of blood and related phantasmagoria, while the reality will settle onto yet another petty tyrant.

Well, here's a shocking thought; perhaps the “region” (i.e., the Muslim states) suffers less from a “leadership deficit” than from a deficit in common sense. How about thinking of building genuine civil institutions, nurturing a middle class, establishing ethical and transparent governance, defending human rights and genuine justice, letting in some daylight between Mosque and state, stopping persecution of minorities, reducing demented hatred and vicious incitement? How about more jobs, real business opportunities and effective social services? With such a solid base, any leader will just have to be capable, even if he (and dare we suggest, she?) is merely tolerable, rather than wildly popular.

As things stand now, the probability of a favourable outcome in Egypt is close to the absolute zero. And when the presumably Western-educated Arab “intelligentsia” prattles on about colonialism as if it just ended a week ago, when it cannot distinguish between a lucky political pseudo-victory, as opposed to a military victory (i.e., Hisbollah vs. Israel), and when it confuses abject fear of a psychopathic strong-man (Nasrallah) with popularity, one can only conclude that things haven’t really changed all that much.

Elliott Aron Green - 2/22/2011

May we point out that Salah ad-Din was a Kurd, not an Arab?

As to Turkey, why does the Obama administration act so fondly towards Erdogan and his Islamist govt/