How to look stupid and be irrelevant

News item:

DOHA, Qatar — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a scalding critique of Arab leaders here on Thursday, saying their countries risked “sinking into the sand” of unrest and extremism unless they liberalized their political systems and cleaned up their economies.

Speaking at a conference in this gleaming Persian Gulf emirate, Mrs. Clinton recited a familiar litany of ills: corruption, repression and a lack of rights for women and religious minorities. But her remarks were striking for their vehemence, and they suggested a frustration that the Obama administration’s message to the Arab world had not gotten through.

“In too many places, in too many ways, the region’s foundations are sinking into the sand,” she said to a stone-faced audience of foreign ministers, businesspeople and rights groups. “The new and dynamic Middle East that I have seen needs firmer ground if it is to take root and grow everywhere.” — NY Times

Clinton can get as “vehement” as she likes, but if she and her partners in the Obama administration honestly believe the problems facing the Middle East stem from economic corruption and lack of political freedom, I despair.

Where are the ‘I’ words — ‘Islam’ and ‘Ideology’ — which correctly name the reasons for the degree of conflict swirling around the region, both internally and between it and the West?

Maybe she is afraid to speak these words and risk alienating her already “stone-faced” audience, so instead she says things like this:

Those who cling to the status quo may be able to hold back the full impact of their countries’ problems for a little while, but not forever … If leaders don’t offer a positive vision and give young people meaningful ways to contribute, others will fill the vacuum.

Extremist elements, terrorist groups and others who would prey on desperation and poverty are already out there, appealing for allegiance and competing for influence. — (the Times article continues)

Yes, they are out there, but it isn’t because leaders don’t offer a “positive vision.” It’s because Islamist groups offer a powerful and attractive ideology which promises to sweep away everything that’s wrong with their society in their view, everything that has been corrupted by its contact with the poisonous West.

Mrs. Clinton’s Western concepts, like “equality for women and religious minorities” are the last things that could win over young people influenced by Islamist ideology, who see them as blurring essential distinctions that are part of the proper structure of the world, and part of the reason for the evil and spiritual corruption that characterize the West.

Imagine trying to tempt, for example, a dedicated revolutionary to betray his ideals by offering him a high-paying job and a house in suburbia. It’s hard enough. Now imagine that he has a religious motivation, and imagine that it is strong enough under some circumstances that he is willing to blow himself up to advance it.

The article mentions the crisis in Lebanon, a country where — at least in some places — women are ‘liberated’ and the economy, in between periodic wars brought about by ideology, booms. This week, its government was brought down by Hizballah, a movement representing the revolutionary Shia Islamist ideology of Iran.

Until our leaders begin to understand the actual forces acting in the Middle East, they will continue to look stupid and to be irrelevant.

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3 Responses to “How to look stupid and be irrelevant”

  1. Silke says:

    Fringes of German revolutionaries (Baader-Meinhof et al) at some point gave out the battle cry to take over the “system” via a “long march through the institutions” i.e. they became teachers, civil servants etc. They have reached retirement age now and I seem to perceive that they want to revert to their youthful behaviour, kind of Oldsters looking for a cause. My bet is that they’ll soon dominate the comment threads with their weird and when all is said and done cruel super-PC world views.

    In their youth they went for “it” in a state with more jobs on offer than people wanting it, with everybody getting more well-off with every year passing.

    i.e. the outbreak of nuttyness is probably largely independent from economic conditions or else it thrives in societies where the well educated don’t work for a living either because there is no work or because hand-outs are sufficient.

    If that’s correct then probably the only thing that helps those “rebellious” minds in need of keeping boredom at bay is give them something to do. But what?

    right now I come across jubilations because Tunisians got rid of their president but: – With Ben Ali gone, what will happen to the Jews?

  2. Robman says:

    Hey, at least Hillary is taking a break from blaming everything on “Israeli settlements”!

    I’ll take “stupid and irrelevant” any day over that!

    We’re making progress!

  3. Shalom Freedman says:

    How sadly ironic, that the first response to Secy. Clinton’s remarks was the overthrow of the present regime in Tunisia. The former leader is now in Saudi Arabia. What will come in its wake is probably the Islamic regime which however bad the previous one was, will be worse. Toppling the corrupt old despotisms does not it seem bring Democracy but rather Radical Islam Iran style.