Last couple of weeks I’ve had quite a few discussions with mainly anti-jihadists and Islamophobes, – (to who’s ranks I count myself !), – about the most likely outcome of the current Arab revolts.
At first I didn’t quite understand why they were so hesitant in “joining the revolution”, but the answer, of course, is fears of Iranian-style take-overs. That is fair enough, especially when these fears are fueled by polls like the one from Pew Research Center. I’ve been surprised, however, to be met with a lot of hostility, simply for declaring myself optimistic on behalf of democracy, human rights and a better future for Egypt and other Arab nations.
I’ve tried not to be overly optimistic, – a jubilant idiot, – but even so, the response, in short, has been this (angry) conclusion: Your optimism is ill informed and has no basis in reality !
When countering the Pew Research Center Poll with the poll commissioned by Washington Center for Near East Policy, I am met with: Who cares about these pseudo-academic polls anyway ?! – The Arabs are illiterate and it doesn’t make sense to ask them questions about democracy (etc.) anyway !
When quoting Jimmy Carter: “We should not be afraid of the Brotherhood“, I am met with: Who is taking this old sissy seriosly ?!
I was extremely pleased then, to discover that Daniel Pipes, himself an outspoken critic of Islam(ism), has written this brilliant analysis, that is very supportive of my own optimism, – which, in turn, is based on polls and rational thinking as well as gut-feelings .
It is time for us, says Pipes, “to discard the soft bigotry of low expectations“:
Viewing the rebellions in the context of a regional chessboard:
“On one side stands the “resistance” bloc led by Iran and including Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and Qatar; it seeks to shake up the existing order with a new one, more piously Islamic and hostile to the West.
On the other side stands the status quo bloc led by Saudi Arabia and including most of the rest of the region (implicitly including Israel); it prefers things to stay more or less the way they are”.
Summing up, – Pipe’s optimism is based on the following important observations:
“..there are only two regional geo-strategic giants — Iran and Saudi Arabia — and both are potentially vulnerable ” (!) :
“Despite Tehran’s strenuous efforts to lay claim to the revolts across the region, portraying them as inspired by the Iranian revolution of 1978–79 and its own brand of Islamism, these revolts more likely will inspire Iranians to renew their assault on the Khomeinist order”.
“Were such a counter-revolution to succeed, the implications would go far beyond Iran.. – Bereft of the most important “resistance” government, the Islamist movement worldwide would likely begin to decline”.
“..geographical, ideological, and personnel differences among Saudis could cause its fall. The key question would then be: Fall to whom”? :
“..Shiites, Purist Wahhabis, – or, – (the unthinkable), – liberals, hitherto a negligible force, who find their voice and lead an overthrow of the antiquated, corrupt, extremist Saudi order”?
Finally, Pipes observes that:
“The revolts over the past two months have been largely constructive, patriotic, and open in spirit. Political extremism of any sort, leftist or Islamist, has been largely absent from the streets. Conspiracy theories have been the refuge of decayed rulers, not exuberant crowds. The United States, Great Britain, and Israel have been conspicuously absent from the sloganeering”.
and concludes that:
“One has the sense that the past century’s extremism — tied to such figures as Amin al-Husseini, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ruhollah Khomeini, Yasser Arafat, and Saddam Hussein — has run its course, that populations seek something more mundane and consumable than rhetoric, rejectionism, and backwardness“.
It is no wonder that commentaries, who would have expected to find Daniel Pipes in the ranks of grumbling pessimists, are not overly enthusiastic to say the least, and Pipes too is met with his share of hostility.