Shock and Flaw: “Most Arabs are in a state of shock,” The Daily Star, a Lebanese daily, editorialized on March 21, the day after war broke out in Iraq.
“The passive manner in which we watch events unfolding around us, unable or unwilling to muster the political will to chart our own history, is a terrible symptom of some deeper malaise,” The Daily Star editorializes. As was the case with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the Lebanese paper reports, the major driving force for change in Iraq is coming from outside the region.
“It is easy to blame imperialism, colonialism, Zionism, Arab oligarchy, and American bias as culprits that have confounded and battered the Arab world, and there is some truth in all these quarters,” The Daily Star writes. “Yet just as troubling as our passive passage through this frustrating terrain of national transformation is the reality that we in the Arab world have never really fully diagnosed our own condition in a methodical and truthful manner.
“We must focus on the first step in an ill person’s march toward recovery, health and growth: honest and dispassionate diagnosis of the underlying problem,” The Daily Star argues. “Why are we so passive in the face of repeated external reshaping of our world? We must answer that question in order to have a chance of devising strategies to cure the problem, and take control of our lives.”
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Shock and Flaw II: The Pakistani daily The Nation also prescribed a heavy dose of introspection, but found the United States to be the ill patient.
“The real fallout” from the war in Iraq, M.A. Niazi writes in the March 21 issue, “is going to be global. New fault lines in the post-Cold War world have opened that now challenge the U.S.A.’s position as the sole superpower. Its inability to convince certain key allies to join its endeavour to eliminate a threat to its security is not just a failure of its diplomacy, but reflects a divergence of interests.”
While a divergence of interests between “Old Europe” and the United States is most apparent in France and Germany’s opposition to the war in Iraq, Niazi writes, “small pinprick disagreements” over issues such as the Kyoto Protocols evidence rising discontent with American preeminence.
“It is too early to predict an irreparable breach,” Niazi writes. But as “a great power, indeed, the world’s sole superpower, [the United States] must think globally, and attempt to balance all interests, even if it involves sacrificing short-term goals. That provides its best chance of securing its interests in the long term. Otherwise it will face challenges not just from the currently powerless Third World (including the Muslim world), but powerful states and groupings within those it still considers allies. It is not just Europe. China and Japan have not taken a stand on Iraq, but will that apply to the next crisis?”
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Shock and de Gaulled: While much has been made of France’s opposition to the war in Iraq, the Saudi daily Arab News reports that Paris’s objection to the American attack is based not on pacifism but “in the framework of a political vision.”
“Like the Cheshire cat that leaves behind a grin when it disappears,” Amir Taheri writes in the March 21 issue, “what is known as France’s Arab policy (Politique Arabe de France or PAF) has had a way of putting in periodic appearances during the past three decades.… The latest eruption of PAF may prove costly for France.”
Taheri traces France’s Arab policy — including its building of Iraq’s first nuclear reactor, which Israel subsequently destroyed — back to the Six-Day War in 1967. No longer weighed down by the war in Algeria, and having scaled back what had been a close relationship with Jerusalem, French leader Charles de Gaulle made “a series of diplomatic moves and political declarations, like the one describing the Jews as “un peuple sur de lui et dominateur” (“a people sure of itself and domineering”). In addition, Taheri writes, de Gaulle imposed an arms embargo on all “belligerents” in the Middle East — but as Israel was at the time the only buyer of French armaments, the ban was directly aimed at Jerusalem.
“De Gaulle might not have realized it at the time,” Taheri writes, “but his launching of PAF accelerated the ‘Americanization’ of Israel. Conscious that, without a big-power ally, its existence could be in danger, Israel was almost obliged to turn to the United States in search of the same kind of special relationship that France was now terminating.”
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Hail Goys: Then there was this headline from the March 21 issue of the Bahrain Tribune, a daily based in the tiny Persian Gulf island kingdom: “King Hails Goys Role in Developing Sports.” Alas, the article did not report royal gratitude for gentile athletic assistance. “Goys,” it turns out, is an acronym for the General Organisation for Youth and Sports, which, it seems, was deserving of kingly praise.