Obama and the E.U. increasingly delusional about the Middle East

“Mr. Obama dined with more than a dozen Central and Eastern European leaders to hear their thoughts on their economies’ transition from communism two decades ago, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. ‘We have taken great inspiration from the blossoming of freedom and economic growth in this region,’ Mr. Obama said…Comparisons of the Arab Spring to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the then G-7’s response filled the halls of the two-day summit, said Michael Froman, deputy national adviser for international economic affairs.” Carol E. Lee, ‘In Eastern Europe, Obama Sees Communism’s Fall Echoed in the Middle East’, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2011

If President Obama truly believes that the Arab Spring is a facsimile of the freeing of Eastern Europe from Soviet Rule, then he is more delusional than I have come to believe. Let me identify the enormous differences between the two impulses.

First, the majority of Eastern Europeans had never swallowed the communist religion of the Soviet Union.  They tolerated what they could not overthrow, spitting in the gutter whenever uncivilized Soviet jackboots patrolled their precious streets. For the populations of Eastern Europe had experienced better times, had indulged themselves for the most part in the blessings of Western civilization before a new Dark Age was imposed upon them. Their conquerors were their  uncivilized inferiors.

By contrast, a majority of the Arabs caught up in the Arab Spring still relish Islamic fundamentalism, the religious cult that has retarded their economic development over the past millenium.  Surely there are enlightened Muslims, who ignore the ban on interest and  pay only token lip-service to the Supreme Authority identified by an illiterate Prophet.  But they will find themselves swamped out by the rise of Islamic fundamentalism once the secular dictators are removed from power. President Obama should be looking at 1970s Iran, not 199os Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia for indications of where  too much of the Arab Spring eventually will flow.

Second, Eastern Europe, for the most part, was relatively well-educated in 1990.  The USSR had no interest in keeping its female captives illiterate, covering their minds as well as their heads from the real world. Illiteracy across Arabia and North Africa is significantly greater, especially among the female population. If Iran is an example, the Arab Spring will force Arabian women back into medieval servitude as it imprisons secular men in an impermeable web of religious bigotry.

Third, most Eastern Europeans had some history of democracy, some experience with the institutions of relatively free societies. The Middle East, with the exception of Israel, has no such experience. Democratic institutions will not emerge fully grown out of the desert sand. They may take perhaps centuries to evolve.

Fourth, Eastern Europeans had a real incentive to allow the institutions of a free society to evolve. Only by that route would they be able to secure the economic benefits of E.U. membership. There will be no such incentive available to Middle Eastern and North African countries as they attempt to shake off the shackles of autocracy.  I hear no murmurs within the EU of extending membership to Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, or Iraq.  E.U. foot-dragging over Turkey is a clear enough signal that there are are no low-hanging European fruits available for those who engage in the Arab Spring.

This is not to say that the Arab Spring necessarily will choke on its own desert sand, that autocracy will follow autocracy in an unending process. It rather suggests that President Obama and the E.U.  should stand back and allow the Arab Spring to run its own course, without Western meddling. For those Arab Springs that turn into glorious summer, trade opportunities with the West should be forthcoming, and helping hands should be extended. For those that fail, hard-earned lessons should be allowed to accumulate in the hope, if not the expectation, that an Arab Renaissance eventually will sweep away  irrational religious impediments to their human flourishing.

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2 Responses to “Obama and the E.U. increasingly delusional about the Middle East”

  1. bloggerclarissa Says:

    An absolutely brilliant post. I was born in the Soviet Union and I know enough of the Soviet system to hate it passionately. But any comparison between Eastern European countries and Islamic fundamentalist regimes is ignorant, misguided and offensive.

    What is the use of such facile comparisons that disregard a wealth of cultural, political, ideological, and economic differences?

    I also home that the Arab Spring blossoms into something positive. However, one doesn’t help that process by reductive comparisons without substance.

  2. Aussie Says:

    First of all, I echo Clarissa’s remarks regarding the ignorance of the comparisons.

    Second, in my genealogy I am 1/4 German. That 1/4 German is from a country that was swallowed up by Russia. One of my distant cousins had his watch smashed and his bicycle stolen by those invading Russians in what was known as East Germany (Saxony). The Germans were far more civilized than their Russian masters!!

    Third, I agree wholeheartedly with your take on the subject, that they should be looking to Iran, not Europe to see the likely outcome.

    The country most at risk in this Arab spring is Egypt. It is the most likely to end up just like Iran. The Salafists are on the rise in Egypt. I cannot make any predictions about Yemen or Tunisia. As for Libya, I think that they will take a different tack because the majority of the people involved in the National Transitional Council are worldly-wise. It is a very big risk with regard to them. What I see as the problem is any stalemate. Gadhafi needs to go now.

    Of all these countries, I am going to predict that Libya will be the first to blossom when Gadhafi is gone. This is because they have in place a group that can take control, and they are a group with experience. They also desire democracy because they are sick to death of the socialism thrust upon them by Gadhafi. We shall just have to wait and see.

    On the other hand I do not see Egypt blossoming in the same way. This is because Muslim Brotherhood are likely to gain control of the government. If that happens there will be a further stifling of their economy. If the Iranian backed el-Baradei was to gain the Presidency then Egypt will definitely go the way of Iran. The other problem in Egypt is the growth of Communism which has been present since at least when Nasser was leader.

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