Now Please Vacate Your Thrones

(Economist-UK) At a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Jordan last weekend, Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, barked "Palestine" every time Liz Cheney, an assistant secretary at the American State Department, had the temerity to mention George Bush's vision of an Arab democratic spring. Moussa is right to say that the Palestinian cause resonates throughout the Arab world. But it is nonsense to say that Arabs want to shelve their own democratic hopes until Palestine is resolved. On the contrary, many Arabs have noticed that being a democracy has strengthened rather than weakened Israel during the long years of conflict. Most Arabs say in polls that they would like democracy for themselves. If Mr. Bush wants democracy for the Arabs, and they want it for themselves, why is there no meeting of minds? Part of the answer is indeed Palestine. In Jordan, the Arab audience winced every time Laura Bush mentioned Mr. Bush's belief in "freedom." However, there is another reason for the wincing. Whatever Arabs want, the last thing their leaders want is to lose power by introducing the democracy that America now demands of them. The U.S. and its Arab allies are therefore locked in an almost surreal dialogue. Bullied, nagged, and cajoled by their superpower patron, the kings of Jordan and Morocco, the emirs of the Gulf, the Saudi crown prince, and the ever-ruling presidents of Egypt and sundry North African states are forced in public to mouth the jargon of political reform and democracy while straining every muscle in private to ensure that their version of democracy denies the masses the one thing they most desire: a peaceful way to boot the said kings, emirs, crown princes, and presidents out of office.

2005-05-27 00:00:00

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