Politics of Murder in the Middle East
David Ignatius is dishearted by what he terms “The Politics of Murder” in his beloved Lebanon and throughout the Middle East.
A disease is eating away at the Middle East. It afflicts the Syrians, the Iraqis, the Lebanese, even the Israelis. It is the idea that the only political determinant in the Arab world is raw force — the power of physical intimidation. It is politics as assassination.
The sickness must end. The people of the Middle East are destroying themselves, literally and figuratively, with the politics of assassination. So many things are going right in the modern world — until we reach the boundaries of the Middle East, where the gunmen hide in wait. Those who imagined they could stop the assassins’ little guns with their big guns — the United States and Israel come to mind — have been undone by the howling gale of violence. In trying to fight the killers, they began to make their own arguments for assassination and torture. That should have been a sign that something had gone wrong.
The idea that America is going to save the Arab world from itself is seductive, but it’s wrong. We have watched in Iraq an excruciating demonstration of our inability to stop the killers. We aren’t tough enough for it or smart enough — and in the end it isn’t our problem. The hard work of building a new Middle East will be done by the Arabs, or it won’t happen. What would be unforgivable would be to assume that, in this part of the world, the rule of law is inherently impossible.
The rule of law has been the norm in the West, however, for centuries. The Arab world, which at the time of the Crusades was much more socially and technologically advanced than Christendom, has remained mired in the Medieval mindset. The old tale of the frog and the scorpion, with the punchline “because it is the Middle East,” usually rings true.
Ignatius is quite likely right that the United States is not going to be able to change this. He’s wrong, though, if he thinks the United Nations will do any better. The answer, then, is that change has to come from within. Sadly, there are no signs that this is forthcoming.