YNet: Arabs Unprepared for Democracy


Are Arabs unfit for democracy?

Yigal Walt at YNet News writes:

IDF Major General Arab Spring” may ultimately turn into a “radical Islamic winter.” Recent events in Egypt and elsewhere in the region indicate that this grim assessment is materializing at a rapid pace right before our eyes.

Foolish Western observers who lauded the “great revolutions” sweeping the Middle East have displayed profound ignorance, failing to comprehend that the region is woefully unprepared for democracy. In this respect, the downfall of brutal tyrants – a pleasing development in and of itself – is worthless if followed by greater evils.

Regrettably, the growing Mideastern chaos has shattered any semblance of regional stability, allowing the darkest, most radical forces to erupt and increasingly set the tone. What we saw in Egypt over the weekend was merely the beginning. Much worse is yet to come.

Certainly revolutions, by definition, create upheaval and a degree of uncertainty; the break down of corrupt, despotic regimes cannot be accompanied by a simultaneous state building initiative. In this sense, Walt is correct, the Arab Spring has lead to a some regional instability – the refugees fleeing murderous regimes in Syria, Egypt and Libya are evidence of this. But is Walt serious that the west made a strategic error in supporting the Arab Spring?

Walt’s first flaw is his insistence that the west really did support the Arab Spring. Of course, the intervention in Libya and the sanctions that are being levied on Syria are clear examples of western support for the popular uprising, but Walt seems to have forgotten the blind eye the west turned to the protesters in Bahrain and the feeble attempt to assure the world that Hosni Mubarak was not a dictator. Western support for the Arab spring was, at best, inconsistent. To say that the west was foolish to support the Arab Spring is thus a pathetic attempt to pass credit for the popular revolutions to the west, as if the politicians in London, Paris and Washington DC were the instigators of the entire regional movement.

Moreover, Walt is looking at the cases of Egypt, Libya and Palestine (ignoring the many other countries experiencing democratic uprisings.) Concerning Egypt, Walt writes:

The orgy of violence and lawlessness we witnessed marks the rise of Islamists and street thugs and the State’s declining ability to impose law and order.

Walt is warning that the attack on the Israeli embassy is an example of the inherent violence in political Islam. While Islamist parties in Egypt are popular, the embassy incident had nothing to do with political Islam; Ultra soccer fans, in fact, were some of the main drivers of an attack that was greatly fueled by the murder of Egyptian police by Israel. Though the attack on the embassy was certainly illegal, Walt seems incapable of understanding that Israeli policies (specifically of killing people with impunity) could have played a major role in the attack.

(There is lots of speculation as to why SCAF did not respond immediately, with some wondering if the delay was ordered to encourage a sense of chaos in order to justify a continued military rule. The intense crackdown on protesters by SCAF after the fact encourages the notion that the military government was able to prevent the attack, but made a conscious effort not to. In this way, Walt is partially correct when he looked at the attack as violent and lawless, but this should say more about the desire of SCAF to postpone elections than anything else. In any event, Walt’s attempt to use the attack as evidence of the inherent violence in political Islam is terribly inaccurate and in poor taste.)

Concerning Libya, Walt insists that the proliferation of weapons after the fall of Qaddafi, possibly to Hamas and al Qaeda is evidence that Islamists are bad and that the west should not have supported democracy in the country. To be sure, there are a thousand reasons to be skeptical of the interventional intervention in Libya – one of which being in inability of any rebel movement to secure weapons following a revolution. (Is Russia not ready for democracy either?) However, to argue that the inability of the TNC to secure various weapons means that the Libyan people are not ready for democracy is, again, inaccurate and in poor taste (let’s add racist in there as well.)

Finally, almost as an afterthought, Walt mentions the Palestinian decision to bring its case to the UN:

The Palestinian entity in the West Bank does not meet the minimal criteria for viable statehood, with global recognition likely paving the way for a failed, terrorist state on Israel’s doorstep. Will the world be wise enough to avert such catastrophe? Sadly, the Arab Spring debacle leaves little room for optimism.

Again, Walt has a point here: there are many reasons why the Palestinian decision to go to the UN is foolish and many  other reasons why the outcome will likely be unable to change the reality on the ground. Unfortunately, Walt’s conclusion is laughable in its stupidity. The world is not wise because it opposes the Israeli occupation? If, as Walt implies, the occupation was necessary for the security of Israel, Walt may have a point. However, the continuing Israeli land grab in the West Bank has made it clear that Israel is more interested in annexing territory than making peace. The western trained security forces of the PA are seen as collaborators and occupiers by most Palestinians because the PA seems to care more about Israeli security than it does about Palestinians. This is the terrorist state that will be created? One that allows Israeli intrusion into Palestinian cities, arrests and holds Hamas members, does not investigate settler crimes and cooperates immensely with Israel?

Perhaps it was a waste of time and energy to respond to Yigal Walt’s tremendously ignorant article. It is one thing to twist evidence in order to support a preconceived conclusion. It is quite another to take three unrelated situations (two of which are concerns for Israel only because of Israel’s inability to follow international law,) blame them on Islamists (who were largely uninvolved)as and use evidence that Arabs – as an entire people – are unready for democracy.


Photo from Kobason


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