The War of Ideas

Danielle Pletka has a great op-ed on Arab democracy in today’s NYTimes. Regardless of what you think of her politics, her quotes are true, and they say a lot:

And what about the argument that democracy can’t be “imposed” from the outside? That counsel of despair was knocked out of the park by the Palestinian scholar Daoud Kuttab, who wrote in the London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat that “Arab democrats have failed to reach their goals through their own efforts” and should welcome support from outside “irrespective of the messenger.” Naguib Mahfouz, the Egyptian Nobel laureate, went even further in Al Ahram, Egypt’s main daily newspaper, warning that postponing reform would be “playing with fire.”

By putting democracy high on the agenda of America’s foreign policy, even if our government is bumbling in the process, other nations are beginning to take heed. The worst possible thing would be to re-shift our foreign policy goal to stability and appeasement, EU style, as the horse passes mid-stream.
This is the war of ideas–a long, entrenched war fought in op-ed pages and blogs, in salons and torture chambers, and, as Plekta writes, it is independent of any one conflict in the region. As she quotes Abdel Monem Said, the director of Egypt’s Al Ahram center for Political and Strategic Studies, “Making reform and human rights contingent upon resolving the Palestinian problem…confirms what the American neo-cons are saying, that the political regimes harming human rights are using the Palestinian problem in order to divert glances from their own behavior.”


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