BURAK BEKDİL > Are you enjoying your Arab Spring?

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According to Los Angeles Times, U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, was a model diplomat who was “idealistic, eager and brave, and seen by some in Benghazi as ‘a friend to all Libyans.’” Mr. Stevens, God bless his soul, may have been idealistic, eager and brave, but apparently he was seen by some others in Benghazi not as a friend to all Libyans. As we celebrate a fresh month of democracy in the Arab world, Mr. Stevens became the first American ambassador to die in the line of duty since 1988.

Officially, Mr. Stevens and three other embassy personnel were killed because of a film which some Libyans perceived as blasphemous against Islam. You may choose to be naive enough to believe this. Ah, it’s because of that film! It was not. Without that film, your Islamist, who now enjoys his understanding of democracy, would find another good reason to fire another rocket in the name of jihad.

About three months ago I mentioned in this column how in Tunisia Salafis burned police stations, cafes and bars, lashed out at tourists and students, attacked dramatists and ransacked art exhibitions (Enjoy Your Arab Spring, this column, June 20, 2012). As a result, Tunisia, the “success story of the Arab Spring,” had to impose a curfew on eight regions, including the capital, Tunis. And the United States, Belgium, Switzerland and Austria had issued travel warnings urging caution to their citizens planning trips to “success story” Tunisia. That was long before the film that allegedly prompted the attack on U.S. diplomats in Libya was produced.

Meanwhile in “now democratic” Libya, the National Transitional Council had ordered the military to use “all means necessary” to end clashes in the country’s west. And in the country’s south, more than 20 people had been killed in inter-tribal clashes.

But most ironically, a vehicle carrying Britain’s ambassador to Libya had been attacked by propelled grenades in Benghazi. Only a few days before that, a bomb had gone off just outside the U.S. consulate in the same city, the “cradle of last year’s uprising supported by the U.S. and Britain.”

So you still think that the idealistic American ambassador who was “a friend to all Libyans” was killed because of a blasphemous film? But that’s funnier than believing that deposing dictators will bring in democracy to the Arab Spring basin countries. This wishful process may always establish fair, ballot-box democracy, but that’s a lot different from democracy.

The Arabs’ Western friends had better make available in their contingency planning an answer to the simple and equally realistic question: What do we do if a democratically elected government based on a nation’s free will decided to annihilate the rest? What if a majority thinks it’s their right to kill if someone acts in a way they would deem “blasphemous” to their faith? Will it be democracy if a majority intimidated the minority through presumably legitimate means? See Exhibit A with a crescent and star on top.

Behind fancy words of eulogy for Mr. Stevens, the realists at the State Department might be thinking that the ambassador was merely a casualty in an effort to build democracy in selected parts of Muslimdom, just like thousands of soldiers who have died in various battles fought in foreign lands. In half a year it will have been a decade after Washington and its allies decided to depose the dictator of Baghdad and push the button for what would have been the Iraqi Spring. Oh but it’s the same malady: The Americans are always good at destructing but not quite so at constructing.

But optimism is always good. It refreshes hope. And it sells. I should close with my optimism in the final paragraph of “Enjoy Your Arab Spring:”

“Luckily, the first 18 [now 21!] tumultuous months of the Arab Spring have passed. Once we deal with the next 180 tumultuous months, then the final 1,800 tumultuous months will be very easy to tackle.”


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Ameer Raschid

9/18/2012 1:29:49 PM

@ Mara The so called Islamic states like many so called Christian countries are products of a troubled history of kings, dictators and extremist religious and nationalist ideologies. the masses have been pushed or dragged into conflicts and ethnic hatred for the sake of their eliite and rich leaders. the masses have to learn by experience where their best interests lie. religious leaders have focused mostly on external worship and not on ethics and behavior. @ Joanna do not contribute anything

Blue Dotterel

9/17/2012 6:26:51 PM

Reports are that he was killed as revenge for the drone killing of Abu Yahya al-Libi in Pakistan. Although, he could also have been killed as the face of the destruction of Libya by Western forces. Stevens was in Libya at the time of the "rebellion" helping direct the "rebels". So who wants odds: Al Qaeda or Libyan Nationalists? Ironically, the US supporting the very same people in Syria who may have offed the Ambassador in Benghazi. Blowback here we come. Enjoy the ride.

mara mcglothin

9/17/2012 5:57:32 PM

AMEER Would you pleasea list where these bastians of peaceful Islamic states? As far as I can see, the only thing I can see going on in the middle east is everybody is killing each other.

Ahmad Ali

9/17/2012 2:25:28 PM

Burak Bekdil's ideas are always to the point and they may seem to be very logical, however, BB should understand that "People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of the mind."

Murun Buchstansangur

9/16/2012 5:50:10 AM

Ameer - you're timing is spot on. The world has just seen exactly what the ''justice according to Islamic principles'' is. As far away as Australia, children are being marched along the street and encouraged to call for beheadings. We've seen the Ambassador's body. I hope everybody reading your post will join me in inviting you think again, or failing that, taking your ideas to a place where they belong.

Ameer Raschid

9/15/2012 7:04:07 PM

@Sandra Harry Foundalis there are those who prefer the guidance of God when properly interpreted and implemented than so called dmemocratic freedoms that allow free speech to insult, defame and ridicule sacred values, beliefs and the character of Messengers respected by their followers. A line should br drawn between truth and derogatory hate speech designed to inflame that encourages violence. Democratic values, yes,but not secular atheistic demagoguery.

Ameer Raschid

9/15/2012 1:18:49 PM

@Hfoundalis’Islamophobtic rant not worth even one cent! A (Muslim) dictator, king, sultan or emir can rule with justice according to Islamic principles while a democratically elected president and parliament with an imposed constitution can violate the rule of law, with selfish majority that cares little for the rights of the minority. A minority can use propaganda, money, judiciary and military power that use narrow secularism, nationalism and ethnicity to counter true Islam.Blind prejudice

Man in the Middle

9/15/2012 12:32:45 AM

@US Observer, "Western leadership" gave the ME Mubarak, Saddam, Saleh, The Saudis, and even to some extent Qaddafi. Your beloved Western leadership has historically and systematically stifled EVERY homegrown grassroots movement for democracy during the last and current centuries. If you believe Western leadership is necessary for the "push for democratic principles", then I have a year-round ski resort North of Riyadh to sell you.

Harry Foundalis

9/14/2012 3:53:20 PM

Many commentators said it already (most clearly Sandra Jacoel), but allow me to add my 2 cents. In the Arab world, deposing dictators leads not to democracy but to theocracy, *because* of *Islam*. (Contrast this with Latin America, 1970’s-80’s.) And Islam is fundamentally at odds with democracy. In the latter, power rests with the voters; in the former, it rests with Allah; and because Allah never speaks, power rests with Allah’s religious authorities on earth. Ergo: Islam = covert dictatorship.

mara mcglothin

9/14/2012 3:46:22 PM

Clearly it will take some time(in a democratic society) before the people of the "Arab Spring" will be able to understand how democracy works. That was the goal of Ataturk, to teach the people about self governance. I am not optimistic because these people will not be able to even keep from fighting with themselves. I say the USA should stop all aid to all these countries and let nature take it's course. Why should we spend our hard earned funds for no results?
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