Sara asked me to comment on this article in the Christian Science Monitor by Walter Rodgers entitled, "The Arabs' worst enemy: themselves." She also wondered asked how I thought the absence - or presence - of Osama Bin Laden affected current Muslim/Mideast/Western relations.
Rodgers argues that the Arabs are their own worst enemies because they blame anyone but themselves for their problems and shortcomings. He argues that this makes it very difficult for them to achieve the maturity necessary to, for example, operate a functioning democracy in Iraq.
I think Rodgers is basically right, although it's very unfair for any American to decry the political dysfunction in Baghdad when you look at what's going on in Washington. Let's see: we have the world's most powerful post-industrial democracy teetering on the brink because no one knows what the tax rates will be January 1; tonight President Obama begrudgingly acknowledges the possibility of a ....'framework agreement' on same sometime in the near future. Nor has the Congress passed either a budget resolution or a single appropriations bill for fiscal year 2011 ... which started over two months ago. What was that about incompetence?
Rodgers also ignores another factor that contributes to dysfunction in the Arab world, and which I refer to in today's other entry: the Muslim world is fed an alarming diet of hatred and violence by its spiritual leaders. And, gee, what part of the world displays more hatred and violence? I think that's hardly a coincidence.
So does Osama Bin Laden's presence or absence affect this equation? Since I assume he's alive, that question becomes: if he were dead, would things improve? I have to say, I don't think so. He's the one who said the Arabs love a strong horse. When the United States appears strong, things go well for us. When we appear weak, they don't. I don't know if killing Bin Laden would appear as a sign of our strength, or whether he would simply become a martyr. But I know that our uncertain policy and lack of attention in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine hurt us tremendously, regardless of whether Bin Laden lives or dies.