Friday, April 6, 2012

Muslim Spring

The Arab Spring, now under counterattack, should by rights, be transformed into a "Muslim Spring"--a New Deal for the world's Muslims. Such an outcome would greatly strengthen U.S. national security...provided that Washington can find the wisdom to support it.

Is the marvelous, uplifting Arab Spring over? As Peter Harling of International Crisis Group put it in Le Monde [2/1/12]:

Si le "printemps arabe" suscitait l'enthousiasme aux beaux jours, le pessimisme est désormais de saison. Dans les médias, un glissement sémantique s'est opéré du thème révolutionnaire vers un registre à connotations négatives, où le triomphe des islamistes, les dynamiques de guerre civile, la désillusion et l'impuissance figurent en bonne place. 

It is, of course, not about the Arabs. The issue is whether or not Islam, in eclipse for half a millennium as a ruling force in the world, will have its “spring,” and this is no “mere” academic issue but a matter of national security for us all, given that it encompasses possible nuclear war against Iran and the potential collapse of Pakistan. By rights the Arab Spring should be the Muslim Spring. Who has suffered from foreign interference more than Afghans? When will Pakistanis regain real independence and achieve decent governance? Will Iranians be able to escape foreign aggression, find their place in the sun, and achieve decent governance? Can Bahraini Shi’a, not to mention Saudi Shi’a, achieve justice peacefully or will the Sunni rulers insist on playing their nasty zero-sum game until they entice the Iranians and perhaps Iraqi Shi’i to get involved? Will Turkey truly emerge as the leader of a moderate Islamist bloc, or will marginalization of the Kurds become Turkey’s fatal flaw?

Perhaps unfortunately for Muslims, the current U.S. presidential election will have much to say because the American elephant will either continue to trample or will walk more gently through the global political jungle…as it chooses. The point is that Americans have a choice, and if we choose to slam the door on the emerging Muslim political thaw—the move toward moderation and demands for civil rights, it will surely rebound greatly to our harm. Making ourselves the enemy of the moderates will in effect make us the ally of extremists, though they will, once empowered, hardly thank us for the favor.

This is by no means an argument in favor of yet another U.S. intervention to “save the world.” The fact is that the U.S. cannot at this point avoid interfering in fundamental ways: it is already up to its neck in Muslim affairs. The U.S. will directly impact the emerging Muslim spring and, accurately, be blamed. But exactly what will we be responsible for? The answers to the questions enumerated above will all depend significantly on U.S. behavior. The more Washington supports Bahraini Sunni marginalization of Bahraini Shi’a, the more radical they will become in self-defense and the more attractive Iranian support will appear. The more Washington insists on military solutions to Waziristan’s problems, the more likely will be the radicalization of Pakistani political activists and the collapse or radicalization of the Pakistani state. Etc., etc. Muslim spring is the best defense against fundamentalist terror. Muslim spring can make a critical contribution to U.S. national security.
Sad Update...Bahraini sectarian violence

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