Over 9 years ago a militant Salafist named Osama Bin Laden inflicted a major body blow to the United States of America. Once they overcame the shock of disbelief, many in the Muslim world not only cheered but also mobilized in support of Al Qaeda defined Islamist causes. Young Muslims fought against Americans and their supporters in Afghanistan and Iraq, blew themselves up in Jerusalem, Madrid and London and rioted against Danish cartoons. The gingerly treatment of Osama’s body demonstrates that the Obama administration expected a similar response to the killing of Bin Laden. Instead, with the exception of a few belligerent announcements by usual suspects such as the Pakistani Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Fatah militants, Osama’s demise was greeted with indifference.
How come? As Osama predicted, Muslims follow the strong horse and a growing number of them have concluded that Osama is the weak one. In other words, the old time America freedom strategy put in place by President George W. Bush (and temporarily shelved by President Barack Hussein Obama) has won the real war for the hearts and minds of Muslims. When young Tunisians, Egyptians, Yemenites, Libyans or Syrians risk their lives, they do so to promote liberal democracy not Islamist theocracy.
Yes, it has been a costly war and it is far from over . Let us not forget that declaring victory prematurely led democracies to squander their World War I victory with disastrous results. Ruling elites are never fond of releasing the reigns of power. It is only when they experience the greater freedom and safety that liberal democracy offers, do they come to terms with its greater demand for accountability. For when all said and done, democratic ruling elites, unlike autocratic ones, may and often do lose power but they find the consequences are easily manageable and the lose of power impermanent.
Democracies are easy to disparage as they inherently involve the relentless exposure of one ruling elite’s public and private failings by competing elites.
Why can’t you all just get along and do what is right for the country? Is the ridiculous question ask repeatedly by the media and the public. Ridiculous because it reveals an ignorance of the essence of the electoral democracy.
First, there is rarely, if ever, a self evident “right thing” to do for the country. Second, acquisition of power in democracies often depends on the ability to offer a competing answer to the one presently offered by the government in power or at the very least on convincing the electorate that the party in power is executing the policy in an inefficient or corrupt manner. In other words, while autocracies focus on the positive, democracies focus on the negative. That focus plays into the hands of intellectuals who are always contemptuous of “compromising politicians” and hankering after “philosopher kings.“ More tragically, the education of the young falls into the hand of these misguided intellectuals engaged in university teaching. Having learned nothing from the horrors their Kmer Rouge students perpetrated on Cambodians, they continued to harp on the failings of democracy and foolishly toil to turn autocratic princes such as Qaddafi and Assad into “philosopher kings” only to discover they helped produced tyrants who feel justified in repressing ruthlessly the democratic aspirations of their people.
Those aspirations were nurtured by greater interaction with Western Muslim diasporas not to mention an appreciation of the resiliency of democracies. It was easier to convince people of the mendacity of America when few people knew anyone living there. Muslims not only see their friends and neighbors flourishing in America but have come to realize that their violent behavior has become a source of shame and humiliation to Muslims living abroad and perhaps even to Islam itself. At the same time they watched Muslim political parties flourish freely in Turkey, Indonesia and Israel.
As for America, it was far from being a weak horse. Not only did it have the ability to conquer two Arab states but young Americans loved their country enough to volunteer to fight and die to defeat Jihadism by making those countries into a better more democratic places. At the same time, Americans were confident and open minded enough to elect a young man called Barack Hussein Obama president and when they discovered they did not like his policies, they organized mass tea parties and followed up by electing representatives committed to the blocking of his policies.
In short, sometime in the past year, young Arabs decided that their honor depended not on going abroad in search of infidels to kill but in daring to confront their unjust, bloody sclerotic rulers at home. Hence, not only are they not upset by the killing of Osama, they would be delighted with the targeted killing of Qaddafi and Assad. This does not mean that Al Qaeda is incapable of mounting additional attacks. It only means that the freedom agenda has captured the imagination of the Muslim youth just as it has captured the imagination of others who had the misfortune of living in fear societies.
For more, see my History News Network blog Deja vu
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