Skip to comments.Why Not Here? (Brooks on Middle East)
Posted on 02/25/2005 9:13:50 PM PST by neverdem
this is the most powerful question in the world today: Why not here? People in Eastern Europe looked at people in Western Europe and asked, Why not here? People in Ukraine looked at people in Georgia and asked, Why not here? People around the Arab world look at voters in Iraq and ask, Why not here?
Thomas Kuhn famously argued that science advances not gradually but in jolts, through a series of raw and jagged paradigm shifts. Somebody sees a problem differently, and suddenly everybody's vantage point changes.
"Why not here?" is a Kuhnian question, and as you open the newspaper these days, you see it flitting around the world like a thought contagion. Wherever it is asked, people seem to feel that the rules have changed. New possibilities have opened up.
The question is being asked now in Lebanon. Walid Jumblatt made his much circulated observation to David Ignatius of The Washington Post: "It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world."
So now we have mass demonstrations on the streets of Beirut. A tent city is rising up near the crater where Rafik Hariri was killed, and the inhabitants are refusing to leave until Syria withdraws. The crowds grow in the evenings; bathroom facilities are provided by a nearby Dunkin' Donuts and a Virgin Megastore.
The head of the Syrian Press Syndicate told The Times on Thursday: "There's a new world out there and a new reality. You can no longer have business as usual."
Meanwhile in Palestine, after days of intense pressure, many of the old Arafat cronies are out of the interim Palestinian cabinet. Fresh, more competent administrators have been put in. "What you witnessed is the real democracy of the Palestinian people," Saeb Erakat said to Alan Cowell of The Times. As Danny Rubinstein observed in the pages of Ha'aretz, the rules of the game have changed.
Then in Iraq, there is actual politics going on. The leaders of different factions are jostling. The tone of the coverage ebbs and flows as more or less secular leaders emerge and fall back, but the amazing thing is the politics itself. If we had any brains, we'd take up Reuel Marc Gerecht's suggestion and build an Iraqi C-Span so the whole Arab world could follow this process like a long political soap opera.
It's amazing in retrospect to think of how much psychological resistance there is to asking this breakthrough question: Why not here? We are all stuck in our traditions and have trouble imagining the world beyond. As Claus Christian Malzahn reminded us in Der Spiegel online this week, German politicians ridiculed Ronald Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech in 1987. They "couldn't imagine that there might be an alternative to a divided Germany."
But if there is one soft-power gift America does possess, it is this tendency to imagine new worlds. As Malzahn goes on to note, "In a country of immigrants like the United States, one actually pushes for change. ... We Europeans always want to have the world from yesterday, whereas the Americans strive for the world of tomorrow."
Stephen Sestanovich of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote an important essay for this page a few weeks ago, arguing that American diplomacy is often most effective when it pursues not an incrementalist but a "maximalist" agenda, leaping over allies and making the crude, bold, vantage-shifting proposal - like pushing for the reunification of Germany when most everyone else was trying to preserve the so-called stability of the Warsaw Pact.
As Sestanovich notes, and as we've seen in spades over the past two years in Iraq, this rashness - this tendency to leap before we look - has its downside. Things don't come out wonderfully just because some fine person asks, Why not here?
But this is clearly the question the United States is destined to provoke. For the final thing that we've learned from the papers this week is how thoroughly the Bush agenda is dominating the globe. When Bush meets with Putin, democratization is the center of discussion. When politicians gather in Ramallah, democratization is a central theme. When there's an atrocity in Beirut, the possibility of freedom leaps to people's minds.
Not all weeks will be as happy as this one. Despite the suicide bombings in Israel and Iraq, the thought contagion is spreading. Why not here?
Thanks for the quote. It sounds like a typical Brooks' satirical comment!
"For the final thing that we've learned from the papers this week is how thoroughly the Bush agenda is dominating the globe."
And that is a wonderful, beautiful thing. It is so sad that the "global community" can not rally around these oppressed people to assist and share their glee. While the Euroweenies are retreating to their old ways, the newly freed peoples of Eastern Europe are sharing in the freeing of millions of others. They have not yet forgotten how it feels to be imprisoned in their own lands.
OMG, a Euro gets it. He really does get it!
Someone FINALLY gets it!!! GWB will be noted in history as the most visionary President and one of the greatest this nation has ever had the brains to elec twice!!
GOSH! You mean George Bush might actually know what he's doing, and have a plan? The anti- this anti-that crowd could be...(dare I say it) wwwrrr (I just can't bring myself to use THAT word) less than correct?
it is interesting to watch Brooks and Shields on PBS - one the spokesman for NO!! and one the spokesman for vision. It is such a contrast to see how well we are doing comapered to what the media WANTS to be happening. They have been saying that America can't do it for 250 years.