Does Peace Have a Chance and Fayyadism
Encountered a number of ideas in my online reading today, some of them new, and some of them good, all interesting. Did I grow in understanding? Maybe.
A piece in Slate by John Horgan asks, “Does Peace Have a Chance?” And the answer is yes, at least more of a chance that ever before. The experts who study this sort of thing, we’re told, have determined that wars result more from cultural and environmental factors, than from man’s, supposedly, aggressive nature.
If true, and I’d like to believe it, that’s good news. For we can more readily influence our culture and environment than we can our nature. That also I’d like to believe, although too many of the world’s deeply entrenched problems continue to defy our attempts to solve them.
In any case many fewer people, percentage wise, are dying in wars today than in any other epoch, going back to the hunter-gatherer societies of 10,000 and more years ago when, according to the anthropologists, 12 -14% of deaths resulted from armed conflict.
Also, according to Horgan, the conflicts today are different. They have little resemblance to the trench warfare of World War One, or the devastation of cities by aireal bombardment in World War Two. Instead they “consist of guerrilla wars, insurgencies, and terrorism,” the remnants of war as one might call them.
In an op ed piece in today’s Wall Street, mostly about the Arabs, some 360 million of them by the latest count, Fouad Ajami makes it clear that while possessing a varied, rich, and important history, while no longer waging major warfare among among themselves, and while sitting on nearly one half of the earth’s remaining black gold, the leaders of these countries are doing little or nothing to improve the well-being of their own people, condemning them by their own inaction and neglect to living thoroughly impoverished lives with few if any opportunities to improve their lot.
As a result, he says, “The Arabs have become spectators to their history.” Now, as the struggle rages between the Iranian theocracy and America for Persian Gulf hegemony, things might have been otherwise, the Arabs, given their oil wealth and their large numbers they might have been a principal player. But instead they are letting events pass them by as they watch from the sidelines.
Ajami cites the most recent Arab Human Development Report on the state of the contemporary Arab world, published just last month by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
In the first of of these reports, published in 2002, a group of writers, Arab themselves, “broke with the evasions and the apologetics to tell of the sordid condition of Arab society—the autocratic political culture, the economic stagnation, the cultural decay.”
All the Arab countries together “had a smaller manufacturing capacity than Finland with its five million people,… and the Arab-speaking world in its entirety “translated into Arabic a fifth of the foreign books that Greece with its 11 million people translates….” And the new 2009 report tells pretty much the same story.
So what might the developed countries do to shake things up a bit, to confront and begin to change and modernize the “autocratic Arab political culture, the economic stagnation, the cultural decay?” Ajami seems to admire George Bush’s attempts to change things on the ground, especially in Iraq. Bush did well, he thinks, to plant the seeds of democracy in an influential Arab land. He did well to help break Syria’s hold on Lebanon. Steps in the right direction.
Ajami is fearful that President Obama will not continue to push for greater freedoms for the Arabs. He is afraid that Obama will too readily accept the failure of the unelected Arab leaders of Egypt, Libya, Syria, and the countries of the Maghreb to provide for the material and political development of their peoples.
And in fact Obama’s Cairo speech, while impressive in respect to his understanding of Middle East and Arab realities, didn’t promise any specific carrot or stick diplomacy that might begin to dislodge these feudal rulers from their secure positions and somehow influence them to do more for their own people.
I come away from reading Ajami asking myself, was Bush on the right track, and is Obama making a mistake in his dealings with the Arabs? Bush was wrong in going to war with Iraq, wasn’t he? Given the great blunder of the war in Iraq was he right about anything at all?
Then, as if to help me with my own quandary regarding how we might better use our power and influence in the Middle East I came upon this op ed piece by Thomas Friedman, Green Shoots in Palestine, written also, as the Ajami piece in the Wall Street, in response to the UN Arab Human Development Report.
Friedman tells us that the Arab authors of the study had concluded that too many Arabs lacked, “human security — the kind of material and moral foundation that secures lives, livelihoods and an acceptable quality of life for the majority,” that which is “a prerequisite for human development, and its widespread absence in Arab countries has held back their progress.”
In his response and in this piece Friedman gives an answer to my question, what to do, que faire, and it’s not the nation destroying and rebuilding program of George Bush in Iraq. According to Friedman the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, is right now testing out what may very well be the most exciting new idea in Arab governance ever, “Fayyadism” as Friedman calls it.
“Fayyadism is built on the simple but all-too-rare notion that an Arab leader’s legitimacy should be based not on slogans or rejectionism or personality cults or security services, but on delivering transparent, accountable administration and services.”
Just the other day I read much the same thing from one of our Generals in Afghanistan. The notion has been around a long time. Like Fayyad many others have known what was needed. However, the great tragedy is that those in power in the Middle East don’t know, or if they do don’t let on that they know, not Afghan President Hamid Karzai, nor Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, nor Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and certainly not Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad….Explore posts in the same categories: Political Science