... if you're not a highly experienced lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies, you might be forgiven for thinking that Lebanese protestors had just forced the resignation of the pro-Syrian government, or that Egypt had just cracked under pressure and moved towards contested elections, and certain naive, half-educated people in America might be under the misapprehension that some sort of domino effect was occuring in which "democracy" was sweeping the Arab world.Er, it really shouldn't have taken a genius to figure this out, and IMHO it didn't. It did take a lot of courage to grasp the nettle though. Fools - and Heroes - rush in where Angels fear to tread.
But of course that's ridiculous. To believe that, you'd have to swallow the concept that George W Bush is some sort of geo-strategic genius who decided that in order to prevent ever more deadful terrorist acts against the West, the problem of terrorism would have to be tackled at its source in the Middle East.
And further, one would have to believe that the invasion of Afghanistan was a neccessary first step in destroying the main Al Qaeda base of operations, while the invasion of Iraq was partly to destroy a key terrorist enabling reigime while laying the foundations for a genuinely democratic government which might act as an example to the rest of the region that change was possible.Or you could go and read Mark Steyn on the subject.
Three years ago - April 6 2002, if you want to rummage through the old Spectators in the attic - I wrote: "The stability junkies in the EU, UN and elsewhere have, as usual, missed the point. The Middle East is too stable. So, if you had to pick only one regime to topple, why not Iraq? Once you've got rid of the ruling gang, it's the West's best shot at incubating a reasonably non-insane polity. That's why the unravelling of the Middle East has to start not in the West Bank but in Baghdad."Of course he wrote this before the Arab Street (Lebanese Branch) toppled their Quisling government.
I don't like to say I told you so. But, actually, I do like to say I told you so. What I don't like to do is the obligatory false self-deprecatory thing to mitigate against the insufferableness of my saying I told you so. But nevertheless I did.
Consider just the past couple of days' news: not the ever more desperate depravity of the floundering "insurgency", but the real popular Arab resistance the car-bombers and the head-hackers are flailing against: the Saudi foreign minister, who by remarkable coincidence goes by the name of Prince Saud, told Newsweek that women would be voting in the next Saudi election. "That is going to be good for the election," he said, "because I think women are more sensible voters than men."
Four-time Egyptian election winner - and with 90 per cent of the vote! - President Mubarak announced that next polling day he wouldn't mind an opponent. Ordering his stenographer to change the constitution to permit the first multi-choice presidential elections in Egyptian history, His Excellency said the country would benefit from "more freedom and democracy". The state-run TV network hailed the president's speech as a "historical decision in the nation's 7,000-year-old march toward democracy". After 7,000 years on the march, they're barely out of the parking lot, so Mubarak's move is, as they say, a step in the right direction.
Meanwhile in Damascus, Boy Assad, having badly overplayed his hand in Lebanon and after months of denying that he was harbouring any refugee Saddamites, suddenly discovered that - wouldja believe it? - Saddam's brother and 29 other bigshot Baghdad Baathists were holed up in north-eastern Syria, and promptly handed them over to the Iraqi government.
Now one swallow does not a Summer make. And Damascus is still under a Ba'athist National Socialist regime. There's a long way to go.