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Fewer and Fewer Reasons for the West to Fixate on the Mideast

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Posted on Dec 29, 2011
Clay Junell (CC-BY-SA)

By William Pfaff

There are only three valid reasons why the Middle East, the focus of international attention as 2012 begins, is important to the United States and the European nations. These are energy, immigration and Israel. Beyond that, there is no evident cause for paying more attention to this region than to other areas in the world, such as Africa, Latin America or Western Asia.

Those reasons themselves are seriously weakened today. The Arab oil states are no longer in a quasi-monopolistic position. There are many other regions with large present and future oil and natural gas reserves. They produce competitively for a diversified and open international market. The United States no longer needs to think that “owning” and militarily defending Saudi Arabia or any other oil-producer is essential to American security. The idea of a politically motivated energy producers’ boycott was tried out by the Arabs in 1973-74 and was found not to work. It is impossible today. Italian, French, American, British and other oil companies may compete today to secure Libyan (or Iraqi) oil contracts, but this is commercial competition, not geopolitics.

Western Europe is under important migratory pressures from the Mediterranean and North African populations. This has serious social and cultural consequences, but they are being managed. There has been a link between migration and Islamic terrorism—which is itself a minor, containable and probably ephemeral phenomenon, but one which 9/11 and the post-9/11 American governments have treated, and continue to treat, with something resembling hysteria.

Finally, the Arab and Iranian Middle East is a center of potential military conflict because of the Israel-Palestine confrontation over the Palestinian territories, only because the United States is committed to defend Israel from all threats, thus implicitly underwriting the expanding Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. This now is under question in the United States, and Israel itself is changing in a way that weakens the link.

What exactly is it today that is “awakening” in the Middle East?


Square, Site wide
It is the people. They demand justice. But are they capable of creating just and modern governments?

Islam has a theocracy problem. The Christian West did not; pope and emperor were from very early on acknowledged as possessing separate and legitimate power in their distinct functions. This was based on Christian scripture. The Quran allows no such distinction. It is considered to incorporate all truth about society. The truth is presented by the religious leadership, as in Iran today.

Following the defeat and collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, there were several attempts to create authentic secular governments, which would replace Ottoman authority. One was Turkey’s forced secularization by Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic. It was a success, its secular character protected by the Turkish army, but it is still under strain from religious forces. A second effort was made by Syrian, Lebanese and Iraqi political intellectuals (Christian as well as Muslim), who founded the Baath movement, supposed to include all of the communities in their countries. In the years that followed, it declined into clan, sectarian or military dictatorship. Saddam Hussein and the barely surviving Bashar al-Assad are undoubtedly the last gasps of secular Baathism.

There was the Arab Socialist coup in Egypt by Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser, and the Revolutionary Officers’ coup in Libya that gave to world affairs the late Col. Moammar Gadhafi. These secularizing efforts also failed. The Moroccan, Saudi Arabian and Jordanian monarchies, on the other hand, survive today, making minimal political reform, which is significant. They unite religion and politics in a way that is reassuring to ordinary people.

Thus the great question about the Arab Awakening is whether it can lead to political systems that provide freedom for everyone in society. The people of the Islamic Middle East have been struggling with this problem since long before 2011-2012. They are coping with problems that the West confronted in the Reformation and counter-Reformation. You might say that they are today searching for their own form of the European Enlightenment. If this is a fair analogy, however, the Islamic time of troubles has only just begun.

Visit William Pfaff’s website for more on his latest book, “The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America’s Foreign Policy” (Walker & Co., $25), at
© 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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kulu's avatar

By kulu, January 6, 2012 at 11:39 am Link to this comment


My last response for some reason has not been printed. Ah well perhaps it will appear later. At any rate I think you continue to make valid observations.

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By gerard, January 3, 2012 at 8:56 pm Link to this comment

sim:  Just to go a little farther with what you said:
The main reason people fall for this nonsense is that they are so insecure (either educationally or financially) that they don’t have courage to try anything on their own or join others in new efforts.
This fear has, of course, been deliberately sponsored via media misinformation and excess “surveillance” and suspicion, for which cowardice people like Murdoch are largely responsible.
  It is an irony of the human condition that fear (hanging over from centuries of survival anxiety)
can still be easily activated for political purposes so that fear can be encouraged even when no danger exists. And if “we” are afraid of them, certainly
“they” are, or soon will be, afraid of “us.
  It all boils down to a the need for a combination of courage and wisdom. People have to believe they can do something, and then work out together the best, least harmful way do achieve it together.
  We are only just beginning to try to think in these terms, and the worldwide “occupy” movements are the living illustration of the struggle.
  A few words to the wise:  Pay attention and contribute.

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By sim, January 3, 2012 at 12:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Just read quickly through this interesting thread. I don’t think anything was said about one of the core problems, the psychology of preparing the population to accept/applaud any new invasion cooked-up by interested parties: we in the US have no honest news sources. No free press. News content on all major networks, for example, is determined by the agendae of the (guess) network ownership and by government propaganda. Listen to the daily drone of CNN, Fox “News,” Bloomberg Television and, now, MSNBC. ALL pushing, hour after hour, to engender fear and push for hostilities against our latest invented enemies, Iran and Syria. The fact that the people of those nations present no threat to anyone (Israel has several hundred nukes, supposedly), certainly no threat th the U.S., seems to mean nothing to the likes of Wolf Blitzer, Rupert Murdoch, and such. Don’t fall for this nonsense again.

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By A. Benway, January 3, 2012 at 9:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

control of cheap oil results in considerable control of other states. it’s not to get oil, it’s to prevent other from getting it without paying the squeeze.

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By prosefights, January 2, 2012 at 6:12 pm Link to this comment

R james Woolsey appears to be poorly educated.

And unable to think think is way out of this serious problem.

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By prosefights, January 2, 2012 at 5:42 pm Link to this comment

Donald Rumsfeld is on Facebook.

We were able to write on his wall.

Albert Gore willing, of course.

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By gerard, January 2, 2012 at 3:56 pm Link to this comment

Sorry, typing error previously:  “slogans”, not

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By gerard, January 2, 2012 at 3:54 pm Link to this comment

kulu:  Regarding your very interesting comments on police etc.”
  1 “While they may not be monstrously evil, as neither probably are the bank CEOs and their ilk, they are nonetheless caught in a culture, sometimes willingly, sometimes not that regards protesters as the “enemy”.
  We are all caught in a culture that regards protesters as, if not enemies, at least unsympathetic “radicals” “kooks” and “hippies” (thanks to 50+ years of prejudicial media coverage.  Police attitudes are a reflection of that—a culture which tacitly “permits” police brutality (as well as any number of other brutalities including, of course, brutal and frequent wars!).
  And ” partly also that they sometimes have a lot to lose should they conscientiously object to what they are required to do.” Just as, obversely, nonviolent protesters have a lot to lose should they decide to give over to violence. (That is, they lose
validity, conscientious objection to violence, and give way to moral defeat which is fully as injurious as losing your job.  In fact, the loss extends to physical injury, for some even death. It’s not a simple question of either/or, although we’ve been taught not to think about it in much depth till recently.
  Further about that huge matter of “regarding protesters as enemies” we also need to remember that (very mistakenly) all cultures, without exception, actively teach that the price of “being a member” is to regard almost any difference between “them” and “us” as grounds for enmity.  Worse yet, that attitude has been so universal for so many centuries that it will take a while to get rid of it, but at least now we are all face-to-face, and the world is forced to start on that uphill journey of universal membership in the human race, at last. Thanks to technologies culminating in the Internet, “We are all Troy Davis” and “We are all Bradley Manning” now. Those slogals are not for nothing.  They contain the meaning of the next century, in my opinion. We are all, suddenly and without exception, connected to those little skinny kids with eyes half-blind from malnutrition (spiritual, if not physical)) scratching through dumps for bits of rotten refuse or the bright glint of an empty “coke” can.  The rich will be the last to make the connection,  but they will make it, ultimately—or else….

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By kulu, January 2, 2012 at 10:23 am Link to this comment


I don’t disagree within most of what you say. Violence can only be a last resort given the powers of those pitted against the non violent protesters. It is never a simple thing.

As far as the police are concerned though I have a much less sanguine view of them than you seem to have. While they may not be monstrously evil, as neither probably are the bank CEOs and their ilk, they are nonetheless caught in a culture, sometimes willingly, sometimes not that regards protesters as the “enemy”. It’s partly that and partly also that they sometimes have a lot to lose should they conscientiously object to what they are required to do.

Yes…and the question is open with regard to Libya as to the benefit or otherwise of the West’s intervention. It sure wasn’t a humanitarian motive that prompted the US and its vassals to intervene.

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By gerard, January 1, 2012 at 8:11 pm Link to this comment

kulu:  A while back you proposed that, in cases of protest, in the end ... there are only two choices—“give up or respond in kind” meaning return violence for violence. I think it’s far from that simple.
  Modern armaments adopted by police make the choice favoring violent protest even less feasible than in previous times. Obviously, nonviolent protesters can be murdered relentlessly and in large numbers using modern weapons now supplied to police. Such a huge increase in the deadliness of modern police equipment literally leaves no option for protesters except non-violence, since they can’t, and never could, “match” police weapons.  So it would seem that, unless we believe that the majority of police are monstrously evil (which they are not) we are left to decide that they really don’t want to use such violeent armor and will therefore not use it so long as the resistance against them remains non-violent and they feel secure in their ability to control the given situation.
  We are seeing some of this change evident in what we know of affairs in some Middle East countries. Armed police are in some cases refusing to fire on protesters; their loyalties are split.  In other cases their ability to overwhelm makes them more violent, not less.  Probably they do not know what to do, (since they have no training in how to manage non-violent crowds) and therefore all sorts of experimental and undisciplined behavior is occurring on all sides.
  On balance, it seems the injection of NATO forces into the Libyan conflict may have actually made matters worse rather than better. We need to know more facts to be sure.  Admittedly, it is impossible to judge accurately from the limited amount of knowledge we are getting. But it is probably safe to speculate that in Syria for example, the people not being armed is actually saving most of their lives. The same could possibly be said of the Palestinian situation though we only hear occasionally of successes of Palestinian nonviolence and even of Israeli soldiers’ revolt against their own use of force. It does exist, however. We do know for sure, that so far as the “outide” world is concerned, Israel has lost a lot of respect for its use of violence against unarmed Palestinians, and when Palestinian factions resort to violence, it tends to weaken respect for their cause. Many of them actually believe that nonviolence will ultimately succeed, and adopt it by choice.
  There comes a point when violence usually aggresses until it reaches hysteria, and that is the crucial point to be avoided if at all possible. Whatever means delays it is all to the good.
  The situation between violence and nonviolence is in flux worldwide, for the first time in human history. It is not so simple as “give up or respond in kind.”

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By Cliff Carson, January 1, 2012 at 7:30 pm Link to this comment

By Rapalyea301, January 1 at 2:08 pm

“Coal can be converted to oil at about $90 per bbl. I believe the US military already had has such production on standby. Further, google Marcellus Shale Formation.”

Rapalyea301, I worked for a firm that developed a coal slurry that would stay in suspension in pipelines and tank farms and in addition we removed most of the sulfur from that coal.  That was more than 25 years ago.

In addition in 1934 US Companies developed a coal conversion for South Africa.

That technology is way old.

The problem is that if that technology was utilized by our Corporate Energy World, the United States could supply their own energy needs for the next 1000 years.

But how could a Corporation sell the need for a depletion allowance deduction?  And the myriad other subterfuges they use to bilk the taxpayer first and bilk them again as consumers?

It’s all a shell game.

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By Rapalyea301, January 1, 2012 at 3:24 pm Link to this comment


You and many others sit at your Play Stations in eager anticipation of American Decline. And I will grant you the silly stipulation there is an “American Empire”.

Even Chris Hedges tells us the next generation of Americans will be the first to have lower standards of living then the last. Tell that to our great great grandparents who survived into the 1940’s. I do serious geneology, and anyone who believes the generation born in 1875 was living better in 1935 is a fool. My own ancestors from that generation were living at home. Being supported by their children, or even grand children.

Frankly, I am sick of hearing from the peanut gallery about the perfect progression of American Prosperity up until the current generation. It is an entire fiction.

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By Rapalyea301, January 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm Link to this comment

WP - Re: “Fixation on the ME.”

I agree with you the ME oil nations do not have the coherence or monopoly they once had.  However, the demand for oil is very inelastic, and even the hint of closing The Straits sends oil above $100.

However, there is plenty of good news. Oil production in the US proper has increased for the first time in years. More importantly, the US has more natural gas and coal then just about anyone else.

Coal can be converted to oil at about $90 per bbl. I believe the US military already had has such production on standby. Further, google Marcellus Shale Formation.

There is something like one hundred years of natural gas under Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. The field increased production by at least 60% last year, and now supplies about 20% of total American output. The best thing that could happen is an Iranian attempt to close the straights.

The entire US would become hydrocarbon independent in a single decade.;=&aql;=&gs;_sm=&gs;_upl=&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=5285eedcd1bd6804&biw=800&bih=520

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By Rapalyea301, January 1, 2012 at 2:50 pm Link to this comment


Islam has more then just a theocratic problem. It has a family problem. I do not believe there is one single Mosque on the entire planet where you will find Muslims families sitting together side by side in worship on Friday.

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By Rapalyea301, January 1, 2012 at 2:43 pm Link to this comment

asjahmed - You wrote: “Islam has a theocracy problem, really? With 85% of the world’s muslims living under secular forms of governance (think Indonesia).”

Indonesia is a perfect example. My brother-in-law is a Christian “Missionary” in the sense he is permitted to speak in Christian Churches. However, there is an ENTIRE apartheid between Muslims and the other faiths in the country.

Further, I am unaware of one single Imam who does not believe all of humanity should eventually live under Islamic Sharia rule, one way or the other. I invite you to NAME three Imam’s who do not believe this. From anywhere on the entire planet.

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M Henri Day's avatar

By M Henri Day, January 1, 2012 at 8:37 am Link to this comment

If Mr Pfaff would only be so kind as to inform me what part of the world the so-called «West» (read : the US and its satellites) will be next to «fixate» upon, after the (equally so-called) «Middle East», I shall in turn pass the information to any friends or acquaintances who happen to reside there and advise them to leave. «Fixation» seems to be a code word for «waging aggressive war upon»....


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By grokker, December 31, 2011 at 7:34 pm Link to this comment

As Ron Paul has recently stated - sanctions against Iran are an act of war -  this coming from someone (me) who is not particularly enamored with the good doctor. This goes well with my position on the rush to war with Iraq under dubious circumstances. Plenty of evidence here.

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By grokker, December 31, 2011 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment

By the way Happy New Year everyone and hope we don’t lead the rest of the world into WWIII.

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By grokker, December 31, 2011 at 1:56 pm Link to this comment

Unfortunately, Pfaff’s fewer and fewer reasons daily become weightier and weightier in terms of world security. Rhetoric directed towards Iran has been ongoing for years following in the wake of the Iraqi invasion. The US - NATO - Israel gang has been trying to garner world public support for a limited nuclear strike by presenting Iran as a global security threat,in spite of the fact that a good portion of the world sees the U.S. as the biggest security threat there is. Five so-called “non-nuclear” states, Turkey, Italy, Holland, Germany and Belgium have been bullied by the aforementioned gang into staging U.S. made nuclear weapons targeted at Iran. This buildup to war has been prepared since late 2004 with the stockpiling of weapons, establishing a state of readiness, and through a deliberate misinformation campaign about Iran’s nuclear program and its aims. Along with this misinformation campaign is another comprised of outright lies concerning the harmlessness to civilian populations of tactical “mini nuke” strikes.
Once again, the U.S. NATO Israel gang is after resources that don’t belong to them and they will stop at nothing to secure them. I refer to Iran’s 10% of the global oil reserves along with gas and minerals. This road is becoming sickeningly familiar.

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By gerard, December 31, 2011 at 11:00 am Link to this comment

A bit more on that word “fixation” which, the more I think of it, the more it troubles me.
  “Fixation” implies thoughtless, meaningless, reasonless inability to escape from thinking about something; warrantless concentration; stubborn limitation in thought; out-of-control interest.
  This article proposes that US is “fixated” on the Middle East because of oil.  Surely oil is one reason.  But I want to suggest that first of all the US is not “fixated” on the ME.  The US is “fixated” on how to keep its economy going, and the “easiest” way (given various circumstances) is to depend upon the military-industrial complex which Eisenhower warned was getting out of hand.
  This MIC is just about the only money-maker the US has, sorry to say. Obviously the MIC wants to stay in business worldwide, selling stuff for killing other people no matter where.  The ME hss money to buy a lot of this stuff.  Saudi Arabia just bought a bunch recently. Israel also keeps the MIC busy. And what’s all this about Iranian nukes? That’s good new for the MIC, too. 
  As long as the vast majority of ordinary people subscribe to the belief that war is “inevitable” and/or “justifiable”—that there’s no other way—the MIC will remain “fixated” and that means the US will remain “fixated” too.“Addicted” is another word that applies.
  It’s becoming increasingly obvious to everyone that the root of a lot of “world affairs” lies in US citizens permitting the MIC to maintain their power. The entire world is afraid of the MIC, Americans along with all the rest. It’s a man-made monster. It is dawning on the world that the situation can be fixed—but not with more violence which feeds the
MIC at everyone else’s expense.

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kulu's avatar

By kulu, December 31, 2011 at 4:16 am Link to this comment


There are great risks in non violent resistance as the uprisings in the Middle east have shown and also in America’s own occupy movement where peoples have been injured and their property wrecked (thankfully the hardships endured by OWS have not so far resulted in any deaths…yet).

This is not to say that violent revolution is preferable or less risky but in the end as the Palestinians, Libyans and now Syrians are finding inevitable in the face of powerful oppressors. Citizens of the USA may very well find in the end that peaceful protest is met with increasingly violent responses by the powers. In that cases two choices remain ie give up or respond in kind.

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By david tarbuck, December 31, 2011 at 12:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

While he is correct in pointing out Islams difficulty in separating church and state functions when compared to Christianity, this article misses a few essentials.

Some of these are:
1) Islam forbides many of the precise causes of the major conflicts within Western economics; first of these is ursury (interest) which Sharia Law forbids absolutely. (once upon a time the Roman Catholics also forbade same but that is another history story)
2) Islam regards ALL real estate as belonging to Allah and therefore to be treated as sacred; environmental protection thus comes naturally to Muslims (as it does to Budhists).
3) Restraints on accumulation when it does NOT serve ALL are a part of the Quran and Sharia; the kind of unbridled greed sanctioned by the Christian right wing in the West does not exist in the Muslim states. Even under despots such as Nasser and Ghadafi Theocratic re-distribution is effective.
4) In the 14th century Islamic scholars, such as Ibn Kaldehn in Persia and Alexandria developed theories of Labour Value and economic concentrations (in cities) that predated: Quesnay, Petty, Smith, Ricardo and Marx, &c; these remain relevant today. 
5) The (wacky fringe of) the Christian right which is powerful in USA would impose a strict Biblical Christian “LAW”; this interpretation would make the Taliban or the Saudis look progressive; these at least acknowledge Allah’s caring for ALL including the poor. 
6) It is much easier to reconcile Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and many of the other less populess Faiths with Progressive ideas of a new form of governance to replace corporate capitalism than is the case with judeo-Christian ideas of individualism!

So perhaps it is time for us Whites to look past our WHITE EUROPEAN ARRGANCE! Our view of history is distorted but on our small planet to view the future through such prisms might well be FATAL!!!

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By gerard, December 30, 2011 at 7:48 pm Link to this comment

Why is Mr Pfaff trying to convince us that we have fewer reasons to fixate on the MiddleEast? 
  Probably to try to help prevent another war in that area. So give him credit for that.
  The more fundamental question (which he doesn’t ask) might be why do we “fixate” on any part of the world any time?
  Apparently because we want to gain power over them to get something they have that we want.
  So the real problem then is nations wanting power over other nations—whether for resources, for influence, for domination. 
  And beneath that question is another:  Why are people willing to allow national governments to compete for power over each other, at the expense of their own lives, and millions of others’ livew, not to mention succeeding years of hatred and fear?
  The answer, I presume, is that the people think there is no other way they can change this pattern without being punished—i.e.risking their own lives, risking persecution.
  If the value and the methods of non-violent struggle can be tried, experienced, learned and instituted over time, social systems may become more humane and international relations would then voluntarily give up war as outdated, primitive.    Shifts of this importance have occasionally succeeded to some extent in the past. It will be a
gradual shift in (more or less conscious) “social
engineering” and will take patience and time, but people are noticing that it has already begun, and that is somewhat encouraging.
  Our “fixation” is on continuing to use war as a means to take power over others.

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Clash's avatar

By Clash, December 30, 2011 at 2:44 pm Link to this comment

Just a small matter of Straits of Hormuz now, but seems there are always those small details that get in the way, blockades, bombings, skirmishes remote assassinations.

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By Dr Bones, December 30, 2011 at 11:31 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Are Muslims bombing innocent children via drones? Who has a governmental problem?  Who can assassinate anyone he chooses without review or trial?  Isn’t it the US who is destroying the planet and what religion gives man dominion over everything?

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By GoyToy, December 30, 2011 at 10:24 am Link to this comment

Pfaff needs to brush up on Islamic history when he say: “Islam has a theocracy problem. The Christian West did not; pope and emperor were from very early on acknowledged as possessing separate and legitimate power in their distinct functions. This was based on Christian scripture. The Quran allows no such distinction. It is considered to incorporate all truth about society. The truth is presented by the religious leadership, as in Iran today.”

There have been many Islamic empires, but they were not theocracies. It took the West a very long time to have representative governments—and I’m using the term representative here loosely. In time, the modern Muslim nation-states will also work out a system of government that reflects the will of their peoples. This will come about faster if there is less interference from the “free” world.l

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By balkas, December 30, 2011 at 10:07 am Link to this comment

let’s note, please, that ?all msm columnists have accepted personal
supremacism as their undying credo/faith.
thus, one can never expect that any of them [even on td] wld give u a
balanced view or the widest/longest look about ALL OF IT.

their looks are always of one kind: the narrowest/shortest possible or
the kind they know that 99.999% wld accept as wise/correct for eternity.
caveat! i have said this many times before, but we may have new readers
on this site; so, i repeat it for their sake! tnx

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By balkas, December 30, 2011 at 9:55 am Link to this comment

imo, the protesters in arab lands and elsewhere shld be demanding a new system of rule and not new govts/rulers. 
governance in almost all lands and empires are founded on the supremacist ideology or THOUGHT. it is this ideology that, to me, is the
root of all wrongdoings on interpersonal, interethnic, intrapersonal, etc levels.
and all ‘religions’ [cults, really] thrive better under the supremacist THOUGHT, than under its opposite THOUGHT: the nonsupremacism
[and on also ‘religious’ level]

and i think that almost every member of the sacerdotal class accepts personal and religious supremacism as the only valid THOUGHT.

having these facts in mind, i have ‘predicted’ back in february/march that the egyptian protest wld fail. i expected to a great degree that
the ‘religion’ there and the army wld prevail.

protests, if utterly or to a high degree apolitical/nonideological/nonsystemic, never change anything. and if OWS remains so, it, too, wld
fail. or it might change one ruler for another; leaving the governmental structure intact.

the wisest/most human/honest among us have been saying for millennia and probably in all cultures: the more things change, the more
they stay the same. i’d just add that more things change, the worse it gets and not just because of personal supremacism but also because
planet is getting poorer and warmer.

please, note, that i do not disapprove of people believing in god, yahweh or allah. in fact, sacerdotal class believes less in a diety than i or
the pious do. i deeply respect and welcome pious and impious; however, i do deeply reject the THOUGHT/BEHAVIOR of all priests, rabbis,
imams, gurus, buddhists monks and all the other cultists! tnx bozhidar balkas vancouver

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By jrundin, December 30, 2011 at 9:41 am Link to this comment

Pfaff’s consistent condescension towards the people of the middle-east reveals a fundamental bad faith in his approach to other people.

And his generally arch attitude ultimately undercuts his authority. There’s something in reasoning about the world the way that he does that seems kinda quaint, kinda demented at this point. Modernist maybe?

It’s writing from a perspective that assumes that we can understand, and, through understanding, have some sort of control over historical events and social movements. It appears to assume that there is some class of wise mandarins who, through unanimous consent, might contain the force of history.

I can’t buy that line any more. The very mandarins who claim to have wisdom have again and again proven themselves more venal, craven, and pusillanimously violent that the poorest ignorant peasant.

The Empire is standing there stark naked, and people are beginning to laugh at it.

So far, we humans have proven ourselves incapable even of beginning to address global warming.

My reaction to Pfaff’s lucubrations is to quote Voltaire: “‘That is very well put,’ said Candide, ‘but we must go and work our garden.’”

Alas, my fear is that the garden is no longer ours and its boundaries are defended by truncheon-yielding cops.

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By heavyrunner, December 30, 2011 at 9:29 am Link to this comment

Throw nuclear weapons into the medieval mixture of
religion and governmental function and you have a real

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By JJW, December 30, 2011 at 7:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We don’t need their oil? Get real!

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By Cliff Carson, December 30, 2011 at 6:51 am Link to this comment

From the Article:

“What exactly is it today that is “awakening” in the Middle East?  It is the people. They demand justice. But are they capable of creating just and modern governments?”

What Government of this World is “Just and Modern”?

Which Government should the Middle East adopt as the model of fair and just Governance?

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By Dr Bones, December 30, 2011 at 4:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Reality check!

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By asjahmed, December 29, 2011 at 11:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Islam has a theocracy problem, really? With 85% of the world’s muslims living under secular forms of governance (think Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Bangladesh, and, yes, India), the absurdity of this assertion is clear. It is you, Mr. Pfaff, who is fixated on the Middle East and the Arabs, and can’t see the big picture.

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By Rehmat, December 29, 2011 at 7:14 pm Link to this comment

The only strategic interest the US has in the Middle East - is keeping Israel as the regional bully. The US imports only 6-7% of its oil needs from the Middle East. In enegy sector, Latin America is far more important to the US than the ME. It’s Europe, Japan, China, Pakistan and India which draw most of their oil/gas needs from the ME.

The immigration ME will automatically decrease if the US and its western poodle stop invading Muslim countries and creating 65% of world’s total refugee population.

All those secular regimes were created and protected by the western colonial powers to make sure the political Islam doesn’t become a threat to western monopoly of world natural reserves. Last year, PEW poll showed that over 80% of people in Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco want to live under a democratic governance abided by Islamic shari’ah.

The West has already lost Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Syria to Islamic Iran. Both Tunisia, Libya and Somalia seems to follow Sudanese-type Islamic rule.

The former Jewish American ambassador to Israel (1995-97 & 2000-01), Martin S. Indyk, has criticized Barack Obama’s open support for a civilian government in Egypt because he feels a non-military government will be against the interests of Israel and US in the region. Martin is vice-president and director at Jewish think tanks Brookings and founding director of AIPAC-linked Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP).

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By Arabian Sinbad, December 29, 2011 at 6:59 pm Link to this comment

When I thought I heard it all about the ugly and evil face of political America, there comes new revelations about one of American modern presidents, namely Nixon. In a new biography on this evil and ugly American, democratically elected, we learn that he was homosexual, was a wife-beater and was drunk most of the time!!!

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By Mark Graham, December 29, 2011 at 5:59 pm Link to this comment
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Islam has a theocracy problem and Christendom didn’t?  Are you joking, Mr. Pfaff? “Pope and emperor were from very early on acknowledged as possessing separate and legitimate power in their distinct functions.” This is simply not true, as any first-year student of medieval history knows.  Remember: Investiture controversy, the Crusades, the Avignon Papacy, etc. 

We have a word for this kind of rhetoric—that Muslims are essentially backward/fanatical while we are not.  It’s called Orientalism.  This is simply Bernard Lewis pastiche no. four billion and three.  I would worry a lot less about the fanatics in Iran and a lot more about the fanatics in Wall Street and Washington.

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