When Camels Fly: What you are witnessing in the Arab world is the fall of its Berlin Wall. The old autocratic order is starting to crumble. (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, 2/20/05, NY Times)
It’s good news, bad news time again for the Middle East. The good news is that what you are witnessing in the Arab world is the fall of its Berlin Wall. The old autocratic order is starting to crumble. The bad news is that unlike the Berlin Wall in central Europe, the one in the Arab world is going to fall one bloody brick at a time, and, unfortunately, Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa and the Solidarity trade union are not waiting to jump into our arms on the other side.
No one is more pleased than I am to see the demonstration of “people power” in Iraq, with millions of Iraqis defying the “you vote, you die” threat of the Baathists and jihadists. No one should take lightly the willingness of the opposition forces in Lebanon to stand up and point a finger at the Syrian regime and say “J’accuse!” for the murder of the opposition leader Rafik Hariri. No one should dismiss the Palestinian election, which featured a real choice of candidates, and a solid majority voting in favor of a decent, modernizing figure – Mahmoud Abbas. No one should ignore the willingness of some Egyptians to demand to run against President Hosni Mubarak when he seeks a fifth – unopposed – term. These are things you have not seen in the Arab world before. They are really, really unusual – like watching camels fly.
Something really is going on with the proverbial “Arab street.” The automatic assumption that the “Arab street” will always rally to the local king or dictator – if that king or dictator just waves around some bogus threat or insult from “America,” “Israel” or “the West” – is no longer valid.
Ever notice how Mr. Friedman, who’s writing is virtually bipolar, assumes that it is the world that swings back and forth rather than his mood? The “Arab street”, like the Eastern European street before it, was a lie.