Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Roger Cohen On The Democratic "Open Society" That Is Lebanon

An excerpt from an email from DG:
One thing the New York Times discovered when it introduced Times Select a few years ago and put its prominent columnists behind a paywall was that few wanted to pay to read Friedman, or Rich or Krugman or Dowd et al. The advantage is that they could write the most ridiculous things and the embarrassment would be contained. With this in mind, the Times might have been well advised to hide Roger Cohen behind a paywall. His latest Arabs Will Be Free was muddled even by his usual sloppy standards.

Cohen starts by noting the similarities between Israel, Lebanon and Turkey.
Yes, citizens go to the polls in Turkey, Lebanon and Israel and no dictator gets 99.3 percent of the vote. They are lands of opportunity where money is being made and where facile generalizations, for all their popularity, miss the point. Turkey has not turned Islamist, Lebanon is not in the hands of Hezbollah, and Israel is still an open society.
Glad that Cohen notes that Israel is *still* an open society. (Why the qualification?)

Turkey has indeed turned Islamist and Lebanon is in the hands of Hezbollah. Why does he dispute the latter charge?
Speaking of Hezbollah, remember all that alarm a couple of months back when a Hezbollah-backed businessman, Najib Mikati, emerged as prime minister? After that, Lebanon introduced the Libyan no-fly-zone resolution at the United Nations — a rare, if little noted, example of the United States and a Hezbollah-supported government in sync.
As far as supporting the no-fly zone, as Cohen notes it was a rare occurrence, and I have little doubt that Hezbollah had its reason. Cooperating with the United States was not a primary reason. But of course, forcing the resignation of the duly elected Prime Minister and replacing him with your own guy, is a way of asserting control. So Cohen uses an exception to "disprove" the rule that even he acknowledges.

Then Cohen gets absolutely offensive:
Hezbollah is a political party with a militia. That’s a big problem. Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Shas party has an outsized influence over Israel because of coalition politics. That’s a problem. The Muslim Brotherhood will loom large in a free Egypt because it has an organizational head start. That may be a problem. Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party is a brilliant political machine with a ruthless bent. That’s a problem, too.
Shas may have outsize influence (though I think that's debatable) but when has it ever attempted to tighten its grip on Israel that is in any way comparable to what Hezbollah or the AKP have done? Shas works within the system, the AKP and Hezbollah have changed the system to accrue more power to themselves. Presumably the Muslim Brotherhood will do the same if gets its chance.

The gains of the Arab revolts may turn out to be ephemeral. Cohen's too busy celebrating Egypt's unfinished revolution to notice.
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1 comment:

NormanF said...

Roger Cohen is one of those asshats who thinks Iran is liberal society, Turkish and Egyptian Islamists are misunderstood, Hezbollah is willing to help out America and only an Israeli religious party is a threat to democracy.

With friends like Cohen, the West doesn't need enemies.