Saturday, December 24, 2011

Jeffrey Goldberg asks "Was the Arab Spring a Victory for Extremism?"

He groups "responses" into "predictable" and "less predictable." The predictable responses are "panic and rationalization." The rationalizers rationalize
that the Muslim Brothers and even the Salafists are not the bogeymen we think they are. Scratch a Muslim Brother, the argument goes, and you’ll find the Middle Eastern analog of a European Christian Democrat.
So why is the other side characterized as "panic" rather than disinclination to rationalize? The "less predictable" responses involve "analytical humility"--we don't know what is going to happen--and "fatalism: What will happen in the Middle East is going to happen." Ok, but was the Arab Spring a "Victory for Extremism"? It looks that way now. Few would have a problem characterizing the Al-Nour Party as "extremist" if not for the fact that it just did well in elections. Goldberg is correct that we don't know what the Middle East will look like after "the next 10 (or 20 or 30) years"--actually I'm quoting part of a sentence that predicts that in the end Arabs will turn to "a type of liberal democracy informed by faith, but without the intolerance associated with fundamentalism," but I liked the sound of "analytical humility." Let's just say that extremism's stock is up at the moment. Way up.

Update: The latest Haveil Havalim is probably a victory of some sort. Other recent editions of HH here and here.

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