A new phase in the Arab world?

Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic offers a provocative interpretation of the revolutions:

One of the most striking features of the democratic revolts has been the absence from them of any significant anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Israeli expressions. The ideas and emotions that animated these uprisings have been inward-looking and inner-directed: the crowds are outraged by what Egyptians have done to Egypt, what Tunisians have done to Tunisia, what Libyans have done to Libya, what Iranians have done to Iran. They blame their own. They do not direct their critical energies, so as to divert them, at others. This reckoning is a self-reckoning—which is to say, it is the end of the post-imperial era in Arab history. The force of the ancient sense of colonial victimization seems to be spent. First imperialism hobbled them, and then the remembrance of imperialism hobbled them. The scar continued to do the work of the wound. It introduced into Arab life a prior anger and a prior despair, which were easily manipulated by autocrats and clerics. The aftermath of oppression is usually a period of hardening and contraction. A grievance is not a basis for progress. But the democratic eruption of recent months marks the advent of a post-post-imperial moment, in which the future is finally allowed a greater claim upon the present than the past. Post-post-imperialism is another term for self-reliance, for an internal renovation, for what an early Zionist writer called “auto-emancipation.” There is no deeper emancipation. The blessing of the post-post-imperial moment is not that the terrible history has been forgotten, but that the lachrymosity it left in its wake, the lowered expectations that derived from the belief that there is only one story and only one enemy, the pessimistic effects of unceasing commemoration, have been dispelled…. It is not ignorance, or treason, to escape the shadow of great pain; it is the condition of a normal life.

Wieseltier believes that this opens new possibilities for American involvement in the Arab world that will not be seen as imperialism,  but as helpful leadership.

That’s quite a statement to make just a couple months into these events. We shall see what the long term consequences are.

Hat tip: Michael Totten. In another post, Totten also linked to a remarkable photo gallery of the events in Libya.


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