Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ynetnews editorial - Ignorance or Ideology?

Bad ideas...

As I’ve said before, I’m a generalist when it comes to the Middle East. There are some areas that I know better than others, but there’s no one aspect or region that I can point to as a singular area of expertise. My primary interest is synthesis – making sense of broad aggregates of data on a variety of topics. This means that I will sometimes come to rather different conclusions than those reached by people with a narrower but deeper view of specific area.

Case in point - this FP piece on the Syrian uprising. The author reads it as much less of a genuine people’s movement at work, and instead sees the fingerprints of the MB and other insurgent militant elements all over it. Frankly, I think some of what she’s seeing is what she wants to see, and much of her interpretation doesn’t jibe with what I’ve been following online, but her conclusions are not unreasonable, and she certainly has some windows into the situation that I don’t have.

So I read the article, make some mental notes, maybe follow up on a few things, and continue about my day.

Sometimes, however, I read material that is so shockingly idiotic that it gnaws at me for days. Not the casual ignorance of a YouTube “comments” section, or the absurd conjecture of buffoons like Joseph Farah at World Net Daily – I can laugh at things like that, shake my head, and move on.

No, I’m referring to material like the following editorial, which reveals a staggering degree of willful ignorance and ideological blindness by someone who should know better.

Almost every single paragraph of this article contains either a gross distortion of fact or a deliberate dismissal of truth (often both). Crass propaganda from top to bottom.

I’m not going to do a point-by-point rebuttal, but I want to point out a few specific things

Israel’s leadership is more loyal to its Arab allies than President Obama. While Israel stood by Mubarak, it took Obama three days to call for Egypt’s president, a long term US friend, to leave office and to threaten him with foreign aid cuts. It seems that Obama only confronts and abandons allies, but prefers not to meddle in the internal revolts of enemies like Syria and Iran.

She says this like it’s something to be proud of. Israel supported brutal regimes in Argentina and South Africa long after almost every other country in the world had turned against them. Why would this be a positive argument for stronger ties to Saudi Arabia?

Not only that, the US state department was meddling in the internal revolts in Syria and Iran since before they were revolts. Israel often boasts of being the only democracy in the region (a statement whose veracity is contingent on some semantic juggling) and yet the author is advocating allying with the least democratic country in the region to strike against one of the countries that is closest to internal revolution. When Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in the 1980’s he gave the unstable fledgling Islamic Iranian Republic an external foe to unify against, strengthening their national identity, and legitimizing Ayatollah Khomeini’s position as the undisputed leader of the Iranian people. Cooperative action by Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran would give their currently unstable regime a means to reunify and would undo years of internal and external work towards Iranian regime change.

Third, Iran is the main danger to Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf states, not Israel, as the WikiLeaks cables revealed, with Saudi King Abdullah repeatedly imploring Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” (Iran) while there was still time.
Iran is certainly a danger to Saudi Arabia, primarily to the Saudis’ chokehold on the region through wealth and wealth-based influence. The conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, currently being fought through proxies around the M.E. (Particularly in Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq) is ultimately about two things – commerce and legitimacy. The Saudis have gotten to where they are through careful negotiation, leverage, coercion and intimidation, but ultimately, they are where they are because they have more oil than everyone else. Their regional religious dominance comes from successful negotiation for authority over the holy cities of Mecca and Medina after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and then spending vast quantities of money to propagate their extremist brand of fundamentalist Islam to the rest of the Muslim world.
Fifth, establishing a Palestinian state is not in the best interest of Saudi Arabia or Israel. As previously happened after Israel withdrew its military forces from Gaza in 2005, Hamas will be able to take over the new state by winning subsequent Palestinian elections, as it did in 2006, or by militarily defeating the PA, as it did in 2007. Such state would become another Iranian base, threatening Israel but also destabilizing Jordan next door and encircling the Saudis from the northwest.

This is just fear-mongering that is rooted in ignorance, denial, or outright deception. An established Palestinian state would be terrible news for Hamas (and for Fateh), an issue I’ve addressed before and one that I’ll probably address again soon.

The essential problem with this piece is that it was written by someone who has confused presenting a convincing-sounding argument with being factually correct – the technical term for this is “Lawyer”.

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