One of the nice things about human history is that no matter how much people or their leaders misjudge events and make a hash of things, within a few centuries, the debris is cleared away, and we can have another go at getting things right.
Yes, I am thinking about the Middle East. Whether or not there is a message in that turn of events, I’ll leave it to theologians.
At the moment, I have in mind the latest blunder by the experts — their assessment, just a few months ago, of the nature of the Arab Spring and its democracy movement. Back in spring, the leading experts — from the Obama administration to the neoconservatives on the right to the major liberal media to most of the academic area specialists — were all overwhelmingly predicting that all those great secular, liberal, college-educated kids with their iPhones in Tahrir Square represented the new Egypt and would bring all their wonderful values to the revolution. It was primarily us cranky right-wingers who have been writing on radical Islamic politics (and, of course, the Israelis, who can’t afford to get it wrong on Muslim political habits) who warned that this was all going to end in the rise in still-ancient Egypt of radical Islamist, anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti American and anti-Western governance.
So our government — as I said, cheered on by neoconservatives as well as liberals — undercut Hosni Mubarak’s regime and told us not to worry about the Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood were old, tired men who were no longer really radical and had been propped up by the regime just to provide it an opposition punching bag. Armed with their social media devices, the kids would run rings around the sorry excuse for Islamists and deliver real democracy.
Jeez, hadn’t any of those experts been to Egypt? Not a lot of secular liberals hanging out — even at the Universities — let alone in the thousands of villages and urban slums. Who the heck did the pundits think those angry, bearded men were, roaming around glaring at Westerners and Muslim women who dared to walk on the street? I saw them back in the 1960s and ’70s, and even then, they were scary.
By the way, as I recall, Tahrir Square was pretty much a circle. But who’s counting when you are having deranged liberal fantasies? Even if these experts on Sunday political roundtable chatters had not been to Egypt, perhaps it was a clue that a Pew poll this spring said 65 percent of the public would vote Islamist.
Well, the early returns are in.
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