Middle East Howlers
If we expect the successors of Mubarak and Qaddafi to be freedom-loving democrats, we will be dangerously disappointed.


Andrew C. McCarthy

A “howler,” the Wall Street Journal called it in an editorial yesterday. That certainly is a fitting description of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s latest mindboggling foray into Middle East analysis. It makes sense, she maintains, for American armed forces to get “kinetic” in Libya but not in Syria because Moammar Qaddafi is a brutal dictator while brutal dictator Bashar Assad is really a “reformer.” Perhaps she has been watching too much al-Jazeera, this former first lady who was so instrumental in her husband’s airbrushing of the terrorist kleptocrat Yasser Arafat — a peace-seeking statesman . . . at least between intifadas.

Al-Jazeera is the Islamist communications hub. The network’s brightest star, Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi of the Muslim Brotherhood, fresh from his triumphant return to Egypt to dance on the grave of the pro-American Mubarak regime, recently issued a fatwa calling for Qaddafi’s murder. And in the network’s showcase cause, the annihilation of the Zionist entity, Assad and his Hezbollah confederates are just what central casting ordered. Yet, according to Secretary Clinton, al-Jazeera is the place to which people turn for the “real news,” the serious analysis you just can’t get from the talking heads on U.S. television.

Another howler . . . or is it? Fox News, for example, is fast becoming the Arab Spring Channel.

On its weekend talking headliner, Fox News Sunday, anchor Chris Wallace spent several minutes grilling Newt Gingrich on his marital infidelities. “Man to man,” the host hectored, the former House Speaker must have had some glass-house qualms. After all, he was cheating at the very moment when he was leading the charge against Mrs. Clinton’s intern-chasing husband. Gingrich — who is not yet even a declared presidential candidate — is a long shot for a nomination that won’t be decided until over a year from now. Yet Wallace thought it essential, right now, to get to the bottom of indiscretions that are nearly two decades old.

Tough questioning — fair, but tough and unyielding. That is Mr. Wallace’s trademark — or at least it was until Sunday’s program shifted to the breaking news in Libya. Without congressional consultation, much less endorsement, the Obama administration had just dispatched the nation’s armed forces to take sides in a civil war. Problem? Not at all, not for Mr. Wallace’s giddy guests. One after the other, Sens. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I., Ct.), longtime Islamic-democracy-project enthusiasts, gushed over the “rebels” and the joys of America’s finally being aligned with the “Arab street” (i.e., the people who celebrated the 9/11 attacks and, just this month, the murder of the Fogels, a family of Jewish settlers in the West Bank). Without a hint of challenge from the formerly dogged Wallace, McCain and Lieberman seemed to compete over who could ooze more affinity for the “freedom fighters.”

The pattern continued through the program’s concluding panel of pundits, in which Fox’s Brit Hume, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, and Fortune’s Nina Easton glowed over the “rebels” of the “Arab Spring.” But who are the rebels? There was apparently no need to tarry over that seeming irrelevancy. It could only distract from the truly urgent question of whether we are doing quite enough for them — whether President Obama’s Alinskyite play of helping these “freedom fighters” while claiming not to help them will be enough for them to prevail.

Perhaps not, the consensus seemed to be. It will probably take arming them and providing other logistical support. It was left to the house lefty, Juan Williams, of all people, to point out that we really don’t know much about the rebels — except that some of them seem to be anti-American Islamists. Maybe, he suggested, we ought to find out more before we start passing out matériel that could one day be turned against us.

Williams had stumbled, at long last, on the fact so inconvenient that it must not be spoken: The “Arab Spring” is actually the Islamist Spring. Islamists as “freedom fighters”? Now that’s a howler. The very concept of “freedom” in Islam is markedly different from the “freedom” at the root of Western democracy. Islam envisions not individual liberty but its antithesis, perfect submission to Allah’s law — and the Judaeo-Christian notion of equality is nowhere to be found. There is a reason why Islam has no democratic tradition.