NR Digital

Islamists and Men in Khaki

by David Pryce-Jones
Theirs is not an ideology of springtime

If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.
– Giuseppe di Lampedusa

Chaos theory, at least as it reaches me, has it that a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere can change the course of events far away. Something akin to this occurred in December 2010 in Tunisia. A man in his twenties was unable to find a job that matched his qualifications and the authorities then prevented him from scratching a living by selling fruit and vegetables off a barrow. He set fire to himself and died. Many, perhaps most, Arabs identified with this poor man, and one Arab country after another has exploded with anger about misrule and oppression. Taken at face value, the Arab social order appears to be breaking down.

The presidents of Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt have already been forced out of office. For no clear reason, Western powers joined in the tribal war that engulfed Libya, bombing those loyal to President Moammar Qaddafi and eventually bringing about his assassination. Again for no clear reason, Western powers are not intervening in the civil war in Syria. Bashar Assad is leading the minority Alawite sect in a merciless campaign against the Sunni majority. In a typically self-serving fantasy, he claims that unspecified terrorists are responsible for the nearly 10,000 people whom his security forces have killed and the destruction of built-up areas by his heavy artillery.

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