Friendless in the Middle East

The Arab upheavals of 2011 have inspired wildly inconsistent Western responses. How, for example, can one justify abiding the suppression of dissidents in Bahrain while celebrating dissidents in Egypt? Or protect Libyan rebels from government attacks but not their Syrian counterparts? Oppose Islamists taking over in Yemen but not in Tunisia?

Such ad hockery reflects something deeper than incompetence: the difficulty of devising a constructive policy toward a region where, other than in a few outliers (Cyprus, Israel, and Iran), populations are predominantly hostile to the West. Friends are few, powerless, and with dim prospects of taking control. Democracy therefore translates into hostile relations with unfriendly governments.

Both the first wave of elections in 2005 and the second wave, just begun in Tunisia, confirm that, given a free choice, a plurality of Middle Easterners vote for Islamists. Dynamic, culturally authentic and ostensibly democratic, these forward a body of uniquely vibrant political ideas and constitute the only Muslim political movement of consequence.

But Islamism is the third totalitarian ideology (following Fascism and Communism). It preposterously proposes a medieval code to deal with the challenges of modern life. Retrograde and aggressive, it denigrates non-Muslims, oppresses women, and justifies force to spread Muslim rule. Middle Eastern democracy threatens not just the West's security but also its civilization....

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