The G8 is chucking bad money after a good it perceives, but cannot quantify
In the greater scheme of things (and like you, I no longer have the foggiest idea what that is) $20 billion is not that much money. As sovereign debt these days is measured in trillions – the 2008 bank bailout alone cost $23 trillion – giving a fraction of that to support Arab democracy doesn’t seem overly generous. My problem with the G8 casually handing over this sum is that it is a sign of, at best, not paying attention – and at worst, incipient madness.
Starting from the basics, ‘Arab democracy’ is one of the more obvious oxymorons in the world of geopolitics. I will never truly understand why the UN in general and Americans in particular refuse to bone up on the Arabist mentality….and how the overlaying of Islam upon that outlook was an answer to a behavioural problem, not a stepping stone to democracy. The Arab world in general accepts few if any of the precepts associated with Western democracy. Indeed, the tradition of giving the electoral franchise to women and the poor is entirely absent from Arab history. In the Middle East, liberty as a political aim is widely assumed to be a recipe for anarchy. The concept of gender equality is utterly alien to Arab culture, and largely dismissed by practising Muslims in the Arab region: women are chattels to be bought, sold, and – if in any way unfaithful to men – stoned. Last but not least, the Euro-American commitment to tolerance of all things not anti-social is viewed by the Arab mind as a form of weakness bordering on insanity.
While that last paragraph might read like a stream of generalised racism, it is nothing more than a reflection of the overwhelming body of evidence to support it. Not one single Arab culture, empire or Government in history has ever switched from autocracy to democracy of its own volition. Ironically, the laughably titled ‘Arab Spring’ is in and of itself a classic example of that history brought up to date.
So now we must ask ourselves, “Who exactly are we giving this money to?” And even the most cursory examination of the G8 donation brands it as the ultimate piece of glib, sub-prime charity. Somewhere in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere, Arab extremists are wetting themselves laughing at this quite extraordinarily stupid and patronising gift.
The mistake the G8 is making – with our money, let it be said – is to confuse Arab nationalism and Islamist resurgence with libertarian democracy. At first sight this may seem like a near-impossible mistake to make; but to be fair to those who rarely see beyond the red carpet, overthrowing autocrats (with a great deal of bravery being displayed by the ordinary citizen) is normally the overture to at least an aspiration to creating democratic institutions.
In truth, the Arab rebels across five countries have impressed the West by demanding ‘freedom’. But this is a freedom to overturn those leaders who fail to deliver – not the freedom for all religions and views to be expressed without restraint. The naked greed of the elite at the expense of ordinary people (and the rising price of foodstuffs) are what did for the deposed despots. With better spin and less commodity speculation, the North African uprisings would never have happened.
Even taking these things into account, the persistence displayed by Putin in supplying arms to dissidents in one shape or another was an equally important catalyst for revolution. The fact that, in Libya, this has now blown up in Machoski Man’s face doesn’t change the reality: ask the Israelis, who have complained over and over again to the Russian Federation about the policy….and confiscated shipments as and when they discovered them.
The one remaining ally Israel had among the Arabs – Egypt – has turned almost immediately towards Iran in its first few months. It is hard to find anything more to say about this beyond asking the question, “Why would anyone but a congenital idiot think Arabist revolutions are likely to embrace a warmer attitude towards Israel?” But then, for years I have wondered what it is that so appalls Western liberals about democratic Israel.
The UK has been braindead in its aid policies for the last thirty years – a dereliction of duty that culminated last year in giving money to Islamic Pakistan so that it might the more easily develop a deliverable atomic bomb. But for the educated historians in our midst, the best parallel I can offer would be giving $20 billion to the Weimar Republic for recognising the democratic ‘right’ of Hitler’s Nazis to be in the 1933 Von Papen Cabinet. The West was mad to ignore the threat of National Socialism. It is incalculably more bonkers to be giving aid to unspecified and misunderstood Arab revolutionaries.
Related: Why we shouldn’t be in Libya