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Posted: 3/17/2002 9:58:59 AM EDT
Listen to the Kuwaitis What can we learn from the baffling stance of the Kuwaitis? By Victor Davis Hanson March 11, 2002 8:40 a.m. Kuwait has become a metaphor for the growing divide between the United States and the Islamic world — one that is fundamental and cannot be so easily resolved by shaking hands, holding conferences, and promising to "just to get along." A recent 60 Minutes report by Mike Wallace of grassroots popular expression there brought a flood of official disavowals from the kingdom. On film, dozens of Western-educated, yuppified Kuwaitis smugly expressed outright enmity for the United States — making past reports somewhat more understandable that infants born last year in the kingdom were named after bin Laden and that a vast majority opposes our efforts in Afghanistan. Those who were educated over here seemed to be the most virulently anti-American. The facts of September 11 made no impression whatsoever — either of remorse or of fear that most of the killers were Arabs from the Gulf and so might invite American reprisals. Listening to the Kuwaiti anger you would think that 19 Americans had blown up 3,000 Muslims in Mecca and Medina, along with 20 acres of the downtown, while in the immediate aftermath the American government had lectured the grieving Gulf States about their improper policies concerning Israel — rather than vice versa. Of course, the Kuwaiti sheikdom, which likes to be defended, ship its oil over safe waters, be paid in a calm and lawful market, and send its elites overseas — immediately issued a series of denials and corrections. The monarchy no doubt must now turn to the usual meretricious public-relations firms in Washington for damage control. Glib Western-educated bureaucrats are already seeking to "correct" on television a "false" impression of Kuwait. Yet the more disinterested Gallup poll of Middle-Easterners apparently reveals that roughly three-quarters of Kuwaitis (72%) do not much like the United States. Nearly as many Middle Easterners in general (61%) subscribe to the lunatic view that Arab terrorists were not responsible for the murders of Sept. 11. In other words, a more systematic appraisal of Kuwaiti public opinion confirms the anecdotes we hear on television and read in the media. Indeed, after fielding questions the last six months on radio and in public fora from Middle Easterners in the United States, I was surprised only that nearly a third of those polled in some countries actually expressed any admiration at all for the United States.
Link Posted: 3/17/2002 9:59:37 AM EDT
What can we learn from the baffling stance of the Kuwaitis? First, the past conduct of the United States counts for nothing in the present crisis. For months Americans have been amazed that Muslims showed so little appreciation that we helped save Islam from the Russians, fed starving Somalians, and prevented Kosovars from being annihilated. We were damned by Russians, Armenians, many eastern Europeans, and Orthodox Balkan peoples for ousting Milosevic by force and attacking a Christian European country — but oddly, never praised by the Islamic world for saving Muslims and therein incurring such wrath from our natural allies and friends. In this regard, it is not our duty "to get the message out," but rather the Kuwaitis' to admit the truth of the past; it is not our problem to assuage their hurt, but their very real need to lessen our anger that is rising, not diminishing, each day since Sept. 11. So the case of Kuwait is an example of ungratefulness of a completely different magnitude — one that puts the French of the late 1940s to shame. Quite simply, by autumn 1990 Kuwait had ceased to exist. Invaded and conquered by Iraq in a matter of hours, it was already annexed by Saddam Hussein as a "province" of Iraq. Exiled Kuwaitis of the royal family, who ran from Saddam's tanks, still managed to fly over here to swarm Washington for nearly six months. They immediately began imploring Americans not to give up on them. We were to spend our blood to do what they themselves either could not or would not. Horrific stories of gratuitous Iraqi butchery were staples of congressional committees and the evening news — as we Americans were asked to become allies with an autocratic Islamic state to save it from another Arab dictatorship. In late 1990 purported notions of pan-Arabism, common Islamic brotherhood, and regional solidarity didn't seem to matter much to the Kuwaitis — when the neighborhood viper had slithered in to swallow their country whole. No Arab state or European nation took the initiative in freeing the Kuwaitis. American servicemen spearheaded their emancipation — and then graciously allowed a token armored column of Kuwaitis to enter their homeland first to "liberate" their enslaved population. If few had seen the Kuwaiti princes scamper out of town when the Iraqis came, the world now witnessed on television their staged triumphant return. Somewhere in between the two events was the intervention of the Americans. What can we learn from this ungracious about-face? Again, the answer surely is not that we must mediate more, "work harder" on public relations, or learn more about Kuwait. What we know about it is already depressing enough. Since there is not a single democracy or free media in the Arab Middle East, there is almost no chance that religious figures, politicians, academics, intellectuals, and average people can debate honestly the growing contradictions between Islam and the modern world — or Islam's need for Western expertise and the ensuing resentment that such dependency apparently incurs. Instead the success and power of the United States — and to a lesser extent of Israel — in Pavlovian outbursts become the cheap targets when venting Middle-Eastern frustration at internal economic failure, religious hypocrisy, government autocracy, and endemic cultural contradiction, whether in an impoverished Egypt or the affluent Gulf.
Link Posted: 3/17/2002 10:01:07 AM EDT
If saving an entire people from extinction earns less than a decade's worth of appreciation, then nothing we do in the future will matter much either. In the same manner, we should assume that the billions of dollars that go to Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine to help "moderates" bring not thanks for our largess, but rather contempt for our naiveté. It would be far more intellectually honest — and cheaper — simply now to allow them all to be the enemies that they wish to be rather than the friends they do not. Second, a common theme of the Kuwaiti displeasure toward us is apparently the murderous Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We can put aside all the thorny issues involving the West Bank and focus on just one event. In 1990 Mr. Arafat, with apparent support from the Palestinian people, and seconded by the monarchy in Jordan, quite vocally backed the Iraqi destruction of Kuwait. As I recall, Arafat was captured on television kissing Mr. Hussein after the latter's dismemberment of Kuwait. In other words, the very peoples that the Kuwaitis now express solidarity with just a few years ago were celebrating their own demise. Nor should we forget that in turn, upon liberation of Kuwait, many Palestinians were forcibly evicted from the entire sheikdom. So let us pause for a moment and sort out the astounding facts and zany logic of Iraqis kicking out Kuwaitis kicking out Palestinians: (1) we intervened in the Gulf to save the Kuwaiti nation from serfdom; (2) whereas the Palestinians cheered on news that Kuwait was dissolved; (3) and the Kuwaitis now express dislike toward America over our own purported lack of sympathy for the Palestinian people! We give over 100 million dollars a year to Mr. Arafat. We ignore reports that Palestinians were cheering on news of 3,000 murdered Americans. And we welcome Palestinian students to our shores. In contrast, the Kuwaitis once ethnically cleansed their country of Palestinians — and the Kuwaitis now express hatred toward America over our treatment of Palestine! But besides ingratitude and hypocrisy, there is also the larger and more metaphysical issue of Westernization that explains Middle-Eastern schizophrenia — the third rail upon which neither our own Arabists nor Middle Eastern "moderates" dare tread. Kuwait possesses no indigenous tradition of consensual government, religious tolerance and diversity, secular rationalism, free speech and open debate, or class and gender equality — in other words, the entire cargo necessary for a humane and technically sophisticated culture. It is a tribal society that exists under the veneer of a modern nation simply because of two facts: oil and the Western expertise and learning it buys. Its oil wells were created by the West. They were blown up by its Arab neighbor. And then they were restored — along with the surrounding environmental mess — through Western protocol and machines. Everything that works in Kuwait and so separates it from a Cairo or Islamabad is due to oil-generated Westernism — from its skyline and its power-grid to its automobiles and foreign-educated elite. Its sophisticated weapons that once proved so useless when the Iraqis crossed the border were impotent not because of their American designs and fabrication, but simply because there were Kuwaitis, not Americans, using them.
Link Posted: 3/17/2002 10:01:54 AM EDT
At some point, such a stark paradox might prompt Kuwaiti introspection and contemplation about Westernization — rather than such infantile resentment. A mature people would implement a true democracy, create a secular and independent judiciary, and institute a free press as part of a national discussion on the advantages and perils of modernism in a traditional society. Instead, once again as in the case of the terrorists who incinerated our citizens on Sept. 11, murdered Danny Pearl, and are planning more mayhem for us all, public opinion in Kuwait confirms that the root of anti-Americanism is not poverty (they are rich), not exploitation (they do not give oil away), not past grievance (we saved them), not purported solidarity with the Palestinians (whom they ejected), but a basic sense of umbrage and accompanying envy that grows with greater exposure to the West. The more the Kuwaitis and their neighbors learn of and copy us, the more they understand that what they desire for their own only others can create; and that their new Westernized appetites grow faster than their old rules can repress them. Because emotions such as jealousy and self-absorption at their most basic are puerile, and entirely explicable without help from Marx, Freud, Foucault, or Edward Said, there is a tendency among elites in Washington and New York — quite dangerous to my mind — to dismiss them, and instead construct all sorts of other hypothetical and more sophisticated grievances. That would be a grave mistake. The answer to Kuwait is not apology for who we are, withdrawal of our support for Israel, or more obsequious requests for their bases and mutual defense ties. No, the solution for our fickle friends in the Gulf is a long overdue accounting with the terrorist autocracy of Iraq and the implementation of consensual government in its place. We saved Kuwait once from Iraqi fascism and apparently received ingratitude for our efforts. Perhaps next time we should encourage a new and free Iraq to ignite a chain reaction of democratic revolution in the Gulf — and let the sheiks deal with reformers who seek not to take their oil, but to oust them altogether. These are grim times when our very best Americans are dying in Afghanistan to stop Islamic fundamentalists from vaporizing thousands more of our innocent civilians. It is not the hour to mince words, back-peddle, or pretend about a Middle East that presently does not exist. Courting Kuwait in the present crisis would be like hosting Franco in Washington, D.C. during December 1941. We really are in a war about which our President has said that you are either for us or against us. What we are learning from the Kuwait people is that they prefer the latter. So for once let us just listen to their wishes — and let the chips in the ensuing months fall as they may.
Link Posted: 3/17/2002 10:03:06 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/17/2002 10:16:08 AM EDT by shooter69]
I think the author is right. You? The Kuwaitis are a bunch of ungrateful bastards, not to mention being schizophrenic on the palestinian issue.
Link Posted: 3/17/2002 10:20:26 AM EDT
I think Kuwait would make a fine 51st state to add to the Union. Its oil reserves alone make it a prime target for acquisition. We could go in, chase every ungrateful bastard out of there into Iraq, start repainting the street signs in English, and call it East Texas. Then to further enhance our position, we could strike a deal with Saddam Hussein: Be our ally and all is forgiven, BUT...you have to start treating your people in a way that we approve of or we'll kill you. Maybe I'm just being contrary, but everybody knows that the major military power in the mideast was (and will again be) Iraq. It makes a certain sense to forge alliances with powerful people, even if they may have been subway rat bastards in the past and may be again. I don't criticize our current President very much. He's doing a great job, by and large, but I think adding Iran to the "axis of evil" did more harm than good. Iran is among the most moderate of the Islamic nations at the present time, and until the Shah was overthrown in the 70's, the relations between the US and Iran were quite good. So good, in fact, that ONLY Iran was allowed to purchase our then state-of-the-art F14 Tomcat fighters. (So was Canada, but they chose a different plane.)They bought a squadron or two of them. They're not believed to be flyable for lack of spare parts now, but the planes are still there and probably have not been scrapped. By branding Iran as "evil", that antagonized the Iranians and that was a mistake. We could have definitely used their friendship and cooperation. We could use some faithful allies in the mideast. I'm not entirely sure that we are courting the friendship of the right countries as of now. CJ
Link Posted: 3/17/2002 10:48:01 AM EDT
are we sure they don't have French blood in them?
Link Posted: 3/17/2002 12:06:33 PM EDT
Do you have a link for this? Thanks, Chimborazo
Link Posted: 3/17/2002 12:32:58 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/17/2002 12:41:41 PM EDT by shooter69]
[url]www.nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson031102.shtml[/url] One of ETH's favorite sites, I believe. And another [b]excellent[/b] column illustrating the fundamental differences between the Arab world and us: [url]www.nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson031502.shtml[/url]
Link Posted: 3/17/2002 1:01:15 PM EDT
No doubt about it, them bastages are crazy [%|]
Link Posted: 3/17/2002 1:06:49 PM EDT
Originally Posted By ARlady: are we sure they don't have French blood in them?
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How true! The difference lies in the fact that France never spawned an anti American movement so great that lives were lost.
Link Posted: 3/17/2002 1:36:16 PM EDT
This merely adds to my argument that all Islam is our enemy. Furthermore, the Palestinian issue is only window dressing to try and garner sympathy for Islam. Turkey seems to behave but should be watched closely. As best I can tell, the rest are vermin in need of a massive can of Raid!
Link Posted: 3/18/2002 1:19:35 AM EDT
Sacre' Blue!!!!! Zee Kuwatee's? Ahhh, but ze are...how do you say.....our friends!! Ze are not evil....only ze Americans are evil! Wait....is that an Iraqi tank over the dune??? Aaaaiieeeyyyeee! Call ze Americans, call ze Americans! Ze Iraquis are coming!! Ze Iraquis are coming!!!!
Link Posted: 3/18/2002 2:19:20 AM EDT
Hey, wait a minute. Maybe they're not so crazy after all. I mean the Palestinians go around the world blowing shit up, hijacking, and telling us to kiss their butts, and what has it got them? Millions in foreign aid. You shit on me. I pay you to buy food to make more shit. You come back, I pay you to to clean the shit off. You shit on me some more. I give you more money. Tell me - who's REALLY the crazy one here?
Link Posted: 3/18/2002 3:24:06 AM EDT
An excellent article. This is not surprising in the least. Let's face it, they bought our services. We were their lackies for a year. In return, we received 10 years of cheap oil. Look at the calendar. Almost 10 years to the day the Gulf States raised the price of oil. All that time we were buying huge SUVs, thinking how great it was to get 9 mpg, and then we cry when they raised the price of oil. Furthermore, do you think for a minute there is any motivation for the US to establish democracy in the Middle East? Hell no! As long as the status quo supplies us with oil on the cheap, what the hell are we going to do? Take the chance that the next regime will tighten the spigot? Do drug addicts kill their dealers? Hell no! They want the drugs, we want oil. I personally don't see the US taking any kind of constructive position in the Gulf until we lessen our dependance on their oil. How can we? As long the the Saudis have what we need, we are their boy and will put up with their crap for as long as it takes. All the while, our own administration is telling us they're the good guy and on our side (while their rich folks fund terror). The next time someone says we shouldn't drill in Alaska, smack 'em in the head and kick them in the kidneys while they're down.
Link Posted: 3/18/2002 4:29:53 AM EDT
It's a good article up to this point:
No, the solution for our fickle friends in the Gulf is a long overdue accounting with the terrorist autocracy of Iraq and the implementation of consensual government in its place. We saved Kuwait once from Iraqi fascism and apparently received ingratitude for our efforts. Perhaps next time we should encourage a new and free Iraq to ignite a chain reaction of democratic revolution in the Gulf — and let the sheiks deal with reformers who seek not to take their oil, but to oust them altogether.
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"Consensual government" in [i]Iraq[/i]? I don't see how that's going to happen. Kill Saddam, drive all his Ba'ath buddies over the border into Syria, and you still have a country full of people who haven't known anything but despotism for the last 3,000 years. If the US can't bring a tiny, nearby country like Haiti into the modern world, what are the odds of success in Iraq?
Link Posted: 3/18/2002 5:58:53 AM EDT
You guys make good points. I am starting to think that we may have an interest in doing a little nation building in Iraq post-Saddam. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and all the other despotic regimes may be secretly afraid of a democracy in the Arab world, for fear that such aspirations would spread to their people, hence their reticense to support our plans. An honest to god, multi-party state in the region, despite any flaws intendant, might very well unleash radical change upon them, if not in the short run then the long. Those people need to be shaken up.
Link Posted: 3/18/2002 6:27:54 AM EDT
An honest to god, multi-party state in the region, despite any flaws intendant, might very well unleash radical change upon them, if not in the short run then the long.
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The "radical change" would be the self-destruction of the multi-party state. Look at what happened in Algeria in 1992: The military-backed government held elections. When the Islamist party won, the military decided that elections weren't such a good idea after all and voided the results. Since then there's been a bloody civil war of massacres and other terrorist attacks.
Link Posted: 3/18/2002 6:50:31 AM EDT
I agree with your points, renamed [beer] Change is called for, however. The status quo is not working. While supporting the monarchies may be in our interest compared to an islamic revolution sweeping the region, that isn't saying much. Especially considering the resentment built up in those countries. The people there need some kind of outlet other than channeling their anger toward us. At the moment they have none. I'm willing to take a risk! [grenade]
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