Dear Senator.

You are saying that unlike President Bush, you will “summit with Muslim Countries”. (Didn’t Bush just do that last week?)

PARIS (Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told a French magazine in an interview that if he wins office, he will hold a summit with Muslim countries to better the United States’ image in the world.

“Once I’m elected, I want to organize a summit in the Muslim world, with all the heads of state, to have an honest discussion about ways to bridge the gap that grows every day between Muslims and the West,”

The press obligingly goes on to remind us that Bush is unpopular in these countries, so Obama is presenting himself as the hope of the world.

One little problem: What do you mean by “Muslim country”?

Umm…Senator, you were a child in Indonesia, a democracy and the country with the largest number of Muslims. So I presume you are aware that the word “Muslim” is not the same as “Arab”.
Are they welcome at your “summit”?

How about India, a democracy with a majority of Hindus but with the second largest Muslim population?

Of course you don’t mean these countries, both of which are on the forefront of fighting Islamic terrorism in South Asia.

And you probably don’t mean Malaysia, with it’s economic success, either.

Oh, you mean you want to talk to the leaders of the Middle East?

You mean the Mullahs, whose theocracy limits who can run in elections, and who make women wear conservative dresses and make it illegal to own “fufu” pet dogs?

Ah, but Iran is not Arab, it’s Farsi, with a lot of Arabs and other minorities. It also can’t pay it’s bills, has a low population growth, a high rate of heroin addiction, and a restless population who just want to join the world and get prosperous again.

Or do you mean Syria, a dictatorship who just bombed another Lebanese politician?

I guess you can’t include Lebanon any more than you will India: Too many Christians and Druze live there to be considered a “Muslim country”.

And I guess you can’t include Israel, with it’s 1.4 million “Arabs”. Of course, this group is a mixed group, since ten percent of the Arabs are Christian, and the Bedouin and Druze Arabs even serve in the military.

Will you talk to the smaller Gulf states, whose princes cooperate with the US either directly or indirectly, and allow many freedoms to their people, including those from overseas, even though they are not democracies?

And how about the Saudis? Will you grovel at their feet (like Bush last week) to get their oil, or will you remind them of all the people killed by terrorists funded by their “charities”, and that one million Catholics overseas workers live in their country, clean their houses, drive their cars, work in their oil fields, but are not allowed a single church to worship in?

And while you are at it, try talking to Egypt. That corrupt dictatorship also has “elections” but silences their opposition.

Kennedy once reminded us that those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable. That’s the problem in Egypt.

But of course, things have changed in the Middle East.

Yes, the US is unpopular, but remember, except for Al Jezeerah, all their news comes from state run television and newspapers. If the only stories one reads is bad, then maybe opinion polls are merely echoing what you are told.

Yet thanks to those satellite dishes, which although illegal still keep popping up even in Iran and Saudi, people do hear other news besides the usual Anti western and anti American propaganda.

So, before you go, instead of reading the NYTimes editorial page, you should instead read Strategy Page:

Iraq, and most of the countries in the Middle East, are broken. They have been for a long time. We in the West have generally ignored it, because there were no workable solutions that were easily available. Then came the latest wave of Islamic terrorism. This got worse, until September 11, 2001, and then the  prospect of mass murder in our own backyard became a reality. But at that point, the West became divided over the solution. Do we keep treating the terrorists as a police problem, and wait them out? That is known to work. But the threat of even deadlier terrorist attacks made more dramatic moves attractive to many, especially in the United States.

That resulted in Iraq, confronting the Arab problems up close and personal. It ain’t pretty. But unless the Arab problems are solved, the ugly aftereffects will still be there, and so will the threat of mass murder on the street where you live. The war on terror, and the war in Iraq, are all part of a struggle within Islam. Do we keep on with the same pattern of rebellion and repression, or do we try developing a civil society….

Iraq can either be a turning point in Middle Eastern history, or the democracy can be corrupted, as it was in 1958 when the constitutional monarchy was overthrown by the Sunni Arab dominated military. To that end, the Iraqis are trying to negotiate a long term treaty with the United States that would include an American promise to “coup-proof” elected Iraqi governments. That’s novel, but depends on the election process remaining uncorrupted. Nothing is simple in the Middle East.

And that, in a nutshell is the problem: Trying to change a chaotic area that has had tyrants, kings, and dictators for three thousand years, and a culture of corruption and bribery and vioence, into something that pleases the NYTimes editorial board, and do it quickly enough for the 24 hour news channels.

Now, if you reallly think you can do that by talking to a bunch of dictators who worry that democracy will get them thrown out of power, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

—————

Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. 

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