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September 30, 2003

Trusting The Arab

The Arabs are upset. I know, I know. The sun rises, the tides come in, and the Arabs feel slighted. Every day since October 7th, 1571 has seen the same story retold. Why should today be any different?

The latest lament is about the special status of Israel, surely the most favored nation on earth, one beloved the world over, which is why it gets away with so much.

Nope, there's nothing the U.N. likes to do more than let the Jews slide when it comes to international law, and the Arabs are getting tired of that country's exalted status. Why is it, they are wondering, that Israel gets a pass when it comes to nuclear weapons, yet everyone gets their panties in a wad every time an inspector finds the tiniest bit of enriched uranium in a Middle Eastern country?

"What surprises us is that at a time when the International Atomic Energy Agency is intensifying its efforts and monitoring (NPT) members countries ... we see that it continues to ignore the rejection of Israel in not joining the treaty," Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said: "It is unacceptable that Israel's possession of such weapons should remain a reality that some prefer to ignore or prevent the international community ... from facing it squarely and frankly."
Shara called it "regrettable ... that some quarters selectively choose to level their false accusations at some Arab and Islamic states but not on others, while simultaneously ignoring the Israeli arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical and biological weapons."

The Arab ministers repeated their support for making the Middle East region free from all weapons of mass destruction.

Why does the world not care if Israel has nuclear weapons?

Well we do care, inasmuch as nuclear weapons are a bad thing in general, but if they're going to exist, we prefer them to be in the possession of a people who won't consider using them to avenge their expulsion from Spain hundreds of years ago. Sadly, this cannot be said of all of the victims of 1492.

“They are very much aware of this historical struggle and Osama bin Laden speaks frequently of the crusades. He speaks of, with regret, of how the Muslims lost Spain, which for many centuries was part of the Islamic world,” and though that happened in 1492, “That's only yesterday. There is this awareness of past greatness and present humiliation,” explains Lewis.

The world gets....exercised over the possibility of Muslim states possessing nuclear weapons because a nuclear weapon is to Islam as a fully loaded handgun is to a three-year old. Not just any three year old, mind you, but one that's throughly pissed off because the grownups in his house keep trying to potty train him against his wishes.

Blame Pakistan, if you like, for that country hasn't exactly provided the world with a sterling example of responsibilty when it comes to nuclear issues.

The terrorist attacks of September 11 focused a great deal of attention on the security of Pakistan's arsenal. According to press reports, Pakistan's military began relocating nuclear weapon components within two days of the attacks. One potential danger to Pakistan's arsenal is extremist elements within the intelligence service, armed forces, nuclear weapons program, and in the general population. Gen. Pervez Musharraf took several actions in fall 2001 to mitigate these problems, including firing his intelligence chief and other officers, detaining several suspected retired nuclear weapons scientists, and redeploying the arsenal to at least six new secret locations.

Nope, not hardly.

Pakistan publicly has denied such accusations, though experts say Islamabad has been trading nuclear data and assistance in exchange for North Korean missile technology for more than a decade. The relationship began when North Korean President Kim Jong Il surreptitiously started a highly enriched uranium program at a time when Pakistan was having difficulty paying Pyongyang for its missile-parts deliveries.

Israel gets to have nuclear weapons because Israel is not going to start throwing them around without provocation. Though no one will say so, we're not all that concerned about India, either, for the same reason. Israel and India, for all their faults and oddities, are part of the culture of the West. The fact that they have nuclear weapons may be regrettable, but on the whole it's okay.

No one in the West worries about an Israeli or Indian nuke exploding in their capital, because no on in the West worries about Jewish or Hindu terrorists exploding on the downtown bus, or flying hijacked planes into skyscrapers. One grows from the other. The community of nations will accept things from the Hindus and the Jews that it won't accept from the Arabs because when it comes right down to it the Hindus and the Jews have shown themselves to be worthy of a little trust, and the Arabs haven't.

No, it's not fair that the West cares more about the nuclear materials in Pakistan and Iran than it does in Israel and India, but life isn't fair, and its high time this was accepted, not only by the Arabs, but by their Western defenders.

By refusing to hold Arabs to prevailing norms of acceptable behavior, by making weak excuses for violence, by putting forth the argument that Arabs cannot be expected to control themselves when "provoked," we perpetuate the Eurocentric and very racist viewpoint that Arabs are children, to be protected and punished as we see fit, but hardly our equals.

There is an ugly double standard at work here: Arabs can be "provoked" to violence by Israeli words or actions, but Israelis cannot be provoked by Arab words or actions. Why? Well, the Israelis are European, so we expect them to behave better.

Of course, when it comes to civil rights and representative government, the Israelis do behave better – to the enormous shame of the vast majority of Arabs, who do, after all, live under Arab rule.

For the truth is this: Nearly every Arab being denied her or his most basic civil liberties sees those rights crushed under the jackboot not of Israel, but of their fellow Arabs.

Trust grows from trust. Fear grows from fear. Regardless of how the Arab countries or Islam as a whole perceive Israel and India, the world as a whole has decided to trust them with the nuclear sword. If the countries of Islam desire the same level of trust and respect given to India and Israel by the world then the Arab countries must first emulate them in the eyes of the world, by becoming secular democracies.

It's a quite a challenge, moving from the rule of religion to the rule of law, but it will be done, either by internal choice on the part of the Arabs or external force on the part of the West. Else there will come a day when neither religion nor law will rule the Middle East, for radioactive desolation will.

Posted by Bigwig at September 30, 2003 03:30 PM | TrackBack
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Excellent, BW.

Posted by: Kevin at September 30, 2003 03:40 PM

Fantastic article, BW. Absolutely fantastic.

Posted by: Jim at October 1, 2003 06:15 AM

Yes, October 7th is a glorious day, isn't it? Dare I mention that it is also my birthday?

Aside from the solecism, an excellent point, Bigwig. Fairness doesn't have anything to do with the rational self-interest that states should operate with. Israel has nukes, and can be trusted with them, and the Arab street has got to be wondering why exactly the ravening Jew hasn't nuked the living shit out of the Oil Plateau(TM) that is Arabia. The answer? Because it's not in their self-interest.

Posted by: Scipio at October 1, 2003 09:39 AM


Posted by: Kingsley at October 1, 2003 01:31 PM
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