November 05, 2004

Holy crap!

Want to see some signs of how Tuesday is reshaping the world political environment?

Take this passage from a prominent newspaper:

Speaking in front of television cameras the other day, the Palestinian envoy to Paris, Leila Shahid, was almost in tears.

“I cannot imagine life without Arafat,” she said referring to the Palestinian leader who is reported to be fighting for his life in a French military hospital.

Miss Shahid was expressing the sentiments of many Palestinians. Miss Shahid and her fellow Palestinians, however, are now obliged to use their imagination, and fast.

The Palestinians would have been better off had they imagined life without Yasser Arafat over a decade ago. At the Madrid Peace Conference of1992 , the world discovered a new Palestinian leadership. There was Haider Abdul-Shafi, a respectable patrician from Gaza, along with Faisal Al-Husseini, a statesman in the making. There were other voices of wisdom and moderation.

Covering the Madrid Conference, I was witness to the unease that the Israeli delegation, notably Prime Minister Yitzahk Shamir and his protégé Benjamin Netanyahu felt in the face of a Palestinian leadership that could not be branded “terrorist” or “extremist.”

The Palestinians who had come to Madrid were genuine. They lived in Palestine and, because of their work as teachers, lawyers and doctors were in daily contact with their people. They were not professional “liberators” living in golden exile, mixing business and politics.

They did not want the Palestinian people to kill and die so that Arab despots could silence their own people in the name of the Palestinian “cause.” They had no time for the so-called intellectuals and return-ticket revolutionaries who, for more than half a century, have been telling the Palestinians to go and get killed so that their “martyrdom” could be remembered in poems recited at tea houses and sermons made at mosques thousands of miles away.

The Weeklyl Standard? The Jersualem Post? Some Neo-Khan journal?

Try the Arab Freakin' News.


Here's the Arab News on the election results:

Undoubtedly, the Bush victory has deflated many Arab-Americans and Muslims who hoped that a change in leadership could perhaps change the perceived anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias of the US war on terror. What many people don’t realize is that after the horror of the Sept.11 , 2001, attacks on the US, the majority of Americans support a tough approach to terrorism around the globe, even if that means sometimes trampling on the civil rights of some people.

An unstable Iraq, where more than1 , 000US soldiers have been killed since the US invasion in2003 , and a US economy that’s not doing so well, were not enough to dislodge Bush from the White House.

What many foreign observers forget when they view the US is that it is quite a conservative and religious nation. Most Americans are anti-abortion, don’t support gay marriage, want fewer taxes, and are family-oriented and go to church regularly. The wildly liberal and violent image of Americans that Hollywood and US TV shows export to eager viewers worldwide is a somewhat skewed and misleading vision of the American way of life.

The only glimmer of hope that I see in the second Bush administration is that the pressure for democratic and economic reforms in the Middle East will continue, much to the consternation of all autocratic regimes in the region.

While many believe that Bush invaded Iraq just for the oil, there is growing evidence that he may have also done so to permanently improve the Middle East.

After the fact emerged that the 19 hijackers who slammed US passenger jets into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington were Arabs, many in the Bush administration realized that decades of coddling regional dictators coupled with a resurgent Islam and stagnant economies had created the monster of Al-Qaeda and its millions of supporters across the Muslim world.

Enemies of the US, who envy its success and freedoms, want it to fail in Iraq, as if it succeeds it would set an example for neighboring countries that Arab governments would find hard to resist.

A different article goes on in this direction:

Wednesday that changed, changed utterly. President Bush and his Republican army recorded a famous victory, one that may come to be seen as more than a mere election triumph — rather, a turning point in American life, a realignment.

For 12 hours that fact was obscured by the fate of Ohio, and the desperate Democratic desire to see if that pivotal state might be wrested from Republican hands. By late morning the challenger John Kerry realized it was a vain hope. This was no Florida2000 .

For George Bush had done more than rack up the requisite numbers in the electoral college. He had done what he signally failed to do four years ago, win the popular vote — and not by a sliver, but by a3 . 5million margin.

Bush had also achieved what no one had managed since his father in1988 , winning more than50 percent of the vote. But, of course, he had outdone his father, becoming a member of that surprisingly small, select club of presidents who have won two full terms.

That alone would ensure that this first decade of the21 st century would become the Bush era, just as the 1980s belonged to Ronald Reagan, and the1990 s to Bill Clinton. But there was more.

The Republicans expanded their presence in the 100-seat Senate from 51 to 55 seats, beating Democrats in almost every close contest and toppling their senate leader. They increased their majority in the House of Representatives, too. Under Bush the Republican Party has won clear control of both the legislative and executive branches of the US government — with a mandate whose legitimacy no one can doubt.

But the Republican revolution will not stop there. A subplot to this week’s drama has been playing out at the Supreme Court, where the80 -year old Chief Justice William Rehnquist has been incapacitated by thyroid cancer. Few expect him to serve for much longer, giving President Bush the chance to appoint a successor. A social conservative, such as White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, is a likely nominee.

Other vacancies on the bench are imminent. Once filled, Bush will have overturned the court’s wafer-thin moderate majority. The court could set to work unraveling a50 -year settlement that has asserted the rights of women, black Americans and, more recently, homosexuals. Opposition to affirmative action or abortion rights has, until now, been a minority position in America’s highest court. That could change. And the conservative takeover of all three branches of the American government (executive, legislative and judiciary) would be complete.

So George Bush will be no footnote to history; he is instead making it.

Those outside America, in the chanceries of Europe and beyond, who hoped that this would be a passing phase, like a Florida hurricane that wreaks havoc only to blow over, will instead have to adjust to a different reality.

For four years many hoped that the course charted by President Bush — a muscular go-it-alone view of a world divided between the forces of darkness and those of light — would prove to be a blip. Come Nov.2 ,2004 , they wanted to believe, normal service would be resumed. The United States would return to the old way of doing business, in concert with allies and with respect for the international system the US itself had done so much to create. The norms of foreign policy pursued by every president from Roosevelt to Clinton, including the first George Bush, would be revived. Sen. Kerry promised as much. Now that fantasy will be shelved. The White House is not about to ditch the approach of the last four years. Why would it? Despite the mayhem and murder in Iraq, despite the death of more than1 , 000US soldiers and countless (and uncounted) Iraqis, despite the absence of weapons of mass destruction, despite Abu Ghraib, the Bush administration won the approval of the American people. If Bush had lost the neoconservative project would have been buried forever. But he won, and the neocons will welcome that as sweet vindication.

So it will be full steam ahead. “There are real threats that have to be dealt with,” Danielle Pletka of the impeccably neocon American Enterprise Institute told the Guardian Wednesday. Iran would not go away — indeed, Ms. Pletka warned, “force might be the only option” — nor would North Korea. “We can’t all pretend that the world would be a prettier place if only George W. Bush was not the president.”

There were plenty of people around the globe who used to think precisely that way, hoping that the past four years were a bad dream which would end Wednesday. Now they have to navigate around a geopolitical landscape in which President Bush is the dominant, fixed feature.

But Wednesday ‘s victory also signaled a shift in America itself. It has been under way for several decades, but now it is revealed in all its clarity. The electoral map showed it in full color: “Blue” coasts where the Democrats won, vast “red” swaths of the Republican heartland everywhere else.

Democrats need to stare long and hard at that map and at this comprehensive defeat. Exit pollsters, who failed so dismally to predict the result, made some telling discoveries. Many Bush voters admitted their unhappiness on Iraq and confessed to great economic hardship — two issues which ordinarily would be enough to defeat an incumbent. But these voters backed Bush, because he reflected something they regarded as even more important: Their values.

Those values can be boiled down to issues — abortion, guns, gays — but they represent a larger, cultural difference. One Republican analyst asks people four questions. Do you have a friend or relative serving in the military? Do you have any personal ties to rural America? Do you attend religious services on a weekly basis? Do you own a gun? Answer yes to most or all of those, and you are “a cultural conservative” and most likely vote Republican. Answer no, and the chances are you live on the east or west coast and vote Democrat.

In 2000 this cultural split was dead-even:50 -50 America. This time it was51 - 49America, with the conservatives in the majority.

Put plainly, the US is moving steadily and solidly to the right. That poses a problem for Democrats, who have to learn to speak to the people of those red states if they are ever to hold power again. But it also poses a problem for America, which has somehow to house two radically diverging cultures in one nation. And it may even pose a problem for the rest of the world’s peoples, as they watch the sole superpower, the indispensable nation, chart a course they fear — and barely understand.

UPDATE: The Commissar has further thoughts in context of Fallujah.

Posted by Steve at November 5, 2004 02:35 PM | TrackBack

The "Red" states are NOT becoming more conservative. The opposition is becoming more radically leftist. The current leaders of the Democratic party would today HATE much for which John F. Kennedy stood.

Posted by: salomeh at November 5, 2004 05:59 PM

The articles you're citing from Arab News aren't a sudden change of direction. They've been taking this tone since the May, 2003 bombings in Riyadh, when they woke up to the reality of the threat. I've been blogging on them at Crossroads Arabia for the past few months.

Real change is taking place in the region. The Iraq war certianly helped focus attention.

Posted by: John at November 6, 2004 12:24 AM
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