Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Going with the flow throughout the Umma

There is a lot of compressed wisdom in this observation by Phillip Zelikow in today's FT:
...the principal focus of attention [in Islamic countries] is back on choices to be made closer to home. The streams of Arab and Muslim political life are flowing down some new channels. More productive issues are on the agenda than those of the 1990s, when inchoate resentments displaced hatred on to what al-Qaeda called the “far enemy” in America, because the problems at home seemed so impervious to change.

We are not the story any more, unless we make ourselves the story.  The Afghans seem to be itching to patch up their own differences in their own way.  Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans, Syrians, Yemenis, Bahrainis -- all, in their way, have echoed Iranian protesters in 2009-10: "Not Gaza, not Lebanon. I die only for Iran."  That is, let's tend our own garden. Our job is to do no harm, and help where we can. Easier said than done, I know...and a mantra providing only limited help in a maze of devilishly difficult decisions.

Zelikow, btw, has written at least three very interesting FT columns in recent weeks. I get the impression he's got something of an administration pipeline. He forecast the enhanced no-fly zone in Libya, for one thing. It is interesting that in his byline he identifies himself only as a professor at UVA and executive director of the 9/11 commission. I look forward to him weighing in on the revived torture debate, since he provided a key endorsement of the bona fides of FBI master anti-torture interrogator Ali Soufan.  He is on the short list for a Wolf Munch Rock award, so stay tuned.

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