UPDATE: For all of you who fail to see how my cunning plan will work:
It's like the underpants gnomes.
1. Meet moderate Muslims
3. World Peace
See, just like that.
Interesting things are happening in Tunisia, Egypt and many other segments of the Arab Street. The question is who are the people doing these things, shrugging off dictators, acting like they have a right to control their own destinies? And also why are they doing them and what do they want. There really isn't a unifying thread yet, but the nice thing is that there is no Islamist flag flying over the events. There are certainly some elements in both countries and elsewhere who are trying to use the unrest to promote an Islamist agenda, but it is certainly not the main driving factor. So what is?
There are plenty of folks dismissing these protesters or worried that they will be infiltrated by religious extremists. That is a valid concern, but I think we need to look at the opportunity as well. There is a piece in the NY Times that discusses the make up and motivations of these folks.
For the first time in a generation, it is not religion, nor the adventures of a single leader, nor wars with Israel that have energized the region. Across Egypt and the Middle East, a somewhat nostalgic notion of a common Arab identity, intersecting with a visceral sense of what amounts to a decent life, is driving protests that have bound the region in a sense of a shared destiny.
“The experience of Tunisia will remain the guiding light for Egypt and may be so for people in Yemen, Sudan and the rest of the Arab world looking for change, with a readiness to accept risk, especially given that even the worst possibilities are better than the status quo,” Talal Salman, the editor of Al Safir, wrote on Friday.
A chant in Egypt put it more bluntly, playing on the longstanding chants of Islamists that “Islam is the solution.” “Tunisia,” they shouted, “is the solution.”
"Tunisia is the solution", not quite the Taliban on the loose, is it? Could these be the moderate Muslims we have been failing to find for so long? They know that they have been passed by as the rest of the modern world prospered. They are not calling for public executions in soccer stadiums, they want decent public policies. These extremists want to live their lives without corruption and tyranny keeping them poor and docile. Of course there will be some religious zealots in their midst, but shouldn't that be all the more reason for us to actively engage with these folks. Someone has to give them the reality after the haters try to indoctrinate them. Shouldn't we be there with satellite tv and iPads and apps that beat government censors. Our message of Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness beats Mr. GrouchyBeard Imam putting Egyptian girls in potato sacks. Let's get in the game with the young people in the Middle East and offer them a chance to get out of the Middle Ages. Globalism is fun, they oughta try it.