The basics

The meeting was long and meandering. What is good for journalists? What should Arab journalists know. More technology? More technics? Rami Khouri waited and then offered his suggestions. He was visiting Cairo for a conference. He spoke about the years he has spent as an editor and a columnist in the Arab world; years of working in Amman and Beirut and elsewhere. He talked about the Arab journalist who is struggling to do a job “squeezed between Google and the muhabarat (intelligence).” What they need to learn, he suggested, is not that difficult. They need to know their craft and need to know how to make their work credible. A basic truth. For more information about him go to his site. Here is something he said recently about the Arab world:

“The Middle East has suffered so much homegrown internal tyranny and sustained external assaults that it has become a dangerous pressure cooker, given that the majority of citizens live with enormous and still growing dissatisfactions in their economic, social, ethnic, religious or national lives. If the pressure is not relieved by allowing the region and its states to define themselves and their governance values, the whole pot will explode. I suspect we are witnessing both things happening together these days.

On the one hand, Islamist, ethnic, sectarian and tribal movements grow and flourish all over the Middle East — and are aided by Iran — in a dramatic example of collective self-assertion. On the other hand, massive external pressure, led by the United States, some Europeans, Israel, and some Arab governments, fights back, hoping to keep the lid on a region trying to define itself and liberate itself from the modern legacy of Anglo-American-Israeli armies.

The pervasive incoherence of this bizarre picture makes it perfectly routine for Arab monarchies to support Salafist terrorists, for Western democracies to ignore the results of Arab free elections, for Iranians and Arabs, and Shiites and Sunnis, to work hand in hand and also fight bitter wars, for Islamist and secular Arab revolutionaries to join forces, for freedom lovers in London and Washington to support seasoned Arab autocrats and the occasional loveable tyrant, for Western and Arab rule of law advocates to sponsor militias, and for Israel and the United States to perpetuate Israeli policies that exacerbate rather than calm security threats and vulnerabilities for all in the region.

Short-term panic, medium-term confusion and long-term directionlessness have long defined policies by Americans, British, Arabs, Israelis, and Iranians alike in this region. They have only become more obvious these days, as confrontation, defiance and war in the Middle East interact to signal the end of an era and the start of a new one. This spectacle, which includes but transcends the Great Arab Unraveling, is in its very early days. Harrowing things are yet come.”


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