by Caroline B. Glick
Harsh rhetoric aside,
What much of the West doesn't grasp about the Arab world
Abdullah's criticism of Netanyahu dominated the news in
But they were missing something. For there is another way to interpret Abdullah's complaints. To understand it however, it is necessary to consider the strategic constraints under which Abdullah operates. And the Israeli media, like the Western media as a whole, are incapable of recognizing that Abdullah has constraints that make it impossible for him to say what he means directly.
Abdullah is a Hashemite who leads a predominantly Palestinian country. His country was carved out by the British as a consolation prize for his great-grandfather after the Hashemites lost
When Abdullah's strategic predicament is borne in mind, his statements to the Journal begin to sound less like a diatribe against
Abdullah fears war and he recognizes that the Iranian axis — which includes Syria, Lebanon, and elements of the Palestinian Authority and elements of Iraq — is the biggest threat to his regime.
Abdullah's preoccupation with
The reason that Israel's media — like the American and European media — failed to consider what was motivating Abdullah to speak as he did is because both Israelis and Westerners suffer from an acute narcissism that prevents them from noticing anything but themselves. So rather than view events from Abdullah's perspective and consider what might be motivating him to speak, they interpret his statements to serve their own ideological purposes. In the case of the leftist dominated media, Abdullah's statements were pounced upon as further proof that
Much of what the West misses about the Arab world is spelled out for us in a new and masterful book. The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations by Lee Smith, is a unique and vital addition to the current debate on the Middle East because rather than interpret the Arabs through the ideological lenses of the West, Smith describes them, their cultural and political motivations as the Arabs — in all their ethnic, religious, ideological, national and tribal variations — themselves perceive these things.
Smith, a native New Yorker, was the literary editor of The Village Voice when Arab hijackers brought down the
The Strong Horse speaks to two Western audiences, the Left, or the self-proclaimed "realists," who ascribe to the belief that the Arabs have no particular interests but are rather all motivated to act by external forces and specifically by the
Smith rejects both these notions out of hand. Instead, by recounting the stories of men and women he met during his sojourn in the region, and weaving them into the tales of Arab cultural, religious and political leaders that have risen and fallen since the dawn of Islam 1,400 years ago Smith presents a few basic understandings of the Arab world that place the actions of everyone from Osama bin Laden to Jordan's King Abdullah in regional and local contexts. The localization of these understandings in turn opens up a whole new set of options for Westerners and particularly for Israelis in seeking ways to contend with the region's pathologies that involve policies less sweeping than grand, yet futile designs of peace making, or fundamental restructuring of the social compacts of Arab societies.
Smith develops six central insights in his book.
Arab political history is a history of the powerful ruling the weak through violence.
Islamic terror and governmental tyranny are the two sides of the coin of Arab political pathology.
Liberal democratic principles are unattractive to the vast majority of Arabs who believe that politics is and by rights ought to remain a violent enterprise and prefer the narrative of resistance to the narrative of liberty.
Liberal Arab reformers are unwilling to fight for their principles.
The 1,400 year period of Sunni dominance over non-Sunni minorities is now threatened seriously for the first time by the Iranian-controlled Shiite alliance which includes
And finally, that it is intra-Arab rivalries and the desire to rule and be recognized as the strong horse that motivates jihadists to wage continuous wars against
As Smith explains, today, Arab leaders view
When seen against the backdrop of Smith's analysis, it is clear that as his father did when he supported Saddam Hussein against
The recognition that a strong
Smith was living in
Unfortunately for them, Olmert and his government were incompetent to lead
No doubt, in part as a consequence of their disappointment with
For too long,
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.