by Barry Rubin
Simultaneously, in some far-flung places in the world, several smart people have come up with a horrifying conclusion: radicals are being systematically mainstreamed, real moderates are being declared extremists.
For example, the two semi-official lobbyists for Hamas and Hizballah—Alistair Crooke and Mark Perry—and the biggest defenders of the Ahmadinejad regime in
When Hussein Fadlallah, who might be called Hizballah's founding spiritual guide, died recently, CNN's chief editor for Arab affairs gushed in all a twitter that she had enormous respect for him while the BBC leaned backwards to sanitize his record.
It sounds better to say someone was an implacable foe of Israel or the United States than that he made virulently antisemitic statements and endorsed numerous terrorist attacks against Americans in which more than 240 U.S. servicemen were killed in Beirut. You see, if people knew this sort of thing they might not like him, or Hizballah.
Mainstreaming may seem to be a great solution but it is the gateway to a much worse situation. For example, General David Petraeus declared on taking command in
Nor can they solve
But perhaps here, too, the trick is the concept of the moderate Taliban purveyed by some high-ranking
There is a whole industry in declaring people moderate nowadays.
Arab liberal reformers, the real moderates, are also being ignored. These people live in fear that revolutionary Islamists will (or already have) take over
The number-one best-selling novel in America today is The Overton Window by the controversial talk-show host Glenn Beck. I don't know anything about the novel itself but the title is based on a brilliant idea invented by a researcher named Joe Overton.
The idea is that at any given time there is an acceptable area of ideas and debate, with things too extreme (often too far left or right) being excluded. Overton's point was that a skillful politician can move the window. In recent years, the window has been pulled sharply to the left.
There is a very conscious effort to continue this process. In the case of the Middle East, the idea would be that Hamas, Hizballah, revolutionary Islamists, and
One of the features is that the window-changers, as one of my friends put it, "know what they are against even if they don't know why. Perhaps they don't care why."
Such a person is New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. After condemning the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip as just plain wrong because it was so effective that it made people suffer, after visiting Gaza Kristof did a 180-term and now he writes:
"Visiting Gaza persuaded me, to my surprise, that Israel is correct when it denies that there is any full-fledged humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The tunnels have so undermined the Israeli blockade that shops are filled and daily life is considerably easier than when I last visited here two years ago."
In other words, he was against it because he thought it was effective but now that he thinks it isn't effective…he's still against it. I could easily explain to Kristof why
When then Senator Barack Obama visited
See? Evidence changes, dislikes stay the same. Radicals become moderate; moderates become radical.
Or as that great political analyst Lewis Carroll put it in
"`Are they in the prisoner's handwriting?' asked another of the jurymen.
"`No, they're not,' said the White Rabbit, `and that's the queerest thing about it.' (The jury all looked puzzled.)
"`He must have imitated somebody else's hand,' said the King. (The jury all brightened up again.)
"`Please your Majesty,' said the Knave, `I didn't write it, and they can't prove I did: there's no name signed at the end.'
"`If you didn't sign it,' said the King, `that only makes the matter worse. You MUST have meant some mischief, or else you'd have signed your name like an honest man.'…
"`That PROVES his guilt,' said the Queen.
"`It proves nothing of the sort!' said
Right on, Alice! The trouble is that if you open the Overton window too wide logic leaps out of the house and a lot of horrors fly in.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.