The newly released UN Arab Human Development Report appears to agree with President Bush’s analysis of the political situation in the Arab Middle East, and to support his transformational policy of freedom:
The cause of Arab freedom has suffered in the absence of effective, broad-based political movements capable of rallying people to the struggle. Popular political forces, such as the Arab nationalist and, later on, the Islamist movements, did not make comprehensive freedom their priority. […]
The modern Arab state, in the political sense, runs close to this astronomical model, whereby the executive apparatus resembles a “black hole” which converts its surrounding social environment into a setting in which nothing moves and from which nothing escapes.
Even the language of the report at times sounds eerily like the President’s. The former speaks of the “thirst among Arabs to be rid of despots,” the latter spoke of freedom as the “hunger in dark places.”
Yet the report begins with an extended tirade against Israel, and most emphatically against the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. In today’s NYT, Tom Friedman offers this comment:
But the important thing about this report is that political reform is now being put on the Arab agenda by Arabs. Yes, it’s scathing about the Western and Israeli roles in retarding Arab democratization, but it’s equally scathing about what Arabs have done to themselves and how they must change – people don’t change when you tell them they should, but when they tell themselves they must. Read this report and you’ll also understand why part of every Arab hates the U.S. invasion of Iraq – and why another part is praying that it succeeds.
The President, I suspect, is going to have to decide whether he wants the people of the Arab Middle East to do as we say, or to say as we wish.