Once upon a time, I thought the neoconservative right was sincere in its dedication to democracy-promotion. Then I came to the view that they were cynically lying. But then I started to come back around on this point, especially after I started living in Washington and gaining the ability to soak up a bit more of the atmosphere. They seem to be genuinely confused
Give this Cliff May post
a read. He's writing about yesterday's op-ed
from Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a well-known Egyptian democracy activist and writing who's quite widely admired in DC circles across the board. Ibrahim's op-ed expresses what would can only call the Arab conventional wisdom -- Israel is primarily to blame for the problems in which it finds itself enmeshed, the war in Iraq was primarily designed to bolster American regional hegemony, and thanks to the unpopularity of US policy, democratic movements in the Middle East are likely to be hostile to the United States. So far so good.
May reads the op-ed, however, and reaches the conclusion that this is a data point in favor of the proposition that "fostering freedom and democracy in the Middle East" may be impossible, "akin to trying to establish orange groves in Siberia."
But how so? Why? It only makes sense if you assume a perfect congruence between the idea of democracy and support for US-Israeli regional security priorities. May doesn't say that Ibrahim's hostility to these priorities makes him doubt the desirability
of fostering democracy, which would be a coherent conclusion, he says it makes him doubt the possibility
of doing so. It's a perfect storm of confusion.
At any rate, while it's not strictly relevant let me also state for the record that while I've actually seen an orange grove not in Siberia, but in Iceland. What they do is construct greenhouses on top of geothermal vents. Foolishly, I failed to take a photo of the oranges growing but here's tropical flowers
. This was the photo I took of small Icelandic oranges
sitting in the supermarket before I saw the greenhouse. The whole "let's grow citrus fruit on a sub-arctic volcanic island" plan is a result of what I would characterize as the world's craziest agriculture policy. Point being -- I'm fairly certain you could grow oranges in Siberia if you really wanted to, but I don't think it would be advisable