Lessons of 1979: ‘Change’ you’d better believe in
From Egypt to Libya to Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan and Iran: “change” is in the air. But what kind of change?
While an exuberant White House dusts off its “CHANGE” posters and tries to plaster them on the Arab Street, more sober-minded analysts are warning that all this change could lead to a repeat of Iran in 1979.
Here is a more sobering thought: this is not 1979. In 1979, we did not have the lessons of 1979 to guide us.
In 1979, we did not yet know that when Islamists take to the streets and call for “change,” it means something far different than when Americans take to the streets and call for “change.”
In 1979, we did not know that the lure of democracy would fail to lead the Middle East to embrace our values of freedom, modernism, pluralism and women’s rights.
In 1979, we did not know that “creeping Sharia” would spread throughout Europe, or that drawing cartoons would become justification for murder (and pre-emptive self-censorship), or that 32% of British Muslims would openly declare that murdering in the name of Islam is justified.
In 1979, we did not yet know that Islam would not only become philosophically ascendant in the Western world, but also demographically ascendant; leading the chancellor of Germany to say that multiculturalism has “utterly failed,” the president of France to seek legislative means to “rein in Islam,” and causing the UK prime minister to say that “Britain needs to be less tolerant and more judgmental when faced with ideologies that threaten the country’s basic values.”
In 1979, we did not foresee the lessons of Gaza: that when democratic elections come to places like Gaza and Egypt (where 95% welcome Islamic rule, 82% back stoning women to death, and more than 90% practice female genital mutilation), people will elect governments that bring more Islamic rule to their politics, that continue the practice of stoning women to death, and that allow more than 90% of citizens to continue carving out the sex organs of their daughters.
This is not 1979. It is 2011. Today, we have the lessons of the past 32 years of “change” in the Middle East — if we care to open our eyes and learn them.
We have the lesson of Iran in 1979, which showed us that an Islamic revolution can lead to an Islamic government that sponsors Islamic terrorism around the Middle East and seeks to exterminate its Jewish neighbors. We have the lesson of Iran today, which shows us that, when America fails to embrace its power, the Arab world sees it as weakness and it emboldens tyrants like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to fearlessly declare “there was a time where no one dared to make one negative comment against the very existence of America, but today, the Islamic Republic has managed to defy America from within, and there is nothing they can do about it.”
Thirty-two years after 1979, we have the lessons of Osama bin Laden, who told us that America’s perceived weakness after the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole emboldened him to bring down the Twin Towers, and we have his clear definition of the Arab Street’s view of power and weakness:
“When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” — Osama bin Laden, videotape claiming responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, December 13, 2001
The opposite of the “strong horse” view of power is a belief system I call “Underdogma.” Underdogma is the reflexive belief that, in any given issue, whichever side has less power is automatically considered righteous, simply because they have less power, and whichever side has more power is automatically considered wrong, simply because they have more power.
Put simply: Underdogma champions the “weak horse” and demonizes the “strong horse.”
When this White House looks at protesters in the Arab Street, it looks at them through the prism of Underdogma: the reflexive belief that the “little guy” in the streets — the underdog — is automatically virtuous, by virtue of the fact that he is raising his fist to “fight the power.” The president’s top advisor, Valerie Jarrett, revealed this warped White House view of power in 2009 when she said: “this administration has said very clearly . . . that we’re going to speak truth to power.”
That way of looking at power might work for a community organizer. But it is unbecoming for the most powerful man in the world to bow down to the Arab world and apologize for America’s power — to champion the “weak horse” while demonizing the “strong horse” — and to fail to recognize that when people in the Arab world seek power and “change,” it does not mean the same thing to them as it does to those in the West who abhor America’s national greatness.
This is not 1979. If it were 1979, the White House could be forgiven for not knowing any better.
Michael Prell is a strategist for Tea Party Patriots and author of the forthcoming book, Underdogma: How America’s Enemies Use Our Love for the Underdog to Trash American Power.