Charlie Kurzman is our guest tonight. Got questions? Drop off here or email them to me.
Five main points
All of this is my personal interpretation of what Charlie is saying. Typing fast.
This Arab spring business is a giant surprise. This kind of movement is inherently unpredictable. Revolutions are inherently unpredictable. Suddenly the thing that is unthinkable become thinkable. An unknown person in an unknown town in Tunisia self-immolated. And then it began.
There is, however, precedent. This is not the first time we have had anti-authoritarian resistance in the Middle East. One hundred years ago it happened, including in Egypt (1909).
Liberal Islam is a major movement. This movement has gotten stronger in recent years, and has attracted grass roots support in many countries. This is a pro-democracy movement, though there are some fundamental differences as it relates to rights (women, sexuality, etc., socially conservative and politically liberal). Sort of like here in North Carolina with our own Tarheel Taliban (my editorial comment).
There is a fear of the rise of terrorism, a fear that is wildly exaggerated compared to the number of people actually killed by terrorism. If you take out three countries having civil wars, you discover that the level of terrorism today is less than it was in 2001. Terrorism is not and has never been a leading cause of death. The specter of a 9/11 aftermath never materialized. Support for terrorism in the Middle East goes down after a terrorist act.
This is not about the United States. We are not the center of the universe. Arab spring is populist, triggered by local and regional cues. Our only possible strategy is to try to keep up. We have no idea what is really going to happen next. More to the point, there is no way we could know.