Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Note on Sandmonkey and the Problem of Frank Discussion

By Barry Rubin

"Sam Sandmonkey" has written me asking if I was accusing him of being "anti-Israel" or a Muslim Brotherhood supporter. Absolutely not on both counts. I analyzed what he wrote in the context of praising him highly for his courage and moderation. If he or anyone else got that idea from what I wrote, I'm baffled and such ideas never crossed my mind.

I have re-read my article and believe that nothing in it shows any such conclusions. Let me make clear that I have closely followed the pro-democratic liberals in different Arabic-speaking countries and Iran. My book, The Long War for Freedom, is a tribute to their efforts and an analysis of the problems they face. We are talking here of people who have faced arrests, torture, and all sorts of harassment in pursuit of a better life for themselves and their people.

My point was rather on the very real objective problems that affect moderate Egyptians who know that others who may not be so moderate could gain power in the future. Again, nothing in my article was meant as a criticism of someone for whom I have the greatest respect.

PS: He has written that he has re-read my article and understands it was not an attack on him.

Let us all be clear that if Egypt achieves a stable democratic and moderate state in which the government works hard and at a high priority to improve the lives of its people then everyone will benefit. There are concerns that this won't happen. How can one best assure that Egypt does succeed? By honestly pointing out the problems and pitfalls in order that people can try to avoid them.

There is a wider problem here in which people seem to believe that NOT discussing problems is somehow beneficial. It is argued, for example, that it is better not to talk about the radical aspects of Islam in politics lest people become bigoted against Muslims. Or that it is better not to highlight the extremism and threat of Iran lest this lead to (incredibly unlikely) an American attack on Iran. Or it is better to shut up about the realities of Palestinian politics lest this damage the chance (already seriously damaged by reality) of achieving peace.

Self-inducted blindness or self-censorship due to wishful thinking benefits no one.

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