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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Prime Mover Immobilized

Last week the Independent ran, on its front page, a long, ruminative piece titled "Was Bush right after all?" (read it here for a pound, or get the Google cache for free).

After noting several traces of democracy in the Middle East, the author, Rupert Cornwell, writes:

How much Mr Bush is responsible for these development is debatable. The peaceful uprising in Lebanon was provoked by outrage at the assassination of the former prime minister Rafik Hariri, in which a Syrian hand is suspected, although not proven. Then the man who insisted on elections in Iraq when the US wanted to postpone or dilute them was Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani, leader of Iraq's majority Shia community. And the death from old age of Yasser Arafat, not machinations in Washington, led to the election that might break the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock.

Indubitably, however, even his most grudging domestic opponents and his harshest critics in the region admit that Mr Bush is also in part responsible.

Oh, dear! Not to worry, though. It'll probably all come out wrong in the end:

Then there is the law of unintended consequences. The maddening thing about democracy, from the viewpoints of Mr Bush and Mr Mubarak alike, is that you cannot be sure of what you will get. A Shia-dominated government will emerge in Iraq, but no one knows whether it will be secular or theocratic. What will Washington do if Islamic movements threaten repressive but reliable autocrats such as Mr Mubarak?

While the Independent deserves a golf clap for having gone this far in acknowledgment of Bush's role, it's a little ironic considering the usual media (especially lefty media) view of Bush, as Prime Mover. In that post, over two years old, I argued that there was a view abroad in the world's media of the US (and, of course, Bush) as the only real actors on the world stage. All other countries and entities are forced into reacting to Bush's actions. In that particular case, it was North Korea which broke a no-nukes agreement, but it was Bush's responsibility to do something about it. At other times (not mentioned in that post) Bush is also expected to do something about the Palestinians. Then, when they make their boneheaded response, it can be his fault for forcing them into it.

So for years now, Bush has been presented by much of the media as the only one who can actually do anything, which has always (of course!) been wrong. But now, when something he's done has turned out well, the Independent hems and haws and says well, it wasn't so much of a much.

As I say, though, they do deserve some credit for not spinning democracy in the Middle East as an absolute disaster of religion-crazed millions finally getting out from under the control of their strongmen to wreak havoc upon the globe. They only sort of hint at it a little.

By the way, the real news here may be what isn't said: the case of the dog that didn't bark in the night. The word "oil" does not appear once in Cornwell's article. Remember when it was ALL ABOUT THE OIL!? Here, we seem to have forgotten all about it. Bush's motives are presented as possibly naive and dangerous, but not sinister. The WMDs are alluded to indirectly only in one sentence (that I saw). That omission may be more significant than the lukewarm acknowledgment of Bush's role.

Independent article via The Daily Ablution.