Marc Lynch (Abu Aardvark) has a post up that captures the nub of a problem I’ve been chewing on for a while. Note that I don’t necessarily agree with Marc – but that it’s a problem well worth thinking through.
In a nutshell, if we believe that freedom and some form of a democratic / representative government are the keys to dismantling the more violent and hard-to-live-alongside versions of Islamism – how do we deal with the problem that in free elections in much of the Muslim world today, the Islamists – the hard-to-live-alongside ones – would be likely to win?
And what do we do then? Lynch says:
This selective outrage, where Westerners care about one anti-Islamist blogger but can’t be bothered about equally arbitrary and illiberal repression of hundreds of Islamists, only reinforces general skepticism that this isn’t really about freedom, human rights, or democracy. It’s just like the American focus on the release of jailed liberal politician Ayman Nour as a litmus test for the Egyptian regime (one which it continues to fail, by the way, without seeming to suffer the slightest penalty). I can not exaggerate how many times I hear from Arabs and Muslims that America’s campaign against Hamas after it won fair elections and its blind eye to Mubarak’s campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood proves once and for all the fundamental hypocrisy of its democracy talk. I am not criticizing anyone for rallying to Nabeel’s or Nour’s defense. They should. But they should also see this as part of a comprehensive regime crackdown on Egyptian political opposition, with the attack on the Muslim Brotherhood the leading edge of the regime’s anti-democratic backlash. People who claim to care about Egyptian reform, democratization, and human rights should take a slightly wider view of the problem than the travails of one anti-Islamist blogger or one liberal politician.
I’ll discuss this more when I get some time tonight…but the conundrum presented here is a serious one. If we believe we can avoid conflict by doing the right thing, and doing the right thing means handing power to people who are determined to have a conflict with us…there’s a good chance we’ve got issues with the way we’re formulating the problem.