Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Michael Young reviews Joshua Muravchik

Young writes of Muravchik’s new book:
Mr. Muravchik's group portrait helps to counter an idea that is gaining ground -- that Western governments must engage Islamists to better advance Western aims. He asks that we spare a thought for the fragile liberals who would pay a high price if international legitimacy were to shift decisively to autocratic religious parties.

Mr. Muravchik might have said more about why Western states should support liberals, in all their vulnerability. Take the Syrian dissident Ammar Abdulhamid. Audacious and articulate, Mr. Abdulhamid abandoned a life of privilege in Syria (he is the son of a famous actress) and chose exile in the U.S. so that he could give full force to his criticism of the Assad regime. Yet like many of those described by Mr. Muravchik, he has committed himself to a liberal ideal, and sacrificed a great deal, in return for very little so far. When Western governments revert to so-called reasons of state -- where "realism" and supposed self-interest often triumphs -- Middle Eastern liberals become a vanguard easily discarded.

The Middle East does not need generations of democratic practice to absorb democracy. That argument, beloved of political realists, is a convenient device for allowing the U.S. to spurn a pro-democracy agenda, which is often seen as undermining national interests. It is an argument that Mr. Muravchik convincingly dismisses. But "The Next Founders" might have itself argued more strongly that, by ignoring what liberalism there is in the region, the U.S. not only abandons a part of itself; it also makes more likely the proliferation of violent Islamists pining to take revenge against America, the too-frequent defender of their despotic tormentors.


SnoopyTheGoon said...

by ignoring what liberalism there is in the region, the U.S. isi trying to practice realpolitik. Unfortunately.

Martin said...

Thanks for the link to this, Roland - sounds a really interesting book.

Oh - and an overdue welcome to the UK, by the way.