Guilty as charged

Please don’t miss this piece by Reuel Marc Gerecht in the Weekly Standard. Gerecht heaps well-deserved ridicule on the notion that the events at Abu Ghraib prison will have any appreciable effect on whether democracy takes root in the Middle East, or on how the U.S. ultimately fares in Iraq. Democracy in that region is in the interests of some and contrary to the interests of others. So too with the American intervention. It takes a high quotient of narcissism (or its cousin, modern liberalism) to believe that the kinky behavior of a few Americans will cause middle easterners to alter how they perceive their interests or the extent to which their interests dictate their conduct. Thus, as Gerecht puts it, “the Abu Ghraib affair hasn’t hurt at all the cause of democracy in the greater Middle East, so long as the United States doesn’t believe it has. For most Muslims, the affair really doesn’t matter politically. It’s the Americans who are the weak link. Unfortunately, much of our view of the Muslim Middle East is shaped by our own profound. . . liberal guilt.”
Gerecht adds that this guilt is “understandable and in other circumstances often commendable.” But here he is too charitable. The view that the frolic at Abu Ghraib has converted our endeavors in Iraq into something legitimately to be “feared and avoided” (as Shibley Telhami and others have claimed) betrays such profound doubt about the virtuousness of our people and our way of life as to be rooted more in self-hatred than in ordinary guilt.

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