Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Iraq Tectonics

In 1915, Alfred Wegener, a German Arctic explorer and meteorologist, published a radical new scientific theory that caused him ridicule and derision throughout the course of his life.

Only later in the 20th century, well past his death, was Wegener's theory finally accepted and taught throughout schoolrooms the world over.

Wegener never got to see his grand model of Plate Tectonics and Continental Drift be adopted as a scientific fact. But the ground is shifting under the feet of the Middle East, and we soon might be witnessing an event as earth-shattering as Wegener's hypothesis.

And I'm not referring to Michael Moore's shave and bath.

The promise of representative government is rumbling within the Middle East. The molten lava of free elections is bubbling up to the surface. And some in the region want to know why it's only in Iraq:

"It is outrageous, and amazing, that the first free and general elections in the history of the Arab nation are to take place in January: in Iraq, under the auspices of American occupation, and in Palestine, under the auspices of the Israeli occupation. "

The remaining challenge is this: Can independent and sovereign Arab countries give their peoples something better than what the occupation is giving today to Iraq and Palestine?" Al-Hayat, 11/25 (HT: Andrew Sullivan)

And the naysayers and cynics (read NYTimes editorial page) have tried their best to delay the upcoming vote on January 30, but their call for postponements on the grounds of the need for more security and the inclusion of more Sunnis in the Triangle has been exposed as a sham.

My sense is that the continental plates of Middle-Eastern dictatorships and the allure of free elections are slipping and sliding at a pace much faster than our continents. Nobody's suggesting that Damascus will become a beacon of the Enlightenment, but look from whence we start.

Can a Tehran-spring be far behind? One can dream. But at the very least these forces could focus the angry energies of the ballooning Arab-male population inwards towards reform, instead of outwards towards our skyscrapers.

Unlike Wegener, we might live long enough to see that the radicalization of Islam has been tamed by democratic forces. But I don't expect to see Michael Moore take another bath in this lifetime.