Christiaan van der Valk posted a thoughtful item about mutual respect and the Arab world on the GLT list.
quoted with permissionChristiaan van der ValkIt goes without saying that Iraq and its people need all the help they can get short term.
Seeing US soldiers paint a message for Saddam on a missile saying "9/11" was a sad confirmation of US public opinion of the reason for this war. While of course inspired by a fear only those in combat have a right to judge, seeing troops cheer as missiles are fired off (a commander explains: "they know the devastation these things bring") was as revolting as seeing people in the Muslim world celebrate after 9/11. I am sure the US and UK are serious about bringing peace and stability to the region (albeit certainly without a sufficient understanding of what the region really wants) but a little PR briefing of the troops would have helped. I did some introspection this weekend and concluded that I, too, as probably most Westerners, have a level of sub-conscious fear and resentment against the Arab world -- as much as rationally I would like things to be different, I could not conclude otherwise. Why? Because apparently some primitive part of my brain says "they hate us" and "they threaten our way of life". Even if one has been educated (as I think I have) to always question such feelings and try to understand them and counter them through rationalization, it does not take a lot for these these feelings to take the upper hand. I am pretty sure most people in the Arab world have not been sensitized to signal and deal with such dangerous emotions -- in many cases rather the opposite. Try to imagine against that background how this war and its preparation feel. There is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of people in the Arab and Muslim world are convinced the West hates them. And as much as Bush and all of us are sure we're doing all the right things to inspire confidence, we haven't began to do what is needed to get there. It is this mindset we're up against. You can pump a hundred billion into post-war Iraq, if you do not address this basic issue it will not be interpreted as positive. We have to learn mutual respect and we have to accept compromise. Showing decency in every aspect of this war, which is now a fact of life, must be a first step.