The Saudi-based Arab News is a revealing thermometer of opinion currents in the region. A year ago it was a major source of material from Charles at LGF, with its diatribes from David Duke and other emblems of the Arab world's persecution/hate complex on vivid display. I tangled with their editor myself, and it was pretty clear where they stood: part of the problem, not part of the solution.
What a difference a war makes. Ever since Saddam's fall, the Arab News has been publishing material that wouldn't look out of place in National Review. The recent bombings in Riyadh intensified that new trend. Suddenly, Arab News talking about terrorism, freedom, and Arab delusions in a serious way. If this keeps up Mr. Bradley may actually live up to his claim, risible at the time, that he moved to Saudi Arabia for an opportunity to do a kind of journalism he couldn't do in Britain (um, the really well-paying kind?). Note the conditional 'if', and it's also true that his paper is mostly read by foreigners rather than Saudis. Whether its commitment and influence turn out to be real remains to be seen.
Still, Salon's interview with an Arab News editor is worth the day pass requirement. I suspect this new resolve is about as firm as, well, the Iraqi army's, but every little bit helps. Nor is Arab News alone in finally asking these questions. Self-criticism opposed to delusion and hatred is still a minority voice, but it looks like Osama's people may be starting to revise their horse-handicapping.
Hayba has its privileges. Score one for the Great Neoconservative Domino Theory.
UPDATES: There are positive indications elsewhere too - but is the Arab News' new boldness a sham? Charles Johnson and I exchange views.
#1: It would appear that this trend reaches beyond the Arab media. Interesting, though this could also be a shift to a "buy time, wait the Americans out and hope" strategy instead. (Hat Tip: Instapundit)
#2: Meanwhile, LGF's Charles Johnson responds re: the Arab News...
"I just read it, and I have to tell you that my cynicism about the Arab News and their supposed "change of heart" is utterly without bounds. If you look around a bit more in the same Arab News issues that contain these "mea culpa, we must change, woe is us" articles, you will find the same hatred, the same denials, the same antisemitism.In point of fact, I agree with large portions of Charles' reply. The key test is whether similar articles are still running 6, 12, 18 months from now, and endless cynicism is an appropriate and even wise response to the Saudis. Nor do I expect a complete shift. To use a local example, if the New York Times suddenly hired some conservative columnists, it wouldn't cancel out the presence of Maureen Dowd or Editor Howell Raines' bias but it would still be a change worth noticing.
It's a sham, a charade, a lie, just like Abu Mazen and the "roadmap." They're playing us for fools, making a big show of repentance. The Friday before the Riyadh bombings, the sheikhs were screaming for our deaths in the mosques of Mecca and Medina, and I have no doubt they were doing it last Friday too. The only difference is that they didn't broadcast it on Saudi TV, because they were in ass-covering mode.
Sorry if this sounds harsh, but I just can't do the "oh, maybe there's hope for them after all!" thing any more."
What I'm looking for here is not an internal revolution, but a wedge. The Muslim world has had a history of intellectual movements asking very similar questions to the ones noted above, going back to the 1600s and picking up special force in the 1800s. While it's important to remember that these movements have not succeeded in fostering much internally-driven reform in Muslim societies, they have made inroads to the extent that outside powers have been perceived as strong in the region and supportive of these views.
The bad news is that those windows have been all too rare. The good news is that we may be in one now. To the extent that reformers can make their views part of the debate and we maintain a policy of "change or else," I believe it represents a real opportunity. Which is why I say that every little bit helps. Publicizing different views and sharp questions makes it that little bit easier to defund the Wahabbis, seperate them from their bases of influence, and so achieve one of the Top 3 aims of this war. It also has potential ripple effects in places like Iran and Iraq.
"Kind words and a gun get you more than just kind words," goes the saying. It's certainly true in this case, and I'd add the addendum that it also gets one more than just a gun will.
#3: The Wall Street Journal Best of the Web points to some more articles, and discusses similar pieces now appearing elsewhere. Sincere or not, this stuff is GREAT debating ammunition for future reference and quotation.
#4: Donald Sensing mirrors my point quite nicely. One more time: hayba has its privileges.