Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Arab Spring, the West and Israel

Gubu World is a blog that was set up in 2007 in order to discus global politics with a particular emphasis on the Middle East. I could never have predicted what a momentous year for the Arab World 2011 would be. We all watched in shock as millions thwarted the authorities whose ability to control information and assembly was drastically undermined by the social networking generation. My view throughout all of last year remains the same today which is that the unrest in the region is essentially a good thing. However, given the instability that the revolutions and regime changes have caused I want to do a very important post about what it means for the region, for democracy in the Arab World, for Israeli security and western interests.

A Good Thing
The unrest is a good thing. It is a good thing for democracy and the dignity of man that the Gadaffi, Mubarak and Ben Ali regimes have been overthrown. I said many times on Gubu World last year that the era of the Arab strong man who seizes control of a nation and holds it until his death has come to an end. Of course what replaces this model will be far from a western style pluralist democracy. But what did we really expect. The alternative is likely to be a multi party system that accommodates Islamists, nationalists and democrats. It will have some successes and some failures but the Arab people deserve their shot at democracy. I for one am getting a little tired of reading posts and articles, mainly from the Pro Israeli right, about the "new Egypt" and the "new Libya" where people single out an incident of a backward Islamic practise and use it to invalidate the wider movement against the tyrants of the region.

The West
President Obama is coming under increasing criticism from some in the Republican Party for throwing the Pro Western Mubarak under the bus and jeopardising Western security in the process. Strange really when you consider that during the Bush era the general consensus was that democracy needed to be brought forcefully to the region. Now some of the same people are feeling very uneasy that the Arabs are trying to do it themselves. So what exactly are the legitimate concerns of the decision makers in Washington, London and elsewhere. Obviously the US does not want to see a new government emerge from the turmoil that is anti western and promotes terrorism. But does that give them the right to intervene in order to prevent unrest and preserve a pro western dictatorship? Let us consider the following. I have always argued that during the Cold War covert CIA action in South America to prop up right wing dictators was justifiable because the consequences of inaction potentially included nuclear war. The world survived the Cuban Missile Crisis. It might not have survived a Chilean Missile Crisis. So in my view, in extreme situations the US can and should play God. This raises the crucial question, just how vital is it for the US that Islamists are kept out of power in the Middle East. Is it vital? Yes. But is a matter of life and death for the nation? No.

Keeping the Muslim Brotherhood out of power in Egypt may not be a matter of life and death for America, but it certainly is for Israel. The lesser of two evils scenario that America faced during the Cold War is a situation that Israel finds itself in constantly. Israel seems to go through a Cuban Missile Crisis of some sort every year. But Israel alone does not have the capability to take covert preemptive action to prevent the emergence of an Islamist government. So now the question becomes, just how vital is it for American national Security that Israel be defended? Is it so important that the US should put a stop to the Arab Spring. Some clearly think it is. And after all, if you subscribe to the doctrine, as I do that if Israel falls it would embolden Islamists across the region propelling them to power in every Arab nation and that Europe would be their next target, then you must conclude that the preservation of Israel is a life or death issue for the west as well. However this conundrum must be examined from different angles. Israel is a nation of seven million people. There are 270 million Arabs living across 22 nations. A foreign policy designed to preserve dictatorship in the Arab world so that the seven million inhabitants of Israel can live in safety makes little sense. I suppose the truth is nobody really believes that the White House should have protected Mubarak, not when so much of the discourse over the past decade has been about bringing democracy to the Middle East. In truth, what I am hearing is most likely Republicans grasping at straws when it comes to criticising Obamas Foreign Policy which they will probably privately admit, has been better than expected. However if the Muslim Brotherhood do seize control in Egypt and Islamists look like coming to power in Libya this debate will develop into the most serious dilemma in US Foreign Policy in thirty years. And the question at the center of the dilemma will be, just how important is Israel to America and the west.


GW said...

I mostly agree with your post. I would say that I don't find the "pro-Israeli right" as doing anything inappropriate. There is every reason to be concerned and, indeed, you explain precisely why later in your post. Israel is not an end goal of the Islamists, its the stepping stone.

I have no problems with the Arabs getting a shot at democracy - so long as a democracy is maintained and not strangled in its grave with new Constitutional restrictions. I support one man, one vote. I fear one man, one vote, one time.

Interestingly, the experience of Iran seems to be that the majority of the population has found theocratic rule distasteful. Unfortunately for them, there is no way short of a revolution to change it. I am concerned that their experience will replay in Egypt and Libya.

Events at this point are beyond the power of the USA to exert significant influence. Yes, we can withdraw aid, but I really can't see that impacting on the zealots who have been elected.

I would note that Obama's policies as to Egypt and Libya enjoys both bipartisan criticism and bipartisan support. The situation is so muddled and so resistant to easy solution that it plays both ways on both sides of the aisle.

Perhaps the biggest sin of the U.S. was that it supported Mubarak and other middle East dictators without demanding a turn towards democracy. A strong case can be made that if secular opposition was allowed to develop robustly, the Brotherhood parties would not today be enjoying their amazing success.

It was Bush who really tried to push for this in Egypt. Unfortunately, virtually the day he came into office, Obama ended most of the Bush era democracy promotion agenda throughout the Middle East and Iran. I don't fault Obama for reacting to Egypt and Libya as he did. I do fault him severely for taking the U.S. out of promoting democracy in the Middle East. It might have made no difference, but it is impossible to say.

To answer your question, many in the U.S. do see support for Israel as life or death. It is a bulwark against the rising tide of Islamism, both literally and figuratively. Israel is a huge canary in a coal mine we all in the West inhabit. That does not mean that we have to stop the Islamists from taking power or for democracy to flourish. What it does mean is the Islamists need to know that their life span is wholly intertwined with the life span of Israel.

As to Obama's foreign policy - I suppose it could have been worse. I am highly critical of how Obama has handled Iran, not to mention the Green Revolution. And I am equally as critical of his handling of Iraq, Afghanistan and defense policy as a whole - which amount to bad, horrid and horrendous, respectively. In four years time, if Obama remains in power, the U.S. will not be the underwriter of peace in Europe, Asia or the Middle East.

builder man said...

I do not think fear is ever the right reaction.As FDR said in the '30's 'the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.'The rise of Islamic fundamentalism has more to
do with Western fears, greed and aggression than the instincts of Muslims worldwide. Just look at the
record.Afghanistan. The US sent billions of dollars to the extremist mujahadeen and marginalised the moderates. Palestine.In the 70's and 80's
Israel supported Hamas as a counter
to Fatah. Iran. In 1953 a secular
Muslim country but its leader
Mossaddegh was overthrown by an
MI5/CIA operation,who installed the brutal regime of the Shah which
increased anti-Western feelings
leading to the Islamic takeover.
Saudi Arabia has used its petrodollars from us to preach an
extreme Sunni Islam around the Middle East.Pakistan was a secular
Muslim country originally but again
we encouraged the extremists to suit our ambitions in the Cold War.
Egypt. Sadat with our assent supported Islamists in his struggle
against the left.Israel. Oppression
of Muslims can be witnessed on a
daily basis with Western ambivalence. A disastrous record
which could have its repercussions
if one of the extreme groups lays
its hands on a nuclear weapon. So
we need to use much more intelligent thinking to turn the tide. Because of my support for
Palestinian rights, I am in contact
with many Muslim people. The vast
majority are moderate but can be
trapped by governments as the other
post has suggested. If it's OK with
others, I'll make my suggestions how
to progress democracy and freedom
on a later post.

The System Works said...

The best thing to do in relation to the Arab spring/Islamist winter is keep our hands off. Promoting western-style liberal democracy, helping to topple certain despots and trying to build little Americas in the Muslim world are fool's errands. The Muslim world has no tradition of liberalism. Trying to mold Afghanistan, a devout Muslim country with 80% illiteracy, into a western enclave has failed. The attempts in Iraq have also failed.

Now, as for the cases where the Arabs are doing it by themselves, the results don't look great. Remember how often we were told that only a tiny minority of Muslims in the region are Islamists? When the success of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas (founded in the late 80's, builder man) was pointed out, we were told they were moderate Islamists, in a different league from Bin Laden entirely. Then came the Egyptian elections, with the Muslim Brotherhood coming out on top, and the even more extreme Salafists landing in second, far ahead of the nearest liberal faction!

As I wrote in a post againt intervention in Libya about why I was skeptical of a democratic future there:

"Western societies... were not built from the top-down by powers thousands of miles away. It was a process that took centuries of trade and economic advancement, consensus building, and revolutions in ideas, industry, science and the political sphere. The Muslim world remained largely retarded through most of this".

Our duty in the West is to protect our way of life from the ways of the Arab world. That means calling a halt to mass Islamic immigration, standing firmly with Israel in the face of the evil against her, and fighting the good fight in the culture war against nasty left wing/Islamic elements in out own societies.

Rob Harris said...

System Works is right on the money. In the past when people were celebrating the revolution in Tunisia and Egypt, I was skeptical of the results. I think I said similar here.

The Arab world is at a fundamental level still a feudal culture. Indeed Bush's policy was a failed one which Obama has no obligation to follow, and hasn't to any extent as far as I know. He shouldn't have thrown Mubarak to the wolves to appeal to the Islamic world. Mubarak wasn't a good guy but he was part of the lineage that brought greater stability to the region.

So many were pretending the Brotherhood weren't extreme, that it was in their past or that they wouldn't be popular come election time. Extremism is prevalent in ther Middle-East. A PEW poll last year said 83% of Egyptians believed in death for apostasy. Yet the largely leftist international media insists on calling these people moderate.

Now we have a situation where the Brothers have sworn to tear up the historic peace deal Sadat signed. They have one of the more powerful armies in the world today so its not going to be pretty. I think the Middle East is going to go through a great upheaval where extremism is unleashed as never before. I hope I'm wrong though...

builder man said...

I do not think the 'do nothing except support Israel whatever it
does' strategy advocated by TSW will work. We should start by publicly acknowledging the huge debt we in the democratic West owe
to Muslim culture and military prowess. 750,000 Muslims fought for
Britain in WW2 at a time when we and the Commonwealth (not forgetting the Irish and American
volunteers) stood alone against the
might of fascism in 1940. Our defeat would have entrenched Hitler's Europe. In the 'golden age' of Islam, the advances in
science, medicine, literature and
the arts have enhanced our modern
world. Their solutions in mathematics have led to the computer we're using now and in distillation to the dram we might
be imbibing at the same time!
Unfortunately, ultra religious
orthodoxy led to a dark age, which
with intelligent help from the
West, can be brought to an end.
Just as the Catholic Church imposed
centuries of ignorance, silenced
reason and science, imprisoned
Galileo, but was eventually
defeated by the determination of
the Anglo-Saxon/Norman mix on this
island, to assert their right to
freedom of thought. While bringing
justice to Palestine will not on
its own end Islamic Fundamentalism,
it will undoubtably be an important
weapon in that cause.

builder man said...

To The System Works. The precursor
to Hamas in Gaza was a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Same difference. They were active since the '50's and encouraged by Israel
after '67 as a counter to Fatah on
the old principle of divide and rule. What Israel failed to appreciate is that as one generation suceeds another and there is no hope of change, when
things get worse, then militancy

Ted Leddy said...


Thank You for your articulate comment.

My jab at the "pro Israeli right" was motivated by my annoyance at the eagerness of some to highlight any example of post revolutionary extremism (such as anti Israeli sentiment) in Libya and Egypt as if this somehow demonstrates that the unrest was a bad thing in the first place.

I have always believed that the Iranian model of democracy is actually not that bad and that it could work in other countries, especially if the link with the council of guardians is severed. The problem in Iran is that the system is accompanied by extreme hostility to the west.

You are correct when you say that the US is not in control of this situation. The US will inevitably have to adopt to a large extent a wait and see approach when it comes to the Arab spring.

Your analysis of the Democratic and Republican response to the Arab Spring is spot on. Nobody saw it coming and as a result many ideologues are confused as to what their position on it should be. The same could be said about the far left, and Islamists. At times it is actually quite funny to watch how confused some people are.

I agree Obamas Foreign Policy has had mixed results. I look forward to debating them with you between now and November.

Ted Leddy said...

Builder Man

Thanks for your comment and thank you also for your recent contributions to Gubu World.

The cases you mentioned of US support for the Mujaheddin in the 1980's and the CIA'a overthrow of Mossadeq in 1953 are arguments that are often cited as examples of irresponsible US Foreign Policy that resulted in negative blowback. They are mostly true but they are usually spun in a certain way.

For example, two of histories greatest monsters were Mao and Stalin yet we in the west armed and supported them from 1941 to 1945. I have never heard anybody on the left question those policies.

The truth is terrorism and hatred of the west is not caused by any of these historical injustices. It is not Israel's fault that there is no democracy in Sudan or that there is hatred of the west in Pakistan. The Arab Muslim world has been historically slow to embrace democracy. That is putting it very mildly. The hatred that extremists have toward the west and Israel is not in my view motivated by a desire to right a historical wrong but mostly by a deep rooted anti semitism and rejection of modernity.

The System Works said...

builder man: The way you bring up World War II in this matter is nonsense. White South Africans and Serbs helped the Allies during the war and we turned against them. Not to mention the Stalinists. In fact, tens of thousands of Jews in the British Mandate fought at all levels of the British armed forces, including in the Battle of Britain itself. This was encouraged by Ben Gurion even after the infamous White Paper that condemned countless Jews to death.

Many myths surround the Islamic Golden Age and it can be over-hyped. For one, the original Islamic Caliphate conquered much of the world's already existing areas of knowledge, such as the Byzantine Empire, and siphoned that talent. When it was exhausted, the Islamic world stagnated and never recovered. For instance, the land of Egypt at the time of the Islamic conquest could sustain 30 million people. By 1700, the population was under 3 million. Arab Muslims practically invented apartheid as we know it today, and some innovations in mathematics attributed to them actually came from India and were transferred to Christendom via the Muslim world.

builder man said...

To Ted Leddy. Thank you for your kind words. In 1941-45 we were engaged, almost to our extinction as
a nation, in a World War where your
friend is the enemy of your enemy, so I think that is excusable. Later
though a SOCIALIST gov. here supported the US and the UN against
N. Korea/China that kept S. Korea
free.Also the same Socialist gov.
massively supported the air lift to
Berlin against Stalin to keep that
city free. I think that Islamic
extremism has burgeoned for a number of reasons but the actions of the West have certainly not
helped. It's true that Arab culture
has been slow to emerge from its tribal roots (you could of course
say the same of N.Ireland, and of
some areas of Africa)but a new
generation, in contact with the best ideas from the West, is keen
to adopt them and is not suffused
with anti-Semitism. Nor, I believe,
in general, from those I've met,
are the older generation. Extremism
is best countered with knowledge
and if we use that weapon instead
of others, we are more likely to be

Rob harris said...

Builderman states: "It's true that Arab culture has been slow to emerge from its tribal roots (you could of course say the same of N.Ireland, and of some areas of Africa)"

That point demonstrates a poor understanding of Northern Ireland. It has little to do with tribalism. It was and is a fairly modern sectarian conflict (arguably dated post the Cromwell atrocities of 1649) that had and has a primarily cultural element. The quasi-religious dimension has faded into a near-irrelevance. The same divisions manifested themselves across the UK, especially in Scotland where again English interventions took place.

builder man said...

To TSW. You are right that I did not mention the contribution of the Free French,Poles,Czechs,Argentines and Jews etc.because they were obviously a minor (though important
of course) component in 1940.My main point was about the massive contribution of Muslims to the cause. In 1940 S. Africa was part of
the Commonwealth.If the white population there had used a bit of
intelligence, then maybe they could
have had a power sharing arrangement with the ANC as a transition to a full democracy and
avoided the disastrous gov. they
have now. Israel is making the same
mistakes now in its dealings with the Palestinians.The Jewish Brigade was not formed until 1944.
Before then the Jews from Palestine
fought in the Palestine Regiment
where one third were Palestinians,
mostly Arab.

builder man said...

To Rob Harris.You are a bit out of date mate.The modern definition of tribalism is 'the possession of a strong cultural or ethnic identity that seperates one member of a group from the members of another
group.'Catholics and Protestants
killed each other purely because they were Protestants and Catholics. I did live for 10 years in

builder man said...

To TSW. Islamic Golden Age from Wiki. c.750-1258. Philosophers, scientists and engineers of the Islamic world contributed enormously to technology and culture, both by preserving earlier
traditions and by adding their own
inventions and innovations.Scientific and intellectual achievements blossomed
in the Golden Age.(and then came the
bloody mullahs!)Of course human
knowledge is a continueum of past
discoveries but the 'golden age'
was exceptional in two respects.
They ensured that the knowledge of
the past was preserved and passed
on. They enshrined the value of
experiment and thereby ensuring
human progress. Their list of achievements is far too long to
fit into 1000 posts but here are a
few.Hydrochloric, Nitric, Acetic, Citric,Sulfuric acid substances
discovered.Processes of distillation and crystallization
discovered.Chemicals created to dissolve gold. Early classification
of elements.Discovery of ethanol.The flywheel, suction pump,
valve and reciprocating engine
advanced in use.Segmental gears likewise.Advances in the steam turbine. The first hospitals and mental hospitals established.
Identification of smallpox. Over 200 surgical tools introduced.The
explanation of sight by Ibn al-Haitham. Advances in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, astronomy.
Let's hope the dark age is over and
a new 'golden age' will emerge.

Ted Leddy said...


I largely agree with your comment. I am probably being naive but like to think that when the citizens of Gaza and Egypt vote for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood it is not nesecarily an endorsement of their most radical policies.

It reminds me of when Bobby Sands was elected as an MP for Co Fermanagh. Unionist leaders at the time declared that the fact that the Catholic electorate had voted for an IRA man, that this indicated the people held their protestant neighbours with the same contempt as the terrorists. This turned out to be far from the case.

To get back on point I think there are few instances when it is clear that intervention is required. All things considered I think Libya was such a case. Inaction would have been much worse for the people of Libya and for European interests.

Ted Leddy said...


I agree with much of your comment.

I don't believe that Obama "threw Mubarak to the wolves". As GW says, the US simply was not in control of the situation. I think if he had of intervened to keep Mubarak in power then it would have been highly dangerous. The fall of Mubarak is also dangerous for the US because we know not what will follow. It is why I believe a wait and see approach usually is the best option.

My only disagreement with your last point is that if the brotherhood do get into power it could very well mean civil war. I highly doubt that they will gain control of the army on the day they enter office, as happens in a democracy. So I can't see a situation where the brotherhood controlled regular Egyptian Army would be going to war with Israel after the Treaty has been torn up.

Rob Harris said...

To Builderman, I understand there is both a tight definition of tribalism relating to tribes, and also a broader definition relating to an “us and them” group phenomenon. However, you clearly appeared to be referring to the former because you cited both African and Arabic tribalism which you then associated with the “Norf” [sic]. Both of those societies continue to have tight tribal and familial traditions quite unlike that found in the Western world today. Neither did Catholics and Protestants kill each other purely because they were Protestants and Catholics”. Religion was a strong element of the conflict but it was far and away more complex than that. You lived in Ireland for ten years. Being Irish I have lived here a good deal longer and am the product of a mixture of the above heritage well before Catholics were allowed attend Trinity College. For a start Anglican Protestantism was used as a method of control in Ireland, in which a ruling landlord class was effectively installed, whilst Presbyterianism was quite the opposite. This led a coalition with the revolt of other Protestants and Catholics in 1798 to seek Irish independence.

Rob Harris said...

Hi Ted,

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I agree with much of your post but where we differ is that I feel Obama’s policy is a weak potentially failed one, rather than a catastrophically failed policy as with Bush II. There is some flexability and a balance to be had between intervention and non-intervention. Being low key is one thing but Obama seems to favour timidity. It’s an issue and now, as a very senior member of the PA stated last Summer, they have far less influence then they had. I don’t think the Brotherhood gaining control of Egypt will lead to civil war because they seem to have major support amongst the populace with the even more extreme Salifists gaining a substantial part of the vote too. Unfortunately the less religious more humanistic side took a drubbing. Would the army be against war with Israel? Perhaps but I sense more for strategic reasons than because they are moderates. IIRC the administration of which the army was an element, did nothing to stop the sacking of the Israeli Embassy last September.

I would have been against intervention by the US in Egypt as you would. It would be bad for the US itself which can’t be expected to act as the world’s policeman, and invading Egypt, which is arguably seen as a core power of the Islamic world or at least the Middle-East, would have been disasterous. My beef with Obama was that he could have at least initially given some international support to Mubarak before it got major. The US gave Egypt a great deal of weaponry over the years, and have become one of the more powerful forces in the world. In the hands of extremists such power could potentially be disasterous, and a troubling prospect if in the hands of Hamas’ spiritual forefathers!

builder man said...

To Rob Harris.Tribal or Sectarian? It just depends how long it takes to become tribal.500 years seems long enough to me and a REAL Irishman, John McAnulty agrees.Where endogamy is the norm, then that is tribal.If
the conflict is not about violence
between any Catholic and any Protestant then what are all the peace walls for? The tribalism may have a limited geography but that is
the nature of the beast.Trying to
split hairs on these divisions does
not accord with reality. They both
have in common extreme separate
identities often expressed as
bigotry and hatred.

Rob Harris said...

Builderman, I suggest you familiarise yourself with the differing definitions of tribalism and sectarianism. Its as per the course with your typical obfuscation to suggest that endogamy leads to tribalism. Clearly marriage has throughout the world been closely associated with one's religion until recently. However, you clearly associated the conflict in Ireland with the same sort of tribalism as found in Africa and the Arab world. Leading from your endogamy argument, that would make every largely mono-religious society would be tribal in nature which is a nonsense. If it were then Dear Old Blighty would have the same features you seek to project on Northern Ireland.

By citing a “REAL Irishman” you’re obviously suggesting I’m not a “REAL Irishman”. That’s an extremely cheeky response to say the least after you deigned to tell me about Irish history because you lived here for an awe inspiring ten years lol. You probably dug up this chap “John McAnulty” during a search on the Internet. Perhaps others will disagree but I doubt he is well known as his name is unknown to me. After doing a search it appears he’s a trotskyist who wrote a few pamphlets on republicanism. Little wonder he would take a counter-factual approach to well known Irish history given their approach to “reading” history. Oh and by the way 2012 – 1649 = 363 years not 500.

Stop trying to put words in my mouth. You could not have obtained from my posts that (a) the tribalism has a limited geography, and (b) that the violence is not between Catholics and Protestants. I already stated the conflict had a substantive religious element. It is in no way “splitting hairs” to point out that the Northern Irish conflict is not merely religious. It is actually crucial to understanding it. You have no notion of the complexity of Irish history.

Neither do Catholics and Protestant have “extreme separate identities often expressed as bigotry and hatred.” Total rubbish. I recall an ex-IRA chap telling me how you tell a Catholic from a Protestant. It was the way in why they pronounced their “H”! In actual fact a very large proportion of Catholics and Protestants were reasonably OK with each other during the troubles although many voted for the interests of their own communities, and tensions between Catholics and Protestants in the South actually improved during this era rather than worsened. It could even be said that the Catholics of Northern Ireland are characteristically closer to Protestants than with Catholics down South.

Ted Leddy said...


All excellenrt points.

I can only hope that the US State Department is working closely with the new authorites in Egypt in order to facilitate stability. If in the long run, Egypt becomes hostile. It will be a disaster.

I for one am convinced that the young twitter and facebook generation that came out on the streets of Cairo in such numbers do not want war with Israel.

builder man said...

To Rob Harris. I was talking about a 'real' Irishman in contrast to me, a visitor. Martin Luther, Protestant Reformation 1517. Henry
VIII and Englands Protestant Church
1529. 2012 -1517 = 495 years. OK I
said 500. The point I was making is
how easy it is to adopt a tribal
position.One than can emerge from a sectarian position and consequently how similar they are.
That is what prevails in some areas
of N.I. still, otherwise why the
peace walls? And it was certainly
worse than that in the troubles.
That many rise above their tribe in
a modern state in the 21st century
should not be surprising. The depressing thought is that it still
happens at all. So the comparisions
with hostile tribalism in Africa
and the Middle East are perfectly
valid. They emerge from the same
attitudes - ignorant reactions to
'difference'. From Ted Leddy's latest post: 'identity politics is
tribal by nature.'

Rob Harris said...

To Builderman, your dates are correct for the onset of Protestantism, and a few years plus or minus isn’t what I took issue with. Rather it’s the dating of the onset of intensive strife that led to bitter sectarian conflict which resulted in the recent troubles that are worse than elsewhere in West Europe. There was prior violence between both communities but Cromwell’s invasion in 1649 is often seen as the turning point that led to the present troubles since it resulted in a number of extraordinarily bloody atrocities. This includes the immediate aftermath where the civilian Catholic populace was brutalised on a vast scale. I’ll accept your word that’s what you meant with regard to emphasising a real Irishman.

I agree that it is easy to adopt a “tribal” position in conflicts but it depends on how the word is used. There almost always is an “us and them” phenomenon in conflicts. However, my point is that you related the tribal element in the North with that of Africa and the parts of the Arab world, rather than talking about broader sectarian conflicts which aren’t usually tribalistic (or familial) in the traditional sense of the word, e.g. the very recent tribal violence in Southern Sudan. Sectarian conflicts can be parochial but they are broader more idealistically driven matters. The issue in the North is not akin to the old clannish wars, e.g. between the O’Brien’s and O’Neill’s. That’s why I disagreed with the point.

The peace walls were part of the sectarian conflict. The conflict is defined using that term for a reason. I emphasise that the difference in meaning between sectarian and tribal in the context that you used it.

The troubles in the North were very nasty but you should note that the Sein Fein/IRA were not the most popular Nationalist party until the turn of the Millennium, after the peace process was well established. Rather the pro-peace SDLP were predominant. Thus a majority in the Catholic community did not agree with the IRA’s violence, even if many disliked the heavy British presence, and cross community relations weren’t always wholly negative including at a religious level. The issue isn’t black and white.

The System Works said...

builder man: I looked up some facts about the attitude of Arabs in the British Mandate from Benny Morris's '1948'. You may find this interesting:

1. Palestinians were largely unsympathetic to Western liberal democratic values and grimly hoped for and Axis victory during World War II.

2. Many rejoiced when the British bastion at Tobruk fell in 1941.

3. One of the first public opinion polls in Palestine, carried out by a prominent Christian Arab educator on behalf of the American consulate in Jerusalem found that 88 percent of Palestinian Arabs favoured Germany, and only 9 percent Britain.

This, coupled with the actions of many in the Palestinian leadership, such as the Grand Mufti al-Husseini, prove that there is absolutely no way the West should support the Palestinians because of the actions of Muslims elsewhere during World War II.