Thursday, December 15, 2005

For intelligence chiefs paid to ponder future threats, the recurring nightmare is of one new Mexico added to the world population every year, or about 100 million people, mostly in countries that are straining to supply basic needs, such as potable water and a meal a day. And while victory for democracy in Iraq, or anywhere else in the Middle East, is important for the world’s only superpower, it is no guarantee that the 21st century will be America’s Century, as was the 20th.

In fact, this week the “Asian Century” was hailed in Malaysia as 16 countries representing half the world’s population met at the summit. The U.S. was excluded — for the first time since World War II. China and India were there — another first.

The U.S. crusade for democracy has already produced a slew of unintended consequences. When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Egypt earlier this year, she declined to meet with a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest radical Islamist organization in the Middle East. This gave the M.B. a powerful assist in the recent parliamentary elections. The virulently anti-American Brotherhood, which shares Osama bin Laden’s goal of a global Islamic caliphate — a religious world government to fight the non-believers (Christians and Jews) — captured one quarter of the seats in Egypt’s new parliament.

In a truly free political contest, with no government interference, the M.B. could easily become Egypt’s majority party. On Jan. 26, 1952, this reporter covered the then-four-year-old M.B.’s handiwork in Cairo — some 300 buildings torched in a day. Six months later, Gamal Abdel Nasser, an obscure army colonel, overthrew Egypt’s monarchy and its representative democracy, and locked up the M.B. agitators. Nasser’s dictatorship lasted 18 years, during which time Britain, France and Israel invaded Egypt in 1956, but failed to unseat him. Israel trounced Nasser’s Egypt in the 1967 Six-Day War — but the Pan-Arab strongman clung to power until felled by a heart attack three years later.

The M.B. spawned Islamic Jihad, one of the principal terrorist organizations that was originally led by al Qaeda’s no. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, who plotted President Anwar Sadat’s assassination in 1981 and then tried to kill President Mubarak in 1995. Hamas was another M.B. progeny. The Bush administration, fingers crossed, has now decided dialogue with the M.B. might convince them to take the plunge into genuine democracy.

In the latest Zogby poll in the Mideast, 4 out of 5 Arabs believe the war in Iraq has brought more terrorism to the region and left Iraqis worse off than they were under Saddam Hussein’s bloody dictatorship. Almost 60 percent thought there was less democracy in the Middle East since the war began.

Interestingly enough, 76 percent believe U.S. war policy in Iraq was motivated by the need to secure oil resources; 68 percent said it was the security of Israel; 63 percent opted for the U.S. need to dominate the region; and 59 percent attributed it to a desire to weaken the Muslim world. Only 6 percent believe the invasion was motivated by democracy and human rights.

In friendly Arab countries, such as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan, the American “neocons” that provided the ideological underpinnings for Operation Iraqi Freedom, are now jokingly referred to by U.S.-educated Arabs as “the American Wahhabis.”

Latin America is arguably more important to the United States than Iraq. But the unpopular Iraq war has already provided the backdrop for a revival of the far left throughout Latin America. Marxism, or neo-Marxism, no longer has the stigma of slavish subservience to the now defunct Soviet Union. A newfound magnetism seized popular imaginations.

The new Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, under the banner of “socialism of the 21st century,” is spreading throughout Latin America under the impulse of a new Castro on steroids. Hugo Chavez is making the most of the high price of oil (13 percent of U.S. imports) to fund leftwing parties throughout central and South America. In return, he was swept into Mercosur, the South American customs union.

Mr. Chavez’s model makes limited room for capitalism within a Marxist framework, as Fidel Castro did with Canadian and European investment in the hospitality business.

The recent Summit of the Americas in Argentina’s Mar de Plata was a warning bell of what may happen in a dozen elections throughout Latin America in the next 12 months, beginning with Bolivia Dec. 17, where former coca farmer Evo Morales, who may become president, told The Washington Times he wants to legalize coca for illicit cocaine exports to the U.S.

A quick tour of the world’s headlines, stories and editorials about the United States — check it out on — is depressing. The “rendition” of al Qaeda prisoners to other countries for interrogation techniques banned in U.S. jurisdictions provoked a storm of anti-American comment not seen since the stupefying Abu Ghraib horror picture gallery. “Let’s Not Mince Words About America’s ‘Death Camps’,” headlined Hungary’s Index.

“Trust us,” Miss Rice urged her European interlocutors. European governments replied, “yes, but….” From Paris to Prague and from Brussels to Bucharest, public opinion had balked.

Argentina’s La Nacion wrote, “if George Orwell were alive today, the Bush administration would most likely give him goose pimples…. Subverting language to serve the ends of the State is something the present government in Washington has raised to a high art.”

Tunisia’s Hebdo editorialized, “The image of the U.S. in the Arab world has reached a historic level of mediocrity. The result of a (Zogby International) poll showed a horrible degradation of its image among citizens from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean. An overwhelming majority of 81 percent believes the war in Iraq has increased insecurity in the region, rejuvenated terrorism instead of containing it, weakened the process of democratization, and reinforced the instability of the Middle East.”

Harold Pinter’s anti-U.S. diatribe as he received this year’s Nobel Prize for literature was front page news the world over. The Nobel committee clearly had a global message in mind when it said Mr. Pinter’s work “uncovers the precipice under every prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms.” Mr. Pinter didn’t disappoint. His ferocious tirade against President Bush and Britain’s Tony Blair accused them of “mass murder” and “war crimes” and said the International Court of Justice in The Hague should arraign them.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

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