Sunday, November 19, 2006

Europe and the Burqa-A Reminder of the Difficulties of Democracy in Dealing with the "Other"; Also, I Can Play the Iraq Blame Game Too

When it comes to Muslim headgear, the British are teenie weenies compared to the Dutch. The ruling party in The Hague has decided to win the next election on a platform banning burqas in public places. Then there's France banning scarves in public schools. Do Europeans think those Muslim terrorists and rioters are actually cross-dressing radical chicks? Or do they hope that the Muslim women, casting off their cultural inhibitions, would a la Lysistrata exercise their feminine charms so that their male kinfolk would lay down their arms?

Kidding. Of course those politicians believe nothing of the sort. In fact, if they did any thinking at all, they would realize that a dress code that attacks a minority of a minority (seriously, what is the percentage of second-generation Muslim women in the Low Country who wear burqas?) would only serve to exacerbate the situation. But of course that is the point. They are only giving their constituencies what they think they want.

Democracy --- popular rule, if you insist, is okay with me --- has a poor record of dealing with The Other. The enormity of the Holocaust has cloaked the rest of the wholesale ethnic cleansing that followed the double World Wars. The shattering of Yugoslavia is but a late echo of this. And it will be a while before Europeans can say with confidence that it is out of the woods on North Ireland and the Basque.

Say what you will of empires, they were one effective way of allowing a multitude of Otherness to coexist peacefully in a greater whole.

The Middle East is a place that has yet to sort out all sorts of Otherness that the destruction of the Muslim empires left behind. Post-Baathist Iraq shows the perils of unleashing those multi-layered forces. It mystifies me that Bernard Lewis, someone who recognizes so well The Multiple Identities of the Middle East, believed so strongly in the War on Iraq. Likewise, to a lesser extent, Condoleezza Rice, whose political science background and specific expertise as Sovietologist should have set off alarms in her head.

Blinded were the neoconservatives by their ideological devotion to the transformational powers of democracy, and the Christian fundamentalists by the hopes and fears of their apocalyptic visions. They have the excuse of ignorance (to which I myself must resort); if they bear the stigma of arrogance. And Colin Powell did what he does best, which is to follow.

President Bush is a genuinely likeable man; if this were not the case, he most likely would not have won in 2000, or even in 2004. But he is also a shallow man, if one of deep convictions; galvanized by 9.11 and flushed by the walk-over victory in Afghanistan, he did not know any better. The buck stops there, but the ones who knew, or should have known, better should also be held to account.



民主主義 --- 言葉が過ぎるとおっしゃるのであれば、大衆政治と置き換えていただいてかまいません --- は、「他者」との関係を処理するということにかけては、まずい成績を残しています。ホローコーストの巨悪は、二つの世界大戦に続いて起こったそれ以外の大量民族浄化の実態を覆い隠しました。ユーゴスラビア解体も、その遠い残鐘なのです。また、北アイルランドやバスク地方についてもう問題ないとヨーロッパ人達が自信を持て言えるようになるまでには、まだ間があるでしょう。


中東は、回教徒達の諸帝国が解体された結果残された様々な他者性の整理がまだついていない地域です。バース党支配後のイラクは、そうした様々な力を解き放つことの危険を見せてくれます。不思議なのは、その著書の一つのタイトルThe Multiple Identities of the Middle Eastが示すとおり、あれだけこの様々な力が存在していることを熟知しているバーナード・ルイスがあれほど熱心に対イラク戦争を支持したことです。程度の差はありますが、ライス国務長官(当時は国家安全担当補佐官)も、しかりで、政治学者としての背景及びソ連学者としての具体的知見が頭の中で警鐘を鳴らしていたはずです。



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