As the dictators fall, the clichés fall, too. Cairo and Tunis and Tripoli are littered with the shards of platitudes about what is possible and what is impossible in Arab societies, in closed societies. Civilizational analysis lies in ruins. Idealism, always cheaply mocked, turns out to be a powerful form of historical causation, as disruptive of the established order as any economic or technological change, and even more beneficent. Stability, the false god of hard hearts, has been revealed to be temporary, chimerical, provisional, hollow, where the social arrangements are not decent or fair: the stability of injustice, though it may last a long time, is essentially unstable.It certainly is, as Weiseltier puts it, "delicious" to watch hard-headed foreign policy "realists" have to swallow their previous positions on the Middle East, but it is far too early for such triumphalism. Yes, President Bush and the much-reviled "Neo-Cons" were right to assert that the brutal dictatorships, which realists held to be the natural, if not exactly proper, state of affairs in the region, were in fact unstable and thin reeds upon which to base our diplomacy, but the consequences of the latest round of revolutions to sweep through the region have yet to be established and may [as turned out in Lebanon and Gaza] be extremely problematic.
Weiseltier is right to assert that the current administration is operating on assumptions and ideas that are hopelessly out of date, but that is not to say that the Neo-cons were right in all things. It does, however, support the idea that the much-reviled President Bush and his advisors had a far better, and more sophisticated, grasp on the dynamics of Middle East affairs than their successors have so far displayed.