Sunday, March 07, 2004

‘Our’ Western Reforms

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi,

My last article “Reforms? What Reforms?” brought many intelligent and enlightening responses. Since space is limited, I chose a couple here (abridged) from two countries calling for democracy in “The Greater Middle East” — the US and Britain.
A British Mideastern expert wrote: “I quite like the airplane analogy for the current debate on Saudi reform and fears that the West has some kind of reform master plan.
It’s important to understand that the West has not decided which route the plane must follow.
We just recognize that the plane needs to fly well and more quickly. It is in our interests that it lands on time and safely. We are willing to help by training the pilots, showing how to make sure the plane is technically safe and secure and ensuring that the crew know how to respond to passenger requests.
But the passengers bought the tickets, not us or the pilots, so they should decide the route, long or short.
We’re quite happy if you want to begin the journey with a prayer. We don’t usually, but don’t mind if you do.
“On the other hand, we aren’t ready to help the passengers storm the cockpit if they don’t like the route; but we are willing to send messages from our air traffic controllers (although we’d prefer that you use yours).
And, unfortunately, we will shoot down the aircraft if the pilots decide to crash the plane on us.”
An American expert wrote: “I enjoy reading your opinions, even when I don’t agree with them.
I happen to agree with this one. It is, however, so basic that there is little to argue with.
“You are right that justice requires all positions be taken into consideration. But minorities who hold the Saudi people hostage through threats and acts of violence do not deserve a hearing.
“What you say about people vying ‘for better seats’ and ‘captains’ needing to listen is true, especially in a democracy.
However, a good leader also leads his followers in the direction he knows to be best, even when they may be too timid to go on their own.
And a people who accept minority intimidation deserve the kind of government they get. Also, a plane that flies in circles will eventually run out of fuel and crash.
“You say that Saudi chose to run a diverse country by building consensus. This is fine for a family and a small tribe. But it will not suffice to rule a nation, save under free elections.”
I agree with most responses and I welcome more, especially those who differ from me. Thank you all.

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