On a knife edge

From The Guardian:

Gardner Last chances in the Middle East have been two a dirham since the 1950s. Each year the enmities are more profound, the despots more bloodthirsty and clownish, the violence more extreme, and the conditions of ordinary existence more ghastly. Yet in this fine short book, David Gardner makes the case that the clock really is running down. It is a fiery essay, but accurate and sincere. According to Gardner, a fifth of the world's population is falling into a despair of which the atrocities of Bin Laden and Zarqawi are mere symptoms. The fault lies with the failures of governments in the Middle East, the corpulent kings and republican thugs, corrupt generals and sinister internal security, and the bloody-minded Israelis. Yet the west, most notably the US and the UK, in their unprincipled support for autocracy and readiness to indulge or encourage corruption, have brought extremism and violence to their own frontiers and within them. “Unless,” Gardner writes, “the Arab countries and the broader Middle East can find a way out of this pit of autocracy, their people will be condemned to bleak lives of despair, humiliation and rage for a generation, adding fuel to a roaring fire in what is already the most combustible region in the world.

“It will be primarily up to the citizens of these countries to claw their way out of that pit. But the least they can expect from the west is not to keep stamping on their fingers.” Or, in a region where there are wars to suit every taste and purse, to start its own for no very good reason in Iraq. It is not that the Muslim peoples of the Middle East reject western values of democracy, liberty and fairness. They think, like Gandhi, that they would be a good idea.

More here.