“We Don’t Have A Democracy, And We Never Will”

Omar Sharif, who was born in Egypt and has been in movies like The Ten Commandments, The 13th Warrior, Top Secret! and dozens and dozens of other films, had this to say about a conversation he had with George Bush before the war in Iraq,

“I told him that I come from the East and I know… He said: “No, there must be a democracy (in Iraq).” I said to him: We don’t have a democracy, and we never will. You’ll see, because people like me prefer to go to the neighborhood sheik. I like going to him, and he resolves all the problems. If someone stole from you, or something, you take him to the neighborhood sheik, and you say: This man stole from me. The sheik says to him: Return the money, or never come back to the neighborhood.”

It’s tempting to simply eviscerate Sharif for his comments, but there is some truth to what he’s saying. The Middle East is tribal in a way that is hard for Americans, who were born free, to comprehend.

For us, freedom is as natural as breathing, which can be a problem in and of itself because many people don’t always appreciate the gift they’ve been given or understand the ramifications of losing it. Certainly many people on the Left in this country who seem to believe the Iraqis would be better off under a tyrannical dictator who ruled with an iron fist — than in a free society that has to temporarily deal with violence and chaos — would fit into that category.

However, these sort of backwards, tribal societies stifle creativity, innovation, progress, freedom, and cannot compete in the modern world. Know what the Middle East is? Take away the oil and the religious zealotry and it’s Africa: a poor, backwards, failing region that wouldn’t be able to feed itself.

If the people of the Middle East do turn out to be incapable of grasping that and choose to cling to what’s comfortable and familiar instead of building societies that can thrive in the 21st century, they will have no one to blame but themselves as they fall ever more hopelessly behind when the oil revenues start to dry up.

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