Interviews with Daniel Pipes
Where's the Arab "Street"?
CNN: Lou Dobbs Moneyline
Translations of this item:
LOU DOBBS, HOST: Coming up next, experts issue dire predictions about a terrorist backlash after the war began against Saddam Hussein. When we continue, Daniel Pipes the author of Militant Islam Reaches America will join me to explain why his forecast was correct, that no backlash would emerge.
DOBBS: My next guest says the war against Saddam Hussein and U.S. military action in Afghanistan have undercut al Qaeda operations and recruiting. Daniel Pipes, a noted Middle East expert, the author of Militant Islam Reaches America joins us now from Philadelphia, Daniel good to have you here.
DANIEL PIPES, "MILITANT ISLAM REACHES AMERICA": Thank you, Lou.
DOBBS: You correctly forecast early in the hostilities that those suggesting that there would be some sort of Arab street backlash were incorrect. Tell us, if you would, why you believed that at the time.
PIPES: Well, actually, the short answer would be I'd simply dusted off my notes from 1991 when I made the same prediction and it was right then and it was right in 2003 and presumably will be right another dozen years from now again.
Basically, this idea that the Arab street will rise up, is premised on a counter-logical notion that Arabs (in contrast to other people) when they're defeated are all the more inclined to take action and engage in terrorism and overthrow government. But that's not the case with them or with anyone else. They're people like the rest of us.
DOBBS: As you said, the Arabs when they are defeated, do you believe that Arabs believe that defeat of Saddam Hussein was an Arabic defeat?
PIPES: All the reporting I've seen suggests that in the cafes in Cairo and the political salons in Morocco, and around the Arab world, there's a sense that the Arabs lost a battle here. There was a lot of support for Saddam, not for him as an individual but as an Arab who would fight and defeat - or at least hold off in a heroic way - the coalition forces.
DOBBS: The idea that there is some sort of pan-Arab view of the world I personally, Daniel, am suspicious of that. I quite understand the areas of commonality and Islamic religion that is shared by most of the Middle Eastern countries but - nearly all of the Middle Eastern countries but at the same time there seems to be no evidence beyond a certain intelligentsia, academic, and sort of the (unintelligible) of some journalists in the Middle East about the Arab state and this pan- Arab view of the world. What makes you think it truly exists?
PIPES: Well, no, you're not going to get an argument from me. I agree with you. You're right. What this harks back to though is a sense of the 1950s and ‘60s when Arabism, pan-Arabism was a pretty popular and powerful notion. It has long since been discredited and it doesn't have the power that you're arguing against, no it doesn't. But, it continues among analysts to be a kind of bogeyman and people expect it to come to life.
DOBBS: And we in the national media continue too often to give it too much perhaps service and credence. One of the exciting and positive opportunities here obviously to strengthen those impulses that do exist in Iraq for self governance for representative and equitable government, how likely do you think it is that the United States, the coalition, will be successful in building such a government and creating such a condition for that climate?
PIPES: Good question, Lou, and tough question and I range back and forth. I have my optimistic and my pessimistic moods.
PIPES: I worry about an intifada. I worry about a rising up against American troops if they're there too long and I worry about anarchy if we leave too soon. It's going to be a real challenge to Paul Bremer and the others who are overseeing this rehabilitation to get it just exactly right and I wish them very well. It's such a tough assignment.
DOBBS: Christopher Hitchens referred to it as a noble gamble and that resonates with me, how about you?
PIPES: Yes, yes. It is - it is high stakes gamble. I'm optimistic. At the same time I can see so many sources of problems.
DOBBS: Sure. Another noble gamble, if you will, is the one that will be required on the part of both the Israelis and the Palestinians with a roadmap last week published. How hopeful are you?
PIPES: Not terribly, Lou. I believe that there needs to be what I call change of heart on the Palestinian side, a true and lasting acceptance of Israel and a true and lasting denunciation of violence before negotiations can really make a constructive difference.
DOBBS: Mahmoud Abbas, do you believe he will be a strong, effective leader?
PIPES: Maybe, maybe not. I'm really not sure but I don't think that the premises are laid yet. In other words, the Palestinians as a body politic, regardless of their leaders' statements, have to come to the conclusion that Israel is there as a permanent reality, immutable fact, and they have not any desire to use violence against it. That to me is the key.
DOBBS: Daniel, if that renunciation of terror and that acceptance of Israel were to be enunciated, to which Israel would it be, the Israel of today or would it be the Israel of ‘67 borders?
PIPES: Once there is a true coming to terms by the Palestinians with the reality of an Israeli state and a permanent renunciation of violence, then the negotiations can truly and constructively begin. I am not in a position to tell you how they're going to come out. I think at that point it's not a good idea to discuss not just the borders but other issues – Jerusalem, water, armaments, and who lives where, all these complicated questions. I think it's premature now. I think we still need to get...
DOBBS: I prefer the word, Daniel, early. We will, and I've got to drop it there but it is always good talking with you.
PIPES: Thank you.
DOBBS: Daniel Pipes, we always enjoy talking with you. Thank you.
PIPES: Thank you.
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