Be sure to read my article: Syria: No Longer Revolution, It is A Civil War, A Guide to the Battle

By Barry Rubin

I’ve come to realize a hitherto hidden dimension of why it is so hard for Western establishment figures (policymakers, journalists, and academics) to understand the Middle East.  It is the conflict between the thirst for good news and the reality of bad news.

Being optimists (based on the relatively good course of their own societies?) and believing that positive change is really easy if people only put their minds to making it happen (ditto and also liberal thinking), they exaggerate any sign that things are getting better.

Moreover, contemporary thinking trembles in horror about saying anything critical about Third World peoples (racism, Islamophobia)  while it is considered noble to criticize “ourselves.”  On top of that is the assumption that no one can really be radical. They are just responding to past mistreatment and will revert to being moderate the minute the oppression is corrected.

So constantly we are led to an artificial optimism that ignores threats or even converts them into benefits.

How many examples I see every day!

A group of young Palestinians in Fatah, who explicitly say they want to wipe out Israel, form a new group and–hocus-pocus–we are informed that this is the long-awaited Palestinian equivalent of the dovish Israeli Peace Now movement!

We are told that the Libyan masses are fighting for democracy against dictator Muammar Qadhafi and suddenly we have prisoners being tortured and murdered, arms being sold to terrorists elsewhere, gun battles among factions, and a radical Islamist state emerging.

In Turkey the regime arrests hundreds of people, represses the media, pushes women out of government jobs, promotes antisemitism and, voila!, it is first called moderate Muslim (they deny it is Islamist) and then promoted (?) to moderate Islamist!

Radicals (except in the West?) are apparently representatives of backward, irrational, primitive societies and so if all Third World societies are equal to those of the West they just can’t have such people. Everyone must be a moderate, concerned about global warming and ecology; dedicated to democracy; and passionate about getting more material goods as the highest goal in life.

It never ceases to amaze me that those who most loudly proclaim Multiculturalism, diversity, and the equality of all societies simply can’t seem to comprehend that cultures and societies are different. They are in fact diverse! Living 40 years under Muammar Qadhafi in a semi-literate, tribal-based society does not create people like those on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. And not even the Upper West Side for that matter.

Equally ironic, is that while Western elites are quick to look down on their own unwashed masses (bitterly clinging to their guns, religion, and hating outsiders, right?), they fail to comprehend that this is precisely the central theme throughout the Middle East and many other parts of the world.

Perhaps I should suggest an amazing new formula that would make it easy for Western elites to understand what’s going on in the Middle East:

Just think of the Islamists in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Turkey; the regimes in Iran and Syria; Hamas, Hizballah, and even the Palestinian Authority as being like the…Tea Party!

Scary, huh?