But let us judge not, that we be not judged. ~Michael Gerson
Granted, this is probably intended to be read in context as sarcasm, but this is still a bit rich coming from Gerson. After all, Gerson specializes in portraying practically everyone who disagrees with him on anything as a hard-hearted, vicious monster who would deprive a dying child of his last wish (and occasionally as someone who probably would have participated in the slave trade and genocide if he had the chance). Instead of seeing the see-saw of political turmoil in the Near East as proof of the uncertainty in the region and the unpredictability of events, Gerson has returned four years after the so-called “Arab spring” to announce another spring. Even though he claims that he is not one of those overinterpreting events to fit preexisting views, his descriptions of what has happened are themselves based on flawed overinterpretations designed to fit preexisting views. He says that every idealist will have his day and every realist his night, but as in so many other things Gerson reminds us that he cannot even tell the difference between night and day. As in 2005, this requires being very selective in the use of evidence and unduly optimistic about what the limited evidence shows. It is also crucial that one misread the evidence or twist it to fit the argument. Gerson does all of the above:
Now spring is returning. January’s local elections in Iraq favored secular nationalists instead of clerical parties. In Lebanon, Hezbollah was defeated in an open and vigorous vote. Kuwaiti women have been elected to parliament for the first time. And in Iran, brave women and men have demonstrated that democracy, not just nihilism, counts martyrs in the Muslim world.
Actually, if we look at the people involved and the constituencies voting for the parties, Iraqi elections favored more or less the same parties that portrayed themselves in less sectarian terms. As in Lebanon, parties that are blatantly sectarian in their composition and interests claim to be secular. That may well be inevitable and may simply be something everyone has to live with, but we should not pretend that it is not the case. As in Lebanon, the elections represented no meaningful change in the distribution of power, but at least in Iraq I will grant that the majority of the population is represented in the (sectarian, Iran-leaning) government. The incumbent governments remained in power in both Lebanon and Iraq, which suggests that the election results of 2009 have more or less confirmed the 2005 distributions of power. If the “spring” of 2005 was a false one because of political instability and sectarian violence that followed, 2009 has so far offered little to make us think that anything has fundamentally changed. As in 2005, insignificant and superficial changes are being taken for major, profound ones. Regarding Iran, it is true that the protesters have been using the language of martyrdom to describe those who have been killed, but that also means that the protesters are losing the political fight, much as Husayn did at Karbala.