A New York Times story from Qatar begins
"Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a scalding critique of Arab leaders here on Thursday, saying they badly needed reforms to jump-start their economies and overcome dwindling natural resources, or risk having extremists take root in their societies."
She said, "In too many places, in too many ways, the region's foundations are sinking into the sand . . . "
According to the report, she "ticked off a familiar litany of criticism: corruption, repressive political systems and a lack of rights for women and religious minorities. But her remarks were notable for their vehemence."
I agree with virtually everything the Secretary of State is reported to have said. Perhaps she has learned something from more than two years pressing Israelis. It is not us who are primarily responsible for fouling the Middle East.
On the other hand, I read the description of "scalding critique" as typical Hillary, screeching and preaching. And I am pretty sure I know how her audience received her.
Politely, without agreement.
Hillary's most recent remarks are a fair assessment of Muslim retardation, shared by many experts including outspoken Muslims. However, sending herself as the messenger is not likely to enhance her message.
A beginning student learns that there are many influences on public policy. The gender of a messenger competes with the recipient's view of personal and national interests. In the case of some of the people Hillary was lecturing, the personal and national are close to being the same thing. Also in their picture are the interests, threats and weights of Iran, other neighbors, the United States and Europe, the value of their natural resources, and who knows what else.
The gender of the messenger, and the tone coming along with the message may only be minor factors in deciding how the recipients make subsequent decisions. Hillary's presentation might only affect what they think and say among themselves about her and her style, or they may tip decisions about something important.
Hillary's audience is likely to have been overwhelmingly if not completely male, some of whom maintain a harem and do not view kindly a woman who preaches, even if she does not screech.
While I applaud the status of women in much of the United States, Western Europe, and Israel, I am skeptical about westerners who think that women can assume a carryover of their status in dealing with Middle Easterners outside of Israeli Jews (with the notable exception of Ashkenazi Haredim who are battling the Supreme Court to keep their women at the back of the bus).
Hillary is likely to have screeched at Bibi. I doubt that he reacted badly. From all reports he is used to the tone in what he endures from Sara.
Remember April Glaspie, the American ambassador to Iraq who was not successful in warning Saddam Hussein away from invading Kuwait. When we first saw a clip of their meeting, my advisor on things Middle Eastern and domestic screeched a comment about American idiocy.
Politically correct Americans are as close to being world emperors as any others are likely to be for some time. Yet a mindset of parochial superiority blinds and weakens. What they perceive as good may not be what the locals want. Barack Obama preached in Cairo, and sent his people to pressure Israel and others. Since then his status has declined among Israelis and Arabs. A recent poll of East Jerusalem Arabs indicates that many of them (perhaps most, taking account of those who declined to answer) are not enthusiastic about a Palestinian state. A fair number of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza may share their concerns.
I see no resolution of America's problem. We are a long way from a world culture, even if we mix in universities and other forums more than in the past, and understand one another's words .
American women will not refrain from activities they want to share or lead. Individuals who train to be Arabists, like April Glaspie, or climb to the political heights, like Hillary Clinton, practice their crafts. If there is friction, or a polite lack of compliance, one can suspect that it is due partly to gender. Yet it may also reflect differences in interest that have nothing to do with who is the messenger from Washington.
Involved in the frustrations suffered by the aspiring leader of the world is not knowing exactly why there is imperfect cooperation.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem