Monday, November 07, 2011

Gingrich on Arab Christians

Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has blamed U.S. policy in the Middle East for what he calls the "anti-Christian Spring." He needs a better fact-checker, since he also blamed Muslims for a complaint an unrelated professor at George Washington University filed against Catholic University of America. Juan Cole, meanwhile, points out how Gingrich's stated policy preferences on the matter are incoherent, and he's obviously just playing for evangelical votes in South Carolina. The idea that the Obama administration had anything to do with outcomes in Egypt and Tunisia is also ludicrous. In Egypt, the administration clearly supported Mubarak until it became clear he was toast, has since cast in its lot with the SCAF which is seeking to preserve whatever it can of the old regime, and may even have encouraged such a development through military-to-military back channels back in February.

What matters more to me right now is the mindset he is articulating, which I suspect is widespread in some circles, that autocratic regimes in the Middle East are necessary to protect Christian populations. This view is unacceptable if one takes seriously the human rights of non-Christians in these societies. Would Gingrich now trade al-Maliki's government for Saddam Hussein?

The most important problem currently faced by Christians in Iraq, Egypt, and elsewhere is a security vacuum caused by regime collapse. Chaos often accompanies revolutions, as happened with the classic cases of the French, Russian, and Iranian. In Eastern Europe in 1989, it was largely avoided as the old communist regimes mostly chose to manage the transition rather than cling to power until the last possible minute. Even then, nationalist violence erupted in Yugoslavia and Karabakh when the new leaders simply didn't have legitimacy with large swathes of the population. In Egypt, Christians have been victimized by salafi vigilantes, the SCAF trying to maintain power, and ignorant people susceptible to superstition and conspiracy theorizing. Their problem is that they are a powerless minority during a period when security is weakened. Such turmoil might be a reason to fear revolutions in general, but that's not a viewpoint I'm hearing articulated.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

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