The Middle East - a region long known for its rancorous politics -
is trying something new: pragmatism and moderation.
Two caveats must come early in any discussion of regional
improvements. The success of the US attempt to remake Iraq is by no
means guaranteed. And the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is
But in recent weeks, Libya has said it will abandon plans to
pursue weapons of mass destruction. Iran has promised to allow
international inspections of its nuclear facilities. Syria has
announced that it is again willing to talk peace with Israel.
Egypt and Iran are ending an era of mutual mistrust. So are
Turkey and Syria. Saudi Arabia is allowing unprecedented internal
"It's the end of radicalism," says Abdel Monem Said, director of
the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in ter for
Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "You have a general sense
of accommodation taking place in the region."
Dr. Said, who defines radicalism as the struggle for unobtainable
goals, adds that "radical movements, whether pan-Islamic or pan-
Arab, have come to the conclusion that continuation of confrontation
with the status quo or the West in general is either futile or very
In Washington, some of these events are interpreted as a victory
for President Bush and his combative foreign policies. Others are
not so certain of any direct correlation. "It's not as if Libya went
from being a total pariah outlaw to poster boy of the new moderation
simply because of the invasion of Iraq," says William Quandt, a
Middle East specialist at the University of Virginia.
Mr. Quandt and other experts note that many of the regional
developments are the fruit of internal factors and years of
diplomacy that long predate the Iraq war.
"Certainly, the administration is interested in getting the
message out that anything good that's happening is because we're
firm, we're resolute ... so that everything falls neatly under the
headline of 'We led, and the world follows,' which I don't buy,"
says Richard Murphy, a former diplomat who is now a senior fellow at
the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Still, Mr. Murphy and other critics of Bush policy concede
something is happening, though where it will lead, no one can say.
"We may have started something [in Iraq] that will have a highly
positive effect," he says, though he is reluctant to link the war
and the appearance of a new moderation in the Middle East.
Murphy will go this far: "You can't invest the billions and the
blood that we have in Iraq and not make a change. We have made a
Perhaps it should be no surprise the administration is placing
more emphasis on the follow-on benefits of the Iraq invasion. The
key rationale for going to war in the first place - to eradicate
Iraq's alleged development of weapons of mass destruction - seems
increasingly groundless. …