Fareed's Take: Vivid protest images do not tell whole story
Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration outside the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia on Wednesday.
September 14th, 2012
05:39 PM ET

Fareed's Take: Vivid protest images do not tell whole story

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS" Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.

By Fareed Zakaria

The images of the American embassy burning in Benghazi might have conjured up memories of Tehran in 1979 but the analogy is false.

In Libya, the government is not fomenting Anti-Americanism, it is fighting it, openly declaring America an ally and friend. The country is pro-American by a 2-to-1 margin, and the violence there appears to have been the work of small, extremist elements that lack much popular support. But the storm has spread from Libya.

Across the Middle East, there have been protests railing against the United States and the West in general. Even in these places, however, keep in mind that these crowds number in the hundreds - perhaps thousands - in countries with tens of millions of people. They make for vivid images, but they do not tell the whole story.

What can we say about these places and protests? First, in many of these countries - particularly those that have toppled dictatorships - the most important reality is not of bad government but of weak government.

In Libya, Yemen and even Egypt, the state has lost its ability to control its public. In a sense this might be progress. Egypt didn't see protests like this before because Hosni Mubarak's regime would arrest or even shoot protesters. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy is an elected politician, and he is trying to pander, appease, direct and guide people. I wish he were bolder and fought the extremist elements in his society head-on. But let's face it, he's behaving like an elected politician.

Second, what we are witnessing is indeed the consequence of the Arab Spring. Arab societies were locked down for 50 years. The lid has come off them and we're seeing what's inside.

Q&A: What the protests reveal

There are some good elements - moderates, liberals, pragmatists - and there are some very nasty elements - extremists, jihadis. And let's be honest, there is a cancer of extremism in the Arab world, one that was diagnosed extensively after 9/11 by many, including me. That cancer has not been cured; most of the forces that produced it still remain. We should be honest that it exists, we should be honest that moderates in the region tend to be weak and often cowardly, but we should try to help them. If the United States pulls out, the crazies will only get stronger.

The clash of civilizations exists between those who want to burn American embassies and those who want to partner with them in building modern societies. We have a stake in who wins that struggle.

Post by:
Topics: Fareed's Take • Libya • Middle East

soundoff (756 Responses)
  1. Chaussures Nike

    Wear‘d waste material it slow at a man or woman/lovely women,the people that isn‘d ready waste material their whole effort upon you.
    Chaussures Nike http://www.basketnike2013.com/

    October 20, 2012 at 8:01 am | Reply
  2. Ken

    Fareed – with due respect, you made a mistake. It was not an Embassy burning in Benghazi, but a consulate building. You are kind of playing into the misinformation by suggesting that the Embassy was stormed.

    January 23, 2013 at 9:39 pm | Reply
  3. this is a test

    wow! many thanks for that incredible post. I really liked it to the core. Hope you retain submitting these kinds of astonishing content pieces this is a test http://asdasj2e.com

    February 28, 2013 at 4:41 am | Reply
  4. jordan shoes cheap

    This Fareed's Take: Vivid protest images do not tell whole story – Global Public Square – CNN.com Blogs I like very much. jordan shoes cheap http://jordanshoescheap-us.webs.com/

    August 1, 2013 at 3:22 am | Reply
  5. Fae Meaker

    Great looking site. Think you did a great deal of your very own coding.|


    March 31, 2017 at 9:08 am | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.