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Amman, Jordan – 11 December 2004
Yesterday I wrote about the opportunities the Palestinian election and, to a lesser extent, the slow rise of a new generation of Arab leaders offer for people throughout this region. Today I want to talk about what the US can and should do to help this process along.
Marwan Barghouti's candidacy in the upcoming Palestinian elections is partly about whether Palestinians voters will be offered a real choice or what passes for an 'election' in Cairo or Damascus. But the January 9 election also touches on a broader issue, one that has been on the region's agenda for several years: generational change, and how the United States plans to cope with it.
Radio Sawa popular, but ‘no one is watching’ Alhurra TV Part of broad failure of U.S. to reach out to Arab media
An editorial cartoon that ran in a Beirut newspaper over the weekend showed an Arab ballot box chiding a Ukrainian ballot box with the words: "You should have come to me for advice!" If you want to know how to stage a meaningless, rigged poll Arab governments are the people to ask.
A friend from the state department called over the weekend to ask if I had a sense of how people here felt about the election returns. "I'd say everyone's disappointed, but nobody's very surprised," I replied. He did not ask about Condoleezza Rice's appointment as Secretary of State, but if he had I'd have said "ditto".
If advertising pitches are anything to go by, winding up in a foreign hospital appears to be a recurrent nightmare among Americans traveling overseas. My own first encounter with non-American medical care only reinforced this. Visiting a fellow teenager at a London hospital in 1980 I arrived in something that resembled a 30's style cancer ward in a Hollywood movie. It seemed rather severe for a guy with a broken leg.
Now this is something extraordinary, on several levels.
As I write this I am sitting in Amsterdam's Schiphol airport looking out on a rainy morning far removed from the clear skies and still-warm days in Amman. In addition to a dozen or so KLM planes my window seat offers a view of four Northwest Airlines jets and one apiece from Singapore, Hong Kong, Hungary and Turkey.