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They still hate us: No one wants to be America, anymore

It is common enough, and true, to say that what happens in Egypt as it stumbles through its political dawn or dusk — you cannot tell which at this point — matters to all Arabs. With 85 million people, the nation accounts for a quarter of the Arab world. So the Arab Spring is at stake. And yes, Egyptians will do much to define it.

But what is at issue in the Middle East — in Egypt, but also in Turkey, in Iran, and elsewhere — is larger than many of us seem to recognize. It is not just the Arab Spring, full of promise as it remains, that we have to think about when news arrives from Cairo, or Istanbul, or somewhere in the Persian Gulf. The Middle East’s discord matters to all of us.

How so, you ask.

Well, not to get too airy, but what we witness in the Middle East now is going to tell us a lot about what kind of century we have on our hands. It is the turning of history’s wheel. It is what will happen, with variants, wherever there are people who are un-modern and want to become modern — which is to say, people almost everywhere. Becoming modern is the project of our time. And too few of us are ready to accept it as such.

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