By Alan Caruba
It sometimes seems like we have been reading and hearing about turmoil in the Middle East for our entire lives, but the facts are otherwise. For most of the last century and earlier, the Middle East was a backwater of age-old Islamic repression.
Things began to change with the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War One. They had backed the Germans and, already in decay, it didn’t take much of a push to end it. The winners of the war, primarily England and France, met in Versailles where they took out their maps of the region and divided it between them. Nations were created, some with ancient names like Syria and Lebanon, some with new ones like Trans-Jordan. A nation called Iraq was created.
The Saudis got very little for having cast their lot with the English. They would never trust them again and when Americans came knocking with a request to search for oil, they got the nod, not the British.
It was World War Two and its aftermath that really got the pot boiling. The Middle East had not played much of a role. Initially the war had been fought in North Africa with an eye on Libya’s oil reserves and the need to protect the Suez Canal from the Germans.
Shortly after the war’s end, India declared its independence from Great Britain and, at the same time, was partitioned to create Pakistan and Bangladesh for those of its Muslim population that did not want to live with their Hindu neighbors. By 1971, Bangladesh parted company with Pakistan and declared its own independence.
Former UK colonies became independent, but with the exception of Lebanon, nations like Syria and Iraq were controlled by despots and their cronies. Turkey opted for modernity, but sheikdoms such as Saudi Arabia remained sleepy, oil-rich backwaters of the region.
The introduction of Israel into this mix, recognized as a sovereign nation in 1947, was the catalyst for some the troubles that roil the region today. Islam’s argument with Israel is that its existence invalidates Islam’s claim to be the single religion destined to rule the world, let alone the Middle East.
If one believed the ravings of its mullahs, Iran exists for no other reason than to destroy Israel and to bring about the return of the Twelfth Imam, a mythical Shiite figure, through massive global death and destruction.
More than sixty years and several lost wars later, Hamas and Fatah in Gaza and the West Bank have no other purpose than to destroy Israel in the name of Palestine, a non-state entity that exists only as a welfare recipient of the United Nations and other donors. Hezbollah, located in Lebanon, is a client of Iran.
Even if there were no Israel, the endless dissatisfaction of Muslims with their lot in life would ensure that there would be strife. The issue is not Israel. It is modernity and the tantalizing prospect of true democracy for a people that have never experienced it.
The real problem for the Middle East, however, was and is Islam, a political as well as social and religious entity. Until the rest of the world is prepared to admit this, we shall all be forced to pretend that Pakistan has merely been having a few problems since its founding in 1947, that the so-called Palestinians have any legitimacy, that Islam is "a religion of peace."
Similarly, the genocide taking place in the Sudan is based in Islamic intolerance. Other human rights abuses, endemic to the Middle East, exist because the United Nations has been largely captured by its Islamic bloc of member states.
When Iran experienced its Islamic Revolution in 1979, it is doubtful its ruling mullahs ever expected to see Muslims by the tens of thousands in the streets of Tehran in 2009 protesting their brutal oppression.
It took a Green Revolution in Lebanon to expel Syria from the domination of its neighbor state. Afghanistan, as the former Soviet Union learned, should be left to itself, Islamic or not, because its tribes are a friend to neither each other nor intruders of any description.
With the exception of North Korea, the world’s attention has been captured by a Middle East in turmoil, not because Islam offers a better, more just and humane way of conducting political and social affairs, but because it fails on all counts.
The rest of the world has to stand with those brave Muslims in the streets of Tehran and everywhere else they demand what the West enjoys and represents, modernity, freedom, democracy, and a chance for a better life for all who embrace it.