Friday, June 19, 2009

The Turmoil in the Middle East

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.


Guy said...

I'm only in my early fifties, so all I remember is turmoil in the Middle East. While I'm certainly no expert on all the causes for this strife, I do know one thing. We, the average American citizens here, have very little control over it. Our government, other governments, the oil companies, and the movers and shakers in this world are the only entities that can cause, or solve the problems there. I'd like to think that some day they can find some sort of solution there, but I'm not holding my breath. On 9/11 though, the very first thing that came into my mind after the initial shock of what had happened was "we have GOT to do something to reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil". While I don't really see anything particularly wrong with open trade between the U.S. and other countries, it would be so nice if we didn't have to worry about what would happen if something interrupted the supply of oil that we receive from that region of the world (or any other region for that matter). I know that the problems in the Middle East are complicated, and it would be very naive to think that the oil we buy from them is causing all the problems there. If we weren't buying it, someone else would, and besides, there are many other causes for the strife they suffer, most of which you have covered in your post. We'll never be able to turn a blind eye toward that region, ignore the radical element there, or abandon our allies there, but it sure would be nice if we didn't have our dependence on their oil guiding our foreign policy, which I feel it does. Our country would be in a real pickle without their oil, and for that, I fault our government. We should have extricated ourselves from this addiction to their oil years ago. We have the brains, the resources, the technology and the NEED to do so. The failure of past administrations (and the current Obama administration)to develop our own resources is criminal. Our government should have been pursuing a multifaceted approach toward energy independence since the days of the first oil embargo. We've left ourselves exposed and vulnerable, and we continue to do so. Our leaders have failed to perform one of the primary duties they are charged with ... ensuring our national security. Our stock markets and fuel prices have been on a roller coaster for years, rising and falling with every hiccup over there. It is my hope that we can rise to the occasion and cut ourselves free of that mess over there before we find ourselves in real trouble ....

Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joe blowe said...

I still have a tough time with the concept of democracy, which incidentally was not exercised by the Greeks with one person-one vote.
This short little segment gives such a clear vision on the government question:

Watch it.

Alan Caruba said...

Joe Blowe makes a good point. We live in a Constitutional Republic whose government exists to protect the rights of the people.

The video he recommends is instructive.