Friday, August 04, 2006

The Illusion of the "Greater Middle East"

The Illusion of “The Greater Middle East

Ali Asghar Kazemi
August 4, 2006


War has never been the solution to any problem, though history of mankind, its various inventions and institutions have been closely related to this unfortunate phenomenon. Anger, fear, greed, dogma and superstitions have always been strong factors in man’s nature to resort to war and violence against his kind. The drive for survival and self-preservation on the one hand and the zeal to direct others to the path of salvation on the other, have sometime introduced a whole new order of reasons and justification for violence.

It has been said that men differ from animals in their unique capacity to persecute and exterminate one another for the sake of general ideas and beliefs which they even are incapable to understand. History bears witness that man’s fiercest wars have been fought over conflicting ideologies and religious beliefs. These controversies have paved the way to those who were successful in manipulating both abstract ideas and their fellow-believers. In this respect, Ben Laden, Bush and other zealous fanatics are on the same track. Obsessive leaders who arrogate to themselves the exclusive right to interpret the ideology, or to guide others to the path of heavenly salvation( read divine order) or earthly paradise (read democracy) create a situation in which their credulous followers tend to show a belligerent and aggressive attitude towards whoever deviates from their way of thinking and perception.

All the norms and customs regarding man’s violent interactions and conflicts in the domain of domestic and international law, gradually accumulated during the past centuries, are product of such endeavors. The distressing fact is that despite the amazing progress of modern civilizations and impressive breakthrough in technologies and sciences, mankind still faces immense difficulties to establish a world order and democratic environment free of emotional convenience of resort to military option and mass murder. The current situation in the Middle East is the most horrible example of this unfortunate trend.

US military entanglement in Iraq and to some extent in Afghanistan, and the ominous news of daily casualties of soldiers as well as the civilians in the current Middle East crisis which has so far claimed the lives so many innocent people and unbelievable damages to newly democratic Lebanon, leave the impression that the “democratization” plan of the greater Middle East is just as a de-stabilizing project threatening the peace and order of the whole region and the very survival of some traditional states.

It is safe now to say that more than anytime in the past, the people of the greater Middle East believe that the Americans are selling them to Israel for nothing and see the United States as an arrogant power which ought to be contained and ousted from this strategic region altogether. They are aware that now the US president is in deep trouble even in his own country and is loosing his constituency at home and his prestige abroad.

Once, after the September 11th, the United States had some chances to initiate fight against terrorism but gradually the matter became outshined by other considerations. The neo-conservative hawks in the US administration hijacked the endeavor for their immature political objectives and illusions. They thought quite naively that they can solve all the outstanding issues in the world by military might and hard power. This is especially true with regard to new genre of extremism and religious radicalism around the world and especially in the Middle East.

Among the most urgent problems of the Middle East the ones that could be considered as the pivot points are: the lingering issues of Arab-Israeli situation, including the Palestinian problem in the wake of Hamas political victory; the Iraqi situation and the necessity for a quick round up of the ongoing entanglement; and the issue of nuclear proliferation and the condition created by Iran’s nuclear ambitions. We should recognize that the problem of Islamic radicalism and the growing threats of international terrorism and the issue of democratization of the greater Middle East as a solution to contain terrorism, are interwoven together. This means that no simple and quick answer can solve any of the above issues independently and coherently.

It goes without saying that peace and order in the Middle East are severely geared to the timely and appropriate management of those critical issues, which could otherwise be a heavy burden on the way of American policy and strategy in the years ahead. Indeed, the Americans would have difficult times to properly carry out their stated plans to unravel these critical issues. However, if they choose to go it alone and to continue to persist on unilateralist actions, as they did in the past, the chances for a quick way out of the impending problems would be very meager.

Perhaps one of the main handicaps of Bush and his neo-cons advisers around him is his reductionism approach to political realm. That is to say, that he tends sees everything in black and white, good and evil. Whether we like it or not, this approach is susceptible to increase animosity and hatred against Americans around the world, not only in the Middle East but also among Europeans, who are demonstrating more and more dissatisfaction against U.S. policy in the region.

With respect to Iran, it could be argued that the Islamic regime nuclear ambitions are somehow geared to other critical problems such as Islamic radicalism and democratization in the region. One can go even further to contend that Iran’s position with respect to Israel, the Palestinian problem and the unfortunate condition in Iraq has direct bearing upon U.S. policy towards Iran. Since, from the beginning of the American intervention in Afghanistan and later in Iraq, after the 9/11, Iran has shown that it can play a crucial role in the region with respect to the success or failure of American policy in the whole Middle East.

Considering recent development in the Middle East, the future of this region seems not to be very promising at this juncture. Current fluid situation does not permit to pass a realistic judgment on other issues especially the present crisis involving Israel, Hamas, Hezbollah and Lebanon. We have to wait and see how the international community handles this crisis with a view to establish a lasting peace. Given that no substantive change may take place in U.S. policy toward the Middle East and its unequivocal support of Israel, it does not appear that we should expect any immediate breakthrough in many respects, including the Palestinian problem.

Recognizing that President Bush and his neo-conservative entourage have a definite propensity to solve problems of terrorism and related issues by using hard power and force, the prospects for eradicating this unusual phenomenon do not seem bright. Furthermore, the fluid situation in Iraq might not bring an end to Iraq’s chaos in near future.

Considering the fact that many traditional states in the Middle East are fearful of the Bush’s vision of “democratization” of the region, it does not seem that this controversial course of action will succeed to any considerable degree and will probably remain an illusion in the years to come.


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