Friday 13 September 2013

The Middle East DOES NOT MATTER, people!

Syria is a proxy war between Iran and Russia on the one hand and America, Saudi Arabia and Israel on the other. Russia and America alike are actuated by a mixture of healthy national egoism and some principles. Israel thinks that a victory for Assad in Syria will endanger Israel's security more than a failed state on her borders much of it ran by  Al Qaeda. Israel probably knows her interests best but it seems to me that for the rest of us the status quo ante is much preferable - a strong (very bad) man in Syria, allied to Iran and Hezbollah, but keeping order, operating a secular state and protecting Christians, Druse and other minorities. Though of course a complete victory for the Assad regime is, I imagine, very unlikely and the cantonisation of Syria, with the regime in place in Damascus, Aleppo and the coast, is the nearest to victory that the regime can achieve. 

Israel's security is not the most pressing concern for me but I think Israel has lived with the Assads for a long time and does not have nearly so much to fear from them as from chaos. Israel, however, fears Iran.

By the way, Putin suppressed Chechnya with extreme brutality - and 100,000 or 200,000 dead. Putin made a desert and called it peace. Still it worked and might work in Syria - but Assad and Putin are on a par when it comes to respect for human rights. And many of their enemies are just as cruel as they are.

What is clear, even to an imperialist like me, is that most of the problems in the Middle East stem from Western interference, from the Franco-British conquest of the region during the Great War and the Balfour Declaration to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the intervention in Libya last year. The people of the Middle East want to be left alone by us and we should leave them alone. 

It also seems to me that we should realise that the Middle East is a charming, picturesque area of no real importance. A bit like the Balkans up to 1914. Please read Edward Luttwak's brilliant explanation of why this is so. 

Professor Luttwak, by the way, is a Jew from Arad. He talked about the subject of Syria a few months ago and spoke much sense.

'The United States has other new responsibilities: To respond effectively to a rising China, it is essential to disengage from the futile pursuit of stability in North Africa, the Middle East, and Afghanistan. Their endless crises capture far too much policy attention and generate pressures for extremely costly military interventions that increase rather than reduce terrorist violence.' 

Yes. Where I disagree with with him is where, more recently, he said that prolonged war in Syria was the best outcome and would weaken and tie down both Iran and Al Qaeda. Apart from the inhumanity of this, I am not convinced that a limited victory for Assad, and by extension Iran, would do any harm to US or Western interests. This seems to contradict his thesis that the West has no important interest in the Middle East. 

I thought these words were thought-provoking. 
One is tempted to explain the common fate of these exceedingly different countries by invoking the role of Islam in politics. Islam may well preclude democracy -- to cite Turkey as the counterexample is perverse, for doing so ignores that the country was founded by an authoritarian as a secular state, which its current Islamist rulers are eroding day by day. But there is no reason to trip over the vast problems of contemporary Islam, because the economic level of the populations in these North African states would not support effective democratic governance anyway.The Arab Spring has indeed been consequential in awakening populations from passivity. But this merely precludes dictatorial rule, even while these countries' fundamental conditions continue to preclude democracy.Only varieties of anarchy remain. 


  1. Thats an interesting post born of understandable frustration about conditions in the MENA region.

  2. Paul, you can not give a toss about your fellow man if they have darker complexions than you. You can have no sense whatever of 'there but for the grace of God...'. You don't have to keep posting these clownish attempts to justify that posture by saying that a region that's always been central to European and Asian trade and culture, that's been the principal exporter of energy and of religious violence in the world for a century, somehow doesn't matter to us.

    1. This is a very nasty ad hominem attack on me but ignorig the implication that I am colour prejudiced, how do you think we could help rather than make matters worse and why do you think the area matters to us, unlike say Congo?

  3. Congo matters as well. Most of the world's coltan comes from the congo. THe problem is that ZOMG oil is more important right now than coltan. As soon as we release some of our dependency on oil the middle east will matter less. Middle easterners will continue increasing in importance because now quite a few are citizens of Europe.
    Also, apart for a slight implication that you're racist (you're not IMO, just misguided :*) i don't see the ad hominem in that guy's post...

  4. Not only is that war in Chechnya not over though an enormous number of people has been killed but it has spread to the neighbouring republics like Ingushetiya and Dagestan. It's just journalists find it hard to get in there and even harder to get out in one piece.

  5. Russia’s war in Chechnya was an internal war where there was a very direct threat to Russia. Russia's other war was against a Georgian attack on Ossetians. Obama on the other hand has presided over two aggressive wars (one inherited from Bush) and another in Libya, plus this shadow war in Syria. A big difference I would have thought?

  6. People need to wake -up and realize that Israel has an ethnic thus a political philosophy which is far more ethno-centric,
    supremacist, utilitarian than any Western State. They are very much like the Arab States except they are more supremacist. This is not going to change as we can see in history that can still be found in "the good second-hand bookshops". (Thank you P.V.E. . Israel has been an albatross around the U.S.. Israel has complicated the situation and relations between numerous
    factions and Nations. The need to once and for all hold Israel
    as responsible and accountable and checked to the same standards as the others. If not the disaster will continue until... Open to opinion.

  7. Sir, Why did you deep six the Frankfurt School article and Quotations from last week? I would like to read Frankfurt again
    and visit the link again.

    1. I put them back. I want to draw attention to my writings about Madegascar and not quotations from other people.

  8. Oh. That is very understandable. And your lovely trip drew my attention. I enjoyed your trip very much. You do take the reader right along; very exotic. And thanks for restoring the other posts. Many of your posts, I return to look over or read again.