Thursday, January 11, 2007

Five + one catastrophes

In an article in the New York Sun, Youssef Ibrahim deals with the proposition that all the problems in the Middle East are down to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He lists the five "catastrophes" of the Middle East:

• Internecine conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon and among Palestinian Arabs;
• Absence of representative governments for 350 million Arabs;
• Uneven distribution of wealth and corruption;
• Widespread illiteracy, poverty, and illness;
• Disenfranchisement of women.
To which he could have added the reheating friction between Sunnis and Shias as Iranian power reaches out towards the Mediterranean.

The obvious question is: how would resolving the Israeli-Palestinian question resolve those? Obviously, it is a comfort for seekers of simple solutions to find them all west of the Jordan, but it's an illusion. Moreover, it is one that feeds the rampant delusion of the Islamists and represents a significant victory for their propoganda campaign. I have one word in reply: disaggregate.


wodge said...

... Al Sauds in Saudi Arabia, Al Qaddafis in Libya, Al Mubaraks in Egypt, Al Sabahs in Kuwait ...

With the exception of Qaddafi, all of those people are our friends in the Middle East. Didn't we help put them in power and keep them there?

The following two weren't our friends, Abd al-Karim Qasim and mossadegh but were interested in the welfare of their own people.

Guess what happened to them?

Disaggregation, is that like when the Israellis helped set up and fund Hamas to undermine Yassar Arafat and the secular PLO.

... Another canard is that the Palestinian Arabs themselves are ready for anything in the way of peace ...

So the reason the Israellis stole their country and are now treating them like second class citizens or prisoners or justing murdering them is because they'd only ended up killing themselves! How thoughtful.

NoolaBeulah said...

True. We have screwed the Arabs many times over the last 200 years. Yes, you can call them 'victims'. The same is true for Africa, for India and much of South-East Asia, including China. European imperialism made the world one, not in a happy Brady-Bunch sort of way, but so that, for the first time, everybody could see everybody else. Whether this was a bad thing or a good thing is a moot point (remember the Babel Fish?). But it happened. It happened because at a certain point in time, the Europeans were better at certain things than other people.

The question is, what to do now? Beat ourselves up because we are stronger? But who has ever been powerful and acted better? How come South-East Asian countries are able to get on with it, take advantage of our exploitation of their cheap labour to make themselves strong? Maybe they didn't see themselves as victims. Maybe they swallowed their pride and made themselves essential for others. We'll have to swallow our pride one day (not in my lifetime, I hope, but it'll come). In the meantime, should the fact that we have done certain things in the past render us incapable of acting in our own interests now? Does it make the losers in the nasty battle of life better, or more worthy, simply because they have not achieved their conquests?

One point. There has never been a country called Palestine. After the Crusades, it was several of the emirates of Greater Syria (ie. not distinct). Under the Ottomans it was part of the province of Damascus-Syria, then of Sidon (ditto). The British Mandate of Palestine covered land on both sides of the Jordan (ditto).

wodge said...

What I was suggesting was that we stop supporting the corrupt leaders in the Middle East who mostly seem to be our allies and stop overthrowing and maybe even start supporting the leaders that actually want to help their own people.

There may not have been a country called Palestine but the people that lived there prior to 1948 had lived there for generations. And there hasn't been a country called Israel there either for the best part of two thousand years.

NoolaBeulah said...

One of the aims of the Iraq War was to shift support away from the usual tribal chief elevated to dictator and have something approaching a representative government. Looking more and more long-term that aim.

You're right. It would be better to support leaders that want to help their own people. The difficulty is finding them. Aside from Lebanon, where do you see possibilities? Political systems without a confident middle class (which exists in no Arab country, though maybe in Iran) are always going to be autocracies - I can't see any way around that. So it comes down to your choice of autocrat. The best would be a Lee Kwan Yew type, determined to use the world economy to make something that works for most of his people. Are United Arab Emirites and Dubai the models?