The Rand MacNally era of the Middle East has ended.
That is an historically heavily loaded and brilliant statement. Simple, but powerful in that it provides a context for understanding the Middle East today. There is much more than just this, but it helpful to understand.
Many of the current borders of the Middle East were created in Europe, by Europeans with pens and agendas. Simply put, they were the victors of WWI, dividing the spoils and the spheres of influence. Primarily Britain and France. Think Lawrence of Arabia, the story and epic glorious film. As had been done in colonial Africa, lines were drawn across the landscape without consideration of the occupants. Some of those lines on the map split apart what had been cohesive tribal and sectarian regions. In other areas the lines enclosed tribal groups and sects that had long been in conflict with each other to then form a country. These were not nations forged by a unified people with a common interest or sense of nationality. And now they are unraveling in waves of violence and destruction.
How can democracy prevail without a unified, fierce, visionary, spirit?
When groups mistrust one another, each struggles to survive, preserve, and promote its own interests. Democracy draws strength from a collective vision and sense of identity. Ideally a common good to benefit the many, not the few, or the one. Democracy is much more than voting, forming governments, and writing a constitution. It’s difficult to export a vision.
The above bit was written from the top of my head. Accuracy in the details are questionable. You should look it up before repeating it to anyone. I should too.
Fareek Zakaria: GPS on CNN. Podcast. Skip the text below, click on the link/title, and listen.
Below is an informative, interesting, and highly listenable, podcast. It is an excellent exploration and analysis of how we, the United States, have gotten to and influenced the present day state of affairs in the Middle East. Key questions are asked and answered with help from some of the architects that were directly involved in the process.
President George W. Bush had a dream that Iraq would become a beacon of hope in the Middle East. Now, with the region wracked by chaos, civil war, and violence, some U.S. presidential candidates are pledging to order American “boots on the ground” again in Iraq this time to fight ISIS. The crucial question is: do we understand the Iraq we would be going back to? CNN’s Fareed Zakaria will take a timely look at the reality of what is left of Iraq in Long Road to Hell: America in Iraq. Zakaria asks tough questions of many of the key architects of America’s military intervention in Iraq over the last dozen years: Who is responsible for the unraveling of Iraq? Do those who want to send American troops to Iraq again understand the mistakes of the past? And, is Iraq even a country anymore? Zakaria was himself an early supporter of the 2003 military intervention in Iraq. Explaining how his views evolved over time, Zakaria points out the consequences of the major strategic choices. He argues there were too few troops sent to maintain post-war order once the American-led coalition had conquered Saddam’s army. And, greater inclusion of the sectarian groups in Iraq could have meant more regional support for the nation-building efforts that followed the collapse of the Baathist regime.
In Long Road to Hell, Zakaria examines these vital pivot points and mistakes some previously unknown until now.
Offering answers and exploring the challenges are:
Tony Blair, U.K. Prime Minister (1997-2007), Quartet Representative for the Middle East (2007-2015); Antony Blinken, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State (2014-present); Paul Bremer, Presidential Envoy to Iraq (2003-2004); Richard Clarke, Special Advisor to the President for Cyberspace (2001-2003); National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism Czar (1998-2003); Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence (Ronald Reagan Administration); Douglas Feith, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (2001-2005); Peter Galbraith, former U.S. diplomat; Richard Haass, PhD, president, Council on Foreign Relations (2003 present); former lead U.S. official on Afghanistan and Northern Ireland (2001-2003); and Gen. David Petraeus (ret.), Commander, Multi-National Force in Iraq (2007 2008); Commander, International Security Assistance Force and Commander, U.S. Forces in Afghanistan (2010-2011); Commander, U.S. Central Command (2008-2010).
For my own reference, each of the items below are tags and links – Topics discussed and guests on this episode include:
Iraq George W Bush Middle East U.S. Central Command Counterterroism Secretary of State American troops Afghanistan Deputy Secretary Richard Haass Gen. David Petraeus iraq civil war Paul Bremer Antony Blinken Peter Galbraith