Robert Kaplan wrote a quite good article for Foreign Affairs ( a prime source for the establishment elite) entitled “Orders After Empire; The Roots of Instability in the Middle East.” I admire his writing and have a number of his books, particularly the Arabists, Balkan Ghosts, and the Revenge of Geography. He is more pragmatic than the general writer on Arab/Middle Eastern affairs. For instance unlike many to perhaps most writers, faux experts, journalists on Middle Eastern affairs, he does not lay the blame of middle eastern dysfunctionality on colonialism or the perennial culprit, al la Edward Said and his band of cultists, Israel. Also he, as do most of the orientalist historians of the Middle East, believe the middle eastern stability existed only under great power control of the Middle East. The modernist writers often put the blame on the absence of democracy in the Middle East. Kaplan opines that some democracy would be nice but he is not sold on it as the answer. He ends by quoting a journalist that what middle easterners desire is “dignity” not necessarily democracy….. Dignity that “shielded its subjects from humiliation and despair.”
Kaplan earlier in the article wrote,
“The history of empire involves a confusion. In the minds of many, it is associated with European rule over large parts of the developing world that forever stains the reputation of the West. But empire has taken many non-Western forms, especially in the Middle East. Beginning with the Umayyad dynasty in seventh-century Damascus, a series of Muslim caliphates established far-flung rule, sometimes spanning the Mediterranean.In subsequent centuries, they were followed by the Ottomans, who extended their rule to the Balkans, and the Omani Sultanate, which in the nineteenth century spread from the Persian Gulf to parts of Iran and Pakistan, as well as to Muslim East Africa. Only in the later stages of the history of empire were the Europeans a significant part of this story.”
Across the Middle East, this varied experience of empire has impeded the development of nation-states like those in Europe and therefore helps account for the region’s lack of stability. Indeed, for many Middle Eastern regimes, the question of how to guarantee a reasonable degree of order with the minimum degree of coercion has not been resolved.”
Kaplan cites the Ottoman empire that encompassed the entire Arab world as the prime example of imperial peace, much like that of Pax Romana. In the short history of pax Britannia in the middle east, there were local rebeliions and tribal wars but nothing approaching the mayhem following the establishment of the individual Arab states.
Of course the usual chorus of the Edward Said aficionados see the colonialist drawing of national borders as the major culprit in the ensuing Arab internal bloodbaths, but in that respect the Middle East is no different from Central Europe. As a reading of the proceedings at the Paris peace conference, and hundreds of earlier European history proves, the erasure, drawing of borders has been endemic through the history of that bloodied region. At the Versailles conference, one attendee asked, “where is this Poland?” Not a bad question as Poland has been an empire, a place, a people without a state- off and on- for centuries.
Kaplan came to my class at Ft Bragg NC one time. I was discussing Arab culture, a big subject with him. At the end of the class he talked about the importance of learning the importance of culture without stereotyping. I thought I covered that well in my class but one must understand that the academic/journalistic big wheels are not going to leave the classroom without dispensing some pearls of wisdom. The problem is that the fear of stereotyping has basically destroyed cultural studies. The fear of touching the third rail of academia, any hint of racism, precludes -as do many other “woke” tyrannies- free intellectual discussion. A close study-for instance- of Russian military history would have disabused the Western Pollyannas in the Press and media from their untenable optimism concerning the course of the war. But Russia right now is on the crap list of the political fashionistas. One hopes the Ukrainians will see their way clear….but hope is not a course of action.
Returning to Poland, despite a long history of mutual genocide and forced resettlement of both Poles and Ukrainians, the Poles are leading the way in assisting the Ukrainians-albeit they understand that if the Ukranians go down they are next and Western Europe and the US will be powerless to stop it. Nevertheless one wonders why the Arabs and Israelis, with less history of mutual slaughter and hatred cannot do as the Poles and Ukrainians are doing- for their mutual benefit.
Where does the “humiliation and despair” of the Middle Easterners come from. Not from the Western ex-colonial powers. At this point many Western leaders are humbling themselves to placate despotic Middle eastern dictators in return for oil or other resources. An example being the humiliating and abject prostrations of the Biden Administration to garner Iranian release of Western hostages- a disgusting display of weakness. Western Middle Eastern academics by and large, prostitute themselves to garner favorable press notices on Middle Eastern media or print sources. The “humiliation and despair” comes from within…the tyranny of their own rulers and that has not materially changed since they obtained independence from Colonial rule. The Zionism and imperialism shibboleths are convenient to tyrants who have imposed nearly a century of bloodshed, ineptitude, and servitude on their subjects.