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Tags: gadhafi | syria | iraq

Imposing Our Idea of Order in Mideast Doesn't Work

Pete Hoekstra By Tuesday, 24 November 2015 01:27 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

Western Europe has been redefining the nation state since 1945 when it formed the European Union following World War II.

The simple concept of six sovereign countries focused on a minor range of economic and defense issues has expanded to 28 countries with the Euro serving as the common currency for most of them.

The Eurozone allows for the largely unimpeded movement of people, goods, services and capital across borders. It has also resulted in unprecedented cooperation on crime, security and finance among its members.

If the model succeeded there, can it apply to some of the most troubled areas of the world such as the Middle East and northern Africa?

Probably not.

In fact, their history contains plenty of evidence that compulsory European ideals and standards of governance are part of the deep-rooted problems rather than a solution.

Iraq, Syria, Libya, and other territories with significant instability and chaos may present the perfect opportunities, however, to start rethinking the entire premise of the nation state.

The genocidal ISIS campaign has effectively reshaped long-recognized borders in the region as it seeks to expand its caliphate. The civilized world is committed to defeating the brutal terrorist organization, but nobody has a plan for what happens next.

It is almost impossible for Iraq, Syria, and Libya to ever again exist as they have since after World War I. The French, British and Italians created the three countries with arbitrary, unnatural boundaries that split ethnic groups and attempted to impose a framework of Western governance.

The formula largely failed. Only ruthless strongman dictators like Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad and Moammar Gadhafi could hold them together.

Now that they are no longer functioning states — and it is highly unlikely that they can, will or should reemerge in the manner that they existed before — all stakeholders can become more creative about how to move them forward.

Let’s begin with Iraq and Syria and help them to foster new models of governance and cooperation.

It has become painfully obvious that Iraq cannot function autonomously with a centralized power controlled by any one political or religious faction.

Perhaps Iraq and Syria could implement an overarching civilian directorate with rotating leadership among the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. It would monitor and distribute oil revenues to three super-autonomous regional executives with their own militaries.

A more federalized administration with strong “satellite” tribes would pose an unusual but potentially effective structure. Who would have thought in 1945 that much of Europe would allow free movement across borders, create a central government and have nearly all of its countries using the same money?

Libya is a different animal all together. It has existed with various leaders pressured by world powers throughout its history. Its devolution after the disastrous 2011 NATO/U.S. intervention continues with competing groups fighting for authority and no party gaining majority support.

The country desperately needs a strong, transparent governing coalition to emerge that can manage the competing tribal factions, possibly by granting them their own degree of sovereignty. The West can help to facilitate — but by no means direct — such a transition.

Who knows how they all might evolve? What we do know is that the past and current structures are unsustainable and dangerous.

Europe and the United States can advise and assist but stop trying to impose its governing models on them. It didn't work after World War I and it hasn't worked more recently in Iraq, Libya, or Afghanistan. All three have failed miserably.

The cultures, educational attainment, and capacity for economic freedom can enable them to become flourishing communities, but to believe it can only occur under western styles of democracy is naïve and arrogant.

World leaders need to approach the problems in the Middle East and northern Africa with imaginative ideas such as those that created the EU.

Forcing square pegs into round holes has not succeeded. The conditions in post-World War II Europe that allowed for the unprecedented template for interaction cannot and will not apply to those whose tribal mindsets and religious beliefs dominate modern politics.

Europe and the United States are better off extending a helping hand to those who know best rather than dictating to them an unfamiliar future.

Pete Hoekstra is the Shillman senior fellow at the Investigative Project on Terrorism. He represented Michigan for 18 years in Congress, including time as chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee. He is the author of "Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.


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It has become painfully obvious that Iraq cannot function autonomously with a centralized power controlled by any one political or religious faction.
gadhafi, syria, iraq
Tuesday, 24 November 2015 01:27 PM
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