At last, Donald Trump has proved himself to be a demagogue. In the best style of demagoguery, he took advantage of the American public at a time when they face a multitude of uncertainties around the globe and ponder over America’s future role within an evolving international correlation.
China’s growing economic and military strength, Russia’s awakening obsession with regaining its lost superpower status, and the Middle East’s escalating chaos have unsettled the sense of security of many Americans.
Especially, the rise of the so-called Islamic State — also called ISIS or ISIL — and its barbarity have added to the public’s confusion. The ISIS-organized terrorist attack in Paris and the ISIS-inspired mass-murders in San Bernardino by an American Muslim and his Pakistani-born wife shocked Americans and escalated their already negative perception of Islam and Muslims.
This was the atmosphere in which Mr. Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, made his anti-Muslim statement. Only demagogues use moments of great emotional turbulence to feed the public’s fear and revulsion. By proposing that no Muslim be allowed to enter the United States, Mr. Trump buttressed the Islamophobia some Americans entertain.
Since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, a large number of articles have been published about ISIS’s terroristic actions and Mr. Trump’s reaction to them. The articles I read were appropriately critical of Mr. Trump’s suggestion. What was lacking from these otherwise excellent pieces was an accurate description of the origin of the turbulence in the Arab world.
The cause of the Arab world’s catastrophe is often believed to be religion. That is merely the visible face of the turmoil. The true core of the struggle is political, social and economic.
It is true that in Islam politics and religion are interlocked. Prophet Mohammad had combined both the spiritual and temporal power in his person. That manner of governance is often considered to be the God-given way to lead. Ruling elites in the Islamic world, especially in traditional Arab nations, have readily embraced this legacy to the fullest.
The interconnected relationship between politics and religion has been a complicating factor for change. Rulers have insisted that innovation of one was only possible with concurrent reformation of the other. And by claiming that reinterpretation of Islamic laws and tradition were beyond human elucidation, they denied social and political reforms and held on to their medieval forms of governance till today.
What is presently taking place within the Arab nations is the natural drive for change, something human societies have historically aspired to and engaged in to evolve to higher levels of development. The tragedy, the inhumanity, and the senseless destruction we witness in Iraq, Syria, and Libya are consequences of subjugation that those people have suffered for decades, even centuries.
The necessary stages of evolution that Arab nations needed to pass through and transition from backwardness to higher stages of advancement never took place. At each instance when the opposition made an effort to bring about reforms, the ruling elites frustrated those exertions by political manipulation and naked force. Every setback heightened the opposition’s hatred and convinced it that it had to meet the regime’s violence with even greater ferocity of its own, if it hoped ever to succeed.
After a long period of state-enforced stagnation, the stress has finally grown beyond the establishment’s control. The pressure has exploded with such vehemence and zeal that senseless devastation and cruelty are considered legitimate tools for success.
Today’s display of brutality is the extreme face of the continuance of that negative sequence.
Having the potential for this catastrophic outcome in mind, I had, in a January-1993 published article, stated, “Arab leaders’ rigid approach to political and social change is a clear danger to their countries’ internal stability. Delaying the process [of change] will only aggravate the situation, prolonging periods of instability and, in the end, causing more harm.”
The debut of the Arab Spring was the harbinger to the catastrophic civil wars that had to and did follow. This process will spread all over the Arab world unless urgent steps towards massive reforms are not taken immediately — if the time for reform hasn’t slipped away.
Foreign influence has also played a role in this unfortunate saga. During the colonial period the locals were considered mere savages who had no need for pluralistic institutions and human rights. After World War II, when the colonial powers withdrew from their Arab possessions, they made sure that like-minded friends among the locals took power. The repression continued for another seven decades.
What now transpires in the Arab world is a fight for access to social equality, political power, and level opportunity in the economic life of the country. In its essence, the rebellion is neither a religious confrontation nor a war against the West.
The talk of ISIS wanting to destroy the West is absurd. It does not possess significant enough military forces to prevail against the West’s military might. It lacks the industrial base to produce effective weapons. It attacks the West only when the latter gets in the way of its struggle. In its inability to militarily respond to the West’s interference, terrorism is the only weapon it can muster. It is a fact of life that, in the event of a too wide disparity of power between two opposing forces, the weaker party resorts to acts of terror.
However, if this unequal and unnecessary confrontation between the all-powerful West and the angry Arab insurgents continues, the latter may one day get their hands on a portable nuclear device — the so-called dirty bomb. In that case and despite their extreme weakness in comparison with the West’s military might, the terrorists would be in a position to inflict major harm to the civilian population in the West.
That nightmarish scenario can only be avoided if the West lets the Arabs fight it out among themselves.
The U.S. and its European allies must realize that their policy toward the Arab world is shaped by conservatism and even an instinctive colonial attitude. This circumstance causes in Western politicians a groundless fear that any popular development in those countries would negatively affect their influence over them.
It is high time that the United States throws that long-defunct policy to the garbage can of history. America’s pursuit of wars that are without an appropriate political purpose is not only destroying the countries it attacks, but is also damaging the U.S. itself. It weakens the country’s financial health.
The daily accounting of how many “bad guys” have been killed — often by extralegal means — is impairing the moral fiber of some Americans. The day-after-day and year-after-year displays of American war planes and armor destroying cities, damaging infrastructure, and rendering hundreds of thousands homeless is injurious to the American people’s sense of modesty and value of life. It creates both a feeling of arrogance and a sense of vulnerability, both of which can — and already is — generate fear, aggressiveness, and senseless murders.
Instead of taking up arms against everything that happens in the backward parts of the world, the United States should use its political, military, and diplomatic influence to persuade despotic governments to open up their governing systems, letting their people participate in governance. And when the inevitable explosion happens and the insurgency begins — as is the case in Iraq and Syria — the U.S. should actively search for channels to communicate with those groups that are likely to seek viable routes toward democratic societies, using its weight to bring about a negotiated settlement of the hostility.
Returning to Mr. Trump’s frivolity, he must be reminded that he is no longer a private person who has the freedom to think and talk as he deems proper. He is running for the presidency of the most powerful nation on earth. What he utters is listened to and carefully analyzed around the globe. He should not present the American people in a harmful manner. The vast majority of Americans stand firmly on their compassionate and generous values.
was once one of Afghanistan’s leading industrialists and had advised the White House and Parliament on matters regarding his home country. To read more of his work, CLICK HERE NOW.
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