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Tags: middle east | foreign | policy | arab

US Must Seek a New Strategy to Forge a Stable Arab World

By    |   Sunday, 07 February 2016 12:26 PM

Humans have always had — and probably will always have — trouble with each other.

This is true for individuals, families, and nations. When it comes to nations, it is important to observe the predicament’s development, analyze the shape and direction it might take, and prepare for it by constructing policies to counter it.

In other words, policymakers should act proactively instead of reactively. Counteracting adversities in their formative stages is less costly and more often successful than responding to them when they have matured to full-blown emergencies.   

The Middle East is a case in point. Looking for troubled areas during this second month of 2016, Arab nations leap to mind. All the other conflicts pale in comparison with the complexity and brutality of the mayhem in that region.

Washington should have seriously engaged Arab leaders decades before hell broke out in that region, pressing them to introduce pluralist institutions and the rule of law. America was uniquely positioned to do so.

As most Arab leaders relied on U.S. political patronage and military and technical support, Washington was holding the necessary sway of persuasion.

American foreign policy was not geared up for that. Contrary to U.S. domestic policy, where U.S. administrations have been willing to respond to new conditions and adapt to shifting circumstances, their foreign policy has been barely modified. American foreign policy was and is shaped by mercantilism, often at the expense of fairness and frequently by misguided considerations.

Other people, especially developing nations with cultures outside the Judeo-Christian civilization, were — and to a lesser degree still are — considered irrelevant enough as not to be too concerned about them. As long as Washington has the allegiance of their leaders, it doesn’t much bother what transpires within those nations.

But everything changes. After World War II, when the colonial powers freed their Middle- Eastern possessions, illiteracy in those countries was widespread. Social interchange between the outside world and the Arabs was a trickle and conducted exclusively among the two sides’ elites.

Beginning in the mid-1960s, economic development plans were implemented in the region. In order to preserve their unbridled political power, Arab rulers suppressed the social and political elements of the modern development systems.

Devoid of pluralistic institutions and an independent judiciary, the modern developmental plans, employed merely as management tools, resulted into three outcomes, which, in due course, were to lead to the calamity we witness today.

First, the already traditional central decision making in the hands of the elites was institutionalized by the truncated development model. As a consequence, the elites’ bureaucratic grip further tightened over their peoples.

Second, the unquestioned authority exercised by a few led to pervasive corruption and nepotism. Gradually, the ruling classes and their supporters brought their countries’ economies completely under their control.  

Third, economic development did not merely affect the economies of the Middle Eastern nations. Although, the rulers made sure that the social and political components of the developmental process remained expunged from the applied system, the dynamic nature of progress also caused changes in the peoples’ perceptions and created fresh expectations in other fields of their lives.

Illiteracy was reduced dramatically through wider access to education. Greater trade between the culturally separate regions of the West and the Muslim world intensified, increasing the numbers of travelers in both directions.

The opportunity for Arab students to study at American and European universities gave them the chance to experience life in free societies. Finally, the internet and cable-television brought new ideas and the way of life in the developed world to the living rooms of Arab masses.

The force of those ideas and the realization of living conditions in the modern world caused changes in the perception of Arab nations and created expectations in their social and political spheres of live. Social mobility, political and human rights, heightened material expectations, and the emancipation of women were some of the side effects of economic development. They were also powerful forces that pressed for change.

Instead of originating initiatives toward reforms, Arab elites put off the re-examination of their socio-political structures, leaving tensions within their societies to fester and spread among larger sections of the citizenry. The more infuriated the disaffected people grew, the more brutally their rulers applied the forces at their disposal.

This logjam has instigated a confrontation in which the leadership uses blunt force to impose political legitimacy. The opposition insists on political legitimation based on the people’s free will.

The rulers continuously tighten the screw as they fear being the first victims of change. When the rebellion broke out in Libya and Syria, Gaddafi and Assad even unleashed their armies on their own people and bombed their own cities. 
The root cause of today’s struggles in Arab lands is anchored in the Arab peoples’ refusal to continue serving oppressive and corrupt regimes and their leaders’ unwillingness to let their people choose their leaders themselves. Trust between the opposing sides is shattered beyond repair.

For some of the nations, the time for evolution has passed. The moment for revolution has arrived with all its excesses, brutalities, and destructiveness.

After the collapse of communism and disintegration of the Soviet Union, there was much talk in Washington about a new world order. Matters, however, did not move much beyond mere conversation.

The U.S. continued being in bed with absolutist regimes wherever this was politically and economically expedient. This policy still drives what America does in the Middle East. That is still the basis of America’s intervention in the Arab countries’ rebellions. It’s high time for the U.S. to seek alternative approaches to foreign affairs.
In January 1993, I published an article about the Middle East and American foreign policy toward the Arab world.

Here is one paragraph from it:

“Independent of any other considerations, the U.S. must actively encourage change in the region, challenging established regimes to introduce urgently needed reforms and withholding military and technical support from those Arab leaders who refuse to change.

At the same time, the U.S. should actively search for channels to communicate with those groups within these countries which seek viable routes toward more democratic societies.”

If we want to avoid the mayhem that has engulfed Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen to spread to other Arab nations, Washington must change its policy toward the Middle East. The rapid transformation of the political, social, and economic systems in that region’s countries is conditio sine qua non.

A stable Arab world with democratic administrations and the rule of law, instead of being a region of death and destruction, would be a successful political and economic partner to the rest of the international community.

Nasir Shansab has maintained homes, business interests and dual citizenship in both the United States and Afghanistan for the past three decades. To read more of his work, CLICK HERE NOW.

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Humans have always had-and probably will forever have-trouble with each other. This is true for individuals, families, and nations.
middle east, foreign, policy, arab
Sunday, 07 February 2016 12:26 PM
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