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Crisis in the Middle East
The Arab Implosion Continues
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  • WigWag

    Professor Mead is half right; the Arab world is in extremis. But is this really an Arab problem or is it a Muslim problem? As poorly as the Arab world is faring, are the non-Arab Muslim nations faring that much better?

    Iran is a disaster; it’s economy is in shambles, its rate of venereal disease is astronomical, its fertility rates are collapsing and its youth have few prospects and are wildly disaffected. It’s neighbor Azerbaijan isn’t exactly Hong Kong either. What about Pakistan or Bangladesh; one of them is a hell hole and the other is a failed nation. Have you checked out Afghanistan recently? How long will it take after the last American troops leave before the nation rips itself apart in a cauldron of violence that makes Syria look tame by comparison? How are things shaping up in Nigeria or Sudan, Yemen or Somalia? Maybe things in Senegal, Tunisia and Guinea are going reasonably well, but obviously the same thing can’t be said for Mail or Sierra Leone. As for Morocco or Algeria; they may be holding it together, but if they are, its by the skin of their teeth.

    What about those Muslim majority nations in the Caucuses? Does anyone in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan or Turkmenistan actually make anything that anyone else in the rest of the world might want to buy? Isn’t every single one of these nations impoverished, backwards and so poorly governed that there is little to no hope that they will ever ascend out of the morass they currently find themselves in?

    Let’s not forget the Muslim-majority nations in Europe; they might not be quite as bad as some of the others, but compared to the rest of Europe; they’re pathetic. Albania has a per-capita GDP of less than $5,000 (U.S); Kosovo is an organized crime family masquerading as a nation-state.

    Even the success stories of the Muslim world; Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, can’t hold a candle to the newly developing nations in Asia or to European or South American nations.

    Are the problems of the Arab world particularly acute? Of course they are. But the problems cited by Professor Mead are really problems of the Islamic world not the Arab world. Of course there are many nations where Muslims thrive. India comes to mind and so does the United States. The reason is obvious; the nations where Muslims live happy, healthy and prosperous lives are mostly nations where Muslims are in the minority.

    What’s that about?

    • Terra Viva

      Muslims are supposed to follow the enlightened example of their prophet, that’s what it is all about!

    • Terra Viva

      Compare the self centered, arrogant, violent , deceitful, promiscuous , amoral personality of M. with the humble personalities (overall) of Moses and Jesus, and you got your answer set for you.

    • latetodinner

      Indonesia is not doing well. Of your list only Malaysia is doing okay and that is because the Han Chinese are a 45% minority. I would go a step further than you did…I think professor Mead like a lot of “enlightened” academics misses or refuses to acknowledge the fundamental flaws inherent in a society when a 1500 year old religion is used to form the moral code and government of a modern society. When the fundamental tenants of the religion include the subjugation and objectification of women…thereby taking their creativity and labor out of the work force while devoting resources to making sure they stay uneducated and out of the workforce you already start at a huge disadvantage. When a central tenant of the religion is to stop what you are doing and pray 6 times a day for 10-20 minutes and then it is enforced you have a society that is organized around cultlike actions rather than practical work you are reduplicating the original Jamestown experiment over and over on a larger and larger scale…all with the same dismal result of failure. When the religion is in the majority and has taken over governance by disposing sectarian rule it teaches/instructs its citizens to force conversions on the minority…which it turn eliminates any other potential productivity while using resources to enforce these totalitarian views.

      Lastly, this is not a Post Imperialism problem. This is the centuries old problem of a population not demanding inalienable rights, an honest judiciary, and the liberty to pursue success. I hate when these ivory tower types blame imperial powers. Let’s put the blame when it belongs…clearly on the people who are not demanding freedom. Stop making excuses. If the people do not want to fight for a free and just society then they will not get one. If they want to blindly follow 1500 year old misogynist teachings in place of successful models present in the USA, Australia and Hong Kong…then they deserve what they get.

    • Albert8184

      I don’t think you have an adequate grasp of this world. There is not “Arab World” that isn’t part of the Islamic world. That’s number one. Number Two, Muslims are NOT happy in countries where they are minorities living in a non-Muslim society. They might be “happy” in the way you view happiness – healthy, prosperous, safe, etc. But they can’t be happy the way they see it. It’s against their religion to be subservient or submissive to any infidel. India? Are you kidding? The Brits paved the way for Pakistan, and all they did was build nuclear missiles in hopes of one day wiping out the infidel Hindus next door. In the riots which preceded the partition in the Punjab Province, it is believed that up to 2 million people were killed in the retributive genocide between the religions. Look at Europe. Riots everywhere. That’s not happiness.

  • Anthony

    “If, in 2011, the West’s view of the Arab world was grounded in optimism and exhilaration, it’s an entirely different story in 2016.”

    Perhaps, signal parties need to stop viewing the region through a narrow lens (security concerns). another view: and see the coming world of peak oil demand, not peak oil:

    • Jim__L

      There were some voices of reason even during the Arab Spring.

      Too bad no one was listening.

      • Anthony

        Neither authors nor I are suggesting “otherwise”.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    “modernizing” Arab states

    I don’t think that means what you think it does.

    Islamic Culture is incompatible with Modern Civilization. Without the “Rule of Law” which secures the Lives, Liberty, and Property of the people, Modern Civilization can’t function. Muslim’s support for the imposition of Sharia Law, runs from 80% to 99%, even in western countries where Muslims experience equal protection under the law, and the affluence that follows.
    Sharia Law legalizes the Murder, Rape, Robbery, and Enslavement (Yes! Slavery), of all Infidels and Apostates, and every “Good” Muslim gets to decide for himself who those people are. People look with horror on the atrocities being committed by ISIS, without acknowledging that it is they that are most faithfully following the word and letter of the Koran.

    • Matt B

      Please don’t cut and paste the same comment into multiple articles. Everyone else here finds a way to repeat themselves without using the exact same words every time.

  • Greg Olsen

    I think WRM is to quick to call it an Arab problem. Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are also in perpetual crisis. It is civilizational, not pan-Arab. Only the Arab world affects Europe much more acutely and therefore gets the bulk of the attention.

    • Jim__L

      I think this is because WRM’s point of view (and that of a large number of his interlocutors) is centered in the Near Middle East.

      • mnemos

        Not sure how appropriate it is, but in some sense the problems in Pakistan and Afghanistan are due to the madrassas that have been planted by Saudi Arabia, which makes it more of an Arab problem than it seems.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Perhaps, but it is a problem in Iran as well, and I assure you referring to an Iranian as ‘Arab’ would not be particularly useful for your health

  • Jim__L

    “We have met with no real success, and we have no real idea what to try next.”

    You’re narrowly referring to the Obama Administration, right? They remind me of Ned “Okely Dokely” Flanders’ father when asked what sort of discipline they provided for his son — “We’ve tried nothin’, and it hasn’t worked, man!”

    Bluntly, it is that administration’s serial failures that have led us to this point. The abandonment of Iraq and Afghanistan (and the betrayal of the sacrifice of all the American soldiers who bled and died there), the failure to plan for a crisis in Egypt when the aged Mubarak was out of the picture beyond the blind ideological support for the Twittering idiots of Tahrir Square, the foresight-free toppling of Ghaddafi, the weak-kneed Iran deal, the sheer incompetence that has allowed Putin to play this game on Easy mode for seven long years now…

    The Surge worked. We were on our way to a stable Iraq. Instead of an administration that might pay attention to folks like Niall Ferguson, we get shallow-thinking clowns like Samantha Powers.

    The Cold War was won — and to an amazing degree, won gracefully — on the strength of a framework we had been laying for decades, a framework that involved overwhelming military force, and an adherence to Conservative values.

    Obama has neither the head nor the stomach for that.

    And that is why we’ve failed.

    • MikePM

      Get real, broheim. In case you haven’t noticed, nobody is buying the neocon rubbish anymore. It’s way past it’s sell by date, so you’re wasting your time trying to sell it.

      The entire country now knows that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and company committed one of the epic strategic blunders of modern times when they decided to oust Saddam Hussein and his Baathists, the cornerstone holding together the rotten edifice of the Middle East.

      Colin Powell and a few others tried to warn them, and they foolishly didn’t listen, to our everlasting chagrin.

      • guadalcanaldiary123

        Nice rewrite of History I guess that’s what they teach you clowns in school these days

      • Hypernonpartisan

        Yep. Then Hillary, even with the benefit of hindsight, repeated that mistake in Libya. And yet to this day she advocates overthrowing Assad! Un-fricken-believable!

        • MikePM

          Yep. She is an almost unspeakably evil old witch. We’ll be lucky if World War III doesn’t break out on her watch.

      • Jim__L

        Neocon decisions handed a difficult world to Obama, with some scary worst-case scenarios. Obama’s policies took those worst-case scenarios and made them the most-likely scenarios.

        I was not in favor of the Iraq War either. I suspected that Blix had a point when he said there weren’t any WMD. But Obama did not have the academic’s luxury of simply positing the diplomatically simple world of 1992 — he had to work with the world he had, the world of 2008.

        And he botched it, bigtime.

        Every president inherits the debts of the last administration — financially, militarily, diplomatically. Simply ignoring them because you don’t like them is not an option.

        Whether or not the original invasion was wise, the fact is that the Surge worked, and Cutting and Running has failed. Obama has taken a bad situation, and made it catastrophic.

        Could Obama have prevented this? Yes. Hard power is important, and makes the world safe for soft power. Obama is throwing away both by throwing away the first.

      • SWohio

        Blaming it on Republicans? Then explain this:

        B. Obama: “Now let me be clear — I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity. He’s a bad guy. The world and the Iraqu people would be better off without him.”

        B. Clinton “We are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them.” “our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.”

        Kerry “Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. . . . And now he is miscalculating America’s response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction … the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real”, “I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.”

        Allbright “For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.” “Hussein has chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies.”

        Levin,Daschle,Kerry “[W]e urge you,after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S.Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs.”

        Pelosi “Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.”

        H CLinton “In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. It is clear that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological andchemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.”

        Waxman “He has systematically violated over the past 11 years every UN demand that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do”

        Levin “We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein has ignored the mandate of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.”

        Gore “We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.”, “Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.”

        Kennedy “We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.”

        Byrd “We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and that he has embarked on a course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities..”

        Rockefeller “There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years … We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction.”

        Graham “Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies.”, “We are in possession of compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has had for a number of years a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction.”

        Berger “He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983.”

    • f1b0nacc1

      Only one minor quibble….you are insulting clowns by conflating them with Samantha Powers.

  • gabrielsyme

    “The traditionalist monarchies clearly are doing better than the republics, and though that is partly due to the oil revenues than keep so many of them afloat”

    Partly being the operative term. Compare Morocco to Algeria or Libya; Jordan to Syria. It is little surprise that U.S. “nation-building” in the Middle East has been such a rotten failure when America has scorned the only constitutional structure that has shown stability and resilience in the region.

    • Monte

      Yes, valid points – the Americans carry their own cultural baggage just as much as the Arabs, and one aspect of it is a deep-seated and ideological antipathy to monarchical constitutions and traditionally-ordered societies. In recent years, one consequence of this was that what were probably the only viable options for stability in Iraq and Libya (and Afghanistan) were dismissed out of hand.

      • Jim__L

        So you propose a Three Kingdoms period in Iraq?

        The biggest Sunni city in Iraq is Baghdad. The biggest Shi’ite city in Iraq is Baghdad. And, the biggest Kurdish city is, that’s right, Baghdad. Would that cause a problem?

        • Monte

          No, I propose nothing of the sort.

          • Jim__L

            OK, I’m not following, then. Are you proposing a multi-ethnic kingdom in Iraq?

            The opposition to this in America is based firmly in Europe’s historical experiences a century ago. I’d be interested in hearing you make a case, but as you might expect it would be an uphill climb to convince people.

          • Monte

            In the first place, I’m not “proposing” anything, merely noting an opportunity lost. In all three countries, after decades of instability and despotism, virtually the only untainted political force with real legitimacy across ethnic, tribal and sectarian divisions was the deposed dynasty. In all three cases, the heads of dynasties indicated a willingness to cooperate with the western powers involved, subject of course to requirements, reservations or guarantees which varied. In each case the dynasty made it clear that it was willing to accept a role short of actual restoration, and in all three cases there were early indications that the peoples of the three countries were receptive to the dynasty playing some political role. And in each case, the US leadership ignored or derided or actively worked against the influence of the former dynasty.

            Only in the case of Afghanistan was the former king Mohammed Zahir Shah allowed to play a significant public role in the post-war settlement as, in effect, chairman of the first Loya Jirga with the title “Father of the Nation”. There is sufficient evidence that his return to Afghanistan was welcomed by the people and that a substantial number, possibly a majority, of delegates to the Loya Jirga were prepared to see the king resume his role as head of state, either by that title or another. Instead, the US pushed him to the side and installed Hamid Karzai in power as president, with results which are now indisputable.

          • Jim__L

            So… would you be in favor of a Hapsburg restoration, to oppose Orban?

  • wheezer

    The enemy of the arab world is power vacuums. Its that simple. Stable regimes no matter how brutal must rule.

  • SandMan00

    The problem is – and has always been – Islam. Wherever it constitutes a majority, it rules with medieval authoritarianism. Islam is inherently anti-democratic and is therefore antithetical to individual freedom. Islam means submission to the will of God – that will of course being determined by men who wield power over others as if they were God themselves.

  • Gregg Connolly

    A great book to read about the Arab world and history is Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes Paperback – April 27, 2010

    by Tamim Ansary

  • fenster moop

    I see Professor Mead’s point that Israel’s argument about Palestinian lack of capacity may increase in volume. But might it not cut the other way with Iran?

  • TheLincolnian

    “[T]he government most conformable to nature is that which best agrees with the humour and disposition of the people in whose favour it is established.” — Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws, vol. 1, ch. 3

  • donqpublic

    I know it’s off the table for being barbaric, pre-modern, and a throw back to ancient times and classical civilizations prowling the Eurasian land mass on the “right side of history,” besides violating the safe spaces of modern Bobos in paradise and their bimbos, but it does work, and as recently as the Russians taking Berlin and the Americans taking Tokyo: kill all the Muslim males and take their women. There, I said it. Aside from doing that everything else is just conversation and pissing into the wind.

  • TAS

    Also, as the Western world continues to rely less and less on the Arab and Muslim majority countries for oil, these existing problems will only exacerbate. The countries with the most to lose in the next 20 years are Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait. All four have the capacity to change or at least influence the undercurrent in the Middle East. Unfortunately, they don’t have the willpower. Unless these nations take a more direct role in trying to reign in the chaos in that region, they will ultimately be swallowed up by it. In the absence of their action, the US should let it be known that we will take all steps necessary to limit or eliminate our presence in the area at their peril. Muslims all over the world should wake up and denounce this crazy religion. The inability to realize how destructive their religion has become to their societies and families is almost comical at this point.

  • hopleyyeaton

    150 years ago pre-oil they were running around the desert cutting each other’s heads off. 150 years from now post-oil they’ll be running around the desert cutting each other’s heads off.

  • ClawhammerJake

    Let them stay over there and us stay over here.
    We have enough to do here to keep us busy.

  • jimnco

    Islam is the problem. Some civilizations really are better — or worse — than others. We should conduct AGRESSIVE public diplomacy, ala Radio Free Europe/VOA 24/7, broadcast into every Islamic nation, whether their governments like it or not, educating their citizens about the importance of the rights of women, rights of minorities, freedom of religion, etc..

  • brew_it

    You could have written the same thing about South America, including Mexico.

  • I’m not at all sure I agree with Dr Mead’s conclusion: “.. the failure of the Arab world to … find a way to be economically and politically successful under modern economic conditions without losing the core cultural and social values.” If one is to see these values as only those propagated over the past few centuries as islam has been overtaken by its fundamentalists and declined into an obvious cult of death, barbarity and savagery, sure. But if one defines its “core cultural and social values” as those which earlier caused it to rise among nations, then, no. The “core” values of a civilization can be seen as those which cause it to succeed AS a civilization, which islam did for many centuries, at which time it was able, through those “core” values to be “economically and politically successful.” When a civilization is in decline, as islam has been for the last couple of centuries (see Lewis, Bernard, “What Went Wrong, The Clash between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East”), then it becomes difficult to argue or conclude, as has Dr Mead, that its “core… values” are the problem. No. The problem, and the reason it can no longer compete, are because it allowed its far-right fundamentalists to overthrow those core values, and turn them into what drives the savagery of a formerly successful civilization to failure.

    Interesting as it may be, however, to discuss WHY it cannot compete with the modern world, the WHY is not concerning to us today – only the THAT: It CANNOT compete and its descent into savagery only is accelerating. Eradicating it is the only civilized alternative for the billion people trapped in it – and the 5 billion at risk from it.

  • Black_Saint

    One for sure Muslims, Islam and Sharia is not compatible with any society but muslim. They should not be allowed to immigrate to other none Muslims nations with their Islam cult of death!

  • Bob Acker

    An interesting apercu, but possibly too optimistic. From 1840 until 1945, China became the punching bag of the world, but that was an institutional failure. The energy and diligence of the Chinese people was still there. I’m not sure anything similar is true in this case.

  • johnwerneken

    NOBODY has ever adapted to modernity without largely killing off their own “core cultural and social values”. To be modern, being modern must BE one’s core cultural and social value. And yes Monarchy is one of the best forms of governance – it’s only failings are the occasional succession problem, and the superiority of republics in fully mobilizing a society’s resources.

  • Rob H.

    The thing I’ve noticed about Obama is, he doesn’t seem to think Iraq and Afghanistan are his problem. He seems to think that Bush got us into the wars, so he doesn’t have to do anything about it, because those are problems from a previous administration. He seems unable to comprehend the idea that when you become president, you inherit the country’s problems, and you can’t just ignore them because you didn’t create them.

  • Sanjosemike

    I’m not sure anyone from the West can “sort” out the Islamic tribal wars. They have been going on for about 1400 years. Whenever we try to stabilize or pick sides, we always end up in at least the same amount of “mess” or more than before. Nation-building attempts have all failed.

    I think that Islam itself is defective. When Mohammad died he left no “instructions” on how to stabilize his religion. If you think that the Quran and Hadith are the so-called instructions, history has not proven either to help stabilize the various tribes and contradictory instructions. Of course all religions have contradictory instructions. That’s just how they are. Those who learn to “follow” them just make their own choices of “instructions” to follow.

    The major problem with Islam wrests in various factions achieving nuclear weapons. Given their proclivity to internecine wars, it appears more than likely that Muslims will END human survival as a species on Earth.

    Look, I know some of you will say that Christianity also has had their wars. But Christianity is fading in Europe and mostly the wars have waned. Not so with Islam.

    Islam is a cancer to human survival on earth.


  • lukelea

    How much of this failure is do to Islam as a political ideology? How much to clannism and consanguineous marriage customs that support it, making modern state instituions based on the rule of law and a monopoly of force impossible?

  • QuiCreva

    This is not an Arab problem but an Islamic problem. ALL Muslim-majority countries are disasters compared to the West (as well as compared to the Asian powerhouse nations of the East).. Islam impedes modern social progress in myriad ways. First and foremost, its doctrines are antithetical to liberal democracy. Women are inferior to men, non-Muslims are inferior to Muslims, and slaves are inferior to free individuals. No modern state can be successful with such institutionalized inequalities among its citizens. Second, the rigid ritualism of Islam deprives the workforce of myriad manpower hours every day, and the situation is far worse during the Ramadan fast. Third, Islamic rules of inheritance and condemnation of lending at interest severely curtail the success of Muslim business ventures. Fourth, the codified violence within the Islamic foundational texts encourages Muslims to attempt to solve problems by force. This is simply not acceptable in the modern world. it also keeps many Muslim societies in a near-perpetual state of turmoil. Last, there is no concept within Islam of a ruler self-limiting his exercise of power, a prerequisite of successful modern states. Instead, Islam operates upon the theory that might makes right. Since Allah gave the rule of a country to a specific despot, the despot is answerable only to Allah, not to the people. Not surprisingly, many Muslim strongmen rule their respective countries as private fiefdoms, bleeding the populace dry as they enrich themselves, their families and their cronies.

    The failure of Islamic countries to modernize successfully must be laid squarely at the feet of Islam. Thus, only Muslims can solve this malaise – by changing or rejecting their religion. Doesn’t appear that they will choose either course any time soon. Perhaps the rest of the world should just withdraw from them, find ways to contain the Islamic poison and violence to these unhappy, failed nations, while hoping that they will find some solution to their problem eventually. Trying to help them build democracies in their current state, however, is a waste of time and resources – an exercise in futility. Allowing them to emigrate en masse to the West simply imports the problem to successful modern nations.

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