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posted on 09 December 2015

The Middle East ABC for Americans

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The Middle East is a perpetual ticking time bomb, with volatile issues ranging from oil, to religion, to the war on terror, to the millions of displaced refugees, and to reckless political gambling (Turkey vs. Russia, Really?). After carefully studying some basics of the Middle East from my American perspective, I'd like to share them with you, supplementing my last article on the Middle East (Middle East: Past, Present, and Future).

1. Until 1945

The Middle East is the home to the Cradle of Civilization. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia - History of the Middle East:

Home to the Cradle of Civilization, the Middle East (usually interchangeable with the Near East) has seen many of the world's oldest cultures and civilizations. This history started from the earliest human settlements, continuing through several major pre- and post-Islamic Empires through to the modern collection of nation-states covering the Middle East today.

Great civilizations come and go. Unfortunately for the Middle East, it fell behind in evolution when compared with other regions (e.g. Europe). Mired in its past, the Middle East remained poor until about 100 years ago, when oil became strategically and financially important. The good news was that a lot of oil was discovered in the Middle East. The bad news was that the Europeans colonized the Middle East, for oil, chiefly! Below is a map as a highlight (The Divide between America and The Muslim World).

It appears the Europeans, although primarily to their own benefit, were able to manage the Middle East reasonably well, especially when compared with the strife of the past few decades. But with the European departure from the Middle East after World War II, two remnants of European involvement became big problems:

  1. The Christian population left behind by the Europeans. It is becoming increasingly questionable whether any Christians will be allowed to co-exist with the Muslim majority there.
  2. Many artificial countries created by the Europeans. They have appeared to be governable only by dictators, including kings (and queens).

2. Post-WWII

A major event occurred after WWII forever changed the situation in the Middle East: nation building. Two examples:

  1. Creation of the State of Israel.
  2. Creation and independence of many other countries.

2.1 Creation of the State of Israel

After the Holocaust, some kind of permanent settlement for the Jewish population was not only necessary, but also possible, given the powers of the WWII Allies. However, why Jerusalem? It was akin to re-settling millions of American Indians back onto Long Island some 2,000 years from now!

The British, the wise rulers of Jerusalem at the time, were opposed to it both conceptually and physically! For example, the British not only turned away many ships carrying Jewish migrants (SS Exodus), but also sank some (History of Israel)!

However, the more powerful, but less wise, Americans prevailed! As a result, the Jews officially came back to Jerusalem, as the new citizens of the new State of Israel, in 1948, some 2,000 years after their Exodus! For more, read: Wikipedia - Jewish diaspora and Wikipedia – Timeline of Jerusalem.

2.2 Creation and independence of many other countries

For a detailed description, read: Wikipedia - History of the Middle East.

Look at the map below, and let me highlight the "three kingdoms" in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq.

3. Three kingdoms in the Middle East

Aside from their relatively large size, the three kingdoms, unlike Egypt, have one important thing in common: oil. With assistance from America (some positive, some negative), they achieved, by 1980, a tenuous balance of power. Three examples:

  1. Saudi Arabia: It has been protected by America since the creation of the Petrodollar in 1973, thanks to President Nixon. For more, read: Barack Obama vs. Richard Nixon.
  2. Iran: It has been hostile to America since the success of the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
  3. Iraq: the swing power among the three in the view of America.

America worked hard to keep the swing power in its favor. Two examples:

  1. America wisely backed Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War, or Iraq would have lost to Iran!
  2. Saddam made a big mistake by invading Kuwait in 1991, thus triggering the Gulf War. Yet, America, under the wise leadership of President George H.W. Bush, was thoughtful enough not to overthrow the Saddam regime, in order to maintain the Iran-Iraq stalemate in that region!

All hell broke loose after March 20, 2003, when America, under the brainless leadership of George W. Bush, recklessly launched the Iraq War, eventually causing the death of Saddam! Who then filled the power vacuum in Iraq? In the worst possible, but totally predictable, scenario for America: Iran!

4. Discussion

Balance of power is a treacherous game long played by those in power, from ancient China to the modern world (Three New Kingdoms). Yet, neither President George W. Bush nor President Obama seemed to understand the basic premise. Specifically,

  1. President Bush "broke the jar" by launching the Iraq War on March 20, 2003!
  2. President Obama dropped the "broken jar" by withdrawing all American troops from Iraq by December 2011, thereby destroying any chance of lasting success and any chance of restoring any balance of power in the Middle East!

Or worse, perhaps, both understood it, but were reckless enough to ignore it for their personal gain: getting re-elected ad nauseam! For more, read: American Presidency: Why is One-Term a Must (Version 3)?

The three kingdoms in the Middle East are no more! Iran is becoming increasingly dominant there (Russia expects Iran nuclear deal to be implemented in January), while Saudi Arabia is becoming increasingly marginalized.

What complicated the matter further for America was that 15 out of 19 Hijackers on 9/11 were citizens of Saudi Arabia (Hijackers_in_the_September_11_attacks) - Why? America has chosen to virtually ignore the obvious question! Here is the simple answer: The Saudis are not really our allies!

Now, back to Israel ... A 2-state solution with the Palestinians may be the only answer! But even if both sides could ever agree, where do you draw the border lines?

The Middle East is a big mess. In fact, it has been a big mess for the past 2,000 years, at least! America’s brainless foreign policy and reckless actions have undoubtedly made it even worse, especially after the launch of the Iraq War in 2003!

Why is America so brainless and reckless? It’s The Political System, Stupid!

Bottom line: democracy does not work in the Middle East! Specifically,

  1. Iraq is better off with Saddam than without – Donald Trump gets it! For more, read: Donald Trump’s Line on Iraq Is the Harvard of Harvard Comparisons.
  2. Syria is better off with Assad than without – Russians get it! For more, read: Middle East: Past, Present, and Future.
  3. Egypt is better off with a dictator than democracy – President Sisi gets it. For more, read: Sisi vs. ISIS: Dictatorship vs. Mob Rule.

Great civilizations come and go (Civilizations). Great empires come and go (List of largest empires). Great countries come and go (The Greatest Countries in Human History). All are true, with one, and the only, exception: China – come, go, and come! Specifically, not only is China the longest continual civilization throughout human history, China is also on her way back to the top after hitting her nadir!

So for many countries in the Middle East (e.g. Egypt), if you want real success, follow the China model! For more, read: Democracy: to be or not to be?

America, do not under-estimate China: its people, its wisdom, and most importantly its system – state capitalism! For more, read: Towards an Ideal Form of Government.

5. Closing

The Middle East is a big mess! Not only has America helped make it worse, America is also stuck there. An obvious question: will America withdraw from the Middle East like the British did after WWII?

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