The Myth of Linkage

[Middle East Strategy at Harvard ] Martin Kramer - Thanks to war, the Middle East of early 21st-century America has been re-centered - away from Israel and toward the Persian Gulf. The war has cycled well over a million Americans through Iraq and Afghanistan - as soldiers, administrators, and contractors - and is where conflict commands American attention. I have identified nine clusters of Middle Eastern conflicts. Given so long a list, it is obvious that conflict involving Israel is not the longest, or the bloodiest, or the most widespread of the region's conflicts. In large part, these many conflicts are symptoms of the same malaise: the absence of a Middle Eastern order to replace the old Islamic and European empires. But they are independent symptoms; one conflict does not cause another, and its "resolution" cannot resolve another. Why are there still people who see one particular conflict as "the Middle East conflict," and who believe that in seeking to resolve it, they are pursuing "the Middle East peace process"? The concept of linkage requires the belief that the Middle East is a system, like Europe, and that its conflicts are related to one another. Linkage, I propose, is a projection of the memory of Europe's re-creation onto the Middle East. The pacification of Europe was the signal achievement of the U.S. and its allies in the mid-20th century. It then became the prism through which the U.S. and Europe came to view the Middle East, providing the template for visions of the future Middle East. The flaws in the analogy only began to appear after Egypt and Israel achieved peace in 1979. From that point onward, the Arab-Israeli conflict moved in fits and starts toward resolution. Yet other conflicts in the region intensified. By any objective reading, the Middle East is not analogous to Europe, it has multiple sources of conflict, and even as one conflict moves to resolution, another may be inflamed. This is because the Middle East is not a single system of interlocking parts.

2008-06-13 01:00:00

Full Article


Visit the Daily Alert Archive