A Middle East Strategy for the West

[Jerusalem Post] Barry Rubin - The great battle in the Middle East is between Arab nationalism and Islamism. Democracy isn't on the agenda. Roughly 60-70% of the Arabic-speaking world is still Arab nationalist, 20%-30% is Islamist and 10% pro-moderate democracy. In Syria, the regime is Arab nationalist but its international policy and domestic propaganda are largely Islamist. It backs Iraqi, Lebanese and Palestinian Islamist terrorists, and is deeply committed to the Iranian alliance. The notion of helping groups like the Muslim Brotherhood become more powerful or seize control of countries is insane. It is more likely to ensure decades of bloodshed, the deaths of many thousands of people in internal strife and foreign warfare, and the destruction of Western interests. The two contending forces are both local. The West is an outside factor whose intervention won't decide this contest generally. The West can, however, do some critical things if it knows how to help one side against the other where appropriate. The people to help are the Arab nationalists. As a group, at least with Saddam Hussein gone from Iraq, they are less internationally aggressive and less internally repressive than the revolutionary, enthusiastic and ideologically idealistic Islamists. But don't romanticize Arab nationalist regimes. They're incompetent, corrupt, anti-democratic and unreliable. We know their failings are one significant reason the Islamists have grown but, frankly, there's nothing we can do about it. There's no third alternative. Any concession made to the Islamist side - including Syria - sends a signal to regimes, radical Islamist groups, and the people that the Islamists are winning and everyone better join or appease them. The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center at IDC Herzliya and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal.

2008-09-01 01:00:00

Full Article


Visit the Daily Alert Archive