The Middle East and its Agony
A Product of the West
By. Raimondo Graziano
~ Written sometime two years ago.
The political climate globally is deeply unsettled, and unnerved. From the growing regional conflicts in the Middle East, to waves of nationalism and anti-immigrant/migrant/refugee sentiments reverberating throughout the Western world; ALL pushbacks to an increasingly smaller, more global world order. Threats against the press, against the rights of minorities, and against our very freedoms are present dangers no longer the stuff of dystopian fantasy. A reality that at one time seemed distant, far off, is now fast approaching the rear-view mirror of our collective historical continuum. The pains, and wrongs of the past are now catching up, and the problems our country and the globe face seem to grow by the day. Threats abroad and at home are now becoming the topic of discussion daily, as stress levels and political awareness increase. Now, it is out of necessity rather than a curiosity or interest in the subject.
The world is a hair trigger away from a massive global conflict, American tanks and German artillery now line the border between Europe and Russia, for the first time since the end of the Cold War. Opportunistic politicians, and men and women with personal agendas are seizing on the hardships and woes of their electorates to gain political power across countries in Europe, to push their hardline stances and views, painting a portrait of an ‘us versus them’ narrative. In the United States, the surest holder of the liberal democratic order that has governed the world’s major institutions, and arguably, direction is now under the leadership of a man who rails against the very foundations that the United States and Europe have helped to form. Himself, and his closest advisors are determined to upend what they believe to be a country without borders, a country losing its ‘identity’. A tide of nationalistic, populism of this scale has not been seen since the beginnings of the second World War. White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, believes we are already in the midst of the third World War. That the fundamental ideological battle of our time, is the West versus Islam.
And this frame of thinking, while at first glance narrow, is sadly the reality we are facing. The world is becoming more militarized, more isolated, and more belligerent in action, and bellicose in word. And the slow tip-toe to wider conflict in the Middle East, and elsewhere is now becoming a sprint. The past actions of an imperialistic West, and emboldened United States have reshaped the Middle East in the past, deposing of leaders who did not agree with United States policy or business interests. The United States has a history of regime change, and of colossal foreign policy blowback that does not initially affect us, but the reverberations of such are felt ten to fifteen years after the fact. The United States has had a glaringly front and center position in the destabilization of the Middle East, and of most of the international problems facing the globe. Arguably, the United States wars in Iraq and Afghanistan catapulted not only the movements for democracy throughout the Middle East, which came to produce very little (Syria, Libya, Egypt etc. – all embroiled in their state level hurdles of either lacking a government, severely limiting the rights of their peoples, or full scale brutal civil war.) but also helped to radically change the trajectory of history, and fasten the sad march towards a global war on a level unprecedented and whose outcome at this time is unknown. Perhaps most startlingly is that this tried method of ‘fixing’ the Middle East is not yet over.
There are those in Washington, in Europe, and in Russia that see the Middle East not as collections of individuals to be worked with, but rather problems that must be dealt with; aided by the sword and now by rifle, bombs, and constant war. Nations who were under imperial control were granted their autonomy without being given the tools to shape their own institutions, that could have been modeled after the Wests, with proper guidance and financial assistance. The West had the opportunity to shape the Middle East through dialogue and example, to lead through showing as a model for nations that were struggling to find a place in the world dominated by a Eurocentric view for much of history. The West was the benefactor of the ideals of freedom of the press, speech, autotomy of people, self-determination and the rights for every man, women and child to express themselves freely and pursue life, liberty, property and most importantly happiness. The West conquered, and returned its spoils, without considering how so many nations could reasonably fix themselves, when for long they have never been without a force from beyond their own borders, and with limited understanding of the cultural aspects of their society, breathing down their necks.
The problems that families, generation after generation have face throughout the Middle East and in Northern Africa, have been kept far from our shores in Europe and in the United States on the scale of devastation, regime change, and oppression that have unfolded there for the better period of over a hundred years. The last ten to twenty years has seen an increase in terrorist operations within the United States and in Europe, and today because of our past actions collectively we face a refugee crisis that has ended the lives of millions, squashing hopes of returning to their homes, and building their lives again because families have been torn apart, separated and blown to bits; a refugee crisis that totals over sixty million men, women, and children – higher than that of the levels seen after the end of World War Two. The end of 2015 saw refugee numbers reaching 65.3 million, or one out of every 113 people in the globe, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). That is a 5.8 million increase from the year before. This is all understandable, those that we bombed twenty years ago; the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters – their children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren are today those we are fighting with. The perpetual cycle continues, with each iteration of conflict more devastating and volatile then the last.
Couple this with a fast-changing world of automation, technology, present effects of climate change, and the general movement of wealth to the very top echelons of status and power, and you have a world that is now daily teetering on the brink of collapse. This is our reality. We may not like it. We may attempt to reject it. We may try to find solutions. But the fact of the matter is this; the reality we have forged for ourselves, for our children is bleak. It could have been different. Though that is not our reality, and any talk otherwise is foolhardy. We, the global community, Europe the United States, whoever propagated these problems, this agony through war, and it is only though war that this too shall pass. The humor in all of this, is that the problems we face in the Middle East are pale in comparison to the issues of globalization, climate change, technology, and the specter of losing our privacy, and our reasonable expectation of living a decent life. The refugee crisis we face is pale in comparison to what is to come from climate change and rising sea levels. The humor in these problems of a geopolitical nature is that – we didn’t really need them, there are greater pressing issues that we have to now face in conjunction with the possibility of massive war.
The past is over, and attempting to change it will not yield any favorable results for anyone, as moving forward on false premises leads to the collapse of nations, of systems, of society; though the world we have crafted we may find hash, it is the harshness of human nature that will also end this. No one wishes for war, conflict, poverty and disruption to our way of life. Though, war whether we like it or not, is the path we have chosen to follow. And it through war, although we may not know at all how these next few years will unfold, it is through war that peace and stability will be brought to the planet. Whether that will be to the detriment of the people that live on this planet is yet to be seen. Because people don’t choose the course of history, their governments do. But then again, the people choose their governments and son thereafter become complicit of the wrongs propagate.