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The Middle East. Under Construction

What will the Middle East look like in the next decade? Impossible to know. But there are some clues. The next few weeks will be telling.

November brings with it several possible water-shed moments. Elections in Egypt (or not). The fall of the Assad regime in Syria (or not). Peaceful transition in Libya (or not). Declaration of a Palestinian state by the UN (or not). Additional riots in other countries (Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon).

What we are looking at is not merely a 'spring' but more of a 'four seasons' if you will. What will be of the Arab revolution?  Several outcomes are possible:

  • A liberal, Western style democracy (unlikely)
  • Ongoing military dictatorship (possible)
  • Islamization in varying degrees of radicalism (probable)
  • Failed states, fragmentation, civil war and ongoing LIC (depends on homogeneity)

To seek and acquire legitimacy the regime will fall back on common denominators, strengthen national identity (Islam and Arab unity) and unite the population against a perceived common enemy (Israel and the West). The incitement, hate education, blatant anti-Semitism and hostility towards Israel that have been prevalent in the Middle East for decades, even in Egypt with whom Israel has a signed peace treaty, is now bearing its fruit. 

It is a mistake to think that the Arab world is merely reacting to attitudes and policies that the West and Israel have been implementing for decades; a mistake and a sign of liberal racism, as though Arabs and Muslim are incapable of having independent ideology, interests and a will of their own. In the language of political scientists: mainstream Western political theories such as political realism or neo-liberal institutionalism do not apply. The key is in constructivism; in understanding that cultural norms, values and ideas are the salient ingredients in decision making for both domestic and international politics. 

Constructivism sees the world as a "work under construction". Meaning, it is constantly changing and reshaping based on said cultural norms, values and ideas. Moreover, political, social and religious leaders have the ability to shape reality and bring about change. By emphasizing threats, real or imagined, creating identifications, strengthening national honor and pride and at the same time enhancing a sense of well-being leaders in essence engage in ongoing Nation Building. For the Constructivist, nations are in a constant shift. Deep change can only occur in conjunction with rooted cultural values and norms or, after a social reconstruction of values and norms.    

The revolutions in the Arab world and the breakdown of the regimes in the Arab states are far from being a utopia of a democratic renaissance the New York Times and cohorts would have you think. Once again the mainstream western media is all too happy to create and shape reality in its own image rather than look at the facts at face value.

While the skeleton of the state may remain, the Middle East is divorcing itself from the artificial and externally imposed structure of a western nation-state of the post WWI era, and reverting to a more indigenous, realistic and culturally accepted form of governance to the Middle East – clan, tribe and ummah (Nation of Islam).

Uri Goldflam is Director of Foreign Relations and Resource Development at the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel

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