Saturday, March 26, 2011

Digganalysis: Middle East

I just wrapped up my 4th visit to Israel in the last 9 months and each time I come away a little smarter, a little wiser, and lot heavier, impressed, and worried.  I worry because with the region is under significant turmoil while Americans, for the most part, remain ignorant of the recent history (20th and 21st centuries) and the critical facts and details on the ground.  I am not calling Americans stupid; I am saying Americans sources of information are incomplete, uninformed, and shallow.  So I decided to dedicate this entry to a combination of modern history, global politics, religion, and of course, what would a Diggapedia entry be without a shedload of commentary.
Part I, the 20th century:
Following the defeat of the Central Power, Germany, Austro-Hungary, and Ottoman Empire, forces in World War I, the Middle East fell into the hands of the British and French to divide up into protectorates, administrations, and territories through a series of mandates by the League of Nations.  You remember the League of Nations, right?  The 1919-1947 precursor to the United Nations that was created as part of the Paris Peace Treaty to not only end World War I, but to end all future global conflicts.  Ooops. 
 The ink was barely dry on the Treaty before trouble started brewing.   For revolting against the Ottomans (Turks) the Middle Eastern Arabs believed they were to gain independence and autonomy following the dismantlement of the Ottoman Empire.  Unfortunately for the Arabs, they became territories of the British Empire with Arab leader Sharif Hussein, leader of the revolt, becoming the ruler of the Kingdom of Mecca where his son Faisal would rule Iraq, his son Abdullah would rule Transjordan, while another Arab Ibn Saud would rule the new territory of Saudi Arabia.  Meanwhile the Zionist movement, the desire to create a Jewish state in the biblical Promised Land (Palestine in the 1920’s) was growing, and France would administer the new territories of Lebanon and Syria, and Italy and France would govern Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.  Now throw in the Balfour Declaration and the secret Sykes-Picot agreement and you have a recipe for disaster:
1)      You have Arabs who are not nationalistic, but have been split up into territories
2)      You have pissed off Arabs because they were promised independence and didnlt get it, AND the Jews have been promised land for a nation.
3)      The Kurds have no nation, and now find themselves minorirites in a number of Arab led countries.
4)      And now the world’s biggest supply of crude oil has been discovered.
Fast forward to World War II, and suddenly the European colonial powers are retrenching to their homes after the destruction from the war. Iran (1941), Lebanon (1943), Syria (1944), Jordan (1946), Iraq (1947), and Egypt (1947), Israel (1948), Libya (1949) gain independence from Italy, France, and Britain.  So we have these fledgling Arabic nations with leaders, who distrust one another, a Jewish State that NOBODY wants to exist, and the start of the war within Islam as Sunnis, Shiites, Wahhabis, and Sufis struggle for leadership and oppression of the minority becomes the norm in the Arab world.  Throw in the Kurds, Druze, and other ethnic minorities and these weak Arabic nations can only held together by all powerful monarchies, dictators, or authoritarian heads of state. 
Next Part II: Democracy isn’t a dry powdered concentrate that you add water and voila!

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