The Real Problem in the Middle East

At the Boston Globe Thanassis Cambianis makes a point that I really believe in and that I’ve been making for some time around here. The real problem in the Middle EaSt isn’t DAESH or Al Qaeda. It’s weak states:

The collapse this month of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has been greeted with joy and relief in many quarters, especially among the millions of civilians who directly suffered the extremist group’s rule. Much of the predictable analysis has focused on long-term trends that will continue to trouble the world: the resonance of extremist jihadi messaging, the persistence of sectarian conflict, the difficulty of holding together disparate coalitions like the clumsy behemoth that ousted ISIS from its strongholds in Raqqa and Mosul.

But jihadis and sectarians are not, contrary to popular belief, the most important engines of ISIS, Al Qaeda, and similar groups. Nor are foreign spy services the primary author of these apocalyptic movements — as many around the world wrongly believe.

No, the most critical factor feeding jihadi movements is the collapse of effective central governments — a trend in which the West, especially the United States, has been complicit.

Islam is a major contributing factor to that weakness. If you take its teaching on the Ummah and the caliphate seriously no government apart from the caliphate is legitimate. But the United States is a major contributing factor, too.

For decades we’ve been allergic to strong states (except here). Despite President Trump’s complaints about our European allies not bearing their share of the burden for their own defense, we’d be horrified if they did. When they say “leadership” in the context of the U. S.’s role on the world stage too many of our elite mean “hegemony”. When other countries whether Russia or China or North Korea or even Germany or the United Kingdom pursue their own interests we react with alarm.

We’ve knocked down two of the strongest states in the Middle East (Iraq and Libya) and are doing our darnedest short of sending large masses of troops to knock down more. In that light Somalia and Sudan don’t point out the failures of U. S. policy. They’re its success stories.

1 comment… add one
  • Ben Wolf

    I believe William Lind has been making this argument for some time now. That the best method of combating the tactics of groups like IS is to strengthen states whether we approve of them or not.

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