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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Middle East History: Empires and Tribes

As a sort of follow-on to our Midrats show from Sunday, in which the topic of the shaping of the modern Middle East as a part of the end of World War I was discussed,
More Military Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Midrats on BlogTalkRadio

There is this nice "Imperial History of the Middle East" from Maps of War, which takes us to about 2006:

And a discussion of how clans, tribes, religion and more all are factors in what may be a reshaping of the Middle East as 100 year old (or so) nation-states seem to melting away before more ancient demands, from StratFor:
The states the Europeans created were arbitrary, the inhabitants did not give their primary loyalty to them, and the tensions within states always went over the border to neighboring states. The British and French imposed ruling structures before the war, and then a wave of coups overthrew them after World War II. Syria and Iraq became pro-Soviet states while Israel, Jordan and the Arabians became pro-American, and monarchies and dictatorships ruled over most of the Arab countries. These authoritarian regimes held the countries together.

"Iraq and Syria Follow Lebanon's Precedent is republished with permission of Stratfor."

So, one point is that "stability" in most of the Middle East is not something that ought to be considered the norm but something that has been forced on the local tribes by various degrees of strong men and empires back to the dawn of history. As a friend of mine once said on reading the Old Testament, "It's a history of warfare going back thousands of years."

The other point, which should be clear after a long history of U.S. and other Western involvement in the Middle East, is that it is inappropriate to think in "Western" terms about the local political structures and the state lines drawn by old empires that have themselves faded away. In particular, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq are cobbled together constructs.

That is not to say that the West should stand by and watch groups like ISIS ravage through territory to impose their version of "normal" in the area. In helping the locals to resist ISIS, though, delicate balance is needed to allow the locals to find their own path to a structure that makes sense to them.

The danger is a collection of failed states and the Somiliazation of the Middle East albeit with heavier weapons.

As the old movie line goes, "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!"

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