Avoid pessimism in watching Arab change
has this reaction:
I have been watching the Middle East for 38 years and, aside from some occasional–and usually thwarted–flashes of hope, it just gets worse. Mr Khouri’s piece seems suffused with wishful thinking. I can see little grounds for any optimism. While there are occasional glimmers from Libya, Benghazi has been divided up among competing militias of a very Salafist streak. Yemen has exchanged one dictator for another (and the new one can’t even persuade the old one to leave town). Syria has dissolved into a bloodier chaos than anyone had imagined–
the Magdeburg of Islam’s Thirty Years War [more at end]. It will spill over to Lebanon, and as the Sunnis there are outnumbered by Christians and Shi’ites it will be very messy–to be gentle–indeed. Bahrain will make no progress in giving more rights to its Shi’ite majority because, even if its rulers wanted to (which they don’t), Saudi Arabia will never allow it. Sunni/Shi’ite tensions are getting worse in Iraq [e.g. “Bombs target Shiite neighborhoods, claim 21 lives in Iraq”], aggravated by the Syrian situation [more here]; the outcome for Iraq’s Sunnis will also not be good. Certainly no rosier than the fate of Syria’s minoritiesEgypt and Tunisia seem caught in the same split between those who want a more liberal society and those who want a more Islamic one. The former may prevail in Tunisia and the latter in Egypt, but in both countries there will remain enough of the losers to keep the pot simmering and to prevent economic recovery. At the root of both countries’ problems is an excess of unemployable young people; that is double plus ungood. Meanwhile Jordan has yet to boil over and how long can the Gulfies–especially that root of all that is most awful, that mother of gerontocracies, Saudi Arabia–stay immune?
Roll up the map of the Middle East, it will not be wanted for a while.
At least not for very many positive endeavours. From just over a year ago:
Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute