January 1, 2006


A mixed year for a valiant Arab people (Rami G. Khouri, December 31, 2005, Daily Star)

A look back at eventful 2005 in the Middle East shows three broad and significant developments in historical terms, related to the citizen, the state and the foreign powers that intervened in the region. Important changes are underway at all three of these levels of identity discernable today, though we need not predict where they will lead.

The most positive development has seen the citizen in many Arab countries start to rebel against the many indignities and inequities that he or she has endured in silence for decades - mostly variations of abuse of power by unelected, unaccountable elites from their own country or abroad. [...]

Changes at the level of states were largely negative this year, the most troubling one being the continued fragmentation of 20th-century sovereign Arab states into much more brittle collections of ethnic, religious and tribal groups. [...]

The Arab state is in the midst of being fractured, retribalized and redefined into much smaller configurations. Three principal causes of this process would seem to be: the largely incompetent, often brutal rule practiced by the reining Sunni Arab-dominated power elites during the past half century, a clear Israeli penchant for weakening Arab states and promoting the emergence of smaller, weaker minorities with whom it can engage to its advantage (as it has done for years with Kurds in Iraq and some right-wing groups in Lebanon), and, the current American formalization of ethnic politics in Iraq as a possible model for the entire region.

This leads to the third important trend that has defined the Middle East this year, but without clear indications of whether the end results will be positive or negative for the people of the region. This is the stepped up international direct engagement in the internal affairs of countries, including Arab states, Iran and Turkey.

The Arab states were artificial creations of the Europeans, left to dictatorial rule by Realist elites who didn't care about the people so long as they were kept quiet. Engagement by an idealist America means those states get broken apart and the dictators removed to be replaced by self-determined, democratic entities. The idea of sovereignty is collateral damage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 1, 2006 10:50 AM

Engagement by an idealist America means dividing and conquering, opening up new markets, and allowing for foreign investment and "development". Democracy matters very little, just a very romantic pretect for violence; it just requires a more developed and corruptable media to maintain it in the new round of puppet states.

Posted by: Grog at January 2, 2006 3:41 AM


So, the media in the US is corrupt? Who knew?

But, was that the case in 1998? In 1992? In 1973? In 1863?

And, if democracy is just a romantic pretext for violence, then why aren't all Saudis in the world dead? As I follow your logic and interpretation, that should have been the reflexive US response after 9/11.

Finally, exactly what states are US puppets? Poland? Ukraine? Jordan? The Czech Republic? Australia? Germany? France?

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 2, 2006 8:41 AM

Puppet states? NJ and Massachusetts are my top picks. When will we know if we've won a book?

Posted by: erp at January 2, 2006 3:46 PM

I suppose Grog considers NYC a puppet state since it has elected a Republican mayor in 4 straight contests.

Posted by: ratbert at January 2, 2006 10:52 PM

Jim: yes, the MSM has been corrupted for a long time. Even in 1863.
I like you guys a lot better when you guys don't try to use the democracy/WMD's/harboring terrorists excuses. Cmon guys, we're all adults here, can we just be honest with each other?
Why aren't all Saudis in the world dead? Because Americans are extremely misinformed on Middle Eastern politics and history, and the Taliban and Al-Qaeda was scapegoated so swiftly in the wake of 9/11 that our thirst for justice was quenched enough to ignore the elephant in the room of the hypocrises of US foreign policies that Saudi Arabia represents.
I'm not sure what connects all the countries on your list, but I will say that I believe that gross wealth and the interests of a few can corrupt any democracy, and I believe it already has all across Europe. We don't need to corrupt the politics of France, Germany, and England because the interests of their corporations are very much in line with ours (for the most part). Sure, Chirac and other act like they are really upset with the US, because the majority of their citizens disagree with our conduct of the War on Terror, but have they ever really done anything about it? If you want, I can give a very long list of puppet states/rulers.

Posted by: Grog at January 2, 2006 11:47 PM


How can you speak of corrupting the politics of France? That's like spitting in the ocean to make it wet.

If Chirac were not President, he would be in jail right now. Schroeder has just signed a deal that makes him a thrall to Putin. England is different, although you must enjoy linking it to the Continent. And we haven't even started on the EU yet, where corruption and political unaccountability have become a new art form.

You really need to get out more.

Posted by: ratbert at January 3, 2006 12:14 PM

Ratbert: Yeah, I said European politics are corrupted, too. So how exactly do you disagreem with me?

Posted by: Grog at January 4, 2006 5:17 AM

So name the country with the government you find most nearly admirable.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 4, 2006 6:39 PM