With the Arab spring now well and truly a necrotic fig leaf, it seems that several peace researchers have had some time to reflect on the tremendous complexities in the Middle East. One such researcher is Henrik Thune, who has even reached the stunning conclusion that God is innocent in all of this. Its also awfully kind of Mr. Thune to acknowledge that Israel is neither better nor worse than other countries who feel threatened. Maybe his other colleagues now will follow suit
lifted from dagbladet.no very bad google translate
God is innocent
After three years, the Arab Spring ‘s death and the Middle East chaos . But is it really because there are as many irrational Muslims and Jews there ?
Published on 23 January 2014 , at. 1:41 p.m. by
POLITICAL IDEAS : It was three years ago this week that a million young people ( average age was about 22 years) indiscriminately , and almost without coordination , poured into the streets along the Nile. People walked side by side. They went hand in hand. They marched against the grimy roundabout in the center of Cairo called Midan Tahrir (” Liberation Square “) to depose the dictator Hosni Mubarak .
I was even in Cairo one of those weeks . It was like walking straight onto the stage during rehearsals for a large-scale outdoor production of revolusjonsmelodramaet ” Les Misérables “. Along the roads waving youth with banners and cheered for the revolution. In the lobbies of luxury hotels along the Nile sat liberal bloggers and conservative Muslim brothers who had lived in hiding and spoke candidly with Western diplomats. And the tables in smoky teahouse was laid plans of solidarity travel to Syria to spread the revolution on.
It was christened the ” Arab Spring ” was a political revolt of the old battle . And as is often the case in the history of revolution was young , but marginalized middle class arose , with smart phones and Facebook as a megaphone and broadcast media.
The young political science student Abdul Rahman was pierced by dozens gummipolstrete steel balls as he ran towards the police. He summarized the uprising that way : ” The struggle for freedom is not born of the brain, but of naivety . Naivety makes people invincible . We just need to get the Egyptians to smile again . ”
This was Cairo in January 2011. The mood was euphoric , it was pervasive , and almost totally thoughtless .
Three years later , we know well how it all ended . First went the kind of impact in rapidly upward direction, with regime change in Tunisia and Egypt , street riots in Yemen and Bahrain, the uprising against Syria’s Bashar al – Assad , and eventually European leaders who broke with his old dictator friends and threw himself on revolusjonseuforien air war against Colonel Qaddafi – also this without any plan for what to do with Libya and the Middle East after the dictators were removed.
Then the trend reversed straight down , and three years after the jubilation of Tahrirplassen the Middle East today more chaotic and violent than at any time since the end of the First World War. It is full of civil war in both Syria and Libya. In Egypt, the army has conducted an overwhelming counter-revolution. Lebanon and Iraq is the site of blood revenge between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. And the most serious of all: State Formation in Libya , Syria and Iraq have almost completely collapsed . The result is that it has opened up vast , stateless holes in the Middle East’s political geography, where al – Qaeda and radical Islamist groups have been given good growing conditions .
How could it go so wrong ? Why all sectarianism and chaos ? What caused the collapse of the Arab Spring ?
Browsing one around in newspapers and books from the last few months you will find many answers . One of the most often repeated , is that both sides failed. “Both the Islamist and secular forces in the Arab world have proven that they do not understand what pluralism is ,” writes Marwan Muasher , head of the major think tank Carnegie Endowment . Another diagnosis, especially popular among European commentators , is that Obama has vacillated too much and that America never managed to decide whether you would support the old authoritarian order or nascent democratic forces .
The most common explanation for the Arabic collapse , however, is quite different. The explanation is what you might call ” primitive sation ” of the Middle East. What does it mean? Yes, these are allegations of violence and chaos in the Middle East due to specific intrinsic and negative qualities of the people who live in the Middle East . Reductionism is called in political science : Politics is not explained by rational interests and thinking, so we are used to here in the West, but by people who are prisoners of their religious beliefs and their identity, and that driven by historical and emotional ballast they are not able to dissociated themselves from .
Norwegian debate on the Middle East is full of this sort of reductionism . Simply follow news coverage and online discussions ; primitive implementation of the Middle East is internalized in much of what is uttered . And it is particularly in two editions . One belongs especially the traditional left, and is connected to the route of Israel as a “Jewish” state. Strikingly often presented, discussed and condemned Israel’s conduct on the basis that there is a certain “Jewish” political mentality, and that there is something about this that can explain Jewish state of Israel’s aggressive foreign policy , and treatment of the Palestinians and neighboring countries.
The second edition of reductionism preached often of the Norwegian ( Islam skeptical ) right, as expressed by the conflicts and chaos in the Middle East almost exclusively given a religious (and irrational ) explanation. Take, for example, developments in Egypt. The crisis produced consistently as a religious conflict. The development is described as a struggle between Islamists and secular , despite the fact that Egypt’s new leader , General Sisi , is actually a much more conservative Muslims than many in the Muslim Brotherhood , which is now pursued.
The same applies to the manufacture of Iran or the conflict in Syria. ” Priest regime in Iran ,” is often said when Norwegian media to explain Tehran’s conduct in the Middle East . For comparison, we would very obviously never found talking about President George W. Bush’s personal Christian faith , or the U.S. collective religiosity , to explain Washington’s foreign policy after 2001 .
But in the Middle East which we’re there . We give primacy religion , both as an explanation , and that powertrain in the political man.
The problem with this is not primarily that it is prejudiced . The main problem is that religion is a bad explanation of politics and war in the Middle East . Although religion is obviously important on a personal level , there are also hardly any place in the world that is more driven by economic interests and raw power struggle over the Middle East. Realpolitik , not feeling politics is the heart of the Middle East’s political reality. Israel is acting violently , but not fundamentally different than other states that Feel’s threatened. Iran is far from something irrational theocracy , but on the contrary a most rational geopolitical actor. Shia political leaders and Sunni groups in Iraq are driven by interests. And the same goes Assad in Syria or Saudi Arabia’s leaders. They are cynical real politicians, most of them .
A taxi driver I met in just before Christmas explaining the chaos in the Middle East simply: “They are not possible with peace down there. Not with all the Shiites , Sunnis and Jews. ” Maybe he’s right. Many of the conflicts in the Middle East will last a long time . But the conflicts caused by either Judaism or Islam. The conflicts caused – in the Middle East as many other places – the struggle for power , land and money , leaders and warlords who plays on religion and identity in order to achieve its secular goals.
• Henrik Thune is Senior Researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs ( NUPI ) and currently a visiting scholar at the University of North Carolina.