Middle East Has the Presence of Oil Essay

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Middle East

Has the presence of oil in the Middle East had a significant impact on the peoples of non-oil-producing states in the region? If so, in what ways, exactly? Develop an argument with specific reference to AT LEAST TWO non-oil-producing states.

and other Western powers, oil supplies are the only real interest in the Middle East, and most people in the region are well aware of this fact, and of numerous Western attempts to establish and support 'friendly' authoritarian regimes like that of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and the monarchy in Jordan. Public opinion polls in Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Pakistan actually show majority support for Western political and economic ideas, including democracy, but opposed U.S. foreign policy in general because they believed it to be motivated by control over oil supplies. None of this is new, and the West has been pursuing such policies since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, when Britain and France divided up the region between them. After World War II, the U.S. stepped in the void as these older empires declined, although it faced considerable resistance from nationalist movements in both oil and non-oil Arab countries. Most of the Islamic movements in the non-oil exporting nations of the Middle East, including those using terrorist tactics, are inspired by nationalism and opposition to these imperial policies rather than hatred of Western civilization or desire to start a literal jihad.

Even though Egypt is not an oil exporting country, its strategic location and the Suez Canal has always made it a vital concern for the Western powers, at least as much as the Gulf States since so much of the global oil supply moves through Suez. In 1956, for example, when the Nasser government nationalized the canal, France, Britain and Israel occupied Suez and attempted to overthrow him, although in that case the Eisenhower administration forced its allies to withdraw. Since Anwar Sadat negotiated the Camp David accords with Jimmy Carter in 1978, the U.S. counted on Egypt as one of its most stable and reliable Arab allies, although the recent overthrow of Mubarak and the elections that gave a clear majority to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic parties have obviously cast this into doubt and upset all previous calculations. Over the past year, the Arab Spring revolutions have affected other non-oil exporting U.S. allies like Jordan, as well as non-oil opponents like Syria, although for the time being it appears that the monarchies have weathered the storm by making reforms and concessions.

Almost all Islamic movements in the Middle East are inspired by opposition to American military and foreign policies in the Middle East countries rather than Al Qaeda's pure hatred of America and Western civilization as a whole or its goal of establishing another Caliphate. Islamic fundamentalism is never going to take over the world as bin Laden imagined, but heavy-handed attempts at regime change through military force will only inspire another generation of terrorists. Interestingly, though, one of the conservative Islamists who most influenced Al Qaeda's ideology was not even a Saudi was the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb, a Muslim Brotherhood member who had been hanged in 1966 for plotting to overthrow the Nasser regime. Qutb had visited the United States in the 1940s then written a book denouncing the country as godless and materialistic, but he mainly opposed the repressive dictatorship in his own country and others in the Middle East. Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric who inspired the assassination of Anwar Sadat and the first World Trade Center bombing, was also heavily involved in recruiting Islamic extremists from the impoverished masses of Egypt and other non-oil states for the war in Afghanistan. Ayman al Zawahiri, who fought in Afghanistan and is now the top Al Qaeda leader, was one of the leaders of Rahman's Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

Most of the Islamic terrorists in Iraq were either locals or Sunni Arabs from Syria, Jordan and other neighboring areas opposed the government the U.S. had installed. Terrorism is a tactic, not a strategy, religion or an ideology, and has been used to oppose foreign occupations of Islamic countries rather than being an integral part of Islam or even Islamic fundamentalism. Suicide bombing was first practiced by Syria and its proxies in Lebanon, against the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, rather than by Islamic groups, and its purpose was to drive the Americans out, not start a holy war. For this reason the Bush administration was wrong in it policies that spreading democracy would eliminate terrorism. Maintaining troops and bases in the Middle East is counterproductive, while a policy of offshore balancing would best serve American interests, not nation building or democratization and gunpoint. Clumsy attempts at Muslim transformation by outsiders will only inspire many others like him to join the jihad against the West.

Nation building and remodeling societies in the Middle East is the wrong policy to pursue, when the West should be minimalizing its visible presence as much as possible. Since Muslim fundamentalism is not the real cause of terrorism, attempting to change these countries will only generate more attacks against the West. Left to their own devices, most of these groups would not attack the U.S. At all, since Hamas and Hezbollah operated mainly in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, directing almost all of their attention against Israel, while Al Qaeda never launched any attacks against Israel at all, despite its extremely hostile rhetoric against Jews. All of these groups, including the ones funded and inspired by Al Qaeda, are motivated by essentially nationalistic concerns to drive out foreign invaders and imperialists. To avoid situations like this in the future, no American ground troops should ever be stationed in any other Middle Eastern country, and regime change should never again be the stated goal of U.S. foreign policy.

2. What lessons could the rulers of contemporary Middle Eastern states learn from the history of the Ottoman Empire? Please make specific reference to AT LEAST TWO strategies of rule that prevailed under the Ottomans, and describe how they might be applied in a contemporary context.

By present standards, the Ottoman Empire in its heyday might seem like a golden age compared to the current situation in the Middle East, especially because its millet system granted considerable freedom and autonomy to minorities like the Jews and Christians rather than forcing them to assimilate or be exiled. Secular nationalist regimes in the 20th Century, from the time of Ataturk onward, have not had nearly such a tolerant record in dealing with ethnic and religious minorities, nor have Islamic regimes like Iran or the Wahabi rulers of Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, before the Ottoman Empire went into decline in the 18th and 19th Centuries and became the Sick Man of Europe, it had a reputation for being quite advanced and progressive in science, technology, medicine, commerce, education and architecture in ways that would be the envy of any of the current regimes in the Middle East. To be sure, the Ottoman Empire was an authoritarian political and religious system, and in the past the lives of most people were nasty, brutish and short, but that was also true everywhere else in the world at the time. Toleration of religious and ethnic minorities and a culture open to education, new ideas and modern scientific and technological developments are important examples that present-day governments could borrow from the Ottomans, if not their more authoritarian and militaristic traits.

Under the Ottoman millet system, Christians and Jews were not exactly first-class citizens, but they were allowed their own schools, charities, educational and welfare institutions, and considerable autonomy as long as they paid the special tax or jizya. They were allowed to convert to Islam and many did, but not to covert Muslims -- which is still not allowed in many Islamic countries since it violates Sharia law. Nor were non-Muslims allowed to serve in governing positions, while they were required to wear distinctive clothing. With few exceptions, though, the Ottomans were far more lenient and tolerant toward religious and ethnic minorities than any Christian rulers during the same period, such as Queen Isabella of Spain. Indeed, many of the Jews she expelled in 1492 found refuge in the Arab and Ottoman states. Such relative tolerance only began to change when the empire went into decline and faced internal revolts and external threats from Russia and the Western powers in the 19th and early-20th Centuries. Compared to many Middle Eastern states today, where Jewish and Christian minorities hardly exist at all, the Ottomans were models of liberal pluralism. Even in Iraq since the 2003 occupation and civil war, the majority of Christians have fled the country, while the Copts of Egypt and the Syrian Christians also fear that the Arab Spring revolutions will turn in the Iranian direction and be more intolerant and repressive than the present or previous regimes. In Lebanon, of course, peace…[continue]

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