Term Paper: History of the Modern Middle East

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History Of the Modern Middle East

As a result of the Industrial Revolution, during the 19th and the 20th centuries, the Western world as grew more dependent upon the advancement of technology, in every facet of daily existence. As an unintentional result of this economic revolution, the major commercial powers grew more dependent upon the non-renewable resource of oil. The state that controlled oil, in the form of trade routes, or oil-producing colonies, could dominate the other major nation-states. Ironically, as a result of technological advancement, the states that had formerly dismissed the Middle East as backward or significant only in terms of its historical role in the development of Christianity grew progressively more dependant upon the region to sustain a modern economy.

Initially, Britain and France attempted to dominate the Middle East through colonialization (as in Egypt and Algeria, respectively) and later through not-so-subtle control of puppet leaders (as in pre-Nasser Egypt in the case of Britain, and as in Iran in the case of the United States.) Today, as the former colonies have become independent nations, the oil-dependant West is instead l dependant upon the good will of Arab leaders and the stability of a region that is fraught with tensions. Also, many nations in the region still look upon the West, with some justification, as a colonial power.

The birth of nationalism and a surge in the demand for oil occurred almost simultaneously. World War I oversaw the development of what was the first modern war -- and it demonstrated that warfare and control of the globe would be allocated upon which nation had the best military technology, as well as the best-trained army. But the Treaty of Versailles in Article 22 also honored the right of all nations, including those of the former Ottoman Empire to have self-determination over their own destinies. This affirmed the crucial nature of oil later in the century, and also created a tenuous ideological stance for nations such as Great Britain and France, which still held onto their colonial powers for a long period of time, and attempted to influence the region to achieve their own ends.

After World War II, the creation of Israel exacerbated the tensions that had already existed in the Middle East, particularly since the Balfour Declaration. On one hand, the nations of the world wished to support the development of the nation after the Holocaust. On the other hand, the Western powers wished not to create animosity in such an important oil-producing region, causing Britain and other nations to support Israel with only tenuous affirmations, and at times even to subvert Israel. Attempts to influence the region proved ineffective, quite often. Egypt under the rule of Nasser later flagrantly asserted Egyptian supremacy and nationalized the Suez Canal. Iran defiantly cast off the Shah of Iran and instated an Islamic republic.

Today, nationalism in the Middle East, because of the memory of its former colonial domination, often comes hand-in-hand with anti-Westernism. Nationalism is often, if not always, ideologically linked to fundamentalism or belief in an autocratic leader and has a strong anti-Israel rhetorical overtone. The West does not want to alienate Israel, given that Israel is the most stable and politically friendly state in the region. Thus, in the modern Middle East, the ancient legacy of colonialism, ancient concepts of nationalism that divide the region's various religions and ethnicity, and the new demands of technology have created a kind of powder keg of divided loyalties and desires. Already existing national tensions were encouraged from the diverse groups present in the region. As noted by James Gelvin in The Modern Middle East: A History, much as in the Balkans, although nationalism may be 'real' in the sense that it reflects a feeling of solidarity within a historical group, it can be exacerbated by external national and economic forces, even by political conflicts between nations far, far away. (58)

Question

During World War I, British troops gained control of Palestine, and the present areas of Jordan, Iraq, and Iran. After the settlement at Versailles, Britain maintained its control of Palestine, Trans-Jordan, and parts of Iran and Iraq. With the Balfor Declaration of 1917, however, Great Britain also formally recognized the right of all Jews to have a homeland, and thus gave Israel its first formal mandate to exist. Jews began to migrate to the Palestinian-partitioned area, especially before and during World War II because of the persecution they were enduring in Europe. However, Britain, out of fear of a local Arab revolt, began to actively limit Jewish immigration. This created anger and resentment between Jews and the British nation, until the declaration of the independence of Israel in 1948.

Finally, in 1971, President Anwar Sadat assumed control of Egypt. Before, Nasser had expelled British influence from Great Britain by deposing the British-controlled leader. But he functioned as an autocratic leader, rather than a diplomat. His successor Sadat proved to be a far more democratic in his means of governance. Eventually, Sadat signed the Camp David accords, a peace treaty with Israel. Egypt was the first Arab nation to sign such a treaty with Israel. Israel also ceded some of its territories back to Egypt that it had gained control of as a result of the 1967 War. Sadat's modernization of his country was partially spawned economic instability that was affecting the entire region in the early 1970s, as discussed in detail by Gelvin. (2004, p.250) But despite this somewhat self-serving nature of his program, Sadat's accent to power finally saw the once-dominated British colony finally create peace in the turmoil spawned by British involvement in the area.

Question

On one hand, Thomas Friedman's article about global development, Thomas makes an extremely salient point about the addiction of the Arab states to oil. Because of the existence of the valuable commodity, many Arab states have not had to develop other economic sectors within their borders, unlike relatively land-poor or natural resource-poor nations such as Japan. Friedman cites this as the reason that Arab states have failed to flourish in modernity. Friedman essentially restates the theory that the Arab world is made up of so-called rentier states with economies that are so dependant upon exporting oil to other nations that rulers can placate the populace with wealth, remain become autocratic and allow their states to stagnate in cultural and economic underdevelopment in all other areas.

However, Friedman ignores the fact that many members of the Arab nation's elites have received Western educations, and that many citizens enjoy some of the cultural products of the West, as well as strive to produce their own. States, although they may wish to remain Islamic or monarchist, may also be concerned that they present a positive, projected image to the world of a modern nation-state. Furthermore, the occasional hostility to the West is not entirely economically based. The failure to fully embrace other nations politically and the centrality of anti-American and anti-colonial sentiment in the nation may also be due to the fact that many of the nations in the modern Middle East are former colonies, or were subject to the control of Western powers. National definition became synonymous with anti-Westernism in some Arab nations.

Also, despite their other very real problems, the oil-rich nations of the world, such as Russia and Venezuela have not developed the uni-product economies like the Middle East. The Middle Eastern nations are torn apart by ancient conflicts of tribes, religions, and alliances that often exist within national borders. This makes economic development and political unity difficult -- hence the recourse to a dependence upon oil.

Finally, in The Modern Middle East: A History James Gelvin delineates what he considers a distinct difference between the attitudes of the different nations, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia that did not experience military takeovers and did not espouse specifically revolutionary agendas. These nations often pay at least some lip service to social, political, and economic liberalization. (Gelvin, 2004, p. 226) The region is not as monolithic as Friedman's article suggests, even those nations that remain largely dependant upon oil. Individual nations exhibit mixed feels and impulses towards this dependence, and make varying efforts to reach out to the West, depending upon their leadership or the ideological stance of various sectors of the populace.

Question

Islamic fundamentalism, like all fundamentalist movements might claim to advocate a return to a purer adherence to doctrine in a religion's history. But in actuality, Islamic fundamentalism, like almost all fundamentalist movements has been profoundly influenced by modern world events. The fundamentalism and anti-Westernism of the Ayatollah Khomeni proved so attractive to the Iranian populace, because of the secular, but American-dominated and autocratic rule of the Shah. Fundamentalists may advocate a return to the "original source." (Gelvin, 2004, p.295) But the perception of this original source is shaped and affected by the contemporary world context of the movement, such as the zealous anti-Americanism of the Ayatollah's radical Shiite theocracy.

The definition of fundamentalism may seem to imply that… [END OF PREVIEW]

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