Term Paper: History of the Modern Middle East

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¶ … Middle East

My Enemy's Enemy is My Friend -- Even if that Enemy is Democracy and Economic Progress in the Middle East

According to James L. Gelvin's book The Modern Middle East: A History, the central irony of the post-Cold War "Age of Democratization" and "Age of Globalization," is that while much of the rest of the formerly colonized world has been freeing itself from tyranny and outmoded economic ideas, the Middle Eastern nations of the Islamic world are becoming increasingly tyrannical and economically stagnant. Even nations that were oil-rich, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have yet to build extensive economic infrastructures that rely on commodities other than the non-renewable economic resources of oil. Democracy and capitalism have yet to take root even in nations with extensive exposure to Western ideals. However, Gelvin's so-called irony is less surprising when viewed in conjunction with the fact that resistance to European colonial domination since the end of World War I in the Middle East has always been framed in terms of a resistance to all European cultural and religious ideologies -- including democracy and capitalism, as well as Christianity.

While Gelvin points out that so-called "traditional" fundamentalist and pro-nationalist Islamic revolutions, such as occurred in Iran are actually contemporary in their worldview, in the sense that they look back to a mythical and fictional pure Islamic past, the ideological nature of these revolutions also demonstrate how such apparently progressive ideas like women's rights have become associated with Western-controlled leaders like the Shah of Iran. The Shah himself was also a dictator, tainting the ideal of democracy for many Iranians, who thus turned to anti-democratic fundamentalism as a solution. (Gelvin 191) Even in Egypt, which secular leaders such as Nasser and Sadat have dominated in the post-colonial era, totalitarian rulers defined the debate of national independence. Resistance meant following cults of personality enforced by charismatic rulers like Nasser. Nationalized economic strategies (like the pan-Arab nationalization of the Suez that wrested control from the British) were popularized over attempts at capitalist reform. (Gelvin 215) Sadat, who eventually signed the Camp David Peace Accords with Israel and sought to broaden Egypt's economic perspective, became the victim of a successful assassination attempt.

Thus, in the paradoxical logic (to Western eyes) of the Middle East, democracy and a free market are conjoined with colonialism and European dominion. Sun Allah Ibrahim's book The Committee is an unsparing depiction of how Western ideologies, such as global capitalism and democracy, are fused with totalitarianism in the Middle Eastern mind. The West may see Islamic militarism as totalitarian. The oppressive nature ruling Committee of Ibrahim's book, in its militarism, might seem to be a stand-in for the totalitarian state regimes described by Gelvin, as have exist or have existed in Syria, Iraq, and other modern Middle Eastern nations. But the members of Ibrahim's Committee are blond, European, and do not speak Arabic.

This suggests that Ibrahim is not so much concerned about oppressive rule of Islamic fundamentalists, but of the Western ideology that he believes has penetrated the once supposedly pure nationalist governments of the Middle East. Ibrahim implies that now that the Middle East has strived to modernize itself and allowed consumerism in the form of Western products like Coca-Cola to penetrate the land, Middle Eastern nations like those of The Committee are once again under Western rule in the form of free market globalization.

The new capitalist regime oppresses the populace with the ideology of consumption… [END OF PREVIEW]

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