The Middle East needs to stop blaming Western imperialism for everything

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The Middle East needs to stop blaming Western imperialism for everything Empty The Middle East needs to stop blaming Western imperialism for everything

Post by Guest on Wed May 25, 2016 5:03 pm

Cross-posted by Joe

When ISIS changed its name to “the Islamic State” and proclaimed a Caliphate in the summer of 2014, it captured global attention by exploding an outpost marking the modern border between the states of Syria and Iraq. These borders, ISIS told us, had been imposed upon the Arab-Muslim world by the Sykes-Picot Agreement, in which Britain and France had divided the Ottoman Empire into spheres of influence.

One of the Islamic State’s stated goals, then, was to reverse the effects of Sykes-Picot, and they have marketed an “anti-imperialist” historical reading of this treaty, hoping it will be readily consumed by Western liberals anxious to blame their own legacy for everything.

ISIS and other Islamists borrow anti-(Western) imperialist rhetoric from Marxists, while they themselves are nostalgic (Eastern) imperialists. ISIS want to restore the Caliphate, modelling themselves on the Ottomans, who used the words “emprie” and “caliphate” interchangeably.

The diplomatic efforts led by Britain’s Mark Sykes and France’s Francois Georges-Picot made moderate progress in mapping out a post-Ottoman Middle East. Yet far more significant was the San Remo Conference of 1920, which was attended by the prime ministers of Britain, France and Italy: David Lloyd George, Alexandre Mitterand and Francesco Nitti respectively, with ambassadors from Japan, Greece and Belgium also in attendance.

Reaching for a modern example, which is more significant — a meeting between diplomats on the sidelines of the UN, or a G8 summit with world leaders present?

According to the Islamist narrative, nationalism was imposed upon the region by the Western “imperial” powers. It’s worth remembering that Sykes-Picot and San Remo were only needed because of the fall of an Eastern empire — that of the Ottomans.

After Britain defeated the Ottomans and forced them out of Syria, Arab nationalists felt pretty confident. They called for an Arab nation stretching from Syria across Mesopotamia and Palestine went out via the Syrian National Congress in 1919. Ottoman Syria at the time was a significant part of the Ottoman Empire, and Palestine was its southern region. King Faisal of Mesopotamia — who affirmed his sympathy for Zionism to Chaim Weizmann! — was announced as the head of this notional state.

The San Remo Conference, then, was a hastily-arranged response to Arab nationalism, rather than the cause of it. At San Remo, Britain, France and Italy affirmed the Balfour Declaration promising a national homeland to the Jewish people in Palestine, whilst Britain took responsibility the mandate for Iraq and Palestine, and France did the same for Syria and Lebanon.

After San Remo, the Treaty of Sevres began to take shape, laying out the partition of the Ottoman Empire in concrete terms. Following Sevres and the Turkish War of Independence which followed, the Middle East began to take shape as we know it.

What does this history prove? It shows that imperialism itself was not solely a Western phenomenon, and shows that the birth of the modern Middle East was as much a result of the death throes of Ottoman imperialism as it was a projection of European imperial values. This ought to make us skeptical about claims that Western imperialism is to blame for everything.

Of course, if any of the above seemed dispassionate, boring and slightly technical, that’s because history isn’t always a tale of goodies and baddies, or oppressors and oppressed.

The Middle East looks like it does today because of Western imperialism and Eastern imperialism, Arab nationalism and Jewish nationalism, Sunnis and Shias, secularism and fundamentalism, capitalism and communism; internationalism and isolationism.

Sitting around twiddling our thumbs looking for someone to blame as the root of all evil in the region is fun intellectually, but ultimately pointless. There comes a point where you have to say: well all that happened, but grievances have their limits don’t they?

Anti-Zionism is a variation on this theme, which conveniently airbrushes out the Ottomans from history: the Jewish Zionists were the imperialists, and there was no empire around here before they showed up!

Today, Syria is in turmoil as thousands flee barrel bombs and terror devices, and Iraq reels still from the past decade of conflict. More than ever, now is time to think rationally about the steps that the region needs to take in order to escape its cycles of doom.

Rejecting Islamist jihadi terrorism, accepting Jewish and Kurdish national autonomy, tolerating freedom of worship and conscience for Christians, atheists, and all types of Muslims, promoting democratic rights and building democratic systems of governance are a few practical steps that the Middle East can take.

The Middle East doesn’t need to liberate itself from Sykes-Picot; instead it needs to unburden itself from its navel-gazing, self-defeating “anti-imperialist” narrative that it has indulged for far too long.

Excellent post and sadly some of the left aid this daft narative.
Yes mistakes are done in the past which we learn from, but you cannot keep constantly using what happened decades ago to defend the barbarity that keeps occuring all over the Middle East and spreading into Asia and African Muslim majority countries. Its the narative of hate with this daft view of colonialism supported by some of the weak willed left, that gives them the support they need for this hateful narative against the west.

I mean when you look at histroy at nations that were treated far worse like the defeats of Germany and Japan, these nations rebuilt themselves with help from the West. Even South America, Africa and parts of Asia, have not drawn themselves to committing violence against the west, so what is the problem with Islamic countries?

Its simple as I have stated before, and its at the very heart of its teachings around Transgressions and the fact, where once there was a Colonial Islamic Empire istelf, this died, with the Ottoman Empire. They still live in a pipe dream of former glories and worse think that Islam should globally control the world, but some on the left simply cannot grasp this


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