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Monday 11 March 2024

Why is the Middle East So Devastated By War?

If you were to ask many right leaning conservative people why the Middle East is so devastated by war, you might get an answer like this: “Arabs are just a warlike people. They are uncivilized and have not really learnt how to handle issues like the Western nations have.” A more biblically switched on person might even say, “It was prophesied that Ishmael would always be against others.” This comes from Genesis 16:12, which says, “12 He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” Putting aside the fact that the very same scriptures note that Jacob was a deceiver - would he always be that too? – and the fact that in Christ all curses are broken, these answers are simply lazy answers that do not account for the reality of the situation in the Middle East today and its history.

It is tempting for Christians with a Biblical worldview to over simplify and over apply something they learnt in the Bible or in a sermon in such a way that they do not use their minds in the diligent way that God would have us all do: “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men” (Prov. 22:29), “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter” (Prov. 25:2). God does not want us to simply brush aside real world events with overly simplistic answers, he wants us to investigate, consider, and reason about why things in the world that we observe are happening the way that they do. We should do this with the Middle East as well, and consider the opinions of those with knowledge on the issue.

For many centuries under the Ottoman Turks the Middle East was a relatively stable region. There were wars, wars with other powers like Russia, Prussia, and wars for dominance in the empire itself. But none of these wars were as remarkable or even as far reaching as the wars that happened in Europe. In the modern era the Ottoman’s did not have their own version of a Napoleon for instance. The Ottoman rule, as with many empires, brought stability and peace to region, and the diverse people within its borders were kept in relative peace by the strong hand of Imperial rule. In fact when you compare Western civilisation against Middle Eastern civilisation in the military conquest department, it is very hard to see any real distinction in their warlike natures. Both civilisations did embark on wars of conquest, the Ottomans famously battled with different European powers, especially Russia, both civilisations had civil wars, but no argument could be made that the Middle Eastern civilisation was more inherently warlike. In fact, western civilisation spread its military conquests all over the world, and it was not an accident that two largest wars in history were initiated by European belligerents, not Middle Eastern actors.

So, saying that it is because the Middle East is just filled with warlike people doesn’t take into account how warlike we Westerners actually are. It is a lazy answer and thoroughly incorrect. How many wars have the United States, Britian and Australia been engaged in in the last 80 years? Most places Australia has invaded did not attack our country, the same is true with the United States. I love the Jimmy Dore quote that goes something like this, “America, a bunch of capitalists, borrows money from China, a bunch of communists, to invade the Middle East, a Muslim region, to bring them democracy that they don’t even want.” It is just not an honest assessment of ourselves to say we are less warlike than the Middle East. And the theological answer does not take into account many other things which are said on the topic of war and the descendants of Abraham. So why is the Middle East so devastated by war?

Well, we get an answer in a report handed to Woodrow Wilson in 1919,

“Much earlier, the King-Crane Commission, sent out in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson to ascertain the wishes of the peoples of the region, had come to similar conclusions as those of Jabotinsky. Told by representatives of the Zionist movement that it “looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine” in the course of turning Palestine into a Jewish state, the commissioners reported that none of the military experts they consulted “believed that the Zionist program could be carried out except by force of arms,” and all considered that a force of “not less than 50,000 soldiers would be required” to execute this program. In the end, it took the British more than double that number of troops to prevail over the Palestinians in 1936 through 1939. In a cover letter to Wilson, the commissioners presciently warned that “if the American government decided to support the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, they are committing the American people to the use of force in that area, since only by force can a Jewish state in Palestine be established or maintained.” The commission thereby accurately predicted the course of the subsequent century.”[1]

Why is the Middle East at constant war? Because as this commissioner predicted, it would take a continual military presence by first Britain and then the United States if they committed themselves to the Zionist project in Palestine. The entire region would rebel at the colonization effort, and therefore, a strong military presence in the Middle East would be required.

It is common for people to say about the Palestinian nationhood, “Too bad Palestine never existed!” But things that don’t exist don’t fight back.

The Middle East is at war so much because first Britain and then America decided that they should support a Colonial effort in the region and they asserted themselves as the dominant powers in the region, “if the American government decided to support the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, they are committing the American people to the use of force in that area, since only by force can a Jewish state in Palestine be established or maintained.” This was an American expert’s own assessment of what would be required, and we see by how the United States is fast tracking weapons to Israel using American tax payer money right now, that this assessment was correct.

The British understood the same thing,

“The Zionists’ colonial enterprise, aimed at taking over the country, necessarily had to produce resistance. “If you wish to colonize a land in which people are already living,” Jabotinsky wrote in 1925, “you must find a garrison for the land, or find a benefactor who will provide a garrison on your behalf….Zionism is a colonizing venture and, therefore, it stands or falls on the question of armed forces.” At least initially, only the armed forces provided by Britain could overcome the natural resistance of those being colonized.”[2]

It took, has taken, and will continue to take strong military investment, support and presence of western power in the region to sustain this enterprise. But we have no business being in that region in the first place. It is not a surprise that the continued western interference in the Middle East is causing Western powers to become over-stretched and helping internal decline back home. National leaders are responsible for their own countries, not controlling the world. Empires always collapse eventually, because it has not been given to them to rule the world.  

We could have a discussion about the flaws of Middle Eastern culture, and Islam, and how all of that relates to the instability in the region. But it cannot be an objective discussion as long as the West continues to interfere in the region in all the ways that it does. Foreign interference inherently creates instability. Until that interference ends, it needs to be considered a primary factor in why the Middle East is still so warlike. If the quote from Genesis about Ishmael still applies, the U.S. interference is still a primary cause because if you continually provoke a fighting man to combat, who is known for being against every man, what else do you think is going to happen but continual war?

List of References

[1] Khalidi, Rashid . The Hundred Years' War on Palestine: The New York Times Bestseller (pp. 51-52). Profile. Kindle Edition.

[2] Khalidi, Rashid . The Hundred Years' War on Palestine: The New York Times Bestseller (p. 51). Profile. Kindle Edition.

1 comment:

  1. In his farewell address, George Washington warned against foreign entanglements. John Quincy Adams said words to the effect that America does not go forth to slay dragons and only wishes people well. One problem as I see it is that once an elective republic has sizable business entities in its borders which engage in trade abroad and grow wealthy, powerful, and influential beyond Alexander Hamilton's prescribed "mediocrity of fortune," foreign entanglements become practically inevitable.
    --Anthony Probst