The Middle East and North Africa, as well as some parts further east are overall, a security and development mess pumping out poverty, economic marginalization, refugees, hostility and terrorism in too many parts.
This region was referred to by Zbigniew Brezinski, the former Executive Director of the Harvard Center for International Affairs where I worked, as the “Arc of Crisis”. It still is after many decades since his apt characterization.
For this region, well planned expenditures in secured environments are needed for wells of knowledge to be developed for building many more water wells, growing enough food crops, advancing effective education for economy building and overall self sufficiency for so many destitute. Stability and development are key to making the region stable.
Just building new mosques and handing out more Korans will not do so, as well as expansion of religious schools and programmes. And certainly more fiery and destructive jihad thinking will not do. As UNESCO stated, it is in the minds of men that peace is started. Neither radical Islam nor US driven militant neo-conservatism will do and President Trump has realized that these are two obstacles to peace, security and development.
Europe, first messed up the region with what I call Cartesian politics of dividing it up. With their colonialism, they overly mixed ethnic and religious groups into artificial states with no historic foundations with some exceptions. This was partly done because they did not know what they were doing, partly to divide and conquer and often, to facilitate economic and human resource exploitation.
That was the first destabilizing mess after these artificial states were given independence. To make up for the colonial period, the Westdropped in huge amounts of government aid there. Again, they largely squandered their opportunities because they did not know what they were doing and kept playing divide and conquer politics such as using the Sunnis against the Shiites.
There was also corruption of government authorities by western influences causing waste and too much of the aid was mostly tied to certain Western multinationals’ short term benefit over the sustained needs the locals. People needed basic ploughs, instead, for example, they got major debt generating purchases of Massey Fergusons, huge combines that got stuck in the mud.
Some of the story was not all bad including places like Pakistan experiencing a well set up administrative system by the British, the University of London establishing excellent subcampuses in places like Uganda and Trinidad and Tobago and opening up or furthering global trade opportunities for goods and services for local business people.
When the post-colonial western money largely failed to produce sufficient results overall and with less western money around to bribe loyalty at all levels because of over indebted wasteful West going “bankrupt” and western government aid prigramnes in too many instances becoming problematic, Gulf states stepped in evermore. This has been done by let us say governments and groups that have highly conservative religious approaches.
This all explains in part why the West ain’t much liked given many Islamic clerics easily looking at us as a bunch of decadent western (sinful) nations beginning to even collapse on ourselves who can only drop big bombs now to provide solutions. This is a gross simplification but conditions at home and injudicious application of western foreign policy in recent decades has not been helpful.
The western legacy with too many of these countries is sad and we really should not make it sadder by further destabilizing the area with new Iraqs and Libyas poured on this mess.
Rich Gulf States have invested a lot in making sure the region does not go upside down but at times get caught up in sectarian politics, too much. Syria, as well as ever struggling Egypt are on their borders and thus, should and do greatly worry them . They can least afford these places turning further on fire and are some of the most direct beneficiaries to prevent such.
My proposal is for the United Nations therefore, using mostly Gulf State money to develop a whole new master plan of development for the region that is devoid of sectarianism. That it be submitted to the Security Council for approval and reported on for progress.
That countries or regions committing genocide be invaded by a massive UN peacekeeping force with a mass global coalition. The first to receive the news without being given a heads-up would be ISIS. These liberated regions under temporary UN control would be brought back to development life and thereafter returned to control of the regular state but with UN monitoring and Security Council approval
The West and Japan are largely massively indebted if not bankrupt. They should fix their internal problems and heal themselves as they cannot afford to waste another trillion on the region. The UN monitoring this Gulf State paid peace and development plan is one with more hope, more understanding of the history and culture of the region, but certainly no guarantees of full success.
Though, patience in the West has been lost on everything from making peace in the Middle East to managing its refugees to thinking that its money at the UN is all that well used consistently.
Much more imagination is needed instead of countless more innocent killed, useless debates on whether the West take more refugees in and pay a lot more for development and get involved nation building. The West, and Europe especially has proven that it does not know how to clean up the mess and anarchy it started during the colonial period and continued or built upon by questionable, divisive local corrupt “warlords” and religious fanatics.
One thing for sure, old approaches and massive injections of western money into the region is over but not the hate and huge flows of refugees coming out. This is an emergency that needs emergency action well beyond western leadership and throwing stupid money and stupid invasions at it as the neo-conservatives like Senator John McCain think will work after countless horrible failures of this doctrine.
Simply speaking, it is time to properly secure and develop the region than destroy it, with the serious negative do-loop consequences of terrorism, poverty and destabilizing refugee flows.