The source of the Arab Spring is the social, political impact of easy money and massive capital flows effectively damaging societies living on subsistence farming. First world political economies can basically handle inflation; those that depend on staple crops cannot. Welcome to the Arab Spring!
The voluminous output of books explaining how this open revolt happened ignore the role of the U.S. Central Bank. That’s a shame because it, along with the liberation of Iraq are the constitutive dynamics underwriting this failed revolution. And it failed miserably because the entire foreign policy establishment is committed to the status quo of ‘stability’. Although we are a revolutionary Republic, we cannot expect mandarins at State to understand the moral underpinnings of American exceptionalism, and so we kick the can down the road, until, like 2016 when we’ve run out of road. The youths throughout Islamic civilization deserved better. We never delivered them.
This post is written to explain how best to understand The Arab Spring.
The summer of 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the Sykes-Picot agreement, an understanding among European monarchies that they would carve up and deliver among themselves the remains of the Ottoman Empire.
Here’s the truth: the Sykes-Picot did NOT established any borders, for the contours of the Near East (known at the time as west Asia) emerged as a result of several distinct regional conferences and conflicts, most of which took place after The Great War. So how did we get here?
There are two current authorities that understand the historical, theological and cultural determinants that shaped west Asia. They are Dr. Efraim Karsh at King’s College England and Robert Worth, the former New York Times Beirut bureau chief. Both men have written highly engaging, authoritative accounts.
Dr. Karsh’s book The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics of the Middle East frankly acknowledges that Arabs themselves possess the requisite moral agency shaping regional dynamics. For both men, it is indigenous dynamics that explains the trajectory of The Arab Spring.
Robert Worth’s book A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS is the absolute best account of a wide-angle approach, viewing indeterminate religious conflict as proxies that surge absent any civil society. A world where Sunni’s rage against Shia’s, secularists fight Islamists, rebels devour regimes and the Deep State, the tribal arrangements of those wielding power as self-preservation wait-out all challengers.
Both authorities reveal the ethical, moral sentiment that struck the power keg: karama, an Arabic rally cry, a protest signifying broken human dignity.
Like the wild youths of Egypt, Bahrain, Iran, Libya, Tunisia; we’ve lost them, they’ve gone over to the Islamists. Now they fight for a permanent jihad.
Both authors strain to explain why it didn’t have to happen.
Fouad Ajami, rest in peace.