“We have sold all of the principles of democracy and freedom that once made us great.”
That’s not the first time I’ve read that slogan. It’s sentimental patriotism of the Aristotelian type which places the relatively young United States of America at the center of history leaving practically all other countries without an inherent will or relevant interests like helpless satellites orbiting Washington, DC. Even for – mainly negative – events during the time the Americas were European colonies, the United States is absurdly held responsible.
However, there was supposedly that mythical – but ambiguous – era when the moon and other satellites bowed to America’s “principles of democracy and freedom”. Life was presumably better back in those days. That Arcadian period precedes the events surrounding America’s relentless quest to secure access to oil, gas and mineral resources, described in Robert Kennedy’s essay, “Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria” with the subtext, “They don’t hate ‘our freedoms.’ They hate that we’ve betrayed our ideals in their own countries — for oil”. The Arab world feels betrayed by the Americans who themselves are not living those ideals, ideals that Arabs supposedly so dearly love and desire. The disappointment is so great that the Arabs have reacted by jettisoning those foreign ideological “principles of democracy and freedom”. By the way, Kennedy explains why Arabs don’t love us in large part with references to US interactions with non-Arab Iran.
The tone of the article, set “in part because my father was murdered by an Arab”, obviously serves to divert attention from “explanations of religion and ideology”. Such attention would of course ruin the out-of-context and timeless “geocentric” model including ahistorical and otherwise helpless satellites imbued with “our ideals”, apparently with irrelevant histories, ideals and belief systems. Sirhan-Sirhan was not simply an Arab; he had his own ideas and motivations. The reference to ethnicity makes little sense. However, and although it would be easy to substitute “America” for “Jew” in Kennedy’s essay, conspiracy theories are actually created mostly from facts; it’s what’s left out that defines the premeditated conclusions to equal an opinion with hand-picked facts. The ambitious Ottoman Empire, intra-Islamic wars, the Arab slave trade, the spread of radical forms of Islamic ideology and the resulting destruction of Christian Arab nations and the exodus of Jews, the complete absence of a significant tradition of enlightened democracy in Islamic culture and history, the complete lack of religious reform … all of that has been occurring for more than a millennia without US-American involvement and European colonialism, and more specifically and recently: without interference from the CIA. As a result of such extreme shortened tunnel vision, Kennedy can maintain that “America’s unsavory record of violent interventions in Syria — little-known to the American people yet well-known to Syrians — sowed fertile ground for violent Islamic jihadism…” If the CIA created ISIS, perhaps it also created the concept of jihad? Ahmad Mohammad al Tayyeb, supreme Sunni scholar at Cairo University Al Azhar, ignoring such conspiracy theories concerning oil and the CIA, cuts away the fat and defines the „Islamic State“ on every occasion a „Zionist conspiracy“ designed to bring the Arab world to its knees.
If we “look beyond the convenient explanations of religion and ideology” as reference points in understanding deep-rooted problems as Kennedy suggests, there remains very little other than perhaps nationalism or national identity as a unifying factor. But, those factors belong to a European and American paradigm and historical point of view. The basic concept of nation or civil society in the West has very little to offer the Arab world, which for the last 1400 years since Mohammed, has been based on a theistic state. (Non-Arab Persia and Ottoman Turkey have both been torn between the two models: the civil and the religious state.) The nation – especially as defined by the post-colonial establishment of civic nations – is merely an anti-historical corset, against which a more than thousand year old Islamic based ideology is determined to tear off. The Ummah has always been the single unifying factor in the Islamic World; any other form of government is antithetical. Two thousand years ago, the Roman citizen had a similar standing.
A polemical question: How would Kennedy have written about Europe in the 20’s and 30’s? Would “convenient explanations” of ideology been disregarded and instead emphasis placed on Germany’s “legitimate” grievances regarding the Versailles Treaty?
Despite his admonitions, Kennedy continually touches on “culture and religion” without admitting so. He describes “the Assad family (…) [as] rather moderate compared to those of other Mideast leaders, including our current allies. (…) ‘[He] certainly wasn’t beheading people every Wednesday like the Saudis do in Mecca.’” The United States planned to “foment a Sunni-Shiite civil war”. Later, it’s “explained that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were ‘so determined to take down Assad’ that they had launched a ‘proxy Sunni-Shia war’ funneling ‘hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad (…)’”. This all supposedly explains – at least partially – how the US single-handedly created the “Islamic State” which has now occupied exactly the regions of Syria which encompass “the proposed route of the Qatari pipeline”. If the Arabs could only realize the advantages of reheating the Protestant – Catholic wars in Europe. But then, we’d be delving into religion and speculation.
“According to Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker, ‘ISIS is run by a council of former Iraqi generals. … Many are members of Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’ath Party who converted to radical Islam in American prisons.’” Apparently, the CIA made a serious mistake, by not subcontracting the prisons to Seventh Day Adventists.
Kennedy’s conclusions and remedies for the Middle East rotate around the oil pipeline competition, with the United States as the main interested and active party. The entire religious and cultural history of this vast region is factored out. Quite naively, he suggests: “Other than humanitarian assistance and guaranteeing the security of Israel’s borders, the U.S. has no legitimate role in [the Syrian] conflict.” With a “dramatically reduce[d] military profile in the Middle East” how will the US manage to protect Israel against practically an entire region of the world whose goal is its eradication? What about Europe’s borders; no need for security there?
In a broad non-interventionist plea, Robert Kennedy Jr. says “we [the United States] should let the Arabs govern Arabia and turn our energies to the great endeavor of nation building at home.” The Chinese, the Russians and perhaps the European Union will fill in the void and hopefully be able to alleviate a Middle East implosion when the oil runs out. Especially over the last century, Middle Eastern nations have pocketed historic profits in the oil business, neglected and butchered their youth, killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people and squandered their national treasures in fruitless and costly adventures.
William Wires, 28 March, 2016