An Israeli scholar offers a pessimistic rehashing of what he sees as the “endemic malaise” of the Arab states in spite of—or because of—Western acquiescence and retreat.
From the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire to the recent savagery of the Islamic State group, Middle East Quarterly and Israel Affairs editor Karsh (Political Studies/Bar-Ilan Univ.) lays the blame for regional instability and chronic war squarely on the willful intransigence and violent “rejectionism” of the “Middle Eastern actors” themselves—i.e., the Arabs and the new crop of Islamist extremists. For all their talk of democracy and self-determination, from Western leaders ranging from President Woodrow Wilson to President Barack Obama, Karsh sees little to show for it, especially when “the spring that never was” (Arab Spring of 2010-2011) has yielded little in the way of true democracy and rather an all-too-familiar return to what he calls Islam’s “imperialist ambitions.” Arab violence induced the British to renege on the mandate system (promising a homeland in Palestine for the Jews), while the lure of Arab oil deposits almost derailed the American embrace of the nascent Jewish state. (Karsh ignores Israel’s own accomplished network of terrorism.) “Innocents Abroad,” aka the Americans, failed to see the great Islamic tide coming, from the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini to the real threat of Saddam Hussein in Kuwait. While Karsh also excoriates the Soviet Union (“the Cautious Bear”) for being played by the Syrians and Afghanis, he saves his bitterest vitriol for the policy of well-intentioned, humble Obama, whose “wishful thinking” in hastily withdrawing from Iraq left the actors to turn viciously on each other, strengthening Iran’s hand and alienating important ally Turkey. Karsh sees the Arabs mired in chronic “internecine strife,” greed, and global expansionism, yet he offers no alternate reality save the status quo.
A strong dose of familiar anger and bitterness without solutions.