Blog Week 4

In this week readings, I was very interested in Andrew Hartman’s The Red Template, and the lack of foresight on the part of the United States. During the soviet invasion of Afghanistan, it was the Islamic fundamentalist mujahedeen that the US used as proxies to fight the USSR. Why would they do this, when they knew from experience that these groups weren’t specifically anti-Soviet, but anti-western. It was these same types of groups that overthrew the shah in Iran, so why not try to limit their involvement? And why was not help given to them after the fighting? All of these decisions, in my opinion, were negligent and shortsighted. The way Afghanistan was used then discarded by the US has had massive repercussion in the region, from indirectly creating the Taliban all the way the Islamic State. A quote from this reading sums it up nicely:

“It was a morale boost that Muslims of the world had not experienced in quite some time. Afghanistan became a launching pad for jihad worldwide, and the USA, with its overreaching geopolitical goals, became the target.”

Afghanistan cannot the only county that has had this fate. How many other parts of the Middle East have been affected because of the cold war? Iran is definitely one of them, along with Egypt.

But enough with the negativity, what can we learn from these mistakes? Especially when we see the conflicts in Syria, I think that the only way that we avoid the disaster in Afghanistan is twofold. I feel like we need to make sure that any aid we send is out in the public eye, so that everyone knows that it was the US that helped bring peace to Syria. This is the opposite of the policies in Afghanistan, where any of the aid we sent was funneled secretly through Pakistan, as to limit the US’s presence. Secondly, there needs to be a real focus on nation building when the fighting does stop. Leaving a country in ruins just like we did Afghanistan will just lead to a country fractured and divided amongst all the different players in the region.

Research paper Abstract

The purpose of this research paper is to find a connection between the policies of the French mandate in Syria and the current Syrian Civil War. The goal is to show that the favoritism of the French to certain groups such as the alawites and the heavy handedness of the French rule of the region is a factor in why Syria has erupted into chaos. This will be shown by analyzing the French rule of Syria, both from a modern perspective and a historical one, using sources from the period of the French mandate to get a better insight into the politics of the French rule. Alongside this, sources from all sides of the current conflict will be used to examine the reasons for why the rule in Syria broke down. Using the historical and modern information, a link between the rule of the French and its aftermath and the root causes of the Syrian Civil War will be made. This research will show that addressing these causes can be a good step in a permanent solution to the conflict.

How the Middle East reacted to secularism

For this week, I was very interested in what Gelvin had to say about secularism in chapter 9 of The Modern Middle East, where he contrasts the rise of secularism in Europe with the attempts to do the same in the Ottoman empire.

Gelvin mentions both the tanzimat period, where the Ottomans first tried osmanlilik, an attempt to unite the empire via political ties and a sense of pride in being ottoman, and the rule of Sultan Abdulhamid II, the second time osmanlilik was promoted as a sense of pride in being both ottoman and Islamic. I was interested in why that it took mixing being an ottoman and being Islamic was what made this kind of ideology feasible. I also think that the answer to this question can help with understanding the dominance of Islam in the governments and politics of the region.

Although the young turks supported a restoration of the first osmanlilik in turkey (which shows in its more secular focused society), even they ended up having to go back to the Islamic osmanlilk. But with the rest of that fall of the ottomans, the nations that came out of it followed this combination of religion and politics. And I feel like this has been a huge contribution to the current politics and governments of the region. Compared to the governments of Europe, where there is a definitive line between government and religion, many of the political forces in the Middle East are intertwined with religion.

One of the major effects these governments had in the region was the concessions and the effects of them on the industries and countries involved. For instance, the D’Arcy Concession that we read this week pretty much created the oil industry in Iran. This document was the beginning of oil in the Middle East, which we all know is a huge deal today. I am surprised that this agreement survived in some form all the way until 1951, when many other concessions from the era lasted for only a year or less. I think that this shows that not all of these agreements of this era were created equal.