Beware the Mideast’s Falling Pillars
For the last half-century the politics of the Middle East has been shaped by five key pillars, but all five are now crumbling. A new Middle East is aborning — but not necessarily the flourishing one that people imagined in the 1990s.
This one is being shaped more by Twitter memes than by U.S. diplomats, more by unemployment than by terrorism, more by upheavals on the streets than by leaders in palaces, more by women than by men. Can’t say where it will all settle out, but for now, beware falling pillars.
How so? For starters, there was always a deep U.S. involvement in shaping the future of this region. But just look around today: The U.S. doesn’t even have ambassadors in Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan or Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, a former Trump bankruptcy lawyer, is so enthralled with the right-wing Jewish settler movement that he is more a propagandist than a diplomat. Bye-bye American pie.
Second, there has always been some kind of Israeli-Palestinian peace process pushing for the best two-state solution. Again, bye-bye. Today, in truth, the U.S. and Israel seem to be engaged in a search for the best one-state solution, meaning permanent Israeli security control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem, along with some form of deep Palestinian autonomy.
Third, Arab governments could always guarantee jobs for their populations in their bureaucracies or security services — jobs where you could come late, leave early and work another job on the side. Also, bye-bye. With falling oil prices and rising populations, virtually every Arab state today is trying to figure out how to shed government workers and outsource services.
The fourth crumbling pillar: The days when information flowed only from the top down, and Arab governments could control the voices in their countries, are long gone. With Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp widely diffused in the Arab world, information now moves horizontally and people — using their real names — now tweet the most insulting things at their leaders.
Finally, men could dominate women through formal and informal religious, cultural and legal norms. But the recent high-profile cases of young women fleeing male control in Saudi Arabia and the UAE spoke for many Arab women who are no longer so willing to submit to male guardianship. This is especially true because women in many countries, Jordan, for instance, are now out-graduating men in both high school and universities.
Welcome to the new Middle East! ！
文／Thomas L. Friedman 譯／陳韋廷