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Hegemony to Balance of Power: The Roadmap to Peace


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Hegemony to Balance of Power: The Roadmap to Peace in the Middle East

In his book, War and Peace in the Middle East, Avi Shlaim makes the argument that peace is best achieved in the Middle East by the dominance of one nation over the other peoples in the area. To Shlaim, the hegemony of the Ottoman Empire was the most successful system of that resulted in a peace the area has not seen since. I both agree and disagree with Shlaim. Hegemony must be the first step to peace; however, following that initial period of hegemony, power needs to be delegated back to the individual states so that a regional balance of power can be attained. The United States must use its hegemonic power and take unilateral control over the Middle East to redraw the borders drawn by England after World War I so that the borders of the states in the Middle East coincide with cultural and religious lines.

The Ottoman Empire ruled the Middle East from its capital in Istanbul, Turkey from 1516 to 1918. Their dominance over the area ensured the stability of both the empire itself and the lands of the Middle East over which it ruled. The people of the Middle East during this era were allowed to practice their religions freely were and given regional autonomy in the cultural zones known as provinces: “Within this ramshackle empire, the ethno religious groups remained culturally autonomous; the Ottoman government respected and protected their distinctive laws and customs” (Shlaim, 6). This form of governance clearly worked in creating a peaceful living situation for both the Ottomans and the people of the Middle East that lived within their empire. I attribute this peace to the fact that the borders of the provinces were drawn along cultural lines. Shlaim attributes the current situation in the Middle East to the aftermath of the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Following World War I, when the Ottoman Empire was divided up, Great Britain took control over most of the Middle East; the borders they created in Iraq, for example, are proof that drawing borders with an outside nation’s own interests at heart and not along cultural/ religious lines in the Middle East is a recipe for disaster:

“The delineation of Iraq’s borders was equally arbitrary and equally calculated to suit Britain’s own political, strategic, and commercial interests. The borders took no account of the aspiration of the Kurds to national self-determination or of the division of the rest of the population along religious lines into Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims” (Shlaim, 13).

One of the main problems the world currently faces is the crisis in Iraq. Preceding the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime last year, Hussein ordered the genocide of thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of the Kurds in northern Iraq and suppressed and killed the Shiite majority in the south. This evidence presented by Shlaim leads me to believe that he clearly favors the rule of a hegemon, such as the Ottoman Empire, to control affairs in the Middle East so that peace, order, and stability can be attained in the region: “The Ottoman Empire had provided a far from perfect political system, but it worked” (Shlaim, 16).

As stated before, I both agree and respectfully disagree with Shlaim’s claim that hegemony is the correct path to restoring peace to the Middle East. The United States must utilize a two-part foreign policy to create stability in the region. First, the United States must use its hegemonic ability to redraw the borders created after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and destroy the tyrannical governments of countries so that democracies can eventually be established as the form government that rules that state. Iraq must become multiple nations: the Kurds of northern Iraq must be given their own country, their long dreamed of Kurdistan, so that their rights are not oppressed again by Iraq or Turkey. The other two provinces that make up the country, Basra and Baghdad, should comprise another state (Iraq). Second, the United States must adopt a foreign policy that will lead to the downfall of governments in which the rights of the people are not recognized, so that a democracy can be established, such as Iran’s theocracy. It must insist that Israel cede land to the Palestinians so that they can also have their own democratically governed state. Not until the Middle East is comprised of countries with borders that fall along cultural and religious lines that are democratically governed will there be peace in the Middle East, and not until the United States adopts a foreign policy that insists that these actions occur will these countries exist- the United States must use its hegemonic power. After these changes occur and the Middle East is a region of democratically governed states the United States must discontinue its use of influence over the area and let a regional balance of multi-polar power uphold the peace created by the hegemonic influence.

It is my belief that countries that are democratically governed will not go to war with each other. It is also my belief that countries with internal peace are less likely to go to war with each other than countries that lack internal peace. Thus, if the United States would use its hegemonic power to create states where the rights of the people are equally recognized and culturally bound, then withdraw and let those countries direct their own foreign policy, there would be a much lesser chance that wars would break out in the region.

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Thus, if the United States would use its hegemonic power to create states where the rights of the people are equally recognized and culturally bound, then withdraw and let those countries direct their own foreign policy, there would be a much lesser chance that wars would break out in the region.

We could call this "soft" imperialism, where the West (embodied by the U.S.) is the coercive apparatus necessary to bring democracy to the "failed states" of Central Asia.

There are, of course a number of flaws with this theory.

First, it takes entirely for granted that America is genuinely interested in spreading democracy. It simply assumes alturistic motives of the west (or a benign selfishness borne of self-preservation). Of corse, one must first discard centuries of direct and indirect intervention against democratic movements, ongoing support of oppressive regimes and so forth.

We've no reason to assume spreading democracy has ever been a motive of U.S. foreign policy and have little reason to believe it now.

Secondly it assumes that the west and the west alone has the monopoly on democratic ideas and that the recalcitrant peoples of the Mid East and Asia must be brought into the fold (by force if necessary) by us, lest they tear themselves apart.

This is underlined by a barely concealed contempt for the billions of "them" who live there. Their opinions, it seems, don't matter. We will tell them what's best for them.

However, this theory (terribly flawed, paternalistic and borderline racist) is the flavour of the day, both among the staunch neocons driving White House policy and the liberal elites among the SCLM (So-Called Liberal Media).

Embracing imperialism.

Yet, while generally successful as imperialists, Americans have been loath to confirm that's what they were doing. That's OK. Given the historical baggage that "imperialism" carries, there's no need for the U.S. government to embrace the term. But it should definitely embrace the practice.

That doesn't mean looting Iraq of its natural resources; nothing could be more destructive of our goal of building a stable government in Baghdad. It means imposing the rule of law, property rights, free speech and other guarantees, at gunpoint if need be. This will require selecting a new ruler who is committed to pluralism and then backing him or her to the hilt. Iran and other neighboring states won't hesitate to impose their despotic views on Iraq; we shouldn't hesitate to impose our democratic views.

No dialogue, no discussion and certainly no attempt to understand the views of the billions of people being imposed upon) just mor eof the same crap that these people have been fighting for centuries:

The United States must use its hegemonic power and take unilateral control over the Middle East to redraw the borders drawn by England after World War I so that the borders of the states in the Middle East coincide with cultural and religious lines.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

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