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"Nation Building" in the Middle East

Reader comment on item: Reflections on the Invasion of Iraq

Submitted by Ken (United States), Mar 18, 2013 at 17:13

Your post, as always, was enlightening. The last paragraph raises a point of international relations that pertains especially to the Middle East. This region, historically and accurately described as "The Graveyard of Empires" has never been receptive to the idea of "Nation Building" imposed by outside forces. Changes have come about only when there has been total military defeat followed by centuries-long occupation, such as the Ottoman Empire. But once the foreign conquerors have departed, it's back to business as usual – tribal rivalries that would once have meant misery for a few hundred people expand to engulf today's modern nation-states, and the addition of oil money allows these feuds to spill over into the international arena.

It seems to me that the only way to make the changes needed are either near-genocidal levels of violence, complete territorial occupation and imposition of government over centuries, or both. Since Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, for example, were entities created by European powers ignoring the pre-existing tribal regions, is the solution to be found in devolution and creating new nation-states such as an expanded Armenia, Kurdistan, etc.? Do you think it is even possible to create free, prosperous states where Islamism exists? If so, how would you do it?


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Daniel Pipes replies:

"Do you think it is even possible to create free, prosperous states where Islamism exists?"

I do not. And if thought so before 2003, the Iraq experience dispelled that hope.

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