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Nationalism vs. Imperialism

Reader comment on item: The "Shocking Document" that Shaped the Middle East Turns 100

Submitted by There is NO Santa Claus (United States), May 17, 2016 at 08:39

The Sykes-Picot Agreement is another cruel act in the Middle Eastern Play of Nationalsim vs. Imperialism. The European powers thought THEIR empires would replace the Islamic one with accommodation for Nationalist aspirations of the Arabs. Even after the plan disintegrated with the rise of modern Turkey, The false assumption that the old Islamic empire was dead and gone persisted.

As nation-states took form in the early 1920s, it should come as no surprise that the Muslim Brotherhood was born from the ashes of the Caliphate. The old empire was dead, but Islamic imperialism was not. Dr. Pipes likes to call these modern day imperialists "Islamists".

Noting the constant warring and fighting among different factions of Muslim imperialists, the dream of a borderless Islamic Empire ruled by a Calif remains. As the struggles between the great powers wax and wane, the Brotherhood (or whatever organization; Shiite, Sunni etc.) lives on filling the void left by receding empires (British, French, Soviet etc.) and fallen nationalist tyrants.

Throughout this period, only a few nations emerged from any form of do-it-yourself ambition. Israel is probably the most obvious, but a case can be made for some others; perhaps Egypt and Algeria. Iran and Turkey represent nation-states that are clearly toying with imperial aspirations. Iran is more obvious but Erdogan's policy shows clear signs of the same type of movement.

Of the nations that emerged from the fall of the Ottoman Empire, few Muslim nations remain intact. Those that are still intact are quickly realizing that the old formula of trading oil for foreign support of their tyrannical rule is not going to hold over the long run. Moreover, though these leaders once envisioned themselves as part of a larger Islamic empire, the fate of leaders overthrown by imperialists have not been lost on them. As such, they now talk more and more about domestic industrialization and diversification of their economies. In other words, a do-it-yourself approach to nation building. For these remaining nation-states, this is the only way they can keep their heads attached to the rest of their bodies.

The Sykes-Picot Agreement simply failed to realize the eventual probability of the old Islamic empire rising again. Though the Islamic imperialists are splintered and doomed to eventual failure, they continue to foil any outsider's vision of a permanent map of the region. That map will always be in a state of flux and change. Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn't been paying attention.

Thus I support Dr. Pipes' basic thesis. Foreign nations trying to define a map of the Middle East (or any portion thereof) will ultimately find their efforts futile.


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