5 Best Solutions to Ensuring Peace in the Middle East
Peace in the Middle East. Just a distant dream, forever stagnant and motionless? Why has no one been able to achieve a working solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Why is Syria still swimming in a sea of blood when Libya was saved? The questions are endless. But the answers are not always impossible to find. The Middle East is an incredibly large swatch of the earth including millions of people who speak different languages, pray differently, and have very colorful worldviews. Genuinely acknowledging these facts is the first step towards peace in the region. Here are 5 best solutions to ensuring peace in the Middle East:
1. To respect the powerfully rich and divergent histories of the people of the region:
This kaleidoscope of sometimes competing narratives can literally ignite at any given moment. There can be no lasting solutions if we first don't understand the full history: Iraqis and Iranians are actually two different peoples who speak different languages, Christian Arabs existed before Muslim Arabs, and the Ottoman Empire was a vast Turkish state that reached the gates of Vienna twice. But it gets tricky. As in any other part of the world, there exist clashing historical narratives that continue to cause political friction. It is important to hear out both sides to understand the roots of sentiments. Studying all histories will present a fuller picture. From there we can begin the healing process and offer some sense of closure.
2. To understand the geography and strategic location of the region:
Located as the gateway between "the West and the East," politics in the region have always played a major role in trade and diplomacy. Since oil was discovered in the mid-20th century, the region has become all the more a playground for international proxy wars. During the Cold War, both the Soviets and the Americans tried to curry favor with large players such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria. In Egypt, America's annual 1 billion dollars in aid to Hosni Mubarak in the name of stability over democracy backfired during the January 25 revolution. Then there is foreign intervention among states within the Middle East. Take for example the Syrian government's meddling in Lebanese affairs since Lebanon's brutal civil war. All these backdoor negotiations poignantly offer insight into why and how certain events take place.
3.To understand that the political economy affects politics, whether in the Middle East or beyond:
It cannot be sufficiently underscored; we need to approach the region with the notion that it is oil rich is misleading; it assumes that these economies are well developed and fully integrated into the world economy. In reality, the region suffers from economic depression and disturbingly high rates of unemployment, underemployment, and poverty. And analyzing political economies is a way to understand political instability in the region. Let's take this example. Professors of political science, Christopher Parker and Pete Moore, explore how the war economy in Iraq has a direct effect on the volatile and violent politics of post-invasion Iraq. In their essay, The War Economy of Iraq, they study Iraq's well-established smuggling networks that emerged as the Baathist state retreated from the economy over the last two decades. They explain that insurgents attacking U.S. forces are those who built their livelihoods in the shadow of the Baathist regime by partaking in the newly configured economy. The failure on the part of the U.S. to understand this complex political economy led to their misdiagnosis of the Iraqi situation. The dangers of this misunderstanding are costly; the U.S. has been quick to blame violence on sectarianism and by doing so only refuel sectarian cleavages.
4. To give up the "well, why can't they just be like us?" thinking:
Looking at the political trajectories of the Middle East through Western lenses is highly problematic. Calls for the Middle East to ape the West are not only detrimental to the people of the region, but also debunk Thomas Friedman's "the world is flat" theory. Respect and understanding of indigenous traditions and heritages is more fruitful than calls to "westernize and modernize" their region. In Dubai, which has been claimed as the gem of globalization in the region, migrant workers have been exploited in appalling ways, as related to national identities and boundaries. In this way, globalization did not actually render the world "flat." Dubai's experiment in globalization proves a human rights disaster and contradicts the view that westernization is consistently and undeniably beneficial for others. This needs to be acknowledged first within and beyond Middle Eastern borders.
5. To resists the temptation to argue that the politics of the region are governed by an undefeatable sense of chaos and crisis with little hope for reversing a stagnant political situation:
To view the region's political system in such defeatist terms is in itself a reason not to study it because nothing can be done to advance it. But political achievements in the region are developing and though relatively small now, can catalyze freer and equal politics in the future. The story of the Arab Spring that continues to unfold embodies such change. This metamorphosis proves that the political crisis in the Middle East is not stagnant but moving forward. The notion that the Mid East political crisis is immutable lends itself to a rejection of the historical precedent that everything changes. And that is perhaps one of the greatest obstacles to lasting solutions.