Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Glimmers of hope in the Arab world

With more attacks on an American base in Mosul today, and Tony Blair in Baghdad, we may want to take note of this optimistic piece by Fareed Zakaria on the region and another by David Brooks. Zakaria:

Interestingly, these voices are mainly being heard from the Persian Gulf, which has become the center of reform in the Arab world. Dubai is far ahead of all others in terms of economic openness and efficiency. But Qatar and Bahrain are moving in the same direction with radical plans. It is a strange reversal. In the 1950s and 1960s, the large Arab states, led by Egypt, were seen as the modernizing forces in the region. The gulf monarchies were backward Bedouin societies. Now progress, at least economic progress, is coming from the gulf, while countries such as Syria appear to be stuck in the Stone Age.

Indeed, despite the stirrings in Egypt, what is most likely is an increasing divide in the Arab world between the small, nimble states on the periphery -- the Persian Gulf states, Jordan, Morocco -- and the slumbering giants.

Although many in the region would be dismayed by this division, it is a healthy development. Pan-Arabism, which was never more than hot air anyway, has been one of the ideologies that has kept Arabs from modernizing. Competition will force each state to focus on its own future. And as some succeed, others will follow, and regional trade and tourism -- currently abysmally low -- will expand. Perhaps this will forge a new Arab community, one created by the practical realities of contact, culture and commerce rather than war, rhetoric and politics

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