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October 3, 2012

Middle East Realities A Primer

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The Middle East nations are composed of families that I will rightfully or wrongly, call tribes. These tribes are composed of several hundred or thousand of family members united together because of relationships.


For centuries, these tribes have been fighting each other over water because the land is a desert. If you controlled the water, you controlled the trade routes. If you controlled the trade routes and water, you could extract “tax” from the traders to pass over your land or drink from your well.


Each tribe had its own defined geographic area where they resided. Sometimes, when one tribe decided it was slighted or felt stronger, it attacked the other and land boundaries expanded or contracted depending on what side you were on.


The European nations came in and sliced the lands into convenient nation states. These lines did not respect tribal boundaries. In order to rule, the European nations put into power the tribe which happened to be ruling at that time. They gave them guns and they attacked the other tribes.


Oil was discovered. The European powers stole most of it. They sent the tribal people who supported them to universities and educated them. The educated people rebelled against the colonial power thinking “why should they get all the oil money.”


The oil money then went to that particular tribal family. The money went to only those people of that tribe. The other tribes were subjected to poverty. Arms dealers like the United States sold guns to the ruling tribes to keep them in power.


Schools, hospitals, sewage systems and other infrastructure were constructed in only those areas where the ruling tribe lived. Overseas education was available only to those people who were members of that tribe. Members of the ruling tribe flaunted their wealth with huge houses, expensive cars and other symbols of affluence... Meanwhile the other tribes lived in poverty.


European nations and the United States supported the ruling tribe. They wanted the oil, mineral wealth and strategic bases. It was in their interest to keep the ruling tribe in power. The ruling tribe wanted to stay in power.


The ruling tribe started and supported newspapers. The newspapers could only print those stories that showed their tribe favorably. Nobody else could start a newspaper criticizing them. The tribe also controlled the television and radio. Most of the programs and news broadcast how wonderful the ruling party was to the people. They were wonderful, but only to those people were members of their tribe. It became ingrained that all newspapers, televisions stations and now the Internet were like that in all countries of the world. They did not know that other countries were not like theirs.


Finally, the other tribes revolted against the ruling tribe. They chased their leaders out of the country. Another tribe took over. This was called “Arab Spring.” The Western powers supported the new tribe.


Groups formed both radical and liberal. They wanted power also. They could not understand that in a democracy somebody must lose. To them it was, and still is, all or nothing. Leaders and guns from al Qaeda organized these groups. Some groups were fanatical wanting all the power for themselves.


The new tribes that came to power have not had a chance to share the wealth of the country with other tribes. It is debatable if they ever intend to. It could be one tribe will do what the last tribe did.


The other tribes see the Americans supporting the new tribe. They revolt the only way they know how by attacking the European powers through their diplomatic missions. The American Embassy, French schools and other western establishments provided a release of pent up emotion and rage.


The only answer is continued negotiation between the tribes of each country. Everyone must compromise to break the “winner takes all” mentality. These talks may take generations or until people become educated and understand the wisdom of power sharing.


There are groups who do not want to share power. They include al Qaeda, which wants all of the power and will use the ancient code of Islam to keep the people subjugated. Another is the crazy dictator of Iran. He wants to develop an atomic bomb to spread his supporter’s quest for domination. Not for the glory of Allah, but for the glory of themselves.


The Middle East was and still is a political conflict between groups who want to the control a country’s wealth. The idea that they are spreading Islam is a foreign one to them. It is only in the west where people want an easy explanation for the civil wars that have raged and will continue to rage until power sharing becomes a way of life and democracy can become firmly established.


With understanding….


…Life is good. . . . .


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