The decline of Europe allows the Arabs to be free of the diplomatic structure it had created in the Middle East and of the basic concepts, such as ‘Nation’ and ‘National state,’ in which it had been anchored.
As these lines are being written, Assad’s government has somehow not yet fallen. However it seems that the process will be completed shortly.
The core of the matter is not necessarily in Syria itself, but in the revolutionary process that is sweeping over the Middle East in general, and specifically in every country in it, and Syria presents a good metaphor for understanding it.
The states of the Middle East are the result of French and English colonialism. The absurd borderlines we see on the map were probably drawn by some Intelligence Officer in the British Military Headquarters during the first World War. Until then there were no states, or nations, in the Middle East, in the European sense. During the Turkish Ottoman regime, and before it, the Middle East was, with the exception of Egypt, one large, politically, diplomatically and nationally unaffiliated area.
European colonialism, for its own reasons, drew borders, created political entities and placed rulers over them, without them having any real base in the Arab reality. The entire area was heterogeneous, inhabited by various religious groups, ethnic groups, tribes and clans. Nations, in the European sense, did not exist.
The region was released from European colonialism following the second World War, but it was only a political release. The borders drawn by the Europeans were still kept. More importantly, the European nationalist ideology, according to which states set up on the basis of national groups, which are expressed through their states, also persevered. Thus, we received absurd concepts like “the Lebanese nation” or “the Jordanian” or “the Syrian,” and yes, also “the Palestinian nation.”
“The Syrian nation” is a good metaphor for the matter. Syria is not a nation, its citizens are not one people, and Assad is not “massacring his own people.” The citizens of Syria are a collection of various religious groups, ethnic groups, tribes and clans, who don’t have much in common, except for the shared ideology of “might makes right,” and definitely do not have a national identity in the European sense of the word.
Only today, in what is being called “the Arab Spring,” is the Middle East truly breaking free of European colonialism and returning to its original state (and it is ironic that the term “the Spring of Nations,” which was used to describe the historical process of national liberation and unification in Europe, is being used today to describe the essentially opposite process occurring in the Middle East).
Due to the weakness of the Western powers, not just diplomatically, but mostly ideologically and culturally, both in Europe and in the USA, the residents of the Middle East (and not, in any way, “the nations” or even “the citizens” of the Middle East) are able to return to their original ways of life. The result is a return to the cultural, religious and political perceptions of the original Arab Middle East.
The process in the religious and cultural sense is clear – a return to Islam. The more significant matter is the political future of the region.
The Disintegration of the Political Framework
The collection of ethnic groups living in the expanses of the Middle East have no political common ground. With the exceptions of Egypt, Iran and Turkey, which are located at the fringes of the area, the rest of the region – Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq – is an open space in every sense. There were never any indigenous political powers in it. It has always been ruled by external forces. Even the Arabian Islam, which originated in the Arabian peninsula and not in the area being discussed, was viewed as a conqueror of the region and not an autonomous regime.
By releasing itself from the European perceptions, and especially the perception of “the state,” the area is indeed returning to its original form, but losing a form of political organization that has proven itself as very effective. States, as we perceive them, will no longer continue to exist in the area. There will be an endless amount of internal factions, that will attempt to take control from within, following the “might makes right” ideology, which guarantees an all out war for many more years. But the neighboring countries, Turkey and Iran, will also attempt to take over the area, which guarantees an ongoing, crippling struggle between them for a long time. As for Egypt, it is a little more difficult to estimate if it is destined to follow the rest of the region and disintegrate, or if it will retain its identity as a country, in which case it will join Turkey and Iran in the struggle for control of the area, or at the very least its hegemony in it.
In the short term, we can probably expect the continuation of “the Arab Spring” in Lebanon and Jordan as well. In Jordan, it is difficult to imagine that King Abdullah will escape the judgment to which the other Arab leaders around him were subjected. The disintegration of Jordan will of course have ramifications for the Arab residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza (no longer “the Palestinian nation”, or even just “the Palestinians”, of course).
The result of the double disintegration of both Jordan and the Palestinian Authority (assuming there is anything there that hasn’t crumbled already), is that the area will be flooded by endless interest groups – tribes, clans, religious organizations, terrorist organizations, etc. – that will present a threat to the security of Israel on the one hand, and on the other hand will present no unified body with which to negotiate. This disintegration will not only finish off the well known Peres type delusions of peace, but will force Israel to strengthen its control over Judea and Samaria far beyond what it is currently, at least initially. The question of applying Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria will no longer be one of ideology, but a geopolitical necessity.
The Promised Borders
One cannot ignore in this context the surprising fact that the area being discussed – Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq – greatly overlaps the Biblical Promised Borders. This is a matter for future generations of course, but it has already begun “creeping” onto the edges of awareness.
The result will be that the entire region that is defined in our scripture as the Promised Borders, will be characterized by the same political situation we see today in the Judea, Samaria and Gaza strip areas. These areas will have no specific state in control and no distinct and steady political “address”, but rather temporary, makeshift and transient controlling factions.
Just as in the face of this reality in Judea and Samaria, Israel has no choice, geopolitically, but to continue to maintain control over them – at least military defense control – so it will be with these other areas. They will be populated by various groups that will be hostile towards each other and, of course, towards Israel. These groups will break the peace and force Israel to intervene, and so, Israel will eventually – even if it is decades down the line – be forced to increasingly expand its control, initially by military defense, to more areas.
The interesting part in this historic geopolitical move, is that it turns the question of “the Promised Borders” from a hypothetical concept that has no hold in political reality, to a realistic concept.
Just as G-d creates situations that make our sovereign control of western Israel a necessity, the situation is beginning to arise in the other areas that truly comprise “the Whole Land of Israel.” As previously mentioned, this is an assignment for generations to come, but it is possible that we are witnessing the very beginning and outline of the Divine plan and process in the events occurring today throughout the Middle East.