Middle East hits back! | Pakistan Today

Middle East hits back!

Leaving the quagmire needs understanding

First they created them to defeat another imperialist nation. They applauded a freedom ideology, they came against bustling with their surplus domestically-produced ammunition and a pro-US-free-world, anti-Afghan-militancy narrative. Ironically, on the same principles of freedom, the US-led coalition has fought a war in Afghanistan for almost 18 years. The Global War on Terror, which the world has failed to bring to an end.

Going into Afghanistan, the USA should have realised that a war theatre where several nations have come and buried themselves wouldn’t bear any new results for itself.

Understanding the paranoia that made the USA go ahead with the invasion, if we go by the same Domino Theory that was used during Cold War for the spread of Communism and apply it to the entire Middle East, we’d realise that what the US-led coalition has tried to do is to use the same effect in its own favour. By the logic of this, the invasion of Afghanistan, then Iraq and subsequent intervention in the Arab Spring Revolution can be seen as a counteractive measure by the US-led coalition against rogue states, or those that primarily didn’t abide by the precepts of liberalism as a mode of conduct for state governance.

Reevaluating this as a series of miscalculated overtures, one realises that the invading states never really understood their enemy. What was the USA looking for when it went to Afghanistan? Did it think killing Osama bin Laden would brought an end to the Taliban rule and to the many factions that had crossed the border into Pakistan? In Iraq, was toppling and subsequently hanging Saddam Hussein enough to bring about a drastic change in the affairs of the state? What about the Arab Spring Revolution? One by one, each of the Middle Eastern states fell to the coalition-supported rebels, till the revolution came to Syria, where the regime of Bashar al Assad hit back in protecting the sovereignty and integrity of the state. One would think that if the US-led coalition’s and the rebel forces’ primary aim was to defeat the rogue regime of Syria, bombing the Assad regime would have borne results. However, as evidenced by the case of Saddam Hussein, toppling the head of the state would have only further amplified the power balance and created a vacuum for more regional players to exert their muscle.

Thus began a long power struggle by not only the regional players, but also the global powers, to skew a number of matching sets with which each player thought the Middle Eastern region could be governed. So while the intervention was masked as outwardly humanitarian in the beginning, the years that it has prolonged and the devastation that it has caused, proves otherwise.

Going into Afghanistan, the USA should have realised that a war theatre where several nations have come and buried themselves wouldn’t bear any new results for itself.

Again, the US-led coalition went inside a state it knew very little of. The enemy was never identified and the future of the region with various global powers at play wasn’t ever properly factored in. So to think that the coalition went in thinking it could topple the regime with armed struggle, or with a global humanitarian cry, was an exaggeration underplaying the presence of counter-narratives that are readily available due to globe-cutting mass media. Once it was in the news started surfacing, and the region which many see as a melting pot of ethnicities became increasingly complex for the coalition forces to manage. So what we see today in the Middle East are reconstructive efforts, but to no end. New borders are being carved, as some described the primary reason for the interventions, but these are more ideologically-driven than geographically. There are many more factions at play and globally, the states that were thought of as more liberal and democratic, have turned the other way. Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is an important example. Not only is Turkey adopting a more Right-leaning political system, it is also forging alliances outside of its traditional ambit to combat the threat of militancy and insurgency which influences the Kurdish movement inside its own borders. The same reactionary forces can also be seen taking firm roots in other European states as rightists become increasingly relevant.

Amidst all of this, however, very little can be said of the future of the Middle East. What can ensure that an effective armistice is achieved, is an understanding of the region and the people. Those who have lived under dictators, would want a democratic system, not necessarily the one with Western-liberal values, rather one that protects and legitimises their identity, which can only come from within these states.

An 18-year long war in Afghanistan has shown us that no matter the values, a locally-bred political organisation, despite the differences in values, that ensures some level of state survival, is a legitimate party to negotiate armistice with. Tabling agreements with the Taliban several years ago would have seemed outwardly inhumane years ago, but today it is the only solution if the world is to see a new Afghanistan. Perhaps the same model can now be applied to Syria and Iraq before prolonging these wars for another decade or so.

Remshay Ahmed

Remshay Ahmed is a Lahore-based freelance journalist and a published author of Foreign Policy of Pakistan (2000-2016): A Game Theory Analysis. She can be reached at [email protected]