Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD


July 20, 2015: Trying to Save the Middle East from Itself

By Rob Tenery, MD on July 20, 2015

As it turns out, George W. Bush may have been wrong for invading Iraq, but not for the reason that he is being blamed. He was not alone. Most of the Congress, as well as both Clintons, supported him because of the intelligence information they were given.

We may never know if the weapons of mass destruction were secretly moved out of Iraq just prior to the United States' invasion. What has been learned is that many of the countries that make up the Middle East are pluralistic that means the different members of the populations maintain their independent cultural traditions. Simply put, it appears the differing Muslim cultures don’t seem to be able to coexist in democratically governed systems--- the examples being Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen.

"We decapitated Iraq to a disastrous effect. We decapitate Libya also to a disastrous effect. The Syrian people decapitated their own government to a disastrous effect. And the Yemeni people decapitated their government to a disastrous effect. This is a pluralistic region that lacks pluralism; that's been governed by top down authority. I think that the problem for the next President is going to be the fact that we are in a post imperial era. We are in a post-colonial era and no one wants to control it. Recently, we are in a post authoritarian era, and unless these people can learn how to govern themselves horizontally, by forging social contracts about how to live together, this is going to be a human development disaster area for the next President (American)." Tom Freidman, New York Times editor on Meet the Press May 16, 2015

Look what happened when Saddam Hussein was forced out of office in Iraq. The Iraqi Shiites were barely able to hold onto power as the United States military withdrew their forces. The Sunni led ISIS forces have taken over large swaths of Iraq, and are almost within firing range of Bagdad. Then there are the Kurds that are mostly Sunni Muslims in northern Iraq.

The NATO supported rebel army that was made up of hundreds of Libyan militants who were willing to come together to oust Muammar Gaddafi. After Tripoli fell, the individual militants of the different tribes refused to give up their control in the towns and neighborhoods they occupied when the war ended. Maintaining security among the differing tribes has made it difficult to transition from war to peace. Thus, the difficulty of developing a functioning government that will rebuild trust and economic growth is delayed as or if the power structure stabilizes.

Yemen may never emerge as a united country from their civil war, where the rebel Shiite Houthis from the north took control and ousted the Sunni President in January. They have appointed their own governing council. Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was former president stepped aside after mass protests in 2011, is backing the Houthis. Yemen is also home to one of Al-Qaeda’s most active movements, and the presence of ISIS is also on the rise.

Then there is Syrian Civil War that started in the spring of 2011. What began as protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s oppressive government, grew into an armed rebellion. The opposition began with the Free Syrian Army, which was joined by Hezbollah--- the Shi’a Islamist militant group and political party based in Lebanon. Then from the east, arose ISIL which originated in Iraq, but quickly took control of a third of Syria and much of its oil and gas production.

The New York Times editor, Tom Freidman is right! Religious and cultural beliefs are so ingrained in certain populations, such as those of the differing Muslim nations in the Middle East, that governance outside of totalitarian rule is probably impossible.

The United States has long supported democracies throughout the world because our governance structure worked for us. But, the recent events in the Middle East seem to point to a different paradigm, depending on the individual country’s social makeup.

There has never been a question when it comes to protecting this country’s allies, our own citizens and economic interests. But the view of spreading democracy throughout the world may not apply universally.

The dilemma the United States, and many other countries throughout the world now face is how or if to protect the innocent citizens of other countries who get caught in the middle of their own turmoil--- for example the Christians who are being slaughtered by the ISIS rebels. There seems to be universal consensus that we can no longer be the policeman for the free world. We don’t have the funding, probably the manpower under this administration, or the support of the voting majority.

Is George W. Bush responsible for the rise of ISIS, as some have claimed?  Indirectly only! The terrorist army ISIS arose out of the pluralism that is indigenous in the Muslim faith in the Middle East and the void the United States left when they pulled their support forces out of Iraq.

What we have learned from President Bush’s Iraqi invasion is that the United States is not able save a country from itself!





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