Hegemony or Oil Security?

Category: Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Foreign Policy Views: 2748
2748

Gary Hart, the former American Democratic presidential candidate, was on a book tour in Washington. He told an audience that America's "occupation of Iraq has failed" and interests in the Middle East are endangered because administration "ideologues" don't know the limits of Western military and economic power. 

Hart suggested that the United States get other oil-consuming countries to join its Persian Gulf security system. 

I agree with his first point but have a different take on Gulf security. 

The Iraqi insurgency does exemplify the limits of Western military and political clout. And it has stunned the masterminds of the Iraq war, some of whom had planned to make Iraq a loyal, democratic ally as Germany and Japan became after World War II. In fact neoconservatives had told me long before the Iraq invasion that they would make Iraq "an Arab Germany." 

A key reason Iraq defied the "German model" is that the West is losing its lure for many Muslims. Muslims today are modernizing but, unlike their parents' generation, becoming disenchanted by the West. In the 1970s about all my journalist friends in the Middle East and South Asia were educated in local colleges and universities. Most didn't have a refrigerator or automobile and showed off their new typewriters. At our get-togethers in Karachi, Pakistan, and Cairo, Egypt, we chatted about Neil Armstrong, the West German economic "miracle" and recombinant DNA. 

Some of the children of those friends are now teaching at universities with doctorates from Europe and America or trotting the globe on business. They drive cars, carry laptops and some vacation in the Swiss Alps. I met some of them and was drawn into discussions about American "neocolonialism," post-materialist (values-over-money) writers, and tajdid, or Islamic renewal. They take the amenities of modern life for granted or don't consider modernity the preserve of the West. 

Muslim societies are also pulsating with aspirations for freedom. But despite Americans' rhetoric about democratization, many Muslims see America's troops and bases in their lands and support for Israel and repressive Muslim governments trampling their freedom and dignity. Their yearning for freedom threatens their postcolonial states and regimes to which American interests are tied. 

Except for Iran, Yemen and Egypt, all South Asian and Middle Eastern states were carved out or restructured by colonial Britain and France. (The British sliced off chunks Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.) Modern states call for national cultures and bureaucracies. In the West these evolved through centuries of inter-group assimilation. In the postcolonial states, created overnight, dominant culture groups form governments, armies and bureaucracies and impose their rule and cultural patterns on other groups. Some of the suppressed groups use the democratic process to try to wiggle out of those states. 

Pakistan, where I lived for years, came unglued in 1971 after its first parliamentary elections based on adult suffrage. East Pakistan voted for an agenda to end West Pakistani domination. A civil war followed and led to its reincarnation as independent Bangladesh. In Iraq ethnic Kurds have voted to loosen their ties to that artificial state, and Sunni Arabs are struggling to avert the Shiite-majority domination. 

In these artificial states many citizens identify primarily with their ethnic and sectarian communities. No wonder Iraqi Shiite are getting help from Shiite Iran in their struggle with Sunni Arabs, and Sunni guerrillas from many states are fighting the Shiite and Americans in Iraq. Iraq's internal strife could spread along sectarian lines to neighboring states and exacerbate the anti-regime and anti-American movements there. 

Already, some Gulf governments hosting U.S. military bases are shivering from smoldering anti-Americanism and fear that these facilities will increasingly become a lightning rod for "terrorists." Diplomats and intellectuals there are debating an alternative security arrangement, involving leading Asian countries. Gulf States export two-thirds of their oil output to Asia and get a third of their imports from it. Significantly, in January the new Saudi king, Abdullah, made his first foreign trip to China, India and Malaysia. 

I believe the security of the world's oil lifeline from the Gulf would be enhanced if it's de-Americanized. Hart's idea of having other nations join a U.S.-led Gulf security arrangement wouldn't do it. That would leave the system as "American" as is the occupation force in Iraq with its Italian, Polish and Japanese elements. 

Among the alternative arrangements proposed is that of Christian Koch of the Gulf Security Center think tank in Dubai. He calls for a structure with the participation of ASEAN and NATO, in which America will be involved as the NATO leader. The security of the Gulf's oil and its shipping lanes would clearly be preserved better by a regional grouping including Arab states and Iran in alliance with some outside security structure. 

The time is coming when the Americans will have to decide whether their bases and troops in the Persian Gulf are really meant to guard the world's oil lifeline - which is what they have been saying - or maintain American hegemony. If it's the former, the American military presence in the Gulf is about to outlast its purpose and jeopardize the oil trade and infrastructure there. Which means the United States needs to begin discussions with regional governments for the transfer of Gulf security responsibility to a more neutral multinational arrangement. If latter, God help us! 

Mustafa Malik, a Washington journalist, covers events in the Middle East and conducted fieldwork on U.S.-Arab relations as a research associate for the University of Chicago Middle East Center.


  Category: Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Foreign Policy
Views: 2748

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Older Comments:
MOHD HANEEF YUSOFF FROM MALAYSIA said:
Allah s.w.t is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and everything inside it. Allah s.w.t is the only rightful Creator for all humanity. Allah s.w.t's law should reign supreme above all man-made laws. Furthermore, man-made laws have failed to give peace to the people of the world. Can a Toyota function using a Merc manual? Can humanity function when the law by the Creator of human is discarded?

Allah s.w.t created Adam a.s without a father and a mother. Allah s.w.t created Isa a.s without a a father. Allah s.w.t has sent His Prophet Musa a.s to invite Firaun towards the submission to Allah and when Firaun declined, he was destroyed. Allah s.w.t has sent His Prophet Ibrahim a.s to invite Namrud towards the submission to Allah s.w.t and when Namrud declined, he was destroyed.

This world is own by Allah s.w.t. Muslims, everywhere, owes the US and UK nothing. Allah s.w.t sustained the world and all His creations.

I am very sad at the stupidity of all Arabs, who can read the Quran, yet aren't convinced of the powers of Allah s.w.t. In the Quran, Allah s.w.t asked many times to look around and look at His creations. Arab World is a sad stupid world. Arab Muslims brought shame to Islam. No wonder Prophets were sent to the Arabs.

I hope Allah s.w.t give hidayat to all Arab leaders around Israel or Allah destroy them. We can only ask Allah to give hidayat ( light, guidance) to all the Arab leaders of countries around Israel or Allah s.w.t destroy them.

Ameen
2006-04-22

ROMESH CHANDER FROM USA said:
Why US needs Hegemony in the Middle East? It really does not need Hegemony at all. All it needs is control of Gulf Oil in American hands and oil available at reasonable prices . For that it does not need any military bases, just friendly middle eastern governments; after all, US military is useless in ensuring flow of oil; just look at Iraq.

Unfortunately, the world is running out of oil in a few years and US has no friendly governments in the Middle East, not even Saudi Arabia. And, no matter what the world (or US) tries, the price of Oil is going up, like it or not.

So, US Hegemony over Middle East is not going to work; US will be forced to withdraw from the Middle east; Israel will have to defend itself (which it is fully capable of). And there are no strong and united Middle eastern governments who can gurantee the availability of oil -- all of them fight among themselves.

Sorry, shipping lanes are safe; has anybody ever heard of any government attacking any shipping lanes (only a few robbers do -- but they are not a threat, just a nuisance). Hormuz is 35 miles wide -- you could pass 20 ships in each direction simultaneously; so, it is quite safe for shipping.
2006-04-21

SAM GHANAM FROM US said:
Salam,

I believe that our country must do everything it can to regain its prestige in the world. I am scared for the future of our nation given that our neo-conservative leaders have led us into an abyss of utter darkness. The US is allying itself with Israel and against many Muslim nations and diverting its attention away from the biggest threat of all, and that is China. The latter is taking full advantage of our being immersed in a war which is non-finite and which is causing us more harm than anything else in our history. I believe that the more unstable Iraq is and the more our soldiers are over there, the more hatred and threats we will face from all corners of the globe. China for one is doing everything for us to stay pre-occupied in order to build its economy and military. I do not want to wake up one day living under the hegemony of the Chinese. Here is another opinion for consideration and which has caused so much controversy lately:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n06/mear01_.html
2006-04-21

NASIR A FROM US said:
Mr.Hart has a plan would work out with some minor changes in the plan. US must alos work towrds changing the foreign policy. Which target Israeli as a goody state and friend of US.
2006-04-21