Islam - Looking for Peace, Hoping for Prosperity

March 30, 2017

by  Leo Gher

            The Arab Spring of 2011 was an explosion of disenchanted peoples who were no longer willing to live the lie that had become their countries. They sought just one thing – a civil society. They were fed up with crony capitalism, unremitting corruption, vast income inequality, welfare economics, and repressive autocrats posing as open-minded democrats. Unfortunately, a wave of pro-government militias, counter-marchers, and security forces answered the demonstrations with ruthless brutality.[1] The chaos that devolved in the aftermath became what we now called the Arab Winter. It is a set of conditions pervasive throughout the Middle East characterized by the emergence of mounting instability,[2] economic and demographic decline, and ethnoreligious sectarian strife.[3] The world is now watching the Arab Winter play out in displacement and destruction as large-scale conflicts – Syrian Civil War, Iraqi Insurgency and Civil War, the Egyptian Coup d’état, the Libyan Emergency, and the Crisis in Yemen. The Syrian death toll alone exceeds 400,000,[4] and the refugee crisis – 12 million and growing daily – has caused Europe and America to close their doors both literally and figuratively. Wish as hard as we might; this catastrophe will not go away on its own, nor anytime soon.

            A global community watches anxiously, and, as always, hopes for a miraculous solution. Upon sober reflection, there are only three possibilities: 1) continue with the status quo, 2) close up shop: pull down the shades, lock the doors, and leave, or 3) try a new approach to the problem. Sticking with the status quo means that we wait for the next crisis to occur, and then apply the most politically expedient, military fix to the old problem. How can we expect different results from a strategy that has failed us time after time? Our collective experience with 21st century wars – the Al-Qaeda uprising, the Iraq War, Shia insurgency, Egyptian coup and crisis, Saudi Arabia-Yemen conflict, Iran–PJAK conflict, the Yemeni Crisis, the Syrian Civil War, the Iraq Civil War (with ISIS), just to name a few – suggests that strategy has run its course. The “get out” approach has some appeal. If the West is not there dropping bombs on civilians, trampling over “holy ground,” or setting up governments that are alien to the Islamic way of life, it would be difficult for jihadists to pin all of their grievances on Crusaders from foreign lands. But such a strategy would leave an uncertain fate in other hands, and most seasoned diplomats, as well as military advisors, would not recommend it. In my opinion, there is only one viable option left – try something new.

First, this “something new” must focus on a long-term plan, not the crisis de jure that is sure to occur. Second, any groundbreaking strategy must address three central adjustments, changes that: a) foster a reconsolidation between conservative and progressive Muslims in dealing with a modern world, b) promote economic growth and fairness of income distribution, and c) advance government restructuring that expands the democratic process beyond a cadre of privileged elites. And three, the plan must be a collective agreement among the international community and must have practical, on-ground tools for enforcing policy.

 In 2011 the world witnessed the blossoming of the Arab Spring, a movement that had the recognizable ring of a hopeful democracy. We must build on this idea. What the region needs is a federation – a union of self-governing nations allied with a central government.[5] Calling for the creation of the Middle East Federation (MEF) is the first step in our action plan.

            The second step is Economic Revitalization (ER). Sheer ineptitude in managing economic problems and policies was behind the rebellions in Tunisia, in Libya, in Egypt. Undoubtedly, economic revitalization in the region goes hand in hand with the introduction of a federal republic.

The third step in the plan calls for the mobilization of an Independent Military Force (IMF) to secure territories and protect the development of the MEF. Without doubt, the region requires some military force. I am suggesting that the global community creates an original, non-aligned, proactive force that allows the Middle East Federation to survive and Economic Revitalization to become operational.

            Just for a moment, imagine the Middle East without war, without refugees, without terrorism, and now image even more greatly a rising middle class, a booming regional trade union, and just, law-abiding governments everywhere. That’s the goal we seek. Next week, in my final essay, I will explain the details of the “something new” proposal.


[1] Ahmed H Adam and Ashley D Robinson. Will the Arab Winter spring again in Sudan?. Al-Jazeera. 11 June 2016.

[2] "From Egypt to Syria, this could be the start of the Arab Winter". The Conversation. April 17, 2014. Retrieved October 23, 2014.

[3] "Displacement in the Middle East and North Africa – between the Arab Winter and the Arab Spring" (PDF), International Affairs, LB: AUB, August 28, 2013

[4] CNN Library; February 18, 2017. Syrian Civil War Fast Facts. Retrieved March 26, 2017.

[5] Forum of Federations. Retrieved March 23, 2016.

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