Are We Missing the Point in the Middle East?

Three recent provocative and thoughtful articles question the predominant Western consensus about current events in the Middle East. We need to think about the realities discussed by Davis, McCarthy, and Buchanan if we are to avoid pushing a region dominated by bad government into a much worse Hobbesian state of nature. 

1. This analysis by Douglas Davis is troubling. He argues that the West is ignoring the fact that the Arab Spring has made the serious ethnic divides between Sunni and Shia on the one hand and religious divisions between extremist Wahhabi and ultra-extremist Salafi Sunnis on the other the central considerations in the area’s politics. Western nations are looking at a situation where the choices are limited to bad and worse. 

2. The downfall of the old pan-Arab secular nationalist order has led to a severe case of what Andrew McCarthy calls “Spring Fever.” This is a disease of the mind peculiar to Western intellectuals and policymakers. The principal symptom is seeing visions of democracy in the midst of a reality of Islamic triumphalism. 

3. Pat Buchanan, in an article advising the United States to avoid intervening in Syria, raises a number of disturbing points that our politicians are not considering about the effects toppling the Assad regime will have on other regional powers. Our discourse is dominated by abstract consideration of human rights and identifying those who purportedly share our values; no one in power or likely to come to power is discussing the ethnic and religious issues raised by Buchanan. 

I am not saying that we should simply submit to the conclusions reached by these authors. I am saying that we should be thinking about the concrete facts they discuss rather than dreaming about transforming the Middle East into a democratic paradise.