President George W. Bush’s Middle East policy undeniably managed to achieve one thing: it has thoroughly destabilized the region. Otherwise, the results are not at all what the United States had hoped to accomplish. A democratic, pro-Western Middle East is not in the cards.
But, while things are not developing as American neo-conservatives had intended, they are nevertheless developing. The historical failure named Iraq war, the demise of secular Arab nationalism and the soaring oil and gas prices have wrought profound changes in the region. From Damascus to Dubai, from Tel Aviv to Teheran, a new Middle East is now emerging.
The old Middle East arose from the borders and political identities created by the European powers after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. Its driving ideological force was a European-inspired secular nationalism, which strove for political and social modernization through top-down government action. This type of nationalism, or “Arab socialism,” reached its apex during the Cold War, when it could lean on Soviet military, political, and economic support.
Its end came with that of the Soviet Union, as it petrified into authoritarian, corrupt, and inefficient military regimes and dictatorships. The end of the Soviet Union also triggered a profound military crisis in many Arab states: without Soviet support as an external guarantor of their military capabilities, the nationalist regimes were no longer able to keep pace with military modernization.