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Friday, September 5, 2014

How to Understand the Middle East

For most Americans, the Middles East is an exotic and mysterious place. Like the Persian carpets made there, it is a complex weave of nations, tribes, languages, and religions. And like a Persian carpet, you can't pull on one thread without pulling on many others.

However, if you study the history of the region, certain patterns emerge. I studied the history and cultures of the region for many years until I had my eureka moment. I had discovered what I call the Grand Unified Theory of the Middle East. It is a unifying principle which explains every event there since the beginning of history. Once you learn this theory, you will instantly understand everything that happens there.

Here is my Grand Unified Theory of the Middle East: Everyone hates everyone.

The Arabs and Persians hate each other. The Turks and the Kurds hate each other.The Sunni and the Shia hat each other. The Bedouins and the Berbers hate each other. The Muslims and Christians hate each other. And all of them hate the Jews. The Jews, not wanting to be outdone in the hating game, boldly up the ante by hating both themselves and other Jews, mostly because they are either too Jewish or not Jewish enough.

Could this geopolitical dumpster fire possibly get any worse? Yes it can! Democracy in the Middle East, where it exists at all, tends to get into rut. Generally, there is a two-party system which is a fierce duel between the Islamic Party of Islam for Muslims against the Very Very Very Islamic Party. In such a situation, it is difficult to find common ground.

So what should the US do? I suggest treating the place like a nest of killer bees. The farther away you are, the less likely you are to get stung. And if you insist on getting close and throwing rocks at the hive, throw really big rocks. In 1982, Reagan withdrew US forces from Lebanon after a truck bomb killed 241 Marines. He said:

“Perhaps we didn’t appreciate fully enough the depth of the hatred and the complexity of the problems that made the Middle East such a jungle. Perhaps the idea of a suicide car bomber committing mass murder to gain instant entry to Paradise was so foreign to our own values and consciousness that it did not create in us the concern for the marines’ safety that it should have."

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