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  • The Future of the Middle East

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on September 9th, 2014 (All posts by )

    The rise of ISIS seems to have caught the attention of hitherto oblivious segments of the US public. Cutting off the heads of western journalists seems to do that. What we are seeing is the total collapse of civilization in that part of the world.

    That is what civilizational decline looks like in real time. The roots of the crisis were visible four years ago before the so-called Arab Spring beguiled the foreign policy wonks. Hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrian farmers already were living in tent camps around Syrian cities before the Syrian civil war began in April 2011. Israeli analysts knew this. In March 2011 Paul Rivlin of Tel Aviv University released a study of the collapse of Syrian agriculture, widely cited in Arab media but unmentioned in the English language press (except my essay on the topic).

    The Syrian food crisis had a lot to do with the collapse of Syria.

    In response to the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, President Assad reduced taxes on oil and sugar, and cut import tariffs on basic foodstuffs. This action had unintended consequences. A blogger on the Syrian website sy-weather.com reports, “I spent fifteen days on formalities to reduce customs duties on some basic food items, but I have not seen a glimmer of hope on the horizon. This was supposed to reduce the prices of the targeted goods. On the contrary, a liter of oil that sold for 65 Syrian pounds [US$1.38] now sells for 85 pounds.” That’s an increase of 30% over the month. Other bloggers report that the prices of basic foodstuffs have risen by 25% to 30%.

    This has resulted in the presence of 14 million refugees with no hope of relief.

    When I wrote in 2011 that Islam was dying, this was precisely what I forecast. You can’t unscramble this egg. The international organizations, Bill Clinton, George Soros and other people of that ilk will draw up plans, propose funding, hold conferences and publish studies, to no avail. The raw despair of millions of people ripped out of the cocoon of traditional society, bereft of ties of kinship and custom, will feed the meatgrinder. Terrorist organizations that were hitherto less flamboyant (“moderate” is a misdesignation), e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood (and its Palestine branch Hamas), will compete with the caliphate for the loyalties of enraged young people. The delusion about Muslim democracy that afflicted utopians of both parties is now inoperative. War will end when the pool of prospective fighters has been exhausted.

    This is the proximate cause of the 30 years war.

    So great was the devastation brought about by the war that estimates put the reduction of population in the German states at about 25% to 40%.[62] Some regions were affected much more than others.[63] For example, Württemberg lost three-quarters of its population during the war.

    This will be the outcome of the present conflagration in the middle east.

    But Islamic society is even more fragile. As Muslim fertility shrinks at a rate demographers have never seen before, it is converging on Europe’s catastrophically low fertility as if in time-lapse photography. The average 30-year-old Iranian woman comes from a family of six children, but she will bear only one or two children during her lifetime. Turkey and Algeria are just behind Iran on the way down, and most of the other Muslim countries are catching up quickly. By the middle of this century, the belt of Muslim countries from Morocco to Iran will become as gray as depopulating Europe.

    Hopefully, we will be able to avoid intervention if the violence stays confined to the middle east.

    Almost no-one in Washington appears to be asking the obvious question: what should the United States do in the event that there are no solutions at all?

    No one, that is, but US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius March 22 that “the unrest has highlighted ‘ethnic, sectarian and tribal differences that have been suppressed for years’ in the region, and that as America encourages leaders to accept democratic change, there’s a question ‘whether more democratic governance can hold … countries together in light of these pressures’.”

    We might have kept Iraq together if we had left a strong presence there but Obama has abandoned that strategy and there will be no going back.

    The administration’s romantics, such as Samantha Powers, the Irish human-rights activist who once called for UN troops to take over the Israel-Palestine conflict, and United Nations ambassador Susan Rice, appear in charge of Middle East policy. Anyone who doubts that ideology trumps raison d’etat in the Obama White House should read Stanley Kurtz’ just-published book, Radical-in-Chief.

    This was written in 2011. It is still true. What do we do then ?

    A terrorist organization that beheads Americans and posts the video needs to be annihilated, but it is not particularly difficult. The late Sam Kinison’s monologue on world hunger is to the point: they live in a desert. They may be hard to flush out of towns they occupy, but they cannot move from one town to another in open ground if warplanes are hunting them. That is what America and its allies should do.

    We should support the Kurds with weapons and Special Forces coaching like that which flushed the Taliban early in the Afghan war. Of course, the Big Army then came along and ruined things like they did in Viet Nam. The Kurds seem to have established a functioning society that is unusual in the Muslim world.

    Why is this happening ?

    What seems suicidal to Americans may appear rational to an existentially challenged people confronting its imminent mortality.

    Self-immolation of endangered peoples is sadly common. Stone-age cultures often disintegrate upon contact with the outside world. Their culture breaks down, and suicides skyrocket. An Australian researcher writes about “suicide contagion or cluster deaths – the phenomenon of indigenous people, particularly men from the same community taking their own lives at an alarming rate”.

    The Muslim culture is dying at the contact with modern life. That they will strike out may be understandable.

    And if we know that we shall presently die of rabies, what is to prevent us from biting everyone we dislike? Countries sometimes suffer the equivalent of terminal illness.

    The Muslim world is in trouble and we cannot fix it. We can avoid some of the pathology by avoiding Muslim immigration, which Britain is now finding a serious problem.

    The Muslim world has not produced an innovation of note in seven centuries; except in Turkey, it lacks a single university that can train students to world standards (and only 23% of Turkish students finish high school). To expect the Arab Middle East to compete with Asia in light manufactures or information-technology outsourcing is whimsical.

    Iran might have had a chance before Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, but most of its human capital has long since fled.

    We need to avoid the Muslim self-immolation that is seen with individuals like Major Hasan and the Irvine limousine driver who went on a personal jihad at LAX in 2002.

    As for the rest, We cannot do the killing ourselves, except, of course, from the air. We are too squeamish under the best of circumstances, and we are too corrupted by cultural relativism (remember George W. Bush’s claim that Islam is “a religion of peace”?) to recognize utterly evil nihilism when it stares us in the face. In practice, a great deal of the killing will be done by Iran and its allies: the Iraqi Shi’a, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Assad regime in Syria. It will be one of the most disgusting and disheartening episodes in modern history and there isn’t much we can do to prevent it.

    I have been reading Spengler for years and think he is the best source for these phenomena. Israel will live in a charnel house for a few decades but will probably survive.

     

    19 Responses to “The Future of the Middle East”

    1. veryretired Says:

      I have been saying for several years that unless islam undergoes some form of internally generated reformation, it will eventually take one or more steps which will inspire a final, overwhelming form of retribution by the rest of the world.

      I don’t know if the needed reformation is possible, given the death-worshipping cult that islam is, but it is very clear that nothing we do can save it from itself.

    2. Peter Says:

      The religion is essentially a collection up of 7th century cultural norms of nomadic Arabs wrapped up in a cult. It doesn’t have any inherent ability to reform. Does any supremacist ideology reform? Islam means submission, or else.

      I think it is becoming apparent to many in the world that Islam is at war with everything, including itself.

    3. Mike K Says:

      I doubt a reformation of Islam is going to happen. At present, mosque attendance in Iran is at 2%. If the mullahs were to be overthrown, the Iranians would leave Islam. They have already wrecked the Iranian economy. It is Cuba with cold weather.

    4. TMLutas Says:

      Iranians will not leave Islam so long as there is islamic governance to threaten them with death and no governance to protect them from the threat. This is independent of the survival of the mullah regime. Islamic governance sufficient to threaten death for apostasy exists wherever there is a mosque and violent muslims.

      Education is going to come through the cell towers into smart phones. When Khan Academy and its competitors can yield internationally recognized education certification, the lack of educational infrastructure in the Middle East will become as meaningless as the present lack of wireline phone infrastructure in Africa.

    5. John Cunningham Says:

      Spengler seems fairly persuasive to me. Islam, I have concluded recently, is an insane death cult, along the lines set out by Peter, above. the current surge of Islamic violence looks a lot like the Ghost Dance cult among the Plains Indians in the early 1890s–a last gasp of a dying culture.

    6. Mike K Says:

      “When Khan Academy and its competitors can yield internationally recognized education certification, the lack of educational infrastructure in the Middle East will become as meaningless as the present lack of wireline phone infrastructure in Africa.”

      I think Spengler’s point was whether the culture encourages or even allows education in modern topics. The madrases teach “students’ to memorize the Koran.

      Also, remember that many jihadis, including Mohammed Atta, were engineers and doctors. If education is the solution, we haven’t seen much benefit yet.

    7. ErisGuy Says:

      I certainly like reading Spengler, but his predictions about Iran haven’t come true.

    8. Mrs. Davis Says:

      I’m not so sure the problem is primarily Islam as opposed to the culture of the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Islam is just the excuse they use. Lot’s of Muslims in Indonesia but aside from the al-Qaeda organized Bali bombing, Indonesians don’t seem to be having the problem acclimating to modernity that the Middle Easterners and Southwest Asians are having. Had Zoroastrianism prevailed, these folks could have perverted it into a justification for mayhem in defense of medievalism.

    9. Mike K Says:

      “his predictions about Iran haven’t come true.”

      Which ones ? The birth rate ?

      “Islam is just the excuse they use. Lot’s of Muslims in Indonesia but aside from the al-Qaeda organized Bali bombing, Indonesians don’t seem to be having the problem acclimating to modernity that the Middle Easterners and Southwest Asians are having.”

      I’m not so sure. I don’t want to blame the incompetence of the Malaysian Airline on Islam but Malaysia doesn’t seem to be doing as well as Singapore, especially after they drove so many Chinese out. Indonesia seems to be mostly low skill industry.

      It doesn’t sound too dynamic to me.

      The most notable aspect of the RAPBN is the failure to bring under control ballooning spending on subsidies, despite being widely acknowledged as wasteful. In 2015 expenditure on subsidies is set to rise by 7.6% to Rp433.5trn against the revised 2014 budget, accounting for a substantial 21.5% of overall expenditure. Over 80% of subsidies spending has been allocated to supporting purchases of fuel and electricity. In his speech Mr Yudhoyono acknowledged that fuel subsidies were not serving their original purpose of supporting low-income groups, but were instead being taken advantage of by the “economically able”. However, his proposed remedies were limited to improving the efficiency of distribution, rather than pricing reform. The risk of higher international oil prices and vulnerability of the rupiah to depreciation pressures also means that the fuel subsidy bill could escalate suddenly.

    10. Jim Says:

      The Middle East is pretty screwed up and violent but Sub-Saharan Africa is even more screwed up. Immigration of Middle Easterners into Europe is a very bad idea for native Europeans.

      “Malaysia doessn’t seem to be doing as well as Singapore.” Don’t say. The ethnic Chinese in Singapore probably have an average IQ near 110. Average IQ of Malays is more like in the low nineties. All over Southeast Asia the Chinese diaspora way outperforms the native populations.

    11. Subotai Bahadur Says:

      If true, I consider the collapsing birth rates in the Ummah to be one of the few positive signs in the world. However . . . . .

      1) “As Muslim fertility shrinks at a rate demographers have never seen before, it is converging on Europe’s catastrophically low fertility as if in time-lapse photography.”

      Note that the demographic collapse of the Muslim world as a whole is catching up with Europe’s collapse. Guess who reaches the bottom first.

      2) Aggravating that is the detail that Muslims who move to the West have a surging birth rate, just as the Europeans and Americans surrounding them are undergoing demographic collapse.

      3) 1) + 2) =/= a good thing here at home. Especially since Muslims in Europe and the United States are NOT assimilating but rather are undergoing an Islamic revival. And the notable difference between radical and moderate Muslims can be delineated as:

      Radical Muslims want to kill all infidels.
      Moderate Muslims want Radical Muslims to kill all infidels.

      4) While Islam may be undergoing a slow motion suicide with intent to take as many of everybody else with them as they can; the West is governed by those who long to be destroyed by Islam.

      5) If you are not a nice person your reaction to:

      The late Sam Kinison’s monologue on world hunger is to the point: they live in a desert. They may be hard to flush out of towns they occupy, but they cannot move from one town to another in open ground if warplanes are hunting them.

      can include the concept that towns are fixed targets that depend on vulnerable infrastructure to be habitable. That infrastructure vastly increases the carrying capacity of the land, and in its absence the carrying capacity collapses.

      Subotai Bahadur

    12. Sgt. Mom Says:

      One of the other things that I have read, which may have a bearing on population within the Ummah is that the high rates of cousin marriage (and double-cousin marriage and even triple-cousin marriage) absolutely guarantees a very high number of children born with horrific and life-limiting birth defects.
      Saudi Arabia is one of those countries which apparently rate very high on the scale.

    13. Sgt. Mom Says:

      Ohh – found the link to back up my previous comment – http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/01/world/saudi-arabia-awakes-to-the-perils-of-inbreeding.html

      From that hotbed of impure and racist doublegood unthink, the NY Times.

    14. ErisGuy Says:

      “Which ones ? The birth rate ?”

      Let’s try “Why the West will attack Iran.” “Washington will initiate military action against Iran only with extreme reluctance, but it will do so nonetheless…” (2006). Spengler has been shouting that Iran will attack or be attacked by Israel and the USA for almost ten years now. And a real attack, not trojans, worms, special forces, terrorists, etc. And not in some indefinite future: soon, which has passed.

    15. ErisGuy Says:

      Hasn’t Spengler been predicting bankruptcy and mass starvation in Egypt real soon now for about two years? Expiry date on those predictions has passed as well.

    16. Gringo Says:

      ErisGuy
      Hasn’t Spengler been predicting bankruptcy and mass starvation in Egypt real soon now for about two years? Expiry date on those predictions has passed as well.

      Egypt doesn’t produce enough food to feed itself, and it doesn’t produce enough foreign exchange to pay for it- especially since tourists got scared away. Spengler was correct on that. Saudi Arabia is bankrolling Egypt. That’s why Egypt hasn’t collapsed.

    17. Mike K Says:

      ” Spengler has been shouting that Iran will attack or be attacked by Israel and the USA for almost ten years now”

      I think he may have been hoping rather than predicting. He’s not the only one. Tony Cordesman has been writing about this for as long,

      The links have disappeared but the this post is from 2007 .

      “Walker concludes that Cordesman’s analysis spells out “the end of Persian civilization, quite probably the end of Egyptian civilization, and the end of the Oil Age. This would also mean the end of globalization and the extraordinary accretions in world trade and growth and prosperity that are hauling hundreds of millions of Chinese and Indians and others out of poverty.”

      Maybe time has been on our side as corruption replaces the lunatic plans of the mullahs.

    18. Mike K Says:

      The question is whether the Saudis will continue to feed Egypt. Now that the MB has been replaced, they might continue.

      The European Bank thinks this can change but I doubt it. Egypt’s literacy rate is a huge problem.

      Egypt has strong agricultural potential and has the ability to massively improve its agricultural supply. Local and international private companies are ready to invest provided they find the right conditions. One example where there is vast room for improvement is the efficiency of production and distribution infrastructure.

      But the literacy rate is very low. The female rate is, of course, lower as in all Muslim countries.

      The study also revealed that the percentage of illiteracy among poor families has increased to 41 per cent as opposed to 24 per cent in non-poor families. Poverty and expected gender roles often entrap girls in responsibilities that exclude them from school. “Some girls are obliged to help out with the household chores, so they miss school. Also, illiterate mothers in the poorest households have a difficult time encouraging their own children’s education,” Dr Mustafa Rajab, head of the General Authority for Literacy and Adult Education (GALAE), told Gulf News.

      This is not good news for agriculture, as for much else.

    19. ErisGuy Says:

      “Egypt doesn’t produce enough food to feed itself, and it doesn’t produce enough foreign exchange to pay for it- especially since tourists got scared away. Spengler was correct on that.”

      Yes. And wrong on his prediction. “Right someday” even for the right reasons doesn’t count. (Otherwise every street corner nut who predicted the end of the world is correct.) Timing is everything.