Modernization, Democracy, and Islam

By Shireen T. Hunter; Huma Malik | Go to book overview
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The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, followed by the fall of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, and finally the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, generated an optimistic mood regarding the future of international relations, especially in the West.

It was expected that the Soviet Union's collapse, which had validated the superiority of the Western liberal model of economics and politics and confirmed its universal application, would lead other countries to embrace this model. It was also expected that the Soviet collapse would free funds for economic and social development—the so-called peace dividend.

This optimism was further strengthened by the victory of the U.S.-led international coalition in the Persian Gulf War of 1990–91 to reverse Iraqi aggression against Kuwait, and later buttressed by the Oslo process resulting in the Palestinian-Israeli Agreement of 1993.

Sadly, however, events took a different turn. The Soviet Union's collapse unleashed centrifugal tendencies in the Balkans and the former Soviet Union and led to conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Chechnya, plus intra- and interstate conflicts in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

The Soviet Union's withdrawal from Afghanistan, instead of bringing peace and security, led to a devastating civil war and to the emergence of the Taliban with their reductionist reading of Islam and their intolerant attitude toward the West and a good part of the Muslim population. Meanwhile, the Bosnian and Chechen wars, both involving Muslims, became breeding grounds for new generations of Muslim militants. They also generated widespread resentment among Muslims because of the international community's perceived inaction toward these conflicts. Meanwhile, the prospects for the Arab-Israeli peace dimmed after the assassination of Israel's prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. Moderniza


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