Shifting Power in the Middle East

By Klieman, Aharon | The World and I, September 1999 | Go to article overview

Shifting Power in the Middle East


Klieman, Aharon, The World and I


Precisely half a millennium ago, Portugal's Vasco da Gama discovered an alternative all-water passage to India and the Orient via the Cape of Good Hope.

Diverting Europe's lucrative spice trade from the traditional Red Sea caravan routes transformed the Levant from a center of commerce to an economic and cultural backwater. The Arabs, in particular, suffered an incalculable loss of energy, creativity, and strength.

Their complacency and failure to respond effectively to this transforming event in the early sixteenth century cost the inhabitants of the region dearly. Indeed, it has taken until the present era for the Middle East as a whole to recover its lost pride, former economic and geostrategic prominence, and political independence.

Yet, at this moment of renewed Middle East opportunity and potential, history and the balance of power threaten once more to leave this pivotal but disunited and internally troubled region behind. Unless, of course, the present generation of leaders is better able to meet the multiple threat that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman describes as "the convergence of geology, biology, and technology."

Fluctuating oil prices (geology), aging leaders (biology), and 24-hour cable TV and the ubiquitous Web site (technology) are daunting in themselves. However, twenty-first-century challenges go considerably beyond these. They include globalization, modernization, political integration, and, not least, democratization.

In the face of this frontal assault, just how favorable are prospects east of the Mediterranean Sea for timely, effective adaptation? What can Middle Easterners anticipate in the coming 5 to 20 years? And how might their stability or instability affect hopes for a pax Americana and peaceful world order?

Area specialists basically agree on what ails the region. The current agenda as well as looming problems essentially divide into distinctive clusters: domestic pressures, resource allocation, and a crisis of leadership at the top.

TROUBLES AT HOME

Among today's domestic problems in the Middle East, the foremost are:

Demographic pressures. In Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and Iran, growing numbers of young people are making increasingly heavy demands for housing, education, and jobs that governments are hard pressed to meet.

Economic disparities. With population expansion outpacing economic and industrial growth in countries like Jordan, where gross domestic product has actually declined over the last decade from $1,896 to $1,646 per capita, the gap between the impoverished and the wealthy continues to widen, swelling the ranks of the discontented.

The politics of grievance. This cycle of rising expectations, glaring inequities, and threatened breakdown in social services breeds mounting resentment among large segments of Arab society. Out of frustration, sometimes in desperation, those who see themselves as disadvantaged or disenfranchised are becoming more prone to seek recourse through extreme measures and solutions.

Political liberalization. On the other hand, a new middle class--also growing in strength and influence, and comprising 40--60 percent in most Arab countries--has begun to dispute the hegemonic authority traditionally shared among tribal elites and the entrenched civilian and military bureaucracies. Calling for peaceful reforms and greater transparency, accountability, and social justice, it points to the information revolution and to the necessity for Middle Eastern regimes and economies to voluntarily open up to the world.

RESOURCE DISTRIBUTION AND REPLENISHMENT

Here, the problem is twofold, posed by misguided priorities and attrition.

Misappropriated resources. Middle East defense expenditure is arguably the single most telling expression of assets squandered and opportunities lost at both the national and regional levels. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Shifting Power in the Middle East
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.