The Middle East in Search of an Equilibrium between Transcendent Idealism & Practicality
Mahallati, Mohammad, Journal of International Affairs
The following article is an attempt to introduce, observe and assess a specific aspect of the recent history of Iran and apply it to the future trend of this nation's growth. In many ways, Iran is a typical example of a Middle Eastern nation in its political and economic fluctuations. On closer examination, however, it is evident that Iran's social, political and economic experiences are unique in the modern Middle East.
In this article, we will first assess whether it is possible, by looking at Iran's history in the twentieth century, to foresee some of its future developments with regards to socio-political structures over the next decade. Secondly, we will attempt determine what lessons we can apply from this analysis in looking at social developments in other countries in the Middle East.
Due to its geographic location, and its importance to the West, the Middle East is the subject of a great deal of speculation by scholars and analysts. This article will merely attempt to touch on a few issues that are familiar to this writer. However, the following analysis must be further scrutinized by analysts and theorists since almost any opinion of the Middle East can easily be sold, as a result of a limited understanding of the region in the outside world.
The Middle East, the Cradle of Idealistic Aspiration
The Middle East is the landscape that gave birth to, and lent her resources to the rise of, all three major monotheistic religions in the world today. It is probably not an accident that some ideological and religiously attuned people in the world can be found in the region. Certainly, few regions in the world can claim to have served as a battleground for the struggle of ideology and religion to the extent that the Middle East has. Even today, despite containing some of the most resource-rich lands in the world, it remains a cradle of upheaval and turmoil, both regionally and internationally.
Some analysts who follow the cliche of the Middle East, subscribe to a conspiracy theory as an explanation of the region's instability. This theory suggests that these chronic disturbances result from the deliberate interference of "great powers" and other outside forces through attempts to impose their influence upon the region. While it is certainly true that the influence of nations outside the region on the Middle East have been consequential in its historic instability, much of the turbulence in the region is the result of internal power struggles, utopian aspirations of idealism and misled policies that originate from within the region.
A comparison between the Far East and the status quo of the Middle East effectively demonstrates this premise. In light of similar origins of colonial oppression in each, the Far East has developed far more rapidly, and appears to have been able to attain some measure of stable economic development. The economic and social transformation taking place in the Far East signals far greater development than that found in the Middle East today. Further, it is a transformation with no major ideological oscillations, while the Middle East remains locked between ideology and the practical application of economic and social policies necessary to produce the same growth.
The most prominent example of ideological struggle throughout the Far East has been the rise of communism in China and Vietnam, as well as some smaller nations in the region. However, the nations of the Middle East have experienced far greater instances of "-isms," including various forms of nationalism, socialism and communism, through to Islamism and a range of ideological, cultural, political and social phobias.
The predominant obstacle in the Middle East is that it is unwilling to sacrifice its ideological aspirations in order to secure political and economic development and social stability. The Middle Eastern mind has yet to reconcile its spiritual aims with the demands of the modern lifestyle. …