Middle East Articles

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The biblical prophesy promising peace to those who turn their swords to ploughshares seems remarkably optimistic in today’s world of dual-use technologies (DUTs), commercial products designed for peaceful employment but potentially adaptable to military ends. The range of recognized DUTs is too numerous and diverse to summarize, but especially remarkable examples include golf clubs, pacemakers, and shampoos for use in missile, nuclear, and chemical weapons programs, respectively.

By Richard Re  |  May 6, 2006
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Millions of protestors excoriated Operation Iraqi Freedom as a war only for oil. Now some are wondering if these complaints went far enough. As the US-backed Iraqi Governing Council proposes opening the country to unfettered foreign investment, critics now fear outside domination of entire economic sectors, from electricity to healthcare. Foreign businesses, for their part, fear investing money in an insecure environment. It seems the Iraqi authorities cannot please everyone—or anyone.

By Stephen Wertheim  |  May 6, 2006
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It is a difficult time to be an Arab state. Saddam Hussein fell more quickly than expected, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has continued to fester. A growing population and a stagnant economy makes the future appear ominous for the region. Sadly, the Middle East has no regional organization to turn to for help. The once lauded forum of pan-Arabism, the League of Arab States (LAS), is impotent, lacking the consensus and legitimacy to take action.

By Krister Anderson  |  May 6, 2006
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In the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, many intellectuals have argued that Muslim extremists like Osama bin Laden despise the United States primarily because of its foreign policy. Conversely, US President George Bush’s administration and its supporters have insisted that extremists loathe the United States simply because they are religious fanatics who “hate our freedoms.” These conflicting views of the roots of militant Islamic hostility toward the United States lead to very different policy prescriptions. If US policies have caused much of this hostility, it would make sense to change those policies, if possible, to dilute the rage that fuels Islamic militancy.

By Henry Munson  |  May 6, 2006
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No one who watched in horror as the towers of the World Trade Center crumbled into dust on September 11, 2001, could doubt that the real target of the terrorist assault was US global power. Those involved in similar attacks and in similar groups have said as much. Mahmood Abouhalima, one of the Al Qaeda-linked activists convicted for his role in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, told me in a prison interview that buildings such as these were chosen to dramatically demonstrate that “the government is the enemy.” While the US government and its allies have been frequent targets of recent terrorist acts, religious leaders and groups are seldom targeted.

By Mark Juergensmeyer  |  May 6, 2006
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By the middle of the 20th century, pundits and intellectuals in the West generally took it for granted that secularism was the coming ideology and that religion would never again play a major role in public life. However, within a few years, it became clear that a militant piety had erupted in every major faith, dragging God and religion back to center stage from the sidelines to which they had been relegated. The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran showed the potential of this new form of faith. Western observers were astonished to see an obscure mullah overturning what had appeared to be one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East. “Who ever took religion seriously?” cried a frustrated official in the US State Department shortly after the revolution.

By Karen Armstrong  |  May 6, 2006
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Religion historically has been a major source of international conflict, and its role as such has been reinforced in recent years. Hans Kung has asserted that the “most fanatical and cruelest political struggles are those that have been colored, inspired, and legitimized by religion.” In his famous essay, “Clash of Civilizations,” Samuel Huntington went so far as to argue that the great divisions among humankind and the dominating sources of conflict in global politics are based on culture, which is primarily differentiated by religion. Huntington’s opinion, however, is an exaggeration of the importance of religion in international conflict.

By David Smock  |  May 6, 2006
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What aspects of the conflict in Bosnia made it possible for the United States to intervene?

By Anthony Lake  |  May 6, 2006
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Henry Munson’s article (“Lifting the Veil: Understanding the Roots of Islamic Militancy,” Winter 2004) makes a valuable contribution in the study of the development of Islamic militancy. He argues convincingly that US policies in the Arab world are key to understanding the widespread and growing hostility toward the United States. Munson rightly chides US leaders who play to ignorance and fear by declaring simplistically that Muslim extremists “hate our freedoms.”

By Charles Kimball  |  May 6, 2006
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For centuries the olive branch has been offered as a symbol of unconditional peace, since olive trees take decades to produce fruit and thus can only be cultivated during long periods of stability. Ironically, these symbols of peace are a significant crop in the Middle East, where they are prized for their ability to flourish for hundreds of years despite bad soil and little water. Moreover, the widespread destruction of olive trees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the Intifada is a microcosm of the ongoing internecine conflict between Israel and Palestine.

By Rami Sarafa  |  May 6, 2006