Friday, June 11, 2010
Living in a contested space
There was something ironic in seeing Arab nationalism sinking off the shores of Gaza. At the heart of the romantic Arab narrative was the notion that the Arabs - united by an Arab identity - had been burning with a desire to emancipate themselves from the Turkish Empire's yoke. Lawrence of Arabia's fables of the Arab struggle against the Turks were, I always suspected, a British invention.
This not only has highlighted the shallowness of the Arab nationalist narrative, it also, at least conceptually, has restored what for centuries was the natural order of the region, which Arab nationalism was supposed to alter but did not. Just as Iran's Islamic Revolution was expansionist by definition, the AKP's "neo-Ottomanism" also posits a Turkish-dominated realm. As the potential for Iranian-Turkish competition grows and the Levant once again assumes its historical function as a contested space between more powerful nations vying for influence, the Arab states are becoming ever more secondary, their populations easily manipulated by populist leaders like Erdogan. (Based on an insight of Tony Badran).