"And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness, the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us. But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief. "

Khalil Gibran (How I Became a Madman)

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NEWS AND ARTICLES / HABERLER VE MAKALELER

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Reinventing the Levant- The National Interest

AMERICAN POLICY toward the Middle East has been a dismal failure for the past thirty-five years, if not longer. Officials have approached policymaking in the Middle East without a clear sense of the region’s history, poverty, predominance of authoritarian rule or intraregional relationships. The failure begins with the concept of “separate peace”—the basis of the 1978–79 U.S.-sponsored negotiations between Egypt and Israel—which never led to a broader settlement. It has continued with Washington’s haphazard response to the tumult of the past five years since the Arab Spring, the rise of Daesh (ISIS) and the continuing stream of dislocations flowing from the invasion of Iraq. Each failure has only deepened the sense that the region is beyond repair. Hence, the American public and many elites are tempted by simplistic solutions—draw back from the region even further; deepen support for authoritarian regimes; take extreme measures to end refugee flows; provide Syrian rebels advanced arms; “carpet-bomb.” The sense of frustration is understandable, but doubling down on failed policies will not work.
There is a yearning for a more organic solution, one in which the governments and the people of the region have equal stakes. And, indeed, there is a model rooted in the region’s history that could be a solution. It enabled nearly four hundred years of peace and prosperity in the Levant. At its core is economic integration, with the free movement of goods and people across a broad swath of territory. Such an approach contrasts sharply with the present-day reality, to put it mildly. But the region is approaching a point of exhaustion, and the United States will have a new opportunity, as it did after the first Gulf War, to advance this model. It will find a receptive region. The habits of integration are deeply ingrained in Levantine culture and reside just beneath the surface, waiting to be tapped. A recent experiment suggests that this model is more than a historical artifact and can be successfully adapted to the modern context.