In his promotion of the idea that the Middle Eastern Arab states be broken up into smaller unites, Mordechai Kedar reminds his audience, usefully, of the many divisions -- sectarian, ethnic, and tribal -- within Arab states. He describes this as observable in all the Muslim Arab states, save for the sheiklets of the Gulf, Qatar, Kuwait, and the seven emirates that form the United Arab Emirates. And in describing the difficult position of the many minorities, Mordechai Kedar echoes the views of Elie Kedourie, who grew up as a Jew in Baghdad, at a time when the old Sunni elite ran things. For Kedourie noted, in his dry fashion how much better, under the Ottoman dispensation, things were for the non-Arab and non-Muslim communities. Under the Ottomans each of these communities had its representatives who would intervene -- that is, make known the conditions, and the desires, and the grievances, of those they represented -- to the local representatives of the Ottoman rulers, or through co-religionists in Constantinople.
The replacement of this system, when the Ottoman Empire collapsed, by a different system, of Winner Take All -- the Winner being the Muslim Arabs -- cannot be blamed on "colonialism" as Mordechai Kedar appears, at least in part, to do. First of all, there never was a "colonial power" strictu sensu in the Arabian Peninsula. The British never entered the interior of Arabia, and only established miliary garrisons either to guard the sea lanes to India, and provide an entrepost where ships could stop (as at Aden), or garrisons along the left littoral of the Persian Gulf to stamp out the trade in Afrcian slaves and to keep the constantly-warring Arab tribes from doing what came naturally -- that is, that very warring. The Royal Navy kept the Arab slave trade in black Africans from continuing as best it could but this did not amount to colonialism..
It is not true, either, that the "borders" of Iraq were drawn by the British, who far from being a "colonial power" had driven out the Turks and "liberated" the Arabs, and who in any case remained to run things only a decade, from 1922 to 1932. The most important border for Iraq is that with Iran, and that line of demarcation had nothing to do with the British. It was drawn, between the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Empire, in 1847, by the Treaty of Erzrum.
As to the other borders of Iraq, and the borders of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel, these were all states, consisting of territory formerly under Ottoman rule, with territories that then became parts of Mandates, under the two Mandataries, Great Britain and France, and it was natural that the Mandatory authorities would have to draw the borders. The French, who held what became Lebanon and Syria, did not know, could not predict, the demographic changes that would swamp the Christians in their refuge of Lebanon, just as the Sunni Arabs in Lebanon, later on, could not predict the demographic changes that would lead the Shi'a to outnumber the Sunnis. But even if some borders were drawn by those whom Kedar too easily calls "colonial" powers -- the only true colonialism in the Middle East and North Africa that lasted more than a few decades was that in Algeria -- even Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya had European masters for less than a half-century apiece.
Kedar does not discuss Egypt. But Egypt, like Iran, is one of the few Middle Eastern Muslim countries with a strong national identity. This has not helped the Copts of Egypt -- who are the descendents of Egyptians who did not allow themselves to be islamized. And it won't, unless and until intelligent Egyptians, recognizing the baleful effect of Islam on the workings of the state, and the wellbeing of its inhabitants, decide to follow the wise counsel of Taha Hussain, and to emphasize Pharaonism -- Egypt, Egypt before Islam, Egypt not defined by Islam, Egypt greater than Islam. The lure of pan-Arabism, which if rightly understood (as some Christian Arabs never understood, and thought that pan-Arabism would allow them to enroll in a general movement) is not so much an alternative to, as a subset of, pan-Islamism (and reflects two things: first, earlier Muslim weakness that made the dream of a universal caliphate appear more unattainable and absurd than it does now; second, the Arab contempt even for non-Arab Muslims -- Islam is a vehicle for that supremacy -- that makes the 80% of the world's Muslims who are non-Arab into tools to be expoited for Arab aims, or to help fight the Infidel enemies of Arab Ilsam, but not equal to Arabs in any way.
And what of Saudi Arabia? Kedar leaves Saudi Arabia out. It is not one of the purely tribal nation-states, like the seven constituent emirates in the U.A.E. But a family --- by now a very numerous family, given the polyphiloprogenitive behavior of various princes -- the Al-Saud, run Saudi Arabia as a family concern, one that here and there is willing to let in to share responsiblities -- but not yet into upper management -- some non-family members. Would Kedar advocate the break-up of Saudi Arabia or just the lopping off of the Shi'a-populated part, the Eastern Province, which happens to be the part where all the major oil reserves are to be found? Does Mordechai Kedar think that there is any chance the Shi'a of Eastern Saudi Arabia will be allowed to create their own state, with all that oil?
Had Mordechai Kedar said that in his view there was a lot to be said for a return to the vilayets of yore, in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, where Maronites, Alawites, Druze, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Kurds and others would not be swamped in an Arab Muslim sea, that would be one thing. That would be in line with Kedourie's intelligent nostalgia for the Ottoman dispensation.
And he does not explain why the Arab nation-states do so badly, end up with despots, and with all those not sharing the same background as the despot suffering as a result.
And what explains this, what explains the behavior of the Arab masses -- their veering from submission to revolt, the aggression and violence of everyday life, held in check only by a mix of threats, conspiracy-theories, bribery with money and jobs for an elite, a vast state apparatus of repression, including the Secret Police and the Army, or sometimes, as with Arafat, ruler of a statelet manque, a dozen different security services.
It is Islam. The world of Qur'an and Sunnah is a violent and aggressive world. No prisoners are taken, no mercy is shown enemies. If there must be an agreement reached with enemies -- as with the Meccans at Hudaibiyyah in 628 A.D. -- that agreement is merely a hudna, a truce, and must be broken -- following the example of Muhammad, the Perfect Man, al-insan al-kamil -- whenever it can be broken. '
Islam suffuses the Arab nations. So strong are the atmospherics of Islam, that even non-Muslim Arabs, with 'Uruba or Arab-ness reinforcing, and being reinforced by, a Muslim identity, are affected by Islam and often parrot the worldview of Muslim Arabs -- this is the phenomenon I have called the Islamochristian. And even those who do not do so are affected, in their understanding of the world, in their susceptibility to conspiracy-theories, and their subdued hysteria, to the atmospherics of Islam. So even if they do not, as a survival mechanism, adopt the Muslim worldview, but remain wary and resentful and hostile (a hostility they must hide but can display once they are in the West) to Islam, they too often have been affected by the atmospherics of Islam.
But Islam is what Mordechai Kedar leaves out. And it is Islam that explains the abuse and cruelty that minorities -- all minorities -- endure in Muslim Arab nation-states. It is Islam that explains the lack of interest in the nation-state - the very idea is a Western and thoroughly non-Islamic one. For the Believers, only the Umma or Community of Believers should matter. And that is why there is loyalty at the micro level -- to family, tribe, ethnic or religious sect --- and at the macro level, to the world-wide Umma, but the nation-state, or rather the government, is seen as something which offers opportunities, through the seizure of power, to distribute wealth --- wealth coming from control of the government, especially but not only in the case of oil-and-gas wealth -- to one's family, one's tribes, one's fellows.
It is Islam that explains the altenations between periods of dull passivity and the "rising up" (thawra) , of resentful rage-filled masses.
But the effect of Islam, on the minds of its adherents, keeps being ignored or downplayed. Perhaps, because you cannot see Islam, cannot see what it does to the minds of those who are homini unius libri, that book being the Qur'an, and even where they are not the most devout of Believers, are nonetheless affected by the attitudes and atmospherics of Islam.
There is another way to deal with the mistreatment of these many minorities, and the corruption and cruelty at the top. And that is to diminish the power of these governments to suppress their subjects, by cutting off access to Western technology, especially military hardware. That will accomplish several things. It will force the rulers to better behave themselves, for they will be unsure that they can suppress those they brutalize. It would be a proleptic No-Fly Zone, all over the Muslim Arab lands. And even in states not as bad as Libya and Syria, such as Egypt, the power of the military -- the corrupt stratokleptocracy of which Mubarak formed a part, and which lives on without Mubarak quite easily, its tentacles still everywhere in the Egyptian economy -- to rule behind the scenes, or rule outright, prevents the development of what some naively believe is already there, that is a civil society that is, indeed, civil -- which means curbing the power of Islam as a social and political force (as Ataturk did in Turkey, as Bourguiba did in Tunisia) and the power of the military, for the military, all over the Arab lands, has been a major part of the problem.
When the American government halts its military aid to Egypt -- what exactly does Egypt,need with the tens of billions of dollars in miltary equipment it has inveigled the American government to give it, and according to reports is always trying to get the most advanced equipment (with Egyptian officers pretending to be deeply hurt, for the sake of their endlessly naive counterparts in the Pentagon, that they are not "trusted" with such weaponry) -- then we'll know we're getting somewhere.
And that, unlike Kedar's prescription for dozens of mini-states -- pleasant as that would be for Infidels everywhere, and not bad for those not in the ruling clique or tribe or party in various Arab states -- is doable, can be done.