I sincerely wish that all Arab nations improve upon their political success for the benefit of all the inhabitants of those countries and the world. It seems, from my point of view, that most Arab nations are challenged to attain leadership that works for the people and not some particular small group. Arab nations have such a long list of negative choice factors that really hold them back from advancing up to the levels of Europe and North America. The problems that the Arabs face are many and of their own making. They stubbornly subscribe to joining religion and the state. Their religion is elevated to such high regard in areas it was not intended instead of being a method of comfort. Tribalism is another factor that separates a countries people. Libya is currently fractures due to tribal conflicts. Even more significant is that every nation has an oligarch problem as can be seen in the examples below:
Royalty is the oligarchy = Saudi Arabia
Military is the oligarchy = Egypt
Clerics are the oligarchy = Iran
Economic elite are the oligarchy = United States
It is interesting to note that Egypt was on a trajectory toward more individual freedom, through their Arab spring movement, but the Muslim Brotherhood really overstepped their power too quickly by threatening the Egyptian military business interests.
Another problem for Arab countries, which is rather wide spread in less advanced societies, is the treatment of women as second class citizens. This adds to the list of just one more divisive factor.
History has not provided good examples of democracy or socialism in Arab countries. Some of the highest ranked countries in the world subscribe to social democracy and Arab nations seem so far away from arriving at that.
I wish to examine one Arab leader who espouses a particular philosophy and comment on some of its components as an example of how singular individuals in power can command the outcome of a nation. The person I have chosen is the current ruler of Iran, Ali Khamenei.
Khamenei appears to want a nation where Islam and the state are one. He seems to believe that Islam without government and a Muslim nation without Islam is meaningless. He fails to realize that this is may be at the root of the Arab nations being now and will be in the future second or third class countries. His belief that Islam and state are interconnected results that the clerics in any country will wield significant power if not supreme power. The very basic problem with this philosophy is it fails to identify who owns the country. Apparently the clerics own the country because his belief totally leaves out the wishes of the people. It assumes that anyone who is Muslim is working from the same belief system and the clerics and their followers are one in how to administer the state which is not or never true. Problem with Khamenei’s philosophy is it assumes people are not diverse in their needs and wants. Western nations are not perfect but they do have the ability to adjust in a way that a theocracy is not capable. In western countries, elections are used to “hire” the peoples representatives to administer the country. Khamenei seems blinded to taking in any possibility that there should be a separation of religion and state. Religion, in the most basic terms is expected to serve the spiritual needs of the individual. How it can transcend to governing is a stretch in these modern times. The caliphate did work for centuries, a long time ago, but one can easily argue that today it is a romantic notion that is flawed for so many reasons. A caliphate is totalitarian and puts the population in subjugation. A caliphate relies on one or a few rulers to administer very complex economic and political issues, societies of the system are modified and planned with input from the people. A much more efficient system is a well managed bureaucracy where aspect specialization is used for decision making and administering. The caliphate will perpetuate the nation being somewhat backward because it can not easily adapt to the fast pace modern world, typically holds the population in chains and fails to hold education for its people as important..
It is also suspicious that being a cleric in charge and his belief system elevates them conveniently to being a oligarch class with tremendous personal benefits.
Khamenei belief system fails to identify who owns the country. This is incredibly significant because out of this singular fact, a lot follows or extrapolates as to how a country should be administered. Evidently, for Khamenei, it is not the citizens and for this he is totally wrong. Any modern nation that fails to realize that the citizens OWN the country and must have a say in how it is ruled is going to have a very hard time.
As stated before, Khamenie belief system is flawed because it fails to separate religion and state. This is like mixing water and oil. It makes the working of the state awkward at the very least and ruinous at the extreme. Religion’s main effort should be to give individuals comfort by offering answers to questions that can not be truly answered by science, guidance toward every day behavior so all individuals can better live with one another, prayer so that individuals can achieve their own solace when needed, rights of passage so individuals will better cope with life and death issues. Religion should give more to individual needs rather than political ones. But, religion with good leadership can move out of the mosque and into social support programs such as the Red Crescent to better aid individual needs. As the citizens prosper, they can better fulfill the third pillar, zagat, or giving to the less fortunate. In short, religion has no business getting involved in politics unless issues arise that directly affect it.
In my prior point, I tried to state that Khamenei was overstepping his duties as a religious leader by marrying it to politics. Khamenei has a flawed political element too. Khamenei is wrong in his philosophy because he creates a political dictatorship as a result of his philosophy. He minimizes the voice of each citizen but elevates the cleric’s voice.
The western world is better in some regards because the power base is more diverse, open to self examination and transparent to a degree. This diverse structure is good but not nearly perfect. The people think they have the power and do have the opportunity to exercise that power from time to time to change the national political leadership. The flaw in this system is that there is also a very powerful oligarch group that do exercise tremendous power behind the scenes which often times direct national policies toward ends that have in the past damaged Arab nations. The reason for this, I call the McLaren rule. It is a humane trait to try to gain advantage over other individuals or nations if you have the means to do so. When the group that exercises this power are oligarchs or neocons, the results typically do not end well for humanity. Americans killing off the American Indians, American slavery, incarcerating the Japanese Americans on the west coast during the second world war and overthrowing the legitimate Iranian government, called the 28 Morad coup, are just a few examples of a country that had the power to wipe out people and process. Oligarchs can gain political power by use of money, guns or any other means at their disposal. In the western world, including the United States, the democratic process continuously tries to fend off these efforts with varying degrees of success. This is not to say that democracy will be devoid of incorrect political acts. The population of the Untied States, for example, seemed to go along with the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, which, by any means one wishes to evaluate, was immoral, illegal and a disaster if not a war crime. This achievement was partly done by relying upon leadership that seemed well in charge but held a secret philosophy, devised lies to further their neocon ideals. The point I am trying to make is this propensity to gain advantage over others is more absolute and less transparent with a religious group and state being chained together. Also, with the clerics and politicians in the same house it is that more difficult for the citizens to break them apart and make changes.
Khamenei’s philosophy also creates a cleric oligarchy more commonly called a theocracy. This is just another word for dictatorship but because he believes that religion and state are connected he makes the mistake of placing the clerics in a power position of being not only a political dictatorship but also a religious oligarchy which gives him and his friends financial and power gains in those two ways.
If you look at the past medieval history of Europe, for example, there were clerics that ruled from castles over vast portions of land. These same clerics were part of the oligarchy or the whole of it. The similarities to Europe during medieval times and what is happening in the current Arab nations seem similar. It seems that the Arab world needs to grow out of its medieval class warfare with itself and the Western world. Ali Khamenei may not be the man for the job because he has pattern his philosophy from fear of Gharbzadegi or being bitten from and incurring the disease of being westernized. One of histories lessons is that nations become great when they incorporate the best from other cultures. Iran should not surrender to Western values in total but maybe incorporate the best aspects that the West has to offer, to make a better Iran. This may never happen with its current leadership because Ali Khamenei may be as flawed in his philosophy as those who specified the 28 Morad coup, invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. It serves the needs of the dictator to find external threats where you can as a reason why you must clamp down upon your own peoples freedoms.
Conclusion: The Arab nations have been subjugated by political and cultural colonization in the past by Europe and the United States for the longest time. The McLaren rule will certainly apply to any country not strong enough to stand on its own and thus this intervention from the Western countries should still be suspect. For an Arab nation to stand as an independent power, maintain its unique identity and culture, it must improve its internal political process and not be weakened by internal strife, inefficient central rule, economic sanctions, and the oligarch’s seeking self gain at the expense of the people who should really rule the country. Iran has a terrific potential to be a powerful nation because of its people, not its current leaders.