It is unlikely Western-style democracies will take root throughout the region, but there is evidence to support the belief that many of the states will remain in the Western orbit.
The acceleration of the march of history in the Islamic world has presented a challenge. The streets of nearly every ancient city have been filled with countless demonstrators demanding a new direction for their nations and ending decades of repression.
As we peer into the future while in the midst of a still unfolding chain of interconnected events, an out-of-focus picture emerges. Given the region’s long history and the fact the landscape is filled with monarchies, iron-fisted leaders, secular reformers and Islamists, it is unlikely Western-style democracies will take root throughout the Arab world. However, there is much evidence to support the belief that when the dust settles, many of the states will remain in the Western orbit.
Concerns over the future of Egypt may be exaggerated. Unquestionably, the Muslim Brotherhood — which was founded as an Islamist party in 1928 with the aim of ousting the British from Egypt, and is still anti-Israel — is worrisome. But this does not mean that Egypt will emerge as an Islamic state along the lines of Iran, or that the “Cold Peace” with Israel will be thrown to the wind. Egypt’s long history has created an internal culture that favors stability.
Libya, no matter how things turn out, is unlikely to split into two nations since the divisions that separate it are not related to religion or ideology, but who controls the levers of power. Ghadaffi is on his way out but this does not mean members of his extended tribal family will follow. A compromise may be in the offing as all sides come to appreciate that the destruction of the oil wells would reduce the nation to penury.
Yemen could be easily sub-divided as it descends into a modern-day version of feudal chaos. After all, not long ago there were two Yemens. A pro-Western city or two, which hold much of the population, could emerge while the interior remains controlled by terrorists and al-Qaeda.
Sensing this may be the future, every effort will be made to give public support to Saudi Arabia and Jordan while encouraging reform. The Saudis’ greatest fear is not the street but Iran. Our support of the Saudis may be as unconditional as our support of Israel. With 20 percent of the world’s oil, every effort will be made to keep Saudi Arabia safe. The same holds true for Jordan, which borders Israel.
It is noteworthy that in all of the street demonstrations, one has not heard the cry for Israel’s elimination. The “Cold Peace” with Egypt and Jordan has held and the flow of gas across the Sinai has not been interrupted. Israel’s real concern is still the nuclear aspirations of Iran.
If de-stabilizing problems arise, they will come from Iran. Then, we may have to take a leaf from the handbook created by Harry Truman. The Truman Doctrine was born with the containment of Soviet expansion and the birth of NATO in 1949. If Iran starts to make inroads into Iraq and threatens not only Israel but the entire region, we should work with NATO and the Russians, who fear for the future of its former Muslim republics — now states — that border northern Iran. On the issues of terrorism and the de-stabilization of regions, our interests and those of the Russians merge. Our policy of containment was aimed at Moscow, but Russia was our ally in two world wars. A joint containment effort may be on the horizon, with the United States working once again with Moscow as we did in 1917 and after Pearl Harbor.