By Walter Russel Mead for the American Interest (May 6):
- Last weekend, protesters loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed Baghdad’s government seat and occupied the Iraqi parliament. At the other end of the Arab world, more than 80 migrants are feared to have drowned close to the Libyan coast. These are just two of many stories pointing to the implosion of the Arab republics and the comprehensive failure of postcolonial political development in the “modernizing” Arab states.
- There are many consequences to this implosion: a power vacuum that leaves the Arab world open to intervention, most recently by Russia and Iran; cultural and social crises that made fanatical jihadimovements possible; economic crisis and vast migration; the accelerating collapse of order and security; and the inability of governments to control much of their territory and the rise of quasi-independent separatist militias.
- The U.S. has tried its hand at nation-building repeatedly. We have met with no real success, and we have no real idea what to try next. So it looks as if for the foreseeable future, the rest of the world is going to have to deal with the consequences of Arab failure without being able to do much about the underlying conditions.
- Among the likely consequences of this reality: There will be less attention paid to the Palestinian issue as larger and more immediate problems capture the world’s attention.
- The Israeli argument that the Palestinians do not have, and cannot soon build, a functioning state structure capable of either making peace or of keeping radicals from attacking Israel after peace is signed will likely gain force within and beyond Israel.
The writer is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and professor of American foreign policy at Yale University.