Review of Russia and the Arabs

Primakov, Yevgeny.  Russia and the Arabs:  Behind the Scenes in the Middle East from the Cold War to the Present.  New York: Basic Books, 2009.

Yevgeny Primakov, formerly head of Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, and former Prime Minister of Russia, has written his own memoirs.  The book reflects 30 years of diplomatic service from one of the world’s most respected statesman.  Always serene and mature in his analysis, Primakov has correctly diagnosed the problems in Middle Eastern and American diplomatic policies..

Many neo-conservatives and American patriots think that the Soviet Union simply desired to export (and force down) its own version of socialist revolution upon unwilling countries.  While this was true in Eastern and Central Europe, nothing of the sort happened in the Middle East, at least not for the long term.   The United States and the Soviet Union found the post-World War II Middle East rife with young nationalist movements.  At first the Middle Eastern governments were committed to a form of Arab socialism.  However, this form of Arab socialism had little in common with the socialism of the USSR, and while some Communist parties in the Middle East held tenaciously to power, the Arab mindset was not given to international socialism.   Therefore, and this is a key point Primakov makes, the USSR did not force Communism onto the Middle East.  Primakov writes, “The Soviet Union understood that it was impossible to bring about sociopolitical change in another country via an imported revolution.  It had to happen from within, when the time was ripe” (92).

The United States’ original objective was to draw the Arab nations into an anti-Moscow alliance.  This meant allying itself with radical Arab groups (the fateful foreshadowing should not be missed).   In any case, neither the Soviet Union nor Soviet America was able to accomplish its primary goal.

It would be simplistic to say that the USSR threw all of its support behind Arab states and America supported Israel.   True, the USSR had good relations with most Arab states and Tel Aviv called the shots on American foreign policy.  But Moscow let Arab states know they could not act with impunity and keep expecting Russian military expertise and arms shipments (Sadaam Hussein never learned this lesson).

Nevertheless, both the USA and the USSR  did act accordingly to one objective:  prevent the Middle East from flaring up, with the larger geographic instability ensuing.   Moscow (and less often America) would take a hard line with her allies if they threatened Middle Eastern peace.   This is political realism.

Many will fault Primakov’s narrative at this point.  Primakov tells the story that the USSR did all that it could to foster Middle Eastern peace  while Israel did all it could to hinder it.   Perhaps he is myopic on this point, but Israel’s actions have been coming under more scrutiny.   Primakov has a very revealing chapter documenting Israel’s illegal nuclear arms ambitions.

There are also moving chapters giving insight into the lives of Yasser Arafat and others.

Criticisms of the Book

Many will probably fault Primakov of stacking the deck.   The Soviet Union’s Middle Eastern policy can do no wrong while the US keeps bungling it.   While the latter is certainly true, many in the West will blanche at this rosy picture of the USSR.   While perhaps flawed on some points, Primakov does highlight an important issue:  for twenty years Americans have been cheering themselves as the sacred guardians of the free world and anyone who questions that narrative is a liberal, communist, hates the troops, or an Islamomeanie.    The dialectical irony is Americans have done the same thing with ideology that the Soviets did.  In fact, it’s worse.  Trotsky was rejected on this point.   The D.C. Establishment has surpassed even Stalin on this point!  There is a reason that neo-conservatives are said to be the heirs of Trotksy:   Trotksy wanted to import revolution to all countries, whether they were ready for it or not (with the subsequent goal of destroying national boundaries and traditional cultures); neo-conservatives want to spread neocon ideology to all countries (e.g., globalism, the dominance of Western corporations and markets, “democracy,” relativising  traditional society). The dialectic has come full-circle.   The D.C. Regime is the new Soviet Union.

Primakov has a provocative, if at times flawed chapter on Islam.   Careful thinking is required here, and I think Primakov rushed his thinking.   Primakov identifies Samuel Huntingdon’s thesis (to which the current reviewer subscribes) positing an ultimate clash between Western civilization and Islamic civilization. At this point, instead of engaging Huntingdon’s thesis, Primakov ridicules those provincial people who think all Arabs are Muslims are terrorists.   Presumably, these people think that the coming clash should be an armed clash and the sooner the better.   But is this what Huntingdon really believes?  Even more, is Primakov’s own views of Islam that different?

Perhaps Huntingdon can be faulted with an ambiguous use of the term “clash.”  More importantly, why did Huntingdon posit there would be a clash?  He said this because Islam’s values are inherently at odds with the post-Christian West’s secular values.   Ironically, Primakov, too, identifies democracy as incompatible with Islam (or consistent Judaism or Christianity).   Indeed, this is the key to Primakov’s critique of the US importing Western democracy on Iraq!

Conclusion

The book is an interesting glimpse inside the life of a key player for peace in a troubled area.  The book is written in a memoir-like style and occasionally suffers from those defects.   But that also makes it the readable and interesting book that it is.  Primakov tells a story that is different from the Official Narrative of the Ministry of Truth.

 

Rejecting the Eurabia Thesis

Commentators speculate that by the year 2050 Europe will be largely Muslim. This is seen in Europe’s declining birth rate over against hordes of Middle Eastern immigrants and their high birth rates. Part of this failure is Europe’s vote of “no-confidence” in itself Many like to call the West a “post-Christian society.” In many ways, though, I think it is post-nihilist society.

And, so it’s argued, Europe will continue to die off while Muslims come in.

That appears demographically to be the case, but here is why I reject the Eurabia thesis:

  1. It only works under the assumption that things in 2050 will be identical to the way they are in 2010. But what many conservatives forget is that “things can happen” in a short period of time. In the years between 1918 and 1945 (fewer than 30 years) Europe undid 16 centuries of its heritage. Just because things are bad (or good) today doesn’t mean it will always be that way.
  2. Following above, the reasons why Europe is plagued with immigrants is partly due to its post-colonial heritage (a great evil, I admit). Another part is the humanist mentality of its leaders. The leaders of Europe (and America) honestly believed that all cultures are equal and even though Muslims believe things like Surah 9:5, if we show them the glories of liberal democracy, we can turn all of the jihadists into new Perez Hiltons. “Let’s respect the poor Mussies’ religion. All religions–except ancient Christianity–equal.” Will they keep saying that as Muslims carry out honor killings and begin executing homosexuals?
  3. And a few European countries are waking up. While little will probably come out of the Swiss minaret ban, it does show that sections of Europe are waking up.  Also consider that Italy is deporting North Africans and Sweden’s far right, anti-immigration party has gained a foothold.
  4. War in Iran: if the West/Israel carries out a potentially-nuclear war with Iran, whatever else may come of it, it will definitely change Euro-Muslims relations.
  5. Recognizing the Armenian genocide: As more countries begin to recognize the genocide the Turks carried out on Armenian Christians in the 1910s, relations with Turkey will sour. Turkey might decide that Europhilic politics isn’t worth it and go elsewhere. They might decide to force small confrontations in Kurdish Iraq or they could block shipping/troop transport in central Asia.  Keep in mind that as Turkey turns back to Islam, it is still a NATO member.  This tension will worsen as as the US continues to screw Muslim lands and will utterly crack if NATO declares war on Iran.
  6. The case of Serbia and Kosovo: Don’t really know what will happen here. The Regime (Brussels/London/DC) utterly controls the Serb government. It was NATO’s first example of “nation-building.” However, on the other hand, even liberals in Europe–while they may hate the Serbs–they are beginning to hate the Muslim Kosovars even more. Likewise, Putin’s Russia is not the same country as Yeltsin’s. Russia has played its diplomacy card with great skill. Russia and Serbia are showing the world that Kosovo is not a functional state. When the Kosovars ethnically cleanse the last few Serbs–the people who keep the hospitals and such running–the state will become a complete narco-gangster state. The only reason it will function is due to drug and prostitution money, along with donations by high-ranked Republicans in the United States.
  7. And Europe knows it. NATO is bogged down in Afghanistan. If the Serbs wanted to retake Kosovo, they probably could with Russian help. Russian special forces could air drop into Serbia. While they would need to fly over Romania and Hungary, the Russians might not ask for permission either. And Romania wouldn’t want to force a confrontation with Moscow, either.  It needs to be noted, though, that the current Serb government won’t do anything to retake their homeland.  They are puppets of Washington D. C. and Serbs must wait for new leadership.
  8. Following Samuel Huntingdon’s thesis (cf Clash of Civilizations), states are leaving the “liberal democracy” behind and are moving more towards community and tradition. When George Soros and the CIA staged “color revolutions” across the former Soviet Bloc in the 1990s, many thought that liberal demcracy would finally triumph. Those revolutions are eventually over. Saakashivili has failed in Georgia. The Orange Revolution is dead in Ukraine.
  9. Birth rates can change. As Sublime Oblivion has demonstrated, Russia’s birthrate has gone up–and it went up in during some of the worst economic crisises.

Eurabia is a serious threat. I don’t make light of it. But it can be stopped. And it can be stopped rather easily. Islam isn’t that intellectually powerful. It’s a cultural parasite. After the 1500s Europe demonstrate that it can easily defeat Islam on the intellectual and military levels. And that’s no different today. The real bad is not Islam, but the neo-lib/neo-con politicians in power. Europe enacted a counter-1600 year change in the space of 28 years. It’s quite possible to revert the slide.