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Talk Analyzes Effects of Arab Nationalism

This lecture was part of the Center for Near Eastern Studies' fall lecture series called "The New Middle East: Five Years After 9/11," which aims to explore the recent issues with multiple professional points of view. The next public lecture is scheduled for Nov. 16 at 2:30 p.m. in Bunche 10383.

Use of an external enemy is one of the oldest tricks in the political world.

This article was first published in The Daily Bruin.

By Seda Terzyan, Daily Bruin contributor

IN A LECTURE titled "Back to the Future in the Middle East," Barry Rubin discussed what he sees as Middle Eastern countries' return to policies it had pursued decades ago.

Rubin, the director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya, Israel, argued that the Middle East has begun to use the policies of Arab nationalism and Pan-Arab nationalism that were dominant in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

This lecture was part of the Center for Near Eastern Studies' fall lecture series called "The New Middle East: Five Years After 9/11," which aims to explore the recent issues with multiple professional points of view.

Leila Beckwith, professor emeritus of pediatrics at UCLA, helped bring Rubin to speak at UCLA because she said she believes he has an important viewpoint to contribute to the discussion on the Middle East.

"He is an excellent analyst and extremely knowledgeable about the Middle East," she said.

Rubin has written more than 40 books and is the owner and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs, a nonprofit online publication that presents analysis and research on the Middle East.

Rubin said that for the last 35 years there has been relative stability in terms of internal conflict within the Arab world, which contradicts the commonly held notion that the region has been in upheaval.

The stability has been maintained, Rubin said, because the regimes have learned how to stay in power by developing ideological and institutional systems. The systems exert control over the military to prevent public upheaval and spread of ideologies through a controlled media.

"Middle Eastern regimes use institutional, ideological and mental control," Rubin said.

He said these systems are based on uniting the Arab world into a single, united state and blaming the lack of change and reform on external forces that must be defeated.

The final pillar of this ideology is that only after Arab states are no longer in external conflict with countries such as Israel and the United States can there be economic development, peace, health care reform, education and the establishment of democracy. But Rubin said he believes Arab nations keep these conflicts going because they are necessary in order to keep the regimes in power.

"This policy has proven remarkably successful at regime maintenance and keeping governments in power," Rubin said. "The regimes have proven to be remarkably successful in mobilizing mass support, but proven remarkably disastrous from the point of view of foreign policy, economic and social development."

By always distracting its citizens with larger, unattainable goals such as defeating the U.S. or Israel, they maintain control, he said.

By maintaining problems with the U.S. and Israel, Arab regimes are able to convince the populace that as long as those issues exist, the regime cannot change and must maintain its control, Rubin said.

"Use of an external enemy is one of the oldest tricks in the political world," Rubin said.

He said the regimes' promise to unite the Arab world failed, as did their plan to destroy Israel, yet Arab nationalism continues to be enforced by focusing attention on international conflicts.

Leaders' focus on international issues allowed them to ignore domestic reforms, and as a result the Middle East is struggling economically and socially, Rubin said.

"I believe change will come. We have become impatient with history because change can take a long time," Rubin said. "Long-term evolution will come."

Beckwith said she believes Rubin made very important points about issues facing the Middle East in recent years.

This fall, the Center for Near Eastern Studies invited several experts to share their knowledge about growing issues in the Middle East and the role of the U.S. after Sept. 11 in a public lecture series.

The next public lecture is scheduled for Nov. 16 at 2:30 p.m. in Bunche 10383.

The lecture will be called "The Mobilization of Political Islam in Turkey (1980-2002): An Application and Revision of the Political Process Model" and will be given by Banu Eligur from Brandeis University.

Center for Near Eastern Studies