Opinion

Op-ed

The Ubiquity of Militant Rationale

An Israeli soldier sits on a tank outside the northern Gaza Strip in 2009.

"The demands and expectations of the Egyptian people must be met," E.U.'s high representative for security and foreign affairs said in the Washington Post. "The time for change is now." It's the rallying call for record numbers of Middle Eastern citizens. The question is, will Western democracies heed the call? Will governments worldwide finally open the doors for progressive political participation? In the Middle East, political groups have been cordoned into the only avenues available for political expression: the military dimension. For too long, there's been no other choice. It's an option that has justified governing generals, military regimes, defense industries and Western interventions within Middle Eastern states.

Hamas leader Ousama Hamdan recently described a normal state as that of resistance. Militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, however, could be reflecting the standard political interaction of democracy as it operates in the Middle East. Fighting fronts of "democratic" coalitions have sought to enforce the ideology in the region for decades, if not centuries. State borders have acted as military divisions through which democracy has functioned strategically rather than systemically.

Even though mechanisms of the ideology involve progressive accountability and debate, broader ranging issues have remained off the radar for defensive agendas. Partitions such as Pakistan, India and Israel have been militarily mandated and defensively funded by greater democracies for strategic rule rather than regional accord. None of which has realized political stability in the Middle East. Despite "democratic" intervention, division is stratified throughout all Middle Eastern systems, religious and political. Will Egypt prove to be any different?

Constitutional change or military measures?

"We're demanding changes on how the country is now run," Ibrahim Alloush, a university professor, told the Associated Press on the Egyptian uprising. "This is what has led people to protest in the streets because they don't have venues for venting how they feel through legal means." That's the consequence of strategic division applied to the region via military agendas for centuries. It's become a dynamic of international democracy and it defies regional cohesion. It defies progressive regulative authority within the state system on the myriad issues amounting to state security today. And political groups as well as governments keep reacting accordingly.

"What we have to focus on now is getting the military into a position where they can hold the ring for a moderate and legitimate political leadership to emerge," America's former Middle East peace negotiator Martin Indyk said about Egypt. His policies never produced causal peace. Israel exemplifies them. "The ugly facts," Moshe Arens, Israel's former defense minister wrote in Haaretz, "are that the two peace treaties that Israel concluded so far—the one with Egypt and the other with Jordan—were both signed with dictators: Anwar Sadat and King Hussein."

And still military regimes are filling the regional vacuum. Egypt's 480,000-member military pales in significance compared to the paramilitary national police, state security and intelligence agencies, Bob Drogin points out from Cairo for Australia's Telegraph. The generals may not want to accede any power. And despite all the rhetoric, democratic forces are likely with them on this. Despite all the recognition for constitutional change throughout Middle Eastern systems, Western democracies keep falling back on the military to resolve political crises in the Middle East in the name of security.

"Strong armies create security, a necessary precursor for democracy," Time's Joe Klein wrote on Egypt. Militarization, however, is also a process that has prevented progressive rationale within the region, the precursor of any state's security today. Constructive dialogue isn't simply democracy in action, but is essential for any state's constitutional changes in the Middle East. Unless the Egyptian constitution, for instance, is relevant to the Lebanese, what regulative authority can it possibly have for Egypt in a region of trans-border sectarian affiliations?

Without open dialogue between states, constitutional changes transcending the religious and political divisions can't occur. In Lebanon, Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati may not be able to form a government acceptable to the state's 18 religious groups, notably Hezbollah. Given the constitutional requirement of a Sunni president, dissent would be mandatory. How can a strong army open the political space for addressing their common concerns?

Intelligence networking has been the general result of a military apparatus within the political arena. The secrecy any military has realized political division; greater insecurity; covert defense deals; trading in weapons for drugs; mistrust and animus. Subsequently, transforming strategic barriers into open systems of global responsibility is surely the constitutional challenge of every state today. No military apparatus can open the political pathways to this end. They don't allow for more responsible forms of political participation, which in the 21st century, on a planet undergoing climate change, seems more than mandatory.

Regional imperatives

How can covert intelligence realize accountable political systems? Intelligence agencies are the consequence of military regimes, the networking of which is the regional quandary of international democracy. The covert communication is a democratic abrogation justifying military regimes in the Middle East. And at its kernel again, is the Israeli conflict in which all improbabilities of systemizing political agendas via state borders are condensed. As Jason Koutsoukis of the Sydney Morning Herald notes, "The Palestinian Authority has a multifarious structure of seven different intelligence and security agencies in the West Bank based on resisting the 'common enemy' with Israel: Hamas." Palestinian affiliation has proven impossible with current democratic arrangements. The intractable nature of federating Israeli borders, displays discord at the local, as well as regional and international, levels of the state system. Israel still can't form policies without strategic division.

Compounding all this is Israel's U.S. alliance. What constitutional relevance does it hold with other Middle Eastern states? Predicated on defense more than open democracy, the alliance has fostered a state of burgeoning border defense, codifying state security and political interaction in those terms. Their defense industries have flourished. Israeli borders, however, extend into concrete barriers and tunnels for trade rather than regional regulation. Fighting coalitions are the general outcome. But fighting coalitions can't form an all-inclusive framework of legislative accord. Combat isn't constructive dialogue.

Geo-strategic division rather than geopolitical regulation has occurred in the Middle East, producing regional conflicts such as the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars preclusive of exit strategies by intervening coalitions. Ensuring "security," it seems, is the perennial misnomer of the democratic cause in the region.

Devoid of strong regional political cohesion, world systems are failing. Bilateral defense agreements still boil down to the militant resistance of local representative political forces. Be they Taliban, al Qaeda or Islamic jihad, they've all been militarily activated by confrontation into terrorism, producing consequences worth fighting in the name of democracy. And militancy now seems the primary connection between political systems from the international to local levels.

Constructive action

Nothing's really changed in the rationale. As Sydney Morning Herald's Paul McGeough notes on Egypt, "When the protesters took to the streets, it was their dictatorial leader Mubarak, who revealed himself in the bin Laden mold." Governments have become the militant factor at the behest of international democracy more than political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Likewise, Joshua Landis of Oklahoma University cites regimes as the fear factor of citizens. Strategic terms have suffused political forums and agendas on every level with the reasoning of division; a process of military training; and actual warfare in too many Middle Eastern states. So the fighting goes on, in the streets, between the sects, within the state, throughout the region, and in the general democratic rationale.

Militancy can't transform animus into amity under any banner, nor does strategic defense. The division required to fight—whether for faith, freedom, or democracy—blocks avenues for systemic accord. "You in the West have been sold the idea that the only options in the Arab world are between authoritarian regimes and Islamic jihadists," Egypt's leading opposition figure Mohammed Elbaradei said recently.

Neither Republican nor Democratic regimes of the United States, after all, have stabilized the region. While the rhetoric or approach may differ, the bottom line for both has been warfare. "I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed. … You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion," U.S. President Barack Obama said in Cairo two years ago. The words are wonderful, the sentiment surely breathing hope to all, but democratic interactions in the region undermine them.

A window of opportunity has opened for constructive direction via constitutional changes in the Middle East. What purpose can it serve, though, unless international democracies progress their constitutions for regional cohesion, in respect of general sustainability and the world's common security?

View the Worldpress Desk’s profile for Laurelle Atkinson.

Advertise with Worldpress.org