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The Middle East and Globalization

Our Read My Lips feature explores the many issues that the region still needs to resolve.

May 16, 2005

Our Read My Lips feature explores the many issues that the region still needs to resolve.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the Middle East has been the focus of international attention and controversy. With Iraq still struggling for stability after the war and with tensions growing over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the Middle East is at a crossroads. Our Read My Lips feature explores the many issues that the region still needs to resolve.

Which dimension of reforming the Middle East is most often overlooked?

“Modernization in the Middle East is not only about politics. It is also about development and economics.”
(Joschka Fischer, Germany’s foreign minister, November 2003)

Why are most Middle Eastern countries having a hard time getting traction in the global economy?

“Simply put, the Middle East exports oil and terrorism — and virtually nothing else of significance to the global economy.”
(Thomas P.M. Barnett, professor at the U.S. Naval War College, March 2004)

What is one reason for the region's economic backwardness?

“Europe has done a very poor job of investing in North Africa and the Middle East — its natural backyard.”
(Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist, January 2004)

What is another problem facing the region?

“Nearly every country with a economy dominated by oil us corrupt and dictatorial, whether in Latin America, Africa, the Caspian, South East Asia — or the Middle East.” (J. Robinson West, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Interior, February 2003)

And what about protectionist sentiments in many industrialized countries?

“Why, all of a sudden, when third world labor has proved to be competitive, do industrial countries start feeling concerned about our workers?”
(Youssef Boutros-Ghali, then Egypt’s trade minister, March 2000)

Has there long been a sense of disillusionment about market forces in the region?

“In the emerging world, there is a bitter sentiment of injustice. There is a sense that there must be something wrong with a system that wipes out years of hard-won development because of changes in market sentiment.”
(Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, February 1999)

Have recent events changed those sentiments?

“OK now, with this globalization we have economic occupation. But America has returned to the idea of military occupation.”
(Saleh Soleiman, Egyptian shopkeeper, April 2004)

In regards to social stability, what is the situation in Saudi Arabia?

“Saudi Arabia is like France a week before the French Revolution under Louis XVI.”
(Marc Faber, managing director of Marc Faber Ltd., January 2004)

Might the recent high price of oil change that analysis?

“With this new money, the royal family can keep going for another generation.”
(Saudi lawyer, November 2004)

How can the West turn off the petrodollar spigot?

“When the nation is preparing to spend at least $100 billion to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein and much more to maintain stability in the Persian Gulf, nothing is more crucial than investing a fraction of that sum to help liberate the world economy from its addiction to Middle East oil.”
(Tom Redburn, New York Times reporter, December 2002)

Is there any good news in the region?

“As a secular democracy with a predominantly Muslim population, Turkey offers the antithesis of the clash-of-civilizations scenario.”
(Dr. Bahadir Kaleagasi, representative of Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association, October 2004)

What is one way to describe the challenge awaiting the region?

“George Seurat created sweeping “Pointillist” landscapes by painting millions of tiny dots. But that effort is nothing compared to the painstaking detail involved in creating a landscape of economic, political and social reform.”
(King Abdullah II of Jordan, April 2004)

How does the new U.S. Secretary of State view the issue?

“The transformation of the Middle East is the only guarantee that it will no longer produce ideologies of hatred that lead men to fly airplanes into buildings.”
(Condoleezza Rice, August 2003)

What seems to be the underlying problem?

“It has been barely possible up to now in the countries of the Middle East to shape globalization in a way which is even remotely positive.”
(Joschka Fischer, Germany’s Foreign Minister, February 2004)

So what needs to happen?

“We need to demonstrate to the Middle East that there is such a thing as a future worth creating there, not just a past worth recreating. That is all the current Bin Ladens offer the population — an escape from today’s diminished expectations.”
(Thomas P.M. Barnett, professor at the U.S. Naval War College, March 2004)

And finally, who needs to do most of that hard work?

“The special challenge that confronts Muslims is to drag ourselves out of the pit we find ourselves in, to raise ourselves up by individual achievement and collective socioeconomic emancipation.”
(Pakistan’s President General Pervez Musharraf, June 2004)