War and Peace in the Middle East: From the Civil War to Contemporary Times
The concepts underlying war and its effects are difficult to comprehend without understanding the conflict. The Civil War not being an exception, sometimes wars between countries also make it difficult to understand exactly what is going on at a specific time. Aspects of art such as paintings and films can effectively represent war when the creators of those pieces have had experience either at the front or within the proximity of such occurrences. Being in proximity does not necessarily mean having physical closeness it can also entail being emotionally or economically connected through day to day activities. While these pieces depict the concerns about war, it is the countries at war that feel the greatest impacts of such occurrences. For instance, the Middle East countries that have continued to be at war long past the Civil War durations can clearly narrate the impacts that the same wars have had on their economies, as well as on the social lives of the citizens. Peace talks and efforts to create peace between Israel and Palestine are therefore founded on the premise that the ongoing wars have various impacts on those nations as well on the surrounding nations. The ongoing wars have as a result impacted the countries’ relationships with other nations, particularly the West. This is because the West is involved in a large extent in the peace talks for the warring countries.
There is a contradiction between the spoken and the implied actions in times of war as shown by Maus (2). The results associated with the same are also exemplified in Maus (3) through the assertion that war is dehumanizing. The dehumanizing nature of war is described through the aspects of realizing complete readjustment in the social system as well as creation of extreme anxieties in the minds of people. As Maus says “The extreme anxiety engendered by the standoff in Cuba served as a stimulus for literary response that followed closely behind (6).” These words clearly show that the Cold War period described by Maus had the effect of resulting in changes in the literary system. This quote states that war does not affect only the social, economic, and political systems, but goes beyond to influence the mental status of the people as well as their ability to respond to issues in clarity. Pieces of art cannot exactly depict the changes that occur in the individual minds or in the state of the nations with regards to various aspects despite the realism that same of the films and paintings can show. Comprehension of the concept, effects and depth of war effects therefore demands only being at the front and the ability to understand the changes that occur in the minds of active participants.
As such, it can be said that the war that has been on going in the Middle East way past the Civil War period has resulted in a plethora of effects in the nationals as well as in the political and economic systems of the world. Despite efforts across the globe to bring peace to the warring nations, this peace that is so talked of seems to be elusive. Understanding the reason for this requires an in-depth understanding of the causes of the war as well as the efforts that have and are continuing to be made towards its resolution. Many pieces of literature have discussed the war in the Middle East, with the focus being on the causes and the reasons for its continued escalation. The present research focuses on determining why the Middle East has continued to experience war long after the American Civil War and how the countries have tried to change the status quo. It is believed that through this study, it will be possible to somewhat fill the presently existing gap in literature through provision of information relevant to both war and peace in the Middle East. The study will be guided by the question: What are the possible causes of war and the prospects for peace in the contemporary days? Being that America is currently peaceful but engages in the peace mission for the Middle East; the warring nations of the Middle East will be taken as the case study in the research. Answering this research question will adopt a literature review approach with the objective of evaluating and presenting the comparative view adopted from other secondary sources.
According to Chambers war film can be “marred with the excessive use of symbolism (389).” While this symbolism is common in films and other art pieces regarding war, the symbolism clearly depicts the disillusionment, and unnerving nature that is associated with war. Just like in every other warring nation, exemplified in countries such as Syria, Sudan and others, the Middle East region has continued to experience war disillusionment based on the effects of the Israel versus Palestinian war on the economy and the political stability of the region. The ongoing war between these two countries has continued to raise the volatility of the political system in the entire Middle East region, leading to instability of political regimes and a near paralyzed economy (Zand par. 2). While Zand asserts that the ongoing war in the Middle East can still be linked to the Civil War that is long past, there are other arguments that claim otherwise, particularly based on the observations made about the ongoing war and the perceived struggle for natural resources in the Middle East. In case the issues of struggle for territorial integrity and political stability are at the fore front of the war in the Middle East as Sidahmed and Sidahmed argue (180), then it is only justifiable to assert that the warring countries are also still in search of their respective bodies and souls.
The interpretation of the war in the Middle East is different in different contexts, with the foreign communities blaming the warring nations and some of the Middle East countries blaming the foreign elite for the issues in the Middle East. According to Lancioni (25), particular specific events should not be used to historicize in any instance since this can lead to subjectivity. Therefore, while it is necessary to understand that history is interpretive in various ways, it is also critical that the degree of interpretation involved should not be limited to particular contexts but should find the connection between various issues in the discussion of war. In discussing the Civil War, Lancioni (23) explains that “History is a constructed discourse and is therefore subject to critique and revisions.” The objective of discussing the Middle East issues herein is therefore not merely to read through the historical discourse but to find the connections between various issues underlying the actual discourse. The objective of understanding the causes of war in the Middle East as represented by Zand, Sidahmed and Sidahmed and other authors form the basis of the argument that war is not limited to the countries experiencing the same.
Causes of the Middle East War
From a report prepared by Zand on the causes of war in the Middle East, a depressing political history prior to the Civil War has been identified as one of the contributing factors to the incessant political rage across the nations (par. 10). Zand claims that the political history still determines the political temperature in the two countries to a certain degree making it difficult to effectively manage the ever present conflicts between Israel and Palestine. To further enhance this theory, Zand (par. 8) adds that while “people across the world have come to accept their historical borders,” the Middle East countries at war are still struggling with their own; unable to decide which side of history they belong to through their wars. However, although Zand argues that the historical borders have resulted in the sustenance of the war; other authors have continued to project the assertion that it is actually territorial boundaries that are at the center of the conflict. The two arguments can be compared based on the fact that territorial boundaries may be considered as similar to historical borders in multiple ways.
The Middle East countries of Israel and Palestine have their own battles revolving around the desire to own a part of the Gaza strip (Johnson 12).Ociewicz describes the war in the Middle East in very fine details. According to this author, the root cause of the Middle East conflict is the territorial borders that were originally created and which the two countries involved have had issues accepting over the years. The fight for territorial sovereignty has led to the escalation of war despite the relaxation of either country at sometimes due to the need for peace keeping. Ociewicz (47) argues that the issue of territorial boundaries is arguably the most prominent cause of the war although the war itself is escalated through the influence of political leadership across the globe. The territorial claims have led to the recognition of other factors that could cause conflict among the two nations such as religious differences between Jews and Arabs (Ociewicz 48). However, these other factors can only be cited for the sustenance of the war rather than the original causes.
Factors leading to the sustenance of the war
While most authors who mention the root cause of the war in the Middle East cite territorial struggles as the cause, other authors argue differently regarding the factors that lead to the sustenance of the war. In most other countries that experienced war after the Civil War period, peace talks amid other peace initiatives led to the end of war and the adoption of a more peaceful demeanor in the countries. However, the Middle East is yet to reach this level due to various reasons. Ociewicz reports that the factors that have continued to fan the war in the Middle East include: the economic as well as the ethnic differences between the states involved in the war; the “attitudes on the formation of the Palestinian state” (48); and religious differences between the two countries. While there are some other peaceful countries with similar characteristic differences, it is still difficult to understand why these particular issues should cause a rift between the two countries. From the assertion by Ociewicz, the attitudes of the two nations on the Palestinian state can be said to be the most probably influential factor due to the lack of acceptance of the territorial boundaries imposed through the formation of the state. Israel may still desire to possess part of the now Palestine, a prospect that may not be acceptable to the Palestinian state. This may explain the incessant occupation of the Gaza strip, which is at the center of the conflict by Israeli military (50). Religious differences may also be fanning the war due to what Ociewicz describes as the Arab’s lack of acceptance of the Jews as essential to the human race (48).
Besides Ociewicz, another author that has concentrated a lot on the factors sustaining the Middle East war is Bainerman. Contrary to the factors outlined by Ociewicz, Bainerman lays the blame concerning the Middle East war squarely on the foreign elite on various grounds. According to Bainerman, the vested interests of the foreign elite constitute the greatest concern on fanning the Middle East war (par. 7). From the work done by the author, countries such as the U.S, Britain, China, Russia and Germany all have vested interests in the Middle East region hence make it possible for the continued warring of the nations. The author argues that without the support of the foreign elite, it would be possible to end the stalemate between the two countries. Although this argument may be unacceptable to some degree due to the free will and sovereignty of the nations involved, it may be necessary to consider the argument from the point of view of Zand (par. 10) who argues that foreign countries, particularly the colonial powers i.e. France and Britain have continued to have their hold on the two Middle East countries, fueling their wars and leading to its escalation. Zand further reports that following the reports by both countries to let go of their colonial powers, there are potentials for a breakthrough in the peace prospects in the Middle East. While supporting his argument, Bainerman asserts that the foreign elite come through non-independent and illegitimate leaders whose objectives are to convince others in the Middle East that they are enemies. The problem, as Bainerman (par. 8) reports is that the “Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews believe they are each other’s worst enemies.” This makes the fight against a common enemy impossible.
Other arguments projected by Bainerman are that, the war continues to escalate due to the need for control of the Middle East oil; sale of weapons and corrupt leadership (par. 9). The need for control of the Middle East oil by foreigners is said to be because of the presence of petrodollars. The absence of which, Bainerman argues, would lead to the loss of interest in the two countries by the foreign elite. Moreover, Bainerman argues that the war has continued to escalate due to the availability of weapons which leads to the creation of many Arab dictators with the ability to purchase and use modern weapons. While this argument may be true, the key concern is that Bainerman lays the blame on the foreign nations who sell the weapons, the aim of business is to make profits and it is the responsibility of those purchasing weapons to use them in the right way. It is still impossible to blame the seller since as Chambers (389) asserts, war is brutal as well as senseless and the participants cannot be expected to minimize the use of weapons. Moreover, Maus (5) also argues that war results in the degeneration of social morality to an extent that it can no longer be argued what is right or wrong. The leadership of the two countries is also described as eager to please foreign owners rather than taking care of the needs of their own nationals.
The mainstream media has also been blamed for the escalation of the Middle East war through the argument that the media has failed to portray an image of the Middle East in need of peace and only portrays the negative images of war and disillusionment (Bainerman par. 10). By keeping the negative war images alive, the media fails to recognize the need for peace and only acts in accordance with the demands of the foreign masters. The objective herein should be to give hope to the Middle East rather than to strip it of the remaining pieces of hope.
Peace Prospects in the Middle East
While most of the authors have spent more time in providing information regarding the cause and escalation of the Middle East war, some authors still find time to relate to the peace prospects in the Middle East. Ociewicz describes the process that the two countries have gone through in the efforts to make peace. According to Ociewicz, the disengagement of Israeli’s military from the Gaza, ending the rule of the Gaza strip by Israeli military and making efforts at resolving territorial disputes can all be identified as steps indicating the desire for peace, particularly on the Israeli side. However, the author still argues that Israeli should learn that they would eventually need neighbors such as the Turkish. Ozhan (2) says that due to the fact of Turkey’s economic stability, Israel would one day need to create bilateral relationships with this country and consideration of peace possibilities would result in their denial. Gongora (326) reports that even though several peace talks had been held by 1997, there was still very little ongoing since the leaders of the two countries were still unwilling to sit together and talk.
The war situation in the Middle East is in many ways similar to Civil War that has previously occurred in other parts of the world such as in America in the 19th century. The effects of war across temporal and spatial location are similar to a large extent including dehumanization and the causation of moral shifts. Consequently, it is expected that the long periods of war in the Middle East have resulted in such significant impacts on the nationals of the countries involved as did the war in America. Although several reasons have been identified for the escalation of the war such as interference by the foreign elite, role play by mainstream media, fight for the Middle East Oil and corrupt leadership, the only concrete reason that can be identified for its beginning is the issue of territorial boundaries. Peace prospects should therefore involve consideration of these factors prior to calls for peace talks among others. The present research has effectively answered the research question which focused on determining the causes of war in the Middle East and the prospects of peace in the same area based on the desire to understand what could cause the same in the West.
Bainerman, Joel. ‘Why the Middle East Conflict Continues to Exist.’ Web. Accessed 19 June 2016.
Chambers, John Whiteclay. ‘‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (1930): The Antiwar Film and the Image of the First World War.’ Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 14, 4(1994): 377-411.
Gongora, Thiery. ‘War Making and State Power in the Contemporary Middle East.’ International Journal of Middle East Studies 29, 3(1997): 323 – 340.
Johnson, Douglas. The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2003.
Lancioni, Judith. The Civil War: A Battleground of Meaning. Film and History 38, 1(2003): 21-30.
Maus, Derek. Unvarnishing reality: Subversive Russian and American Cold War Satire. University of South Carolina Press, 2011.
Ociewicz, Przemyslaw. ‘The Middle East Peace Process: Towards another Stalemate?’ Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, (2014): 47-58.
Özhan T. ‘Turkey, Israel and the US in the Wake of the Gaza Flotilla Crisis,’ Insight Turkey 12, 3(2010).
Sidahmed, Abdel Salam and Alsir Sidahmed. ‘Sudan: The Contemporary Middle East.’ Middle East Quarterly 13, 1(2006): 180.
Zand, Bernhard. Century of Violence: What World War I did to the Middle East. Der Spiegel 5, 2014.