Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Chris Cooper on Longer life would make most of us (certainly me) more energetic and ambitious
Brian Micklethwait on Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
Michael Jennings on Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
Brian Micklethwait on Photoing last Friday's Last Friday meeting
Michael Jennings on Photoing last Friday's Last Friday meeting
Brian Micklethwait on Tim Marshall on 'Sykes-Picot'
Patrick Crozier on Tim Marshall on 'Sykes-Picot'
kenforthewin on The most newsworthy thing so far done by a drone
6000 on UPS drones and drone vans
6000 on Guess what this is
Most recent entries
- And in Other creatures news …
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- Looking up in the City
- Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
- Leake Street photo session
- Longer life would make most of us (certainly me) more energetic and ambitious
- Azure Window broken
- Beltane & Pop van parked on the South Bank yesterday afternoon
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- Spring in Islington
- ROH Covent Garden here I come
- Today’s plan
- Photoing the faces of strangers (or in my case: not)
- England crush Scotland in the 6N – plus the hugeness of home advantage
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Category archive: Middle East and Islam
Here are some more quotes from Tim Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography. (See this earlier posting, with another quote (about the Arctic), at the top of which I list all the earlier quotes from this book that I have displayed here.)
These ones are about what happens when European Imperialists ignored geography (p. 146):
When the Ottoman Empire began to collapse, the British and French had a different idea. In 1916 the British diplomat Colonel Sir Mark Sykes took a chinagraph pencil and drew a crude line across a map of the Middle East. It ran from Haifa on the Mediterranean in what is now Israel to Kirkuk (now in Iraq) in the north-east. It became the basis of his secret agreement with his French counterpart Francois Georges-Picot to divide the region into two spheres of influence should the Triple Entente defeat the Ottoman Empire in the First World War. North of the line was to be under French control, south of it under British hegemony.
The term ‘Sykes-Picot’ has become shorthand for the various decisions made in the first third of the twentieth century which betrayed promises given to tribal leaders and which partially explain the unrest and extremism of today. This explanation can be overstated, though: there was violence and extremism before the Europeans arrived. Nevertheless, as we saw in Africa, arbitrarily creating ‘nation states’ out of people unused to living together in one region is not a recipe for justice, equality and stability.
Prior to Sykes-Picot (in its wider sense), there was no state of Syria, no Lebanon, nor were there Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Israel or Palestine. Modern maps show the borders and the names of nation states, but they are young and they are fragile.
So, what happens if you ignore geography like this? Answer: geography comes back to bite you. More to the point, it bites all the people upon whom you have inflicted your indifference to geography (p. 148):
The legacy of European colonialism left the Arabs grouped into nation states and ruled by leaders who tended to favour whichever branch ofIslam (and tribe) they themselves came from. These dictators then used the machinery of state to ensure their writ ruled over the entire area within the artificial lines drawn by the Europeans, regardless of whether this was historically appropriate and fair to the different tribes and religions that had been thrown together.
To name but one.
… is a prime example of the ensuing conflicts and chaos. The more religious among the Shia never accepted that a Sunni-led government should have control over their holy cities such as Najaf and Karbala, where their martyrs Ali and Hussein are said to be buried. These communal feelings go back centuries; a few decades of being called ‘Iraqis’ was never going to dilute such emotions.
Time I finished my review of this book.
I am nearing the end of Tim Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography. Apparently the paperback of this book is now on the paperback best-seller list. This is good news, because it is very good, and quite lacking in any major traces of leftist delusion or silliness.
Here, for instance, is what Marshall says about the Middle East (pp. 176-180):
… Until a few years ago Turkey was held up as an example of how a Middle Eastern country, other than Israel, could embrace democracy. That example has taken a few knocks recently with the ongoing Kurdish problem, the difficulties facing some of the tiny Christian communities and the tacit support for Islamist groups in their fight against the Syrian government. President Erdogan’s remarks on Jews, race and gender equality, taken with the creeping Islamisation of Turkey, have set alarm bells ringing. However, compared with the majority of Arab states Turkey is far more developed and recognisable as a democracy. Erdogan may be undoing some of Ataturk’s work, but the grandchildren of the Father of the Turks live more freely than anyone in the Arab Middle East.
Because the Arab states have not experienced a similar opening-up and have suffered from colonialism, they were not ready to turn the Arab uprisings (the wave of protests that started in 2010) into a real Arab Spring. Instead they soured into perpetual rioting and civil war.
The Arab Spring is a misnomer, invented by the media; it clouds our understanding of what is happening. Too many reporters rushed to interview the young liberals who were standing in city squares with placards written in English, and mistook them for the voice of the people and the direction of history. Some journalists had done the same during the ‘Green Revolution’, describing the young students of north Tehran as the ‘Youth of Iran’, thus ignoring the other young Iranians who were joining the reactionary Basij militia and Revolutionary Guard.
In 1989 in Eastern Europe there was one form of totalitarianism: Communism. In the majority of people’s minds there was only one direction in which to go: towards democracy, which was thriving on the other side of the Iron Curtain. East and West shared a historical memory of periods of democracy and civil society. The Arab world of 2011 enjoyed none of those things and faced in many different directions. There were, and are, the directions of democracy, liberal democracy (which differs from the former), nationalism, the cult of the strong leader and the direction in which many people had been facing all along - Islam in its various guises, including Islamism.
In the Middle East power does indeed flow from the barrel of a gun. Some good citizens of Misrata in Libya may want to develop a liberal democratic party, some might even want to campaign for gay rights; but their choice will be limited if the local de facto power shoots liberal democrats and gays. Iraq is a case in point: a democracy in name only, far from liberal, and a place where people are routinely murdered for being homosexual.
The second phase of the Arab uprising is well into its stride. This is the complex internal struggle within societies where religious beliefs, social mores, tribal links and guns are currently far more powerful forces than ‘Western’ ideals of equality, freedom of expression and universal suffrage. The Arab countries are beset by prejudices, indeed hatreds of which the average Westerner knows so little that they tend not to believe them even if they are laid out in print before their eyes. We are aware of our own prejudices, which are legion, but often seem to turn a blind eye to those in the Middle East.
The routine expression of hatred for others is so common in the Arab world that it barely draws comment other than from the region’s often Western-educated liberal minority who have limited access to the platform of mass media. Anti-Semitic cartoons which echo the Nazi Der Sturmer propaganda newspaper are common. Week in, week out, shock-jock imams are given space on prime-time TV shows.
Western apologists for this sort of behaviour are sometimes hamstrung by a fear of being described as one of Edward Said’s ‘Orientalists’. They betray their own liberal values by denying their universality. Others, in their naivety, say that these incitements to murder are not widespread and must be seen in the context of the Arabic language, which can be given to flights of rhetoric. This signals their lack of understanding of the ‘Arab street’, the role of the mainstream Arab media and a refusal to understand that when people who are full of hatred say something, they mean it.
When Hosni Mubarak was ousted as President of Egypt it was indeed people power that toppled him, but what the outside world failed to see was that the military had been waiting for years for an opportunity to be rid of him and his son Gamal, and that the theatre of the street provided the cover they needed. It was only when the Muslim Brotherhood called its supporters out that there was enough cover. There were only three institutions in Egypt: Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, the military and the Brotherhood. The latter two destroyed the former, the Brotherhood then won an election, began turning Egypt into an Islamist state, and paid the price by itself being overthrown by the real power in the land - the military.
The Islamists remain the second power, albeit now underground. When the anti-Mubarak demonstrations were at their height the gatherings in Cairo attracted several hundred thousand people. After Mubarak’s fall, when the radical Muslim Brotherhood preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi returned from exile in Qatar, at least a million people came out to greet him, but few in the Western media called this the ‘voice of the people’. The liberals never had a chance. Nor do they now. This is not because the people of the region are radical; it is because if you are hungry and frightened, and you are offered either bread and security or the concept of democracy, the choice is not difficult.
In impoverished societies with few accountable institutions, power rests with gangs disguised as ‘militia’ and ‘political parties’. While they fight for power, sometimes cheered on by naive Western sympathisers, many innocent people die. It looks as if it will be that way in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and possibly other countries for years to come.
Sustained gunfire rang out over central Tehran on Monday afternoon as anti-aircraft guns targeted what officials said was a drone flying over the Iranian capital.
Many residents ran to rooftops and craned their necks to see what was happening. Others sought shelter as bursts of machine gun fire echoed through the streets.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted Tehran Governor Isa Farhadi as saying that the gunfire targeted a drone near restricted airspace in the capital.
It wasn’t clear who owned the drone, which he described as a quadcopter. That suggests it may have been operated by a local hobbyist or aerial photographer rather than a foreign government. The purpose of its flight also wasn’t clear.
The drone escaped - apparently intact - as Gen. Alireza Elhami, deputy chief of Iran air defense headquarters, was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying the drone flew out of the restricted airspace once it came under fire.
This was not the first such recent incident.
I told you these things were going to cause a world of trouble.
How soon before there are pitched battles between squadrons of these amazing things?
Here are some photos from the archives, of front pages from a year ago tomorrow:
It’s interesting how Donald Trump was even then so recognisable from behind, because of that weird hair.
Will anyone try to ban President Trump from visiting Britain, I wonder? Nobody of any significance, surely. What Trump was saying then was that radical Islam is a serious problem and that he was going to give it hell. And what has happened since says that Trump is one clever operator. Which means that we now live in very interesting times.
I seem to recall thinking, around then, that Trump might win. But by the time the election came around, I was surprised as anyone that he did. And I wasn’t the only one.
I continue to photo London’s black cabs and their adverts, particularly when they are entirely not black, because of being covered in a big taxi-shaped advert.
Here, for instance, is an unblack cab that particularly caught my eye, in Oxford street around a week ago:
What strikes me about this image …:
… (and oh look, I managed to save the picture without all the website verbiage on top of it), is that London looks … well, see the title of this.
The way the website puts a logo of Principal Tower in the middle of that picture makes it look like Principal Tower is right in the middle of all this foggy drama. Actually it’s way off to the left, near Broadgate Tower, beyond Liverpool Street Station.
As for this looking like Dubai, I have in mind pictures of Dubai that look like this:
I guess there’s something rather appealing about the idea of living in a magic tower which just hovers in the sky, with all that mess below blotted out. Unless you need to nip out to do some shopping.
New, big and impressive bridges have been somewhat rare here, recently. All the great bridges of my time seem to have been done at least a decade ago, or of course longer ago. Very recently, not so much. Financial crisis, I guess. Not so much “infrastructure”.
But, feast your eyes on this (that being a link to a recent posting about it at Dezeen):
Click on that to get it bigger.
The Guardian has more:
Tabiat ("nature") bridge, the largest of its kind in Iran, was architect Leila Araghian’s first project. She designed it five years ago while a student, winning a local competition for a plan to connect two parks separated by a highway in north Tehran.
It was built over two years and was unveiled in late 2014 by Tehran’s mayor, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. It has since become a popular place for hangouts and morning sports. Last month, as Iranians celebrated an ancient festival of outdoor picnicking, thousands flocked to the bridge.
“I didn’t want it to be just a bridge which people would use to get from one park to another,” said Araghian, who is now 31. “I wanted it to be a place for people to stay and ponder, not simply pass.”
Built on three large pillars, the 270-metre curved structure has broad entrances, multiple pathways and three floors of restaurants and cafes and sitting areas. It was recently named among the winners of the Architizer A+ awards, a global architectural competition based in New York.
I love it when bridges are not just things to go across, but places to be in. London used to have a great example of such a bridge. It should again.
Nothing much here today, but I just did three Samizdata postings today and yesterday:
I have always felt that the fascination with cat photos that has engulfed the internet was somehow more important than just being a matter of cat photos, engulfing the internet. Now it seems that cat photos are a threat to Islam, and must be forbidden. For me, cats means pure fun. No purpose is served. Other than the purpose (purr-puss) of having fun. And it seems that there is this crazy Sheikh who also thinks that photoing cats is pure fun also, and that this is why photoing cats should be forbidden. For him, I guess, fun is never pure. Quite the opposite.
I keep wanting to write about music, but (a) it isn’t easy, unless both you and your readers know all the technical terms of your preferred sort of music. And (b) whereas words go fine with music, words about music, especially if they are attempting to be descriptive of a particular piece of music, can be devilishly hard to contrive in a way that is comprehensible without being banal and superficial and generalised.
A specialist blog or website devoted to a particular sort of music, with musical illustrations supplied to click on rather than only descriptive verbiage, whose writer(s) and readers are united by their taste in that particular sort of music, that makes perfect sense to me. I don’t read any such blogs, but it makes sense. I do read old school paper magazines (I see that there is a new one of those out that I’ve not yet seen) exactly like this. But a blog about other things which from time to time goes musical, not so much. I have no problem at all with my favourite bloggers (6k and Mick Hartley spring to mind) doing postings every so often about music that they happen particularly to like. Their gaffs, their rules. But I mostly skip such postings. I possess a lifetime and more of music in the form of a vast CD collection that I already want to listen to.
So, I do not wish myself merely to do postings about bits of music that I happen to like, hoping - implicitly or explicitly - that others will be infected with my tastes. I love Western classical music more than life itself, often a lot more. But most people don’t these days, and that’s fine with me. If I thought that western classical music was about to be completely expunged from the earth any time soon, I might feel differently about trying to infect others with the love of it, but it isn’t. Meanwhile, this music is, for me, mostly a personal thing. It is not an evangelical religion. If I meet a fellow devotee, we exchange enthusiastic exclamations of love for this or that piece or performance, but I mostly refrain from inflicting such True Believer talk on non-believers.
I am evangelical and anti-evangelical about some things. If you are not a libertarian, I want that to change. You should become a libertarian forthwith. If you are a Muslim, I want you to know, now, that I think you should stop being a Muslim, now. But if you hate Beethoven and adore hip-hop, that’s fine with me, so long as you have no plans forcibly to stop me listening to Beethoven or to force me to listen to hip-hop. If you merely want me to adore hip-hop, or even to stop adoring Beethoven, again, fine. Just so long as you don’t recommend the use of sticks or stones to make those points. Insofar as you do, then shame on you. But exactly the same point applies to people who force Beethoven upon those who resist Beethoven’s charms. I am evangelical about that sort of behaviour also. Are you threatening others with Beethoven? Stop doing that, now. Do you favour such behaviour by others. Don’t even think that.
However, more general postings about music (this one being an example) about the different ways we listen to it and enjoy it, how love of music spreads or should spread (that is what this posting has partly been about), about how those who contrive it contrive it, and so on, of the sort that all music lovers can read and tune into, even as they are hearing in their own heads quite distinct musical illustrations concerning whatever is being said, that makes more sense to me, and - memo to self - I want to do more of such postings here.
Trump’s incompetence – Cruz’s Bible thumping – Hartley on criticising Islam
How cranes might not keep falling
ShiRtstream drycleaners and a party recollection
Antony Flew on the Terrors of Islam
Juliet Barker on Knights of Old: A lot of history in one paragraph
Photoing the photoers on Westminster Bridge
January newspaper pages
Sixty Charlie Hebdo demo signs that say something other than “Je Suis Charlie”
Charlie Hebdo demo in Trafalgar Square
Christmas Day photos
I finally did something for Samizdata
Two guys on Westminster Bridge photoing ice creams in front of the Houses of Parliament
The Qur’an is not science – science cannot be ignored
Michael Jennings on why iPad photoing is not ridiculous
I’m Charia Hebdo!
Liberty League Conference speakers
Emmanuel Todd’s latest book - in English
The politics of humour in the USA and in Britain
Defeating Islam (2): Conversion to Christianity will trump higher birth rates in Islamic countries
St Matthew reinterpreted
Soros and his money
Links to this and that
Castro slams Israel
Making those Big Statements one slice at a time
A demonstration I could join
This is not Mohammed
Everybody draw Mohammed every day!
God is not One
Incoming from Molly Norris!
Molly Norris was just kidding!
Three cheers for Molly Norris but also a few small grumbles
Everybody draw Mohammed on May 20th!
Awesome shot of Dubai
Burj Dubai looking semi-sane
The Shard is definitely being built!
Picture of an aftershock of the credit crunch rippling around the world
Gaddafi looking rather like Alan Rickman
David Farrer photos
Tienanmen + Twitter = Teheran
Billion Monkeys liked photoing the nastiest poster!
Media bias as asset stripping
Towers above the Dubai fog
What a lot of circles
The ideal headgear for it
Celebrating a victory
She learned to knit her before she learned to spell her
Not very ephemeral
Gives a whole new meaning to Mile High Club
Beetham Tower – and a couple of other towers
The Shard is a Middle Eastern skyscraper but in London that still counts
“At that moment I suddenly started to view Nagi as an enemy …”
Cat stuff on Tuesday?
Three … thirty six … sixty one … a hundred a forty eight …
Christopher Hitchens on the Rushdie knighthood
Richard Dawkins on the Muhammad cartoons affair
Antoine Clarke on Sarkozy
Islam was peaceful and tolerant until the Christians attacked it
The rights and wrongs of multiple marriage
Will twentieth century aerial warfare be repeated by toys?
“It took about a year …”
What are the world’s biggest problems?
And further talk at Christian Michel’s about water and power
Not everything means anything
Islam is evil - and that’s me carrying on normally
History of the Middle East as a moving map
The West disunited versus the Pesky Muslims
The extreme memes spread by moderate Muslims
Me on 18 Doughty Street tonight
Latest Brian and Antoine mp3 - Middle East, Mexico, USA
Muslim Billion Monkey photos four Muslim ladies in black!
Lords pictures from last Monday
Something to bore everyone
Billion Monkey flash strikes twice! - 7/7 a year later - Office Space on TV even though I own it
The latest Brian and Antoine elections around the world mp3
Theodore Dalrymple is an Islamic Fundamentalist and so am I
I won’t be doing any television myself in the near future but in the meantime have a watch of this
Fake but true?
“And also our sensitivity to our office being firebombed”
The Great Gulf War?
“The basis is economic development”
I am an atheist but I often prefer the Christians