The Middle East Tribune

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The Fall of Arab Nationalism and its Folkloric League

Arab League summit in Cairo 1970 Photo Source:

Arab League summit in Cairo 1970 Photo Source:

In the wake of the Second World War, the presence of powerful international and regional organizations, which can preserve peace and play effective mediatory roles between nations, emerged as an imperative requirement to all nations. To address that global need, international organizations and regional leagues, such as the United Nations (UN), the League of Arab States (LAS) and the like, were instituted in many parts of the world.

On the international arena, the United Nations was established, on 24 October 1945, as a substitute for the inefficient League of Nations (LN), to promote international co-operation, prevent armed conflicts, settle international disputes and maintain world peace. Besides peace and security, its main objectives, as in its charter, were set to protect human rights, foster global human and socioeconomic development, support general health, preserve the environment, and provide humanitarian aid to all.

Seven months earlier, six Arab states (Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon) convened in Cairo, on 22 March 1945, bringing forth to the first Arab regional organization: the League of Arab States (LAS), widely known as the Arab League. The principal objectives of Arab League were to “draw closer the relations between member States and co-ordinate collaboration between them, to safeguard their independence and sovereignty, and to consider in a general way the affairs and interests of the Arab countries”.

Despite the fact that few advanced countries have made several self-originated endeavors to push for peace and promote development; the world remains in a messy state mainly because the United Nations and Arab League were inefficient and meager to cope with most issues. Disregarding the fact that their objectives were reversed to achieve the contrary.  Seeing that their projected human development processes turned into impoverishment of the middle class, economic development initiatives turned into economic crises and high unemployment rates, social evolvement projects gave birth to extremism, intermediation became a name of favoritism, international cooperation transformed into dominance, and human rights became irrelevant–not to mention armed aggression and nuclearization

Like or not, considering the current degenerative conditions here and there, the unfortunate fact remains that the two seventy-year-old organizations, the UN and LAS,  fell short to achieve its objectives thus and so failed to serve their founding principles. Though the UN had some successes and stack of failures, yet the Arab League success record is empty but full of disappointments.

Bringing back into memory the tragedy of 1948 when Arab countries alongside the Arab League couldn’t recapture the Palestinian land from Israel nor were diplomatically shrewd enough to deal with the Palestinian cause on the international theater. Again, twenty-two years later,  in September 1970, the Arab League was unable to find a solution to the dramatic armed conflict between Jordan and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which led to the expulsion of the armed PLO from Jordan to Lebanon and other neighboring countries.

Add up that the Arab league was impotent for around 20 years, from 1975 to 1989, before it could formulate a solution to Lebanon’s seventeen-year-long civil war. Again, in 1990, the LAS and Arab counties could not manage to solve the Iraqi -Kuwaiti dispute over oil, which led to the foolish Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and its detrimental consequences on the Arab world.  Time and again, the Arab world and its league came short to defuse the unjustified U.S war on Iraq in 2003; or to contain the Syrian belligerence after their involuntary withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005; or to mediate a solution to the Sudanese problem before the UN bisected Sudan in 2011; or to de-escalate the Iranian Shiite insurrection in Bahrain.

Notwithstanding those tragic lessons, the Arab League along with most Arab states did the same mistake in 2011, as they abandoned more than twenty-four million Syrians to face Assad’s brutal regime and pro-Iranian paramilitary groups alone without real help, which opened the door for radical armed extremists. Actually, they did not dare to send Arab peacekeeping troops to stop the massacres and enforce peace in Syria before it turned into a regional Sunni-Shia war. To make it worse, Arab governments did not consider freezing their diplomatic ties with Iran, Russia, and China; or, at least, to put consequential economic pressure and restrictive trade measures on Iran and Russia to push both countries to reassess the cost of supporting Syria’s tyrant.

From Syria to Arabia to Morocco, Arab people denounce the dispiriting reality of the Arab League knowing that it is a reflection of uneven relations between most Arab states. Actually, the general political, economic and cultural levels of cooperation between many nations are below the baselines of ordinary formal relations. Nonetheless, when it comes to state-relations among one ethnic group of countries or league of states, Arab-Arab relations are very frail despite the flimsy cosmetic role of the Arab League.



Arab Foreign Ministers meeting in Cairo, at the Arab League on, March 9, 2014. Photo Source

A look at Arab interrelations will reveal a general case of mistrust, hidden antipathy and involuntary cooperation, most of which stem from the interference of one state in the national affairs of another. A review of Arab-Arab relations will unmask a history of confrontational relations and political conflicts while the Arab League was a wary bystander.

Among those old and renewed cases, there are some serious conflicts, which need special conciliatory efforts, like those of Syria and Iraq, Syria and Palestinian Authorities, Syria and Gulf countries, Syria and Egypt, Iraq and Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Egypt, Egypt and Libya, Algeria and Morocco, and, of course, Syria’s malign interference in Lebanon’s affairs—not to discuss the recent diplomatic divorce between GCC and Qatar.

Alas, now as then, it seems that most Arab authorities are either unwilling or not resourceful enough to embody the public socio-political mindset of Arab nationals. On top of that, the LAS keeps proving day-after-day its incapability to deal with Arab issues—let alone its diplomatic incompetency to represent the Arab world on the international theater.

Given this gloomy history, the root question in the Arab psychic is whether the Arab world has the characteristics of a nation or not. Most Arabs now wonder if the sameness of language, social rituals, and geographic proximity are enough to make of them a nation. Bearing in mind that the most important features of being a nation are about having one political identity, one unified front in wartime and peacetime, compatible societal values, equal distribution of national wealth and resources, no residency permit and travel requirements across its states, and support each other in crises. Otherwise, what is the purpose?

Forthrightly, the old Arab dream of having a real and strong Arab nation is fading away as never before. Meanwhile, the majority of Arab people see the abandonment of Syrian people as the final episode of Arab’s long-played fiction: Arab national unity. By all odds, Arab leadership has to consider one of two options in the approaching Arab Annual Summit in Kuwait, on 25th of this March.  Either they revive Arab momentum to end the massacres in Syria—no matter what, or start digging the grave of Arab nationalism and its folkloric Arab League.


Author’s NoteThis article is also published at Arabian Gazette


15 comments on “The Fall of Arab Nationalism and its Folkloric League

  1. sally
    July 27, 2014

    As usual you are the best sir

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Karima Vane
    April 2, 2014

    Dear Mohammad:

    Very authentic. Very well depiction of a sad reality.
    Thank you, again and again

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Patricia Geiger
    March 19, 2014

    And yet a model exists within the League of Arab Nations: the United Arab Emirates. In the UAE, there is peace, there is human dignity and there are rights for women. I would like to know your thoughts on the UAE as I live here now and am impressed with the safety, the quality of life and the general happiness of the population. While the rest of the Arab world worries about uprising and terrorism, the Emiratis are combatting Western issues like obesity and green initiatives. There is a balance of tolerance and intolerance here: tolerance for things that are Western and intolerance for extremism. National pride trumps sectarian pride and is a model for all nations even beyond the Arab League’s borders.


    • Mohammad S. Moussalli
      March 19, 2014

      Without any doubt, the UAE ,in general, is the best developing Arab country at this time in the Arab world on many fronts. Simply, what you are seeing and living in Dubai, for example, is a result of the sincere efforts and good management of the rulers of Dubai and UAE. This success story has nothing to do with the Arab league or any other Arab country. Rather, it proves that when Arab countries are left alone they might excel since they already failed as a group of nations. May be, it should be like that.

      In the 50s, 60s, and early 70s, Lebanon excelled much more than Dubai have done now, to which it was considered “Switzerland of the East” and was ranked among the best 10 world places where people can work, live and freely practice their convictions for more than a decade or so. Look at modern history, or just ask some older friends about it, and you will know what have happened to Lebanon after the mid 70s.
      The point is that Arab countries and people need real longstanding stability, openness and modernization most than any other else to flourish and excel.


  4. Suzanne
    March 18, 2014

    Mohammad, I so respect your perspective and willingness to call out the state of “what is”. What I do wonder is, if not this, then what’s next? Clearly to continue with a status quo that is not working is something close to the what they say is the very definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over expecting different results)… But from what I have seen both in the Middle East and West, there is a lack of leadership, of brilliant ideas to lead us forward. I see it in the US, and in the stagnant mindset of the institutions you clearly have identified as not accomplishing the objectives they were created for… And while works like science fiction speak of an inevitable trend towards unified governance, it appears to me that the Middle East and many cobbled together nation states, regional governance bodies and strategic alliances are breaking apart slowly but surely. Religion aside, perhaps with the spread of technology with it’s potential to educate and connect we will evolve to unite through goals and ideals rather than superficial traits like the color of our skin and artificial boundaries like nation states. There will come a time when technology trumps geography. I believe impact of the many revolutions throughout the Arab world will be felt for many years to come and across the world even in many developed countries.
    I welcome your insight on the right next steps the world should take.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mohammad S. Moussalli
      March 18, 2014

      Thank you Suzanne for your worthy contribution. As for your question, I will not claim that I have a full answer , rather an abstract idea. I believe that as long as there are borders people have to cross, we should forget about unity. Throughout our modern time, all attempts of unification have failed. Thus, proving that those who were not united as a nation before the first world war will never be able to do so, no matter what.
      The best way is, as you noted, is to try to unite people according to their common ideas and objectives.
      Any organization, be it regional or international, that does not have the momentum to to enforce peace by its own self propelled means is a waste of time, not to say more–let alone being undemocratic because of its veto power


  5. Pingback: The Fall of Arab Nationalism and its Folkloric League | christianlythinkings

  6. christianlythinkings
    March 15, 2014

    You are right again. I hope what I write is as clearly understood as your insightful wisdom.

    Here is my premise: I am a man who believes in a strong republic because I fully believe in the “Fall of Man” and I don’t see governments as the sole owner of all the solutions. Now the combination of people to people who are willing to give a hand up and Governments who seek to find solutions with those outside of Governments (NGO’s and the like)might and I mean might work. Disasters prove it time and time again that it takes more than any centralized government today. Governments are fragile instruments at best and the U.N. only knows how to take money and spend it on itself like a peacock which struts around the barnyard and does nothing but look pretty in its own eyes and consumes food. The League of Nations didn’t work; we have over 100 million dead all over the world from the 30’s to the Mid 40’s to prove it. Why did they think the post WWII world organization would be any different…what by gluing different feathers on it? History not learned repeats and has and sadly is true again today!

    History does teach us that in the end governments left to themselves, think they have the sole solution. Many sad to say think like Nietzsche: “What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome.” Power being their god and control of others being their virtue.

    All this means is most people are democrats for the opposite reason, as I am a believer in the republic form of governance. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau and others even Nietzsche. They are a group who believe in democracy because they think mankind so wise and good (capable) that the strong would allow everyone to share a bit of government.

    The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true. . . . “I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost. Much less a nation.” C.S. Lewis

    The real reason for republic is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no one man or even a single group can be trusted with unchecked power over their fellow humans. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. I reject slavery because I see no people fit to be masters of others.

    Again my friend you strike a rich cord of clear thinking, it is what an author I enjoy said of the people who discovered they were following evil in the late 30’s in Germany: “If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The Arab League needs to get off the train and get on another one that values, listens and allow people to people contact, not subjugation (our governments needs to do a similar action too!). What is needed is a train which seeks real and tangible creative, long-term solutions. But alas, as you know power doesn’t give up power easily and never without a great cost. You are bold, honorable and true – keep speaking it out, silence is not golden in the face of true evil! You are in my prayers for strength, tenacity and wisdom!
    Your Friend always Stephen

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mohammad S. Moussalli
      March 15, 2014

      It is very clear and sensible. I commend you for your free thoughts and good spirit.
      Very thankful for your prayers and kind words
      God bless you Stephen


  7. Dr. Paul "Chip" Hill
    March 15, 2014

    Mohammad, my friend, sometimes it can be said that, “The worse things get, the better.” This sounds horrible; however, the point is, one must hit bottom before beginning to climb back up towards the light. Perhaps, it might also be said that the majority of the Arab leadership needs to stop digging the hole they continue to dig!

    I greatly respect your perspective and echo much of the same sentiment. I would like to offer an additional perspective. I would offer that anytime there are forces of massive discontent it hinders and retards the efforts of the peacemakers. Whenever those forces cannot be checked, they take on a life of their own.

    Post WWII, Arab oil has been a huge blessing for the few Arabs able to seize control of the economic power of oil, and control it for their own gain. Supplying the western world’s need for Arab oil made many individual Arabs (and their families) immensely wealthy. Nonetheless, Arab political systems have allowed and embraced such circumstances; and, allowed many Arab economies to make these few men/families wealthy and powerful while not offering much – if any – positive effect to the Arab people being governed. In this sense, the oil that was a blessing for the few, became a curse for the many.

    Then, we must add to the oil issues the many ongoing Shiite-Sunni religious conflicts. I would argue that whenever armed disagreement takes the place of the individual’s right to practice his/her religion, the conflict is always bloody and brutal. With this in mind, we have seen parts of the Arab world in almost constant upheaval and flux, post WWII.

    Lastly, when oil, and Arab home-grown religious contention between Shi’a and Sunni have not been enough, there has always been available “the West” to be blamed as the bad guy… to be seen as the source of all of Arab sorrow.

    I offer that there is one consistent thread through all three of the referenced problems I have cited. The role played in Arabic society of the powerful Mullah’s. It seems to me that so often in Arabic society – for good or otherwise – it can be shaped by these powerful, select few men. Often, their interpretation of Muslim practice – interpreted under Islamic codes – seems to have actually blunted Arab political and social development, stifling any chance for the advancement of women, and supported political systems that allowed a few men/families to become so powerful, while the masses of the Arabs being governed were never cared for by the men governing them.

    I hope my comments have not offended as this was certainly not my intention. I have also ‘generalized’ my comments to the Arab world; certainly, there have been many individual exceptions to my comments. I can offer that my perspective is from a Western point-of-view; however, having lived in Turkey for a few years, I do possess some first-hand appreciation for my comments… basically, my position is not made from just some academic reading.

    As always, you have my best regards! Chip

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mohammad S. Moussalli
      March 15, 2014

      Nothing to worry about, Chip. I see no offence ,since your comment is close to that unfortunate reality.

      Best regards


  8. nonentiti
    March 14, 2014

    Fantastic article. Not being familiar with the details of Arabian history, I learned a lot just reading it and I understand what you are saying as I see this same things happening in the UN, but also in the EU and in other alliances.
    I wonder if this is caused by a turning away from globalization in favour of more segregation or whether it is the other way around and that the internet and so on is breaking down all boundaries – except in those cases where dictators don’t let anybody in.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: The Fall of Arab Nationalism and its Folkloric League | Shahid Hussain Raja

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© 2018 Mohammad S. Moussalli; ----------------------- Sharing, reblogging, excerpts and republication of this material, or part thereof, are permissible PROVIDED that it's clearly attributed to the author with reference to the original publication.
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