San Francisco Chronicle
Dec. 13, 2012
Monday marks the second anniversary of a Tunisian fruit vendor's self-immolation that triggered the Arab Awakening. It is widely understood that a fundamental source of the strife is a crisis of political legitimacy, a millennium-old malady of Islamic societies. Less well understood is that many Arab states are artificial constructs, with borders seemingly drawn by a drunken cartographer. Their societies need to liberalize, or could face a redrawing of the map of the Middle East.
After World War I, the victorious Allies and the League of Nations created countries in the Middle East out of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Many are not modern nation-states but unnatural structures with borders that randomly cross ethnic, religious and tribal boundaries. Most local political leaders have been unable or unwilling to overcome the resulting social, political and religious unrest without resorting to illiberal or oppressive rule, if not bloody conflicts.
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Foreign Policy Project