Scott Anderson: Fractured Lands (The Original Piece)
So, for those of you who cared to tune in after a week’s worth of promotion- you’ve just heard the first half of my interview with Scott Anderson. Can I only add that it was a huge pleasure and a treat to interview Scott- a nice man and a man literally full of knowledge. Even if it had to take two retakes and a lot of technological mishaps. (Yes, that is 100% true. The stuff you learn behind the scenes right?)
And now- as it is, here comes the accompanying blog post to Part One of the interview. Or as you will learn next week, as I call it- the “Doom and Gloom Report”.
The Middle East is a sensitive topic whoever you talk to- terrorism as a wider topic is even more sensitive. So as how to approach this next set of 800 words was not the world’s easiest task. In framing the questions, the research and the key areas I wanted Scott to address in our interview, the balance was immensely fragile in trying to strike an understanding of how the people live through it and also how the world perception of this prolonged conflict works. Scott explicitly mentioned the importance of not just the fact that Iraq and Syria amongst others being just the “fractured lands” he wrote about for the NY Times magazine- they are also naturally fractured countries. In asking him about how to repair the crisis, even he could not provide an answer. In some way, I guess he was promoting to us the truth that it is an irreparable- a state of anarchy that is prolonged because it had been built up since the creation of these states.
To be frank, I was not aware before the interview that you could describe these nations like these “fractured lands” in the most historical of senses. Having said this, when situations of unwanted amalgamation are crafted, do you blame its blow-up? Of course not. No wonder he was mentioning the importance of paranoia to the Arab Spring and ethnic allegiances to the entire Middle East conflict.
Which in turn was why I knew I wanted to ask him about the lack of democracy in these areas. His simple reply was:
“Yes, I think probably so.”
Even when you “lump” Syria, Iraq and Libya together as Scott did for the interview- there is an ironically great relationship shared between Gaddafi, Hussein and Assad. Apart from autocracy, their job became reconstructing a national identity when their lands were basically drawn up on paper by the victorious Western powers of World War I. Is it the Western powers’ fault? Probably not- they earned that right by defeating their enemies on the common terms of war as we understand it. However, fuelling future conflict was probably something they did not consider would happen when they drew up these borders- and ended up doing beautifully.
The most revealing half of this interview however came from how his subjects think about the future of the Middle East. To what I was just referring to, I wouldn’t say there was necessarily ever a threat of disintegration that was dead obvious. I, and all of us have 20/20 hindsight as our advantage. However, even now with the toppling of two of the aforementioned key autocrats- there is still truly no hope in most of the Middle East- the exception being Tunisia.
Ironic, is it not? I mean, they started the whole mess with a four week revolution causing the small matter of toppling a 23-year president term and 338 deaths. How did these events unfold? With “civil resistance” and “uprisings”- aka, populist led change with a touch of blood and gore. For those who cannot take that kind of news without having to puke or run away from your screen- I say, have courage- do your research and gutsy reading before looking at Wikia scenario-conspiracies like this one:
I leave you for the week with this thought- Scott mentioned that none of his subjects expressed hope in finishing conflict in Syria. Further, he says that it might take in excess of “ten years” for everyone to “arm up” and finish the conflict with results. Mind you, it’s also his “most optimistic” outlook.
But no matter how you feel about the conflict, we should not be the ones to impose “Western”, “Eastern” or whatever ideologies in between on the conflict in Syria. As you have already found out this week- his understanding is that “the consensus” (and this is in despite of all sectarian, political, ethnic lines etc.) is that the US is unreliable in dealing with the conflict. What we should all just hope for is that the conflict is going to result in something the people have spoken for and will get in the long run. Even if it takes horrible images of Aylan Kurdi and other children to get there- this is not our conflict. It is their conflict- and Scott’s interviewing technique of asking the actual people who have to navigate their way through the conflict is not just innovative- it’s needed more in investigative journalism.
On a serious note though, it has always been my firm belief (and certainly for this instalment of the conflict- that is the Arab Spring, uniquely) that we in the West (the UN, the US and everyone inclusive) should take a long step back from intervening in the conflict. This is their conflict for the populace to make a difference to their livelihoods and their communities. It should not be for any of us to say what should happen or which vested interests should be slotted in as a result- the only vested interest is that the people are happy, stable and appreciative of whatever new national identity arises. Again, I reiterate this opinion only relates to the Arab Spring and doesn’t dispute the events of September 11 and what happened as a conflict. However, September 11 is a paramount reminder to keep our wits about us as civilians- because one wrong step may very well send them into one of these:
And about that, I’m serious- the world’s news is not just a meme. It’s something we all have a responsibility to relate to.
Have courage. We’ll see you next week for Part Two. And I’ll just bet you’ll be back.
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Photo Credit: Al Jazeera Media