November 6, 2002

Analyst Presents Long Term Mid-East Solution

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Even a delayed flight did not stop Dr. Barry Rubin from giving an insightful speech entitled, “Anti-Americanism, Terrorism, Arafat and Israel” to over 60 students and faculty members yesterday.

Rubin’s 30-minute lecture, followed by a 10-minute question and answer session, focused on the roots of the problems in the Middle East. Rubin is the director of global research in the International Affairs Center.

“The last 50 years have not been great years for the Middle East and the Arab world,” he said.

Rubin said the basic problem in the region is that many people are frustrated with their living standards.

“When countries suffer from failed policy, the natural result is to reevaluate the premises which created the situation,” Rubin said. He added that this method “has not occurred in the Middle East.”

Rubin’s main point focused on the misconceptions concerning the peace process. He said that many people think that there is a short-term solution, when in reality, conflicts take years to resolve.

“Sometimes, it takes a lot of time to change things,” he said. “We forget in other places, social change took a very long time indeed.”

He noted that in Western European history, it took centuries for society to develop and become what it is today.

Rubin gave a brief historical background of the Middle East over the last half-century and pointed out that the many government systems have not changed, saying that “regimes did not want to be brought down.”

According to Rubin, many Arab regimes do not want to adopt predominately Western ideas such as democracy, a free-market system and civil liberties such as freedom of the press because these mechanisms weaken government power.

He said that these regimes have “trump cards” used to stay in power. These “cards” are used to conteract any threat to their power. According to Rubin, anti-Americanization and defending Arabization and Islam are among the trump cards groups use to stay in power.

“Continuation of the conflict is a major pillar of regime stability,” he said.

Although he noted that there are many groups disconcerted with Middle Eastern governments, he also said that “one irony” is that many groups are helping “to reinforce system regimes.”

Rubin said that many Islamist movements do not challenge the regime system, but rather, complain that the government is not working hard enough. He said that many people also have to make a difficult decision between supporting the government and the separatist group, neither of which have the most desirable practices.

“Until these problems are addressed, we are not going to have progress and not going to solve problems,” Rubin said.

Rubin also briefly touched upon the possible upcoming war against Iraq. Although he has no position on whether the US should go to war, he said, “If the US went into Iraq, I am fully convinced that the Iraqi people would look to them as liberators.”

Rubin has written two recently released books entitled, The Tragedy of the Middle East and Anti-American Terrorism and the Middle East. His Israel-Arab Reader book is used in Government 397: Arab-Israeli Conflict. He is also a Jerusalem Post Columnist.

The lecture was sponsored by the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee (CIPAC), Cornell Hillel and the Department of Near Eastern Studies. Although the lecture started 20 minutes late because of a delayed flight, most students were impressed by his ideas.

“It was interesting what he had to say,” Alana Siegel ’05 said. She added that the lecture gave her new insights on the issue.

Rubin said he tries to “talk about the most important, new things never heard before.”

His presentation pleased CIPAC members.

“I thought he was well-versed and gave a balanced view,” said Ari Nathan ’05, CIPAC vice president of programming. “I think we see [the conflict is] something that can’t be fixed in a day, a week, a month.”

Archived article by Brian Tsao