How did this course shape or change your perceptions of the modern Near East as a whole?
Until listening to these lectures, I didn’t realize how widespread conflict is across the Near East. Hearing an overview of the past 100 years of conflict in the Near East, made me realize how much peace there is in the country I live.
It was especially painful to hear how much outside actors have manipulated internal conflicts and civil wars for their own gains. To hear how Iran has given weapons to Hezbollah or the US to Kurdish groups was sobering. Proxy wars are so destructive and leave a high cost in human life.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a civilian in a country that isn’t stable. The numbers about the Syrian refugee crisis that Darren gave were mind-boggling, with half of all Syrians displaced. I hope that some day peace comes to this area of the world.
The coverage of the Syrian War in this course was especially heartbreaking to me because I visited Syria with my family briefly when I was eleven. I remember artillery shells exploding in the distance as we explored a hospital that the Russians had bombed, and although at the time I had no knowledge of the situation, I felt so grateful that I lived in a peaceful country. May the people of Syria also have that feeling someday.
Thank you for bringing up the topic of proxy wars.I think this is an interesting topic that needs its stand-alone lesson.
While war is sometimes seen as two superpowers fighting it out to the end,we rarely consider how these states back or fund multiple regional conflicts for their interests.At the same time,the Near East is an excellent example of this tactic. During the cold war, the Suez crisis of Egypt,the UK, Israel and other actors is a perfect example. It’s fascinating to understand these wars’ dynamics and how they work. However,like any conflict, there are more than winners or losers in any war. As a well-known Israeli military saying goes,in war, no one wins.
I like your post on the discussion and I agree with all that you stated in your post. Especially, it was until this course that I learned that much of the internal conflict is caused by outside players that are pretty much involved for their own personal gains, as you mentioned.
The destruction in Syria and the amount of war in the last 100 years is disheartening, Hannah. The modern West has experienced so much peace that I do not think we could handle what is everyday life for many people in the region. The actions of outside actors like the U.S. are sobering and it makes me wonder what it would be like if there were no outside forces that have played as much of a role as the United States or Russia has. I’m praying for peace too!
This course changed my perception of the modern Near East by opening my eyes to the external forces at play in the region. In the 1900s, the people of the Near East, both Jews and Muslims, were exploited by European powers in order for them to achieve their agenda; in modern times, it seems countries from every corner of the globe have a hand in the geopolitics of the Near East. It was especially troubling to learn how so many nations are using internal conflict to wage religious proxy wars against their enemies, often harming innocent civilians in the process. However, this course also inspired confidence in me that in the future, the Near East does not have to continue its legacy of bloodshed and instability. Agreements such as the Abraham Accords and the signing of the EastMed Gas Forum are encouraging signs of positive growth toward tolerance in this region.
I completely agree that there are positive signs about the future of diplomacy and understanding in the Near East. Countries such as Turkey who are seeking to soften political channels with historical enemies like Israel in order to pave a way forward are good things, even if the catalysts are other national motives. Peace is peace. Hopefully, other nations continue to seek non-combative means of building and strengthening relationships with other states to bring more hope to the people that have been long-suffering in the region.
This course was very eye opening for me as I was fairly ignorant about the Near East, in the past – relying on the information I received from the media to educate me. For starters, the term “Near East” is new to me, as I always used the term “Middle East” to refer to this region in the past. I love the idea of using “Near East” as a reminder that this is a region that is very close to us – it is where our history began and it is where we are going. One of the big things that surprised me during this course was realizing just how many external parties were involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what that looks like in terms of the security dynamics in the country. This changed my perception on some of the tactics Israel used during the war to protect their own land, as I now understand that some of these means are necessary as Israel is threatened by not only Palestine, but many other Arab nations as well (particularly the Iranian nuclear threat). I was most surprised to learn about China’s involvement in the region as this was a nation I never thought has interests in this area.
The way this course has shaped and also changed my perceptions of the modern Near East as a whole is that it gave me new knowledge that has helped me to understand modern issues present in the Near East. It changed how I used the term properly instead of using the term, “The Middle East” I’ve started adding the term, “Near East” to my vocabulary when talking about the present issues that have been taking place. This course has changed my perception of what is happening in the Near East and has also, exposed me to external factors that are at play when it comes to understanding the issues at play in the region. This course has made me accept that are some things that I do not fully of regarding the Near East and has broadened my view on this subject. This course has helped me understand fully the issue that is happening in the Near East.
Understood in greater depth a few themes that are consistent throughout the conflicts endemic to this region: the multiplicity of interests at stake by powers outside the region and the long term nature of these interests, the territorial implications of conflicts, and the consistent deeply held sense that Israel’s presence was an intrusion.
Regarding the interests at stake, I thought it was helpful to know the background of Russian’s involvement in the Six Day War vis a vis Syria. Considering how prevalent Russian influence continues to be in propping up the Assad regime, showcases the continued need for Israel’s vigilance and resilience on its eastern front. The contestation and control of territory as central to not just Israel’s wars with its neighbors but in other conflicts such as in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen is also worth noting. The integral role of proxies in controlling not just territory but to increase force projection by external actors continues to be crucial to the prolonged nature of the conflicts.
I think the existence of proxies, as you mentioned, is remarkably significant. Whether Hezbollah as a proxy of Iran in Lebanon or the Syrian government apparatus as a proxy for Russian interests, these occurrences necessitate a close watch and viligant alertness on the part of every other Near East state. The point that you make that these proxies contribute to the prolonged nature of the conflicts I believe is fully true, not just because of the quantity of interests and resources, but because technology, weapons, and capital naturally changes hands in such instances and that is irreversible. I think of the U.S. supplying weapons and tech to defeat ISIS in Northern Syria, even after that conflict has been sorted, the military apparatus is still in the region.
Listening to these lectures shaped my perception of the Middle East as they have given me a more holistic picture of the conflicts and history of the region more than I have ever heard before. It is remarkable how easy it can be to simplify seemingly constant turmoil in the Near East down to ‘Israel vs. Palestinians’, ‘Iran vs. Israel/U.S.’, or other false narratives. Learning about the different conflicts, past and present, involving Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and other states will prevent me from espousing oversimplified narratives and opinions on events in the future.
I was also thoroughly struck by the nature of the United States’ involvement in many of the conflicts presented. Some of their involvement seems justifiable and strategic from a political standpoint, but others seem like an overreach by a global power seeking to tighten a grip on current events. Just today, I read an investigative report that suggested that U.S. involvement in the region has directly contributed to Iranian drone advancements and development. I wonder how many other stories there could be about the downsides of the U.S.’s activity in the Near East since the days of Jimmy Carter.
I agree Griffin! As Americans, there seems to be a focus on the Israeli Palestinian conflict and to say that is the only major conflict in the region is disingenuous in my opinion. Too many have tried to simplify the region’s conflict, but after these lectures the depth of which has increased my understanding of the Near East tremendously. I too find the depth of the United States’ involvement to be interesting, but I’m curious as to the impact major outside players have had in the region and what it would be like if they were not involved, for example, Russia.
This course help to shape my perceptions of the modern Near East as a whole because of the depth of knowledge of military conflicts, but also the weaponry used by each major nation. I knew from American history in high school that the World Wars played a huge role in shaping how the Near East operates today with regard to boundary lines of states and what nation was associated with a major power outside of the Near East, but I did not know to what extend that this was the case. I found the lecture on weaponry to be very interesting and I was expecting Israel to have nothing less than the best at everything in the region. Since my first visit to Israel, I have since described the region as varying shades of gray because nothing seems clear with so many major events that have had such a big impact. Learning about the military conflicts further confirms the complexity of the Near East.
“Visual imagery” is a great phrase. Exactly how I feel about the course. Having followed the various conflicts related to Israel over the years, I had not realized the scope and continual upheaval due to conflict over the last 100 years in the Near East. Further, I had never considered the origins of the various states, and better understand how the fall of the Ottomans+European mapmaking and regional conflicts led to the current arrangements. Which at times feel almost arbitrary, given states like Iran that sponsor powerful rebels, illegally managing large portions of legitimate states as Hezbollah and the Houthis.
I’m with you, Evan! The course really laid out the scope of the conflict well and helped place the present conflicts in context.
It’s crazy to me how much turmoil European mapmaking resulted in. I think it’s a great historical warning for Western and European actors to be more careful and intentional with how they engage the region.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
I completely agree with you when you said that the course changed your wording on the Middle East. It did the same for me and now that I’m educated on the topic when engaging in conversation about the Near East, I’ll begin to talk like a scholar. Great response laid out for this discussion.
Yes this is true not just in assessing the impact of British and French control based on their mandates post-World War 1 but also more recent conflicts. For example, the difficulty of knowing how to combat ISIS, which itself became a power following from the instability after the Iraq War showcases the difficulty in assessing long-term implications of incursions into the region from outside powers. Requires strategic thinking not just decisions based on the present moment.