One could easily argue that prospects for peace and prosperity in the Middle East have never looked dimmer. Indeed, the last few years have been extremely tough for the region, to say the least. From the civil wars in Syria and Yemen to the brutality of the Islamic State, not to mention the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there just doesn’t seem to be any end to the bloodshed and misery. It’s no wonder then that people both inside and outside the Middle East are pessimistic about the region’s future. I too believe that the situation in the Middle East will worsen. Yes, I’m afraid that the region will see a lot more blood spilled and a lot more ammunition spent, but I also believe that eventually, a new Middle East will be born – a Middle East in which people prosper and live in peace and tranquility with each other. Why do I believe this? Because I know my history. I know, for example, that there was a time when many if not most people in Europe never believed that the bloody conflicts that had raged throughout the continent would come to an end.
If you have at least some general knowledge of European history, you will know that conflicts between the various peoples of the continent have lasted far longer then, say, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The peoples of Great Britain and France, for instance, fought each other for a millennium. In fact, the two countries only achieved a genuine peace in the early years of the twentieth century. France and Germany too were once the bitterest of enemies. But fast forward to the late 20th century and the two countries forged an alliance that has been a key impetus for the creation and expansion of the European Union – a union that was prophesied by Winston Churchill just after World War II. Indeed, it is remarkable that immediately after the worst conflict in European and world history, the British Prime Minister predicted that there would be what he called a “United States of Europe.” Yet less than half a century later, the European Union was formed out of nation-states that just a few decades earlier were at each others’ throats. This union now spans most of continent’s nation-states, including some that just one generation ago were part of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact, meant to wage war against the nation-states of western Europe. Now of course, modern Europe has not been entirely free of violent conflict. As many people reading this might know, the last decade of the 20th century saw the outbreak of wars in the Balkans. Particularly brutal was the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina that saw atrocities reminiscent of those committed by the Nazis in World War II. But what a difference less than thirty years makes, because now most of the states involved in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s are well on their way to EU membership. Two of them, Slovenia and Croatia, are part of the bloc already. The point I’m trying to make is that if in just a few decades, the countries of Europe were able to go from bitter enemies to strong allies in a politically and economically integrated Europe, so too can the countries and peoples of the Middle East go from hated adversaries to solid partners in a new, peaceful and prosperous region.
As I’ve said before, I believe that there is still much more violence and bloodshed to come in the Middle East. Things in the region will get a lot worse before they get better, just as they did in Europe. But in the end, the peoples of the Middle East will join together to create a region that is free of war, free of violent conflict and free of the kind of despair that has befallen the region for so many years.