“Toward a Concert of the Greater Middle East” W. Patrick Lang

Thegreatermiddleeastbrill_5502 "The circumstances in the “Islamic Culture Continent”—extending from Morocco to Indonesia and from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean—do not differ so much from Europe’s predicament in the aftermath of the Napoleonic War. Decades of what Clausewitz thought to be “total war” had ruined the economies and “status quo ante” social systems of the many European states. To overcome the instability of the continent and the likelihood that this would lead to further disastrous warfare, the great powers of the time met at Vienna after 1815 to create a system of balanced agreements that would bring into equilibrium the interests of all possible adversaries in Europe. This system preserved European peace for many years, until it came to pieces in August 1914.  The system has been known as the Concert of Europe.  What is now needed is a Concert of the Greater Middle East."  W. Patrick Lang


This piece is now almost two years old. I think it remains relevant to the continuing situation in the Islamic World.  What is suggested in this article is initiation of a lengthy and intensive "campaign" of diplomacy and foreign policy initiatives that cumulatively, and over some period of time, would lead to a lowering of the average "temperature" in the Islamic World.  The kind of policy suggested in this article led to a marked improvement of the situation in Iraq, but there is much left to do everywhere in the region.

Afghanistan seems a likely area in which to apply many of the methods applied successfully in Iraq.

The creation of a new administration in Washington seems an apt moment for the contemplation of such options.  For this reason I offer it yet again.

I will be at the University of Oklahoma on the 17th of this month for a discussion of this general topic.  I believe that the discussion will be open to the public.  pl


This entry was posted in Current Affairs. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to “Toward a Concert of the Greater Middle East” W. Patrick Lang

  1. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    The “Sooner” the better!
    And the State of Oklahoma is an absolutely fascinating place, notwithstanding haughty comments by the Manicheans. The University of Oklahoma is home to the Center for Middle East Studies and Joshua Landis, whose work is miles ahead of some of them thar’ high falutin’ folks who, in essence, do not have the moral wherewithal to criticize apartheid in the Middle East or at least have the guts to question the same. Chris Matthews is at the top of that long list, perhaps titled, “The Sell Outs”.

  2. Josh Landis is himself high-falutin but because he’s the genuine article, he doesn’t let you know it. In fact he would be embarrassed (hi Josh) if anyone described him as high-falutin, and would not want people to think of him that way. Princeton, Harvard, AUB, mother a professor of English, father an old Middle East hand… His “high-falutin” bona fides are much more authentic than those of the alleged elite to which Sidney O. Smith refers.
    My theory is that Josh is at Oklahoma because he can do his work out of the way of Campus Watch and other such censors. They can holler about him but they can’t really touch him in the hinterlands of Oklahoma. It’s sort of like being posted to an eastern reach of the Roman Empire when the cabal around the Emperor is mad at you, circa 100 A.D. Norman is Josh’s Berytus.
    Please give Prof. Landis my warm regards while you are there. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could all meet for dinner on the roof at Elissar in Damascus one evening?

  3. VietnamVet says:

    Your Grand Concert is a goal worthy of support. The failure of the last eight years was the culmination of the end of history and the rise of Marketers. New Alliances and realistic goals are desperately needed.
    First, Christians and Jews cannot occupy Muslim lands unless with overwhelming force and endless resources. Second, the military is only good for killing and maiming humans. If peace is the goal; police, politics and dialog are required. American troops have to be withdrawn.
    The New York Times has a fascinating map of the 2008 election showing the percentage of increase in Democratic votes in dark blue and Republican in bright red. A copy is at Paul Krugman’s blog. The United States has its own fundamentalist Red Crescent stretching from Appalachia through the Ozarks to Oklahoma.

  4. b says:

    Good luck with the Concert plan.
    With Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff and on the watch of who gets access to Obama, there is little chance for it to get notice.
    Why can someone who volunteered working for the IDF while the U.S. attacked Iraq in 1991 get a job in such a position?
    This guy is falsly accused of having dual loyalties.
    But Emanuel has only one loyalty and that is the zionist side of Israel.
    So – nice try Colonel, I really value that concept, but their is no chance that it will pass to where it needs to be noticed.

  5. FB Ali says:

    The Concert of Europe worked for so long because power resided in the rulers of these countries; their subjects meekly accepted whatever dispositions they made. In the Muslim World (I prefer this to Islamic World, since these peoples call themselves Muslims but are unaware of what Islam is) the rulers also decide, but their peoples do not necessarily accept decisions in which they have no voice.
    Through brute force the rulers can impose their wills on their peoples for a while, but resistance and revulsion keep building up. If people feel they have no say in the policies pursued by their government, their estrangement will deepen to the point of active opposition. If peaceful means of protest are suppressed, those who advocate violence gain support – the jihadis are good at exploiting this.
    No grand concert can hold unless there is movement towards the freedom and empowerment of the peoples of the Muslim world. Unless this is part of the deal, the deal will rapidly unravel, however grand it may seem.

  6. mike says:

    That German map of CENTCOM AOR is incorrect I believe. Should it not include Syria and the xxxxxxstans of the former USSR??

  7. mo says:

    “balanced agreement”…… Israel doesnt want agreement or a peace deal. It wants peace through surrender. It claims to want a peace deal as long as settlements, water rights, Jerusalem and the right of return are off the table. How does one deal with people whose only pre-condition is that you come to the table expecting nothing but a bit of desert to replace the prime land taken from you (in addition to the state already taken from you).
    Until an American administration is willing and able to put the pressure on Israel only the US can, or until the likes of Hamas and Hizballah are so strong as to make the IDF truly worried within Israel, there can be no concert, no agreement on anything worthwhile. Palestine is the key, the central piece of the puzzle. If it isn’t solved, nothing else will be.
    The other problem with the concert is who will sign it and who will accept it. The despots and tin pot dictators like Mubarak and the King Treachery of Jordan? The people of the Middle East? The European concert may have been signed by Kings and Queens but at least they had some respect from their subjects and some claim to “divine right”. The Arab leaders in the main have neither.

  8. Cieran says:

    I will be at the University of Oklahoma on the 17th of this month for a discussion of this general topic. I believe that the discussion will be open to the public.
    It will be open to the general public.
    Any SST fans in flyover country are encouraged to travel to Norman to attend.

  9. gregorylent says:

    could/should have a concert of the entire western hemisphere as well

  10. TomB says:

    Colonel Lang:
    I have read your article and hope you don’t mind what might be somewhat of a hypothetical critique of same even though I have not a scintilla of your expertise in the area just so as to get your response to a couple of points. Just be gentle with me in response; again, I’m just doing some absolute amateur riffing on the idea for the purpose of getting your further take on same:
    Of course your article attempts to suggest a solution of sorts to the problems that exist in the Middle East and equally then it is centrally dependent on what exactly those problems are.
    But in calling upon the lessons of the Concert of Europe it can appear that you somehow feel that those problems are the same that afflicted Europe and that caused the convening and approval of its Concert.
    But that Concert was called and joined because the central problem in Europe at the time was simply the chronic state-vs-state wars going on there at the time, right? Yet, is that really the central or even one of the central problems confronting the modern Middle East?
    True, there’s the ever-present problem of Israel and the moslem world, and so of course you call for a final conclusion of that as being part of the aim of your desired Concert. But of course some 70 years of trying haven’t solved that even. And then apart from that and apart from Saddam invading Kuwait it strikes me that state-vs-state conflicts in the Middle East haven’t really been the moslem world’s big problem so far otherwise, have they?
    Instead it seems to me it’s “problems” have been more … sectarian and tribal and thus far more intricate and involved and complex than mere state-vs-state/nationalistic conflicts.
    Indeed, you seem to acknowledge this too given that the Concert you call for talks about including lots of non-state actors, including especially representatives of all the major sects and tribes and etc. across the Middle East. And that’s eminently sensible given the situation, but in the first place and all alone it seems to me to raise the problem of workability and durability. I.e., it’s one thing for a Tallyrand to reach a Concert with however few Foreign Ministers he had to deal with to achieve the Concert. But how do you even get Hosni Mubarek and the leader of the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood into the same room much less get an agreement between them and then also between all the other innumerable parties who have divisions between them that can seem as deep and eternal as history itself?
    Moreover, because of all the intricacies of these problems your Concert solution necessarily calls for what seems to me to be a rather extensive and continuing European and U.S. involvement in the region, which you not only acknowledge but then even helpfully try to specify to a degree. (Guaranteeing this, stationing bases there, and etc. and so forth.) But even though I know you mean to limit this, even if it could be so limited it still seems to me to be fraught with problems not just for us, but for the Middle East and its peoples as well.
    Again to get back to what the fundamental nature of the Middle East’s central “problems” are, it seems to me broadly speaking that they are twofold:
    Firstly, of course, is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. And secondly, and maybe more importantly and almost certainly more deeply, is the struggle in the moslem world with the challenges of modernity itself, for want of a better term.
    As to the first of these, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, well of course even that hasn’t seemed at all tractable to diplomatic or even military solutions.
    And as to the second, well, it strikes me, something as protean and amorphous as the challenges caused by modernity are even less susceptible to any such solutions and instead are just something that have to be slowly and painfully worked out in moslem society. Just like in our own, which of course in any number of different ways is still struggling with same. (Freedom of speech and expression and religion, civil rights, abortion, stem-cell research, women’s rights, gay rights, pornography, and on and on and on across the values divide.)
    And of course given the nature and amazing strength and depth of Islam, modernity seems to me to present an even a greater challenge to its societies than it has in the West. And for the West—and esp. the U.S. given it’s identification as the absolute embodiment of modernity via its culture—to get involved in this seems to me to not just be bad for us, but to complicate things terribly for those muslim countries and peoples too.
    If for instance you are a moderate muslim and wish to see your country or religion or tribe or whatever come to terms with this or that aspect of modernity in this or that fashion, well, it seems to me the last bloody thing in the world you want is to be seen as an ally or lapdog of the West in general or of the U.S. in particular in your argument.
    So it seems to me that about the best one can do as regards same is to stand back as far as we can and wish those muslim countries and peoples well in finding their own path into and through or around modernity, and sympathize with their problems in doing so. Because, I suspect, only history and the passage of time is going to be able to start resolving those terrible problems for them.
    And indeed in terms of the wisdom of this I would note that even as regards the other great (and to my mind even simpler) Middle East problem which is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I think it can hardly be gainsaid that our involvement there has not exactly helped resolve things either despite its simpler and clearer nature.
    After all, even without indicting Israel at all, why should *any* party to *any* conflict come to *any* real compromise with its opponents once it has gained an unlimited and interminable subsidization of its not doing so?
    Again then, all this boils down to the question of what indeed are the biggest fundamental problems afflicting or facing the greater middle-east, and again to me at least it seems they are the Israel/Palestinian conflict and modernity itself. And as to both it seems to me that the wisest course for the West generally and the U.S. specifically is essentially a hands-off policy.
    If the parties themselves to this or that dispute request our involvement, well then fine although even then it seems to me to be problematic given the question of whether we can indeed truly be an honest broker. But, still, if all sides feel they still want it, then by all means we ought to offer all the good offices we have to assist them. Because we were historically anti-colonial, we used to have a huge reservoir of good will built up towards us in the muslim Middle-east. And it’s clear that aspects of our culture still have its attractions there. (Just as I think aspects of its culture ought to have its attractions here.)
    But otherwise it strikes me that as far as possible the sensible path for both us and the muslim middle east is to note that they have oil and we have cash, and if they want to trade same fine, and if they want to voluntarily buy our movies and our T.V. and our culture fine, but to make clear that we don’t want to push anything on them whatsoever. And that we deeply sympathize with their struggles with modernity given that we ourselves have not yet even figured out all of what it means and how much of it we want to buy into.
    So at any rate if you have the time to respond a bit I’d ask where in your opinion has my thinking gone wrong in the above? And in any event apologies again for the blobby, inarticulate nature of this. Embarrassing given the elegance of your piece in the National Interest.

  11. taters says:

    Col. Lang,
    Thank you for posting this – it has stayed with me ever since you shared it with us. I hope the new admin. gives it the consideration it so strongly deserves.

  12. Patrick Lang says:

    “But of course some 70 years of trying haven’t solved that even”
    If this were not difficult, why would I have written about it?
    So, what is your solution? Give up? That is the easy way to deal with all these problems.
    I realy don’t have the tiem to deal with your comment in detail.
    Let’s hear some constructive comment from others. pl

  13. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Hey Viet Vet
    Did Krugman mention the voting results from those in Israel who could vote in the US Prez election? I doubt it. Here are the results, at least from what I read: 3 out of 4 voted for McCain.
    I know of no State where McCain garnered 75 per cent of the vote.
    Think Matthews will mention that aspect of the voting trends on his show and then factor that into a charge of racism? Think he’ll draw a correlation? I doubt it. If he does, it’ll represent a change. But, assuming he doesn’t, therein lies the source of much of the problem, imo. Some, certainly not all, so-called liberals from Blue States are defending, and therefore promoting, apartheid and can’t fess up. Much easier to blame others, particularly those from poorer regions who have been economically exploited, historically, and therefore haven’t had the opportunities the rest of us have been blessed with. As the brilliant songwriter, Randy Newman, has pointed out before…it’s the same ‘ol, same ‘ol. Newman may as well update one of his more famous songs, referred to at SST by another commentator, and include the following addendum, “free to put in a cage in Gaza and the West Bank.” The liberal Matthews is certainly doing his part to put ‘em in a cage, but he’d rather talk about others.

  14. Duncan Kinder says:

    The Concert of Europe worked because European society backed the nation-state, with all of the accompanying social, political, economic, and other trappings. These states, in turn, effected that Concert.
    If the Iraq War has demonstrated anything, it is that the MidEast ain’t going to have none of these Western European social, economic, and other trappings. Hence, the MidEast’s willingness and capacity to back equivalent nationstates is much less ( nil, I think ). Hence any such Mideastern “Concert” would be built upon quicksand in the event that it could be effected.
    ( IMHO, the trend against the nationstate is a worldwide and not just a MidEastern phenomenon – but in any event my point carries as applied to assessing the viability of any potential MidEastern concert. )

  15. Paul says:

    What a wonderful idea; hope it comes to pass.
    Israel (and its wholly-owned subsidiary AIPAC) must be getting nervous for they warn that “talking is a sign of weakness”. How stupid is that? Have they not heard that timeless chestnut: “when you’re in a hole stop digging”?
    Keep up the good work.

  16. I am curious! Why should Christians, Jews, and Muslims give up the fun of fighting for the last 1400 years? What is the incentive? The desert seems to have bloomed warriors and the poets and thinkers seem to have been left by the side of the road. Why should the warrior class give up their fun now? The Concert of Europe was built in part on the exhaustion of the the fighting on a world wide scale in the 18th Century. None really won because all of Europe was overtaken by the civil revolutionary fervor of the 19th Century which of course had different successes in different countries. Thus internal issues were given priority like the saving of royalty as a political mechanism All fell apart of course in the 20th Century. Suspect internal revolutions will characterize the Islamic World for rest of this century. An as a result will probably remove focus of internation Jihad against Christians and Jews. All to be decided later, perhaps next century.

  17. Eric Dönges says:

    This system preserved European peace for many years, until it came to pieces in August 1914.
    I’m sorry Colonel, but this line I don’t buy. The Concert of Europe failed to prevent the 1848 and 1864 wars between Denmark and (mainly) Prussia, the 1866 war between (mainly) Prussia and Austria, or the 1870 war between France and nascent Germany. Other wars of note would be the Crimean war of 1856, Italian unification or the two Balkan wars just before the first world war. There may well have been other wars I forgot to mention.
    A Concert of the Middle East is undoubtedly a good idea, but the Concert of Europe is not necessarily a good argument for it.

  18. Patrick Lang says:

    You are quibbling. These little wars did not disturb the essential peace of Europe between Waterloo and 1914. pl

  19. Albertde says:

    Since you are modelling the proposed Concert of the Middle East on the Concert of Europe, which was based on summit meetings of foreign ministers of the principal European powers, I thought it would be useful to ponder the lessons of the earlier attempt.
    In 1815, Napoleon was finally defeated and Paris was occupied by the Allied Powers (including the Russians, hence the French bistros from Russian ‘bystro’ (fast, i.e., ‘step on it’). The population of Europe had been at war for roughly 25 years and the Revolution betrayed by Napoleon had lost and the aristocracy was restored but the situation had changed. Napoleon had laid the foundations of the modern bureaucracy, i.e., mandating family names for everyone (except the aristocrats) and civic addresses, and establishing the modern police state and the military draft. He also laid to rest the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in 1801, which dated from the 10th century. In short, going back to the old ways was not possible.
    The Concert established a Kingdom of The Netherlands, uniting what is now The Netherlands (informally Holland) and Belgium and replacing the old Dutch Republic and gave the crown to the Orange family, Dutch but originally from France, as a buffer state between the French and the Prussians. They also kept German and Italian as references to languages by setting up a loose German Confederation to replace the Holy Roman Empire and restoring the plethora of states that make up modern Italy. They restored the Habsburgs to a newly created Austro-Hungarian Empire (replacing an Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary) and Egypt to the weakened Ottoman Empire alone.
    The British, the leading sea power, and the Prussians, a leading land power, were not happy with these solutions. The British worked to separate Belgium from Holland, which succeeded in 1830, with the establishment of the Kingdom of Belgium offering the crown to a German price. And some years later, Bismarck started his “project” through warfare of pushing out the Habsburgs from the German Confederation and uniting what remained of that Confederation to create the Second Reich (the First Reich referring to the Holy Roman Empire).
    What lessons can we draw from the above. The leading land and air/sea powers must be satisfied by the solutions. Secondly, national aspirations must be at least partially recognized. (The linguistic border between French and Italian does not completely correspond to the political border between France and Italy). Thirdly, creating weak states ultimately leads to war.

  20. Taters says:

    I can not foresee where wars will be stopped entirely. Of course to any sane person that would be great. However, to loosely paraphrase Col. Lang, ‘It’s the big ones we want to avoid…’
    I think it is absolutely essential to look at the Concert in those terms.
    And I’ve yet to read any better possible solution.
    Most SST readers are aware how much of a role Col. Lang served in the Awakening. And we also know that Pat is not the kind of person to blow his own horn.
    He deserves much credit.
    Let us give weight to a man whose ideas who has serious creedence in these matters.
    Did the Marshall plan stop all wars? No. Does that mean it was not worthy of consideration and implementation? Should we disband the UN because of it’s imperfections?
    Again, I have yet to read anything at the Council of Foreign Affairs, Brookings or any think tank that comes close to what Pat says.

  21. Dear Patrick Lang –
    a hearty welcome to the great plains on Nov. 17.
    I look forward to meeting you. The Center for Middle East Studies has been alerted of your impending arrival at the Honors College and we are sounding the tocsin among the various communities that will be interested in your lecture.
    Best, Joshua

  22. Curious says:

    Party is over for Boeing. (That idiot company can’t even compete in commercial airplane without massive dose of handout. Too much military contract)
    And all these is before China entering the market. Boeing is going to go the way of GM if they don’t get good smack upside the head.
    The incoming administration, according to the paper, may retool the intelligence under secretary office established by Donald Rumsfeld; create a new high-level energy security post; and divide the substantial portfolio of the assistant secretary for special operations/low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities.
    It will also mull cuts to high-profile weapon systems, the paper states, naming three: national missile defense, the Airborne Laser and the Army’s Future Combat Systems program.

  23. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    The Rahmbo factor as reported in the Telegraph:
    “The notoriously pugnacious Rahm ‘Rahmbo’ Emanuel, a 48-year-old congressman from Chicago, makes no secret of his support for Israel.
    He holds both an American and an Israeli passport, spent regular summer holidays in Tel Aviv and joined the Israeli army reserve during the first Gulf War in the early 1990s.”

Comments are closed.