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Globalization and the Middle East:

Room for More?

By

Mahmoud H. Al-Qudsi

No. 1041619

Dr. George Giacaman

Culture 331

3o May 2006
Al-Qudsi 1

Globalization and the Middle East:

Room for More?

Globalizationi is as the term itself implies: a global and indiscriminating sweep that

standardizes the commercial, military, cultural, and human resources around it with respect to

one nation or group of peoples at the top. In a ‘globalized’ society, the entire world bends to the

will of this power and follows standards as set by them. It leaves no country or continent

untouched, and is almost impossible to repulse. Globalization has many effects that – in theory –

bring some form of prosperity or greater good to all involved, but without a doubt it benefits most

the group in power (Wikipedia 1).

The problem with globalization with respect to the developing nations of today is a simple

one: the fact that it’s already there. With the nations in power already at the top, the very

definition of globalization dictates that they will remain there, and that the remainder of the

nations and groups, especially the developing and 3rd World nations, will be subject to the rules

and restrictions as set forth by those in the lead. Once all the issues are factored in, the one thing

that matters most is whether or not it is possible for the status quo to change and for one or more

nations, to move from the lower ranks to the higher echelons of world globalization; and it is

especially possible in the Middle East for a variety of important reasons (Encarta 3).

The Middle East is an especially intriguing specimen taken in this light; where most

countries have reached some sort of equilibrium with the world around them and have ‘maxed

out’ their potential, the Middle East has faced non-stop turbulent violence for the past century,

leaving its inhabitants focused on issues more immediately important than globalization and the

assertion of their role as a world power. However, trends from all components of globalization

have manifested themselves in recent years in the Middle East; which has the power to in turn
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lead to globalization with portions of the Middle East as a major source of influence and/or power

a possibility.

According to Microsoft Encarta, “globalization” is a comprehensive term that refers to a

global society in which “economic, political, cultural, and environmental events in one part of the

world quickly come to have significance for people in other parts of the world.” Taking this in

connotation with the definition of globalization, it becomes clear that if a nation or group of

nations can stand against the current trends of globalization, and then go the extra mile by having

other nations or peoples following the trends they set, it is possible for them to become global

powers in their own right.

At the moment, the Middle East is in a temporary position of supreme economic power:

with the rest of the world highly dependent on fossil fuels and not yet researching alternate fuels

to the extent as they should; and therein the Middle Eastern nations have an opportunity to take

things further, if it is taken promptly and dealt with rationally (Moreno 4). With the Middle East

being the number one provider of oil in OPEC, the rest of the world could be said to be at their

mercy: no matter what leverage they hold, in the face of no oil, the Middle East will prevail

(Morse and Richard 5). The Middle East is in the seat of power due to a lucky coincidence with

which thousands of years of fossil fuel collected beneath the otherwise bare desert, and left the

rest of the world dependent on them for energy and survival.

Though it can be said that the Middle East already is a global economic power, oil alone is

not enough, especially when, sooner or later, it will either run out or be replaced with something

cleaner, cheaper, more efficient, and better (Greene, Hopson and Li). The true play for power

needs to come in the form of a self-sufficing economy built on the manufacture of finished goods

and services, and not just the provision of raw materials for processing and sale elsewhere
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(Weathers). For the Middle East to truly clam its role as an honest and official world economic

power with the full intention of remaining that way, it must engage in large-scale manufacturing

and goods business. Given the current affluence in the Middle East and abundance of company

start-ups and investments, the Middle East has a prime chance to ascertain its position and

concrete its role if approached the right way.

A political superpower can be defined as a nation or union/group with enough influence

(from any angle) on the political process of the entire world, and can use this influence to

accomplish almost anything (Soderberg 43-46). For a nation to become a political superpower,

there are many obstacles that must be overcome, and even more feats that need to be

accomplished, but there are varying levels of importance within these ranks. A political

superpower must have some means of reinforcing a decision should pure politics fail (military,

economic, or otherwise), it must also be united in its stance from within, and clear in its goals

(Soderberg 66).

The Middle East has serious issues prohibiting it from becoming once more the

superpower empire it was centuries ago, that range from a lack of unity to governmental disarray

and fear of modern progress, to constant conflict and disagreement amongst the various Arabii

nations as well as between the Middle East as a whole and the rest of world (Wilson and Williams

22). While it may possible to envision a joint Middle Eastern global economic power, it is much

more difficult to imagine a unified Middle East of one political mind, largely due to the sectional

and regional sociopolitical splits in the region (Cleveland 82).

Given the present political conditions in the Middle East, it becomes obvious that a

political superpower rising from the ashes of a once-great empire is quite a ways off, and will

require an enormous amount of effort and time from for all the parties involved to realize the
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benefits and strength of their collective power, to set aside their differences, and to accomplish

something in the court of world politics. Although certain individual nations in the Middle East

possess a fair share of political clout and power that may have at one point been enough to make

that nation a global power and/or a leader in geopolitical world globalization, its current might

does not enable it to steal the limelight from the current superpowers and heads of political

globalization, namely the United States, Russia, and the European Union (Evans).

The ‘minimum limit’ required to become a political world power today is considerably

higher than it was mere years ago. The problem is that politics alone is no more than a method,

nothing tangible, and nothing spectacular. However, politics, once mixed with economic,

military, and cultural aspects, politics becomes a formidable weapon. The steep requirements for

political superpowers can be seen as stemming in a large part from the military prerequisites.

Although a political superpower does not necessarily need a military force to match; in order for a

nation to reach a stage wherein it can change from a powerful political force to a true political

superpower and a member of the globalization forces of the world, the military might is a must.

In the past 60 years, the world has seen more advancements in the field of military warfare

and arsenal than it has in the centuries before. Politics is a play for power, it can be seen as the

pretty face that comes before a military blow, or the helping hand extended afterward. Either way,

without a military presence or the threat of military action, politics alone is of no avail; and

without the military might, one can never escape the political trends set by other nations, and as

such, falls prey to political globalization (Altman and Gubrud).

In the Middle East, the problem is compounded by the extent to which foreign military

forces have infiltrated the landscape, such that not a single country remains physically

uncompromised. It is hard to build a military presence to rival that of existing political


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superpowers, but it becomes an immensely harder obstacle when at the slightest indication of

true military motivation results in punishments and threats from the superpowers at the top,

making it all the more difficult for the Middle East to ever shed itself of the military shackles it

imposed on itself when it invited foreign military forces to intervene in regional affairs (Sobhy 14).

The Middle Eastern culture is one of the oldest and best-preserved traditions remaining

on the face of the earth. In globalization, ethnocentricity is one of the most important and final

blows that shape the true form of the world and the attitude the various peoples will take towards

it. In an ethnocentric society, such as that of today, most nations/societies attempt to wipe and/or

discredit any and all remaining traces of previous cultures after ascertaining their own cultural

presence in the area (UIUC).

In the Middle East, according to Rubin, culture and religion have reached a point of

interchangeability, where the Middle Eastern culture is built on the religion and is passed along

with it. Largely due to its association with Islam, the Middle East has actually already taken the

initial steps required to become a world cultural power by successfully rejecting almost all forms

of cultural globalization from the West – something that no other nation or group has succeeded

in doing (Rubin 1).

The steps required for ascertaining a people and their culture as a global power in that

field are two-fold, namely first concretely holding onto their own original ideologies and beliefs,

and then spreading them on to others. And in both of these fields, the Middle East seems to be

succeeding spectacularly. As Rubin mentions in his article, the Middle East has successfully

rejected all attempts to ‘modernize’ the region except those that the Middle East itself deemed to

be positive and helpful, not a detriment or a loss of identity. At the same time, the Middle
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Eastern culture, again, through Islam, is being spread across the face of the planet faster than any

other religion, and is steadily gaining ground and heading straight towards number 1 (Young).

Besides the religious aspects of a culture, there are a few other features that have traveled

the globe and made their mark. For example, Middle Eastern cuisine has become increasingly

popular everywhere, with new restraints opening in down-town of major cities in Russia, Brazil,

the United States, and all over Europe (Plummer). Traditionally, cuisine and clothing have always

gone hand in hand, and it can definitely be said that the Middle Eastern dress sense has become

popular in the more open cultures around the world.

Language is also a very important aspect of cultural globalization. It can best be seen in

the spread of English as a universal language without bounds, used as the preferred medium of

choice in international meetings, and it is internationally – even if informally – recognized as the

language of technology around the world. Arabic, the official language of the Middle East, is much

advertised in its being the official language of Islam, and as such is spoken by the 1 billion plus

Muslims of the world, and is the natural tongue of over 700 Million of them (CALL).

Environmental globalization is the last of the many forms of an international community,

it is also the most indirect form. In environmental globalization, the trends of one community or

peoples in their attitude towards nature and the environment is taken on and advanced by the

rest of the world. Unlike the other types of globalization, there is a clear and well-defined right

and wrong in this field. One community’s opinion or standard for environmental protection can

honestly and scientifically be said to be better than that of another, and as such, once an

innovation arrives from one source, it is difficult for it to be denied by the rest.

Environmental globalization may not seem like a defining factor in world globalization,

but it is in reality the final indicator: when a nation has accomplished all there is to accomplish in
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self-advancement and spread, it turns its attention to the environment and attempts to minimize

the toll its people and resources take on it-. It is also especially important in that a nation alone

can only do so much to prevent the deterioration of the environment on the hands of humans,

because environmentalism is a global issue. However, in a global society, a powerful nation

applying environmental tactics results in a major difference when the rest of the world follows

suite (Porter).

The Middle East is not much of a manufacturing region, but its inhabitants are some of

the biggest petroleum consumers (and producers) in the world, and fossil fuels burn in a manner

that does not contribute to the well-being of the planet. In the Middle East there are more

important issues at hand which demand the attention of the people and the nations before the

environment. Although the Middle East does not actively engage in environment control in any

major form, it is also not one of the bigger contaminators, and does take certain, albeit mild, steps

to contain the damage done (UN).

The Middle East is a very complicated subject on many different platforms; but it is

nonetheless apparent that the Middle East has the potential to become a world globalization in a

majority of the fields in a relatively short amount of time, and even a true world power if given

enough time to sort out the political aspects of their murky role and given a chance to make a

choice for themselves based on the wishes of the people.

The Middle East can already be seen as a leader in global culture, but for the fact that

Islam – which, as previously mentioned, has become synonymous with the Middle Eastern culture

– has been under fire as of late for various sociopolitical reasons and is facing an uphill battle to

make an impact on the world it is in, nevertheless it is gaining ground, even if slowly, and is

poised to be the Middle East’s first claim to globalization relatively soon.


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On the whole, it becomes blatantly obvious that in order for any of the above-mentioned

factors and components of globalization to ever take place with the Middle East as a center of

activity and innovation and a recognized and undisputed world leader, it is of the utmost

importance that the Middle Eastern nations and peoples pool their resources and capabilities

together, otherwise the sheer magnitude of the existing world globalization order makes it

physically impossible and not even thinkable for one Middle Eastern nation alone to take on the

world order.

Middle Eastern unity and a place in the status quo need not come in the form of all

Middle Eastern nations uniting under one flag, but rather simply managing their resources more

efficiently, forming a true representative Arab Union that is not built on talk and money but

instead truly dedicated to making a difference for the Middle East and uniting them to make of

the various nations a powerful entity capable of presenting itself solidly for the rest of the world

to see.
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Works Cited

Altman, J., and M. Gubrud. "Anticipating military nanotechnology." Technology and Society

Magazine, IEEE (2004).

CALL. Arabic Community Statistics. Statics Collection, Horwood: Horwood Language Centre,

2004.

Cleveland, William L. A History of the Modern Middle East. Westview Press, 1999.

Encarta. "Globalization." 1 2 2006. http://encarta.msn.com/. 25 May

2006<http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_1741588397/Globalization.html>.

Evans, Ambrose. EU Viewed by China as world power to rival US. News Report, Brussels: Telegraph

News, 2003.

Greene, D. L., J. L. Hopson, and J. Li. "Have we run out of oil yet?" Energy Policy (2005): 23-56.

Moreno, Alejandro Eggers. "Fossil-Fuel Dependency - Do Oil Reserves Foretell Bleak Future? ."

San Francisco Chronicle (2004): 13-22.

Morse, Edward L., and James Richard. "The Battle for Energy Dominance." Foreign Affairs

March/April 2002.

Plummer, Robert. Giving Brazil a taste of Arabia. News Story, Sao Paulo: BBC, 2005.

Porter, Keith. "Globalization and the Environment." 5 January 2006.

http://globalization.about.com/. 28 May

2006<http://globalization.about.com/od/globalenvironment/a/gzenv.htm>.
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Rubin, Barry. "Globalization and the Middle East: Part One." YaleGlobal 16 January 2003: 2.

Sobhy, Sedky. The U.S. Military Presence in the Middle East: Issues and Prospects. Key Strategic

Issues List, US Army War College, 2005.

Soderberg, Nancy. The Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might. Hoboken: John

Wiley, 2005.

UIUC. "Ethnocentricity." 20 March 2006. http://wik.ed.uiuc.edu/. 23 May

2006<http://wik.ed.uiuc.edu/index.php/Ethnocentricity>.

UN. The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. UN

Agreement, Kyoto: United Nations, 1997-2005.

Weathers, Fatima. Manufacturing and the Economy Interview by Shula Neuman. 27 May 2004.

Wikipedia. "Globalization." 26 May 2006. http://wikipedia.org/. Wikimedia Foundations, Inc. 27

May 2006<http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Globalization&oldid=55272746>.

Wilson, Scott, and Daniel Williams. A New Power Rises Across Mideast. Political Analysis, Beirut:

Washington Post Foreign Services, 2005.

Young, Gayle. Fast-growing Islam winning converts in Western world. News Report, Cairo: CNN,

1997.
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Notes

i
Preferred spelling by Webster’s and Oxford English Dictionaries compared to the British spelling

‘globalisation.’
ii
‘Arab’ as used in this paper refers to the various Arabic-speaking countries found in the Middle

East, and not necessarily to refer to those of original Arab descent or lineage.

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