Hayrettin Yücesoy: A Mission to 'Civilise' the East, Again?

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Dr. Hayrettin Yücesoy is an Associate Professor of History at Saint Louis University and author of Messianic Beliefs and Imperial Politics in Medieval Islam (Columbia: South Carolina University Press, 2009) and Tatawwur al-Fikr al-Siyasi inda Ahl al-Sunna (Amman: Dar al-Bashir, 1993).

As was announced recently by UK prime minister David Cameron, Britain, Germany, France and the US have begun talks to support Libya's transition away from a violent dictatorship and to help create the conditions where the people of Libya can choose their own future.

It seems that after being caught off guard by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, American and European powers decided to be proactive.

The reasoning behind the military intervention in Libya reminds me of a statement at the Berlin Conference of 1885, where the colonial powers of the time agreed to:

"bind themselves to watch over the preservation of the native tribes, and to care for the improvement of the conditions of their moral and material well-being… instructing the natives and bringing home to them the blessings of civilisation."

When it comes to Middle East policies, nothing seems to have changed that much!

At a moment of frustration, I was tempted to read back Kipling's "Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet" in search of solace and to explain why American and European powers so passionately and hastily launched military operations.

But Occidentalism, that is "Kipling read-back", is a generalisation as false as its sister "East is East" and a gross misrepresentation of the part of the world conventionally called the West.

So the root cause of the problem is not the "West"; rather it is a particular political-economic-military machine, an empire, that seeks sovereignty rather than legitimacy around the globe by all means necessary despite its people's will, who are almost as vulnerable to and victimised by the policies of it as any other people in the world....

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