Home The Shawarma Republics are Burning
Home The Shawarma Republics are Burning

The Shawarma Republics are Burning

Syria is burning, not because of the Arab Spring or Tyranny or Twitter, or any of the other popular explanations. The fire in Syria is the same firestorm burning in Iraq, in Turkey, in Lebanon and throughout much of the Muslim world. It has nothing to do with human rights or democracy. There is no revolution here. Only the eternal civil war.

Most people accept countries with ancient names like Egypt, Jordan and Syria as a given. If they think about it at all they assume that they were always around, or were restored after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. But actually the countries of the Middle East are mostly artificial creations borrowing a history that is not their own.

When Mohammed unleashed a fanatical round of conquests and crusades, he began by wrecking the cultures and religions of his native region. And his followers went on to do the same throughout the region and across the world.

Entire peoples lost their history, their past, their religion and their way of life. This cultural genocide was worst in Africa, Asia and parts of Europe. But the Middle Eastern peoples lost much of their heritage as well.

The Muslim conquerors made a special point of persecuting and exterminating the native beliefs and indigenous inhabitants they dominated. Israeli Jews, Assyrian Christians and Persian Zoroastrians faced special persecution.

Conquered peoples were expected to become Muslims. Those who resisted were repressed as Dhimmis. But those who submitted and became Muslims suffered a much worse fate, losing major portions of their traditions and history. They were expected to define themselves as Muslims first and look back to the great day when their conquerors subjugated them as the beginning of their history. Their pre-Islamic history faded into the mists of the ignorant past.

But Islam did not lead to a unified region, only to a prison of nations. The Caliphates, like the USSR, held sway over a divided empire through repression and force. Many of those peoples had lost a clear sense of themselves, but they still maintained differences that they expressed by modifying Islam to accommodate their existing beliefs and customs.

Islamic authorities viewed this as nothing short of heresy. It was against some such heresies that the Wahhabi movement was born. But these attempts to force the peoples of the region into one mold were doomed to fail.

Islam came about to stamp out all differences, to reduce all men to one, to blend state and mosque into one monstrous law for all. And it did succeed to some extent. Many cultures and beliefs were driven nearly to extinction. Jews, Christians and others struggled to survive in the walls of a hostile civilization. But Islam could not remain united and the divisions resurfaced in other ways.

Muslim armies did succeed in conquering much of the world in a frenzy of plunder and death. But they quickly turned on each other. Rather than conquering the world, they went on to fight over the plunder and the power. Nothing has really changed since then.

The fall of the Ottoman Empire brought in the Europeans to reconstruct the Middle East. The modern states are the work of their hands. A clumsy mismatch of borders and warring peoples. The USSR came after with its own line of coups and Arab Socialist dictatorships. Now the third wave of Islamist tyrannies is on the march. But none of them can solve the basic problems of the region.

Syria is burning not because of human rights, but because it's a collection of different peoples with different variants of Islam who don't get along. A handful are descended from the original natives. The rest are foreign Arab invaders, some more recent than others. The story repeats itself across the region. And across the world.

Iraq, Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon are just some examples of countries permanently divided by such a mismatch of peoples. Agreements and elections come to nothing because no group believes that they will be treated as equals if they aren't in power. And they're right. Equality doesn't just come from open elections, but from a cultural acceptance of differences. This simply does not exist in the Muslim world where gender differences mean you're a force of corruption or a slave, ethnic differences mean you are the son of a dog, and religious differences mean you're an enemy.

Had the forces of Islam not turned the Middle East upside down, the nation state might have evolved out of individual cultures, rather than as a strange hybrid of feudalism and Great Powers colonialism. For all their bluster and viciousness, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon are abandoned colonies. The Gulf states are even worse, backward clans of cutthroat merchants who are parasitically feeding off the West, even as they try to destroy it.

The rulers invariably marry Western women or women with a large dose of Western blood. Sadat married the daughter of an English woman. Mubarak married the daughter of a Welsh woman. For all that the Hashemites tout their descent from Mohammed, Queen Noor is more Anglo-Saxon than Arab. And the current Jordanian King's mother was originally known as Toni Gardner. Even when they do marry Arab women, they are usually Christian Arabs and British educated.

There's something pathetic about the sight of the post-colonial Arab leadership trying to gain some psychological legitimacy by intermarrying with their former rulers. As if pumping enough English blood into the veins of their offspring will somehow make them as capable as the Empire that ruled them and then left to attend to its own affairs.

But not nearly as pathetic as half of them claiming descent from Mohammed. Both reveal the underlying historical instability of their rule. These aren't nation states, they're hopelessly dysfunctional geographical divisions bristling with Western weapons and money, with interpretations of the Koran and texts on Arab Socialism, where everyone is a philosopher and a scholar-- but no government lasts longer than it takes to overthrow it.

Every colonel and general dreams of empire, and every cleric in his flea ridden robes theorizes on the Islamic state, but none of them can do anything but act out the same murderous dramas. Building their house of cards and then watching it tumble down.

Had Western shenanigans not raised the price of bread, while providing support to local leftists from wealthy families, the Arab Spring would not exist. Now that it has, it's only another excuse for locals to fight their civil wars and then erect another ramshackle regime on the ruins of the old.

This isn't 1848 as some have theorized. It's 848, over and over again. Worse still, it's 748. 

When you don't have a nation, but you do have an army, then what you have is not a state, but a Shawarma Republic. To keep the army from overthrowing the leader, he must find internal or external enemies. When a downturn occurs, and the mobs gather, either the army massacres the mob or overthrows the ruler. Or the rebels cut a deal with some internal elements and wipe out the loyalists.

This is an old regional narrative that has nothing to do with democracy, human rights, Twitter or any of the other nonsense flowing through New York Times columns faster than the sewers of Cairo.

The modern Shawarma Republic has some royal or military ruler at the top who receives money from the West or from its enemies to hold up his end of the bargain. Which to him means stowing the money into foreign bank accounts, sending his trophy wife on shopping trips to Paris and striking a fine balancing between wiping out his enemies and buying them off.

Naturally he carries on the ritualistic chant of "Death to Israel", and if Israel ever looks weak enough, or his new Chinese or Iranian allies kick in the money for a full fledged invasion, he may even take a whack at it. But mostly the chants of "Death to Israel" are a convenient way of executing his enemies for collaborating with Israel.

In Syria, Assad's Shawarma Republic (officially the Syrian Arab Republic, formerly the United Arab Republic, after a bunch of coups and one kingdom, the privately owned fiefdom of the dumbest scion of the clan) is on fire. Because the enemies of the regime, and some of its former allies, got around to exploiting Bashar Assad's weakness.

For now Assad's armies backed by his Iranian allies are in control of the Shawarma Republic of Syria but that might change. Especially now that Turkey and much of the Arab world have stepped into the anti-Assad camp. And when the fireworks die down, and the corpses are cleaned up off the streets, there will be another Shawarma Republic. This one may not be run by the Alawites. But it will be run by someone, and it won't be the people.

The irony is that after turning Lebanon into its puppet, Syria got the same treatment from Iran. And if a revolt succeeds, then it might get the same treatment from Turkey. The big dog bites the little dog, and the bigger dog bites it.

The process can't be stopped, because the Islamic conquests that wrecked the region, the Caliphates that tried to make it static, and the colonial mapmakers who turned it into a ridiculous puzzle of fake countries filled with people who hate each other-- make it impossible.

There was a brief window after the war when the exit of empires and the presence of a large Western educated class seemed as if they might lead to working societies. Instead they led to the pathetic imitations of the worst of the West, dress up generals and scholars cranking out monographs explaining how everything could be made right with their theory. Now it's leading back to Islamism and the bloody clashes in the desert that led to this permanent state of dysfunction.

The Islamic Caliphate as a panacea for the problems caused by Islamic caliphates is about as good an idea as pouring gasoline on a fire. Which is exactly what the Islamists financed by Gulf royals, who can't help cutting throats even when it's their own, are doing.

You can't build a country out of sand and a book. Nor out of armies and billions of dollars. The last 70 years testify to that. The reason that Israel works and the Arab world doesn't is very simple. The Jews retained their identity and their humanity. The perpetrators and victims of Islam who surround them have no roots. Only the sword in their hand and the shifting sand underneath their feet.


  1. Anonymous1/9/11

    Regarding the last paragraph, I wonder what you mean by "works?" Because depending on how you define that, I would say Arab nations will never work (if you define work as a thriving societgy) because their choices are horrid: ruthless secular dictators or sharia law. I see no hope. And wouldn't much care were it not for the fact that these nations, these people, mean to kill us all.

  2. WRT Iran, it's sick to say that Iranians had more freedom under the Shah than they have ever since the Islamic "Republic" was established.
    Women wore miniskirts in Tehran! Jews weren't actively and systematically persecuted (and hung for being Israeli "spies") and Iran was the only Mid-East state that didn't attack Israel. I believe Iran even sold oil to Israel. Thanks Carter, you POS.

  3. Anonymous1/9/11

    Thanks Sultan - your lucid definition of the origins and state of islam settles a whole lot of issues in my mind, and for that I'm very grateful. And more resolved against this satanic cult. The moon and the sickle and the smiley face - spot the odd one out.

  4. Arabs were never nations at all. They were nomadic tribes who robbed caravans and raided villages in Africa and Europe for slaves to sell. They continue now as before. Nothing has changed.

  5. Even before watching the following video, I've always wondered what the world would have been like had Mohammed never been born or even if the arabs would have been better off following Hanifism led by someone like Musaylimah or any other religion / system.


    I mean, there would be more cultural and religious diversity and lots of cultural exchanges with many parts of the current Islamic occupied world being part of the 1st world, the industrial revolution would begin about 250-500 years earlier, due to the sacking / destruction of the great library of Alexandria and other non-Muslim places / works of knowledge never occurring, which brought about the Dark Ages and trade along the silk road would safe, while slavery would be a relic of the past.

    The Mongol invasions would have never happened since the latter were influenced by the descendants of Sassanid Persian refugees and there would be no conceited islamdom to piss off the Mongols into sacking Bagdad or conquering the world, while central Asia and other places would be stable unlike now.


  6. But not nearly as pathetic as half of them claiming descent from Mohammed. Both reveal the underlying historical instability of their rule. These aren't nation states, they're hopelessly dysfunctional geographical divisions bristling with Western weapons and money, with interpretations of the Koran and texts on Arab Socialism, where everyone is a philosopher and a scholar-- but no government lasts longer than it takes to overthrow it.

    You hit the nail on the head.

  7. Of all the blogs I read, your's is always the most wonderfully written.

  8. What an astute and perceptive analysis of the Mideast’s psychosis. Daniel, I hope you’re being paid big bucks for turning out so many bang-on commentaries. If you’re not, then someone ought to go stand in a corner with a dunce cap and hang his head in shame.

  9. Anonymous1/9/11

    The reason Israel works and the Arabs dont is actually simpler. Its because the Jews are a people and thge Arabs are a bunch of tribes. The only binding cement for the Arab tribes is the hate culture invented and instilled by Muhammad, or Meshuga, according to Maimonedes. As soon as Oil becomes valueless (a decade of electric vehicles) no one will give a hoot about Arab grievances even as the Jews kick their arses back to the Hijjaz.

  10. thank you all,

    I'm being paid in positive comments as this is just a one man blog,

  11. I want to say thanks as well Daniel.
    Thanks for your courage and insight.

  12. Agha li Arkhan1/9/11

    Libya will be better off by far when it gets rid of all its muslims. Then it will be a shining light of inspiration to guide its neighbours to a much better life. One can imagine without too much difficulty how better people would live without Islam.

  13. What makes your writing so unique and powerful is that you get people to feel first, through satire, common sense, in a relgious/historical context. But you do get people to feel first.

    That's important.

    I'll never forget this line from a little known Canadian movie called Ticket to Heaven. It's based on a true story about a guy who gets involved in a cult.

    His family hires a de-programmer. Initally the deprogrammer is verbally harsh. He explains that in order to make David Kappel think he has to make him feel first.

  14. Yes thinking is academic, it's abstract, when people relate to something, then it matters to them.

  15. Rita1/9/11

    "...I'm being paid in positive comments as this is just a one man blog,.."

    For when the book? I fear that all my photocopies of your writings will fade before I can pass them onto my children...

  16. Excellent historical analysis. Your conclusion in the final paragraph attests to a couple of crucial civilizational requirements.

  17. Anonymous1/9/11

    Chesterton writing more than a century ago:

    There is in Islam a paradox, which is perhaps a permanent menace. The great creed born in the desert creates a kind of ecstasy of the very emptiness of its own land, and even, one may say, out of the emptiness of its own theology. . .

    A void is made in the heart of Islam, which has to be filled up again and again by a mere repetition of the revolution that founded it. There are no sacraments; the only thing that can happen is a sort of apocalypse, as unique as the end of the world; so the apocalypse can only be repeated and the world end again and again. There are no priests; and yet this equality can only breed a multitude of lawless prophets almost as numerous as priests. The very dogma that there is only one Mahomet produces an endless procession of Mahomets.

  18. Anonymous1/9/11

    I read your articles daily. Just when I think I've read the "best" ... boom, you outdo yourself and reveal sheer brilliance.

  19. Anonymous1/9/11

    I was going to write something complimentary, but I don't want you to get a swelled head. Not a bad piece, though.

  20. kufar2/9/11

    attempts to shut down free speech, not enuff. Iran just published a "hit list" of the so called "islamophobi" report,

    Be careful, Daniel. You write at Front Page now don't you? David Horowitz and Bob Spencer are on this list

    The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America
    Iranian news agency publishes list of U.S. citizens and lawmakers

    None of this is surprising being that there we are witnessing increasing unified-coordination between both Sunni and Shia Islamists in the efforts against the West, especially against those who dare to speak out against Jihad. But it is disturbing. And this effort includes planned initiatives by some well-heeled Islamist groups to implement worldwide “criminalization” of any and all criticism of Islam.

    We see the clear common goals of both CAIR and Press TV. We see similar strategies to achieve those goals. And we see the immediate strategy in the form of a series of smear campaigns against American leaders and citizens – publicly naming names of those – who are educating the public about a serious national security threat.

    An Iran analyst based in Europe tells us, “This is like a fatwa, and if it is the case, this would be dangerous for all people named.”

    Experts believe – based on previous actions – that Jihadists will issue lists of targeted enemies, so that the Jihadi terrorists closest to those targets will know who the enemy is.

    The Press TV article – to include those who funded and published it – should not be taken lightly. This was not simply an opinion piece. This was a list of names published in international media by a state-run news agency; a state designated by the U.S. State Dept. as a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Additionally, the U.S. government must look into the series of tracts and letters written and disseminated since the beginning of the year targeting Americans who are attempting to educate the public about the very real Jihadist threat.

  21. Interesting piece. I do think that you go too far. Many non-Arab Muslims have very district cultures. Also, the Wahabbis are hardly the first purifiers. There were probably earlier groups, bu the first hat I can think of were the al-Muwahhidun, who created the Almohad Caliphate.

  22. Anonymous2/9/11

    Mr. Greenfield, I've been reading your writings for over a year. I want to thank you for speaking straight and clear, without wavering. My opinion is that the Internet and the world could use another 10 million such as yourself. Keep up the good work sir, Nehemiah 13:14.

  23. Anonymous4/9/11

    Violence and destruction have been at the very core of Islam since the "prophet" invented this totalitarian cult, that masquerades as "religion". Islam is a profoundly dysfunctional system that smothers any possible avenue for cultural and social progress. It is a great tragedy that it came to embrace so much of the world. And there is no way to reform it, without also dissolving it.

  24. Anonymous5/9/11

    Right on the spot Sultan!

    So true it is almost unbelievable.

    The only hope for the muslims is to stop being muslim. And they will most likely start a new world war before even considering that.

    I think the arab "spring" will end in a war against Israel. Too much crazyness has been build up and the new islamic rulers, who are now emerging, has to take dramatic action in order to show that Allah is real and islam valid.

    Bloody murder on the horizon!

  25. Anonymous23/5/15

    "This is an old regional narrative that has nothing to do with democracy, human rights, Twitter or any of the other nonsense flowing through New York Times columns faster than the sewers of Cairo."

    I would question the speed and efficiency of the sewers of Cairo and suggest that it is flowing out of the New York Times considerably faster


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