Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

The horribly sad images of the Syrian boy pulled from the rubble of a building destroyed in an airstrike in Aleppo are still fresh in our minds. We should not forget that there are tens of thousands like him and many of them were not as lucky as Omran.

After watching the video of Omran, some questions came to mind: Was Omran, and many others like him, a victim of some grand conspiracy against the Arab world or they are victims of a society that is built on hundreds of years of hatred in a region that is bitterly divided from within.

Sometimes I feel that the meaning of the word “conspiracy” is different in the Arab world and elsewhere. Let me clarify. We all know about the ever-escalating rivalry between the United States and China. Many issues are reported and there are many other issues between the two sides that remain away from the glaring eye of the media.

The US had just dispatched an armada to the South China Sea and the blue waters of South East Asia. That area contains many disputed territories. Within those disputed areas are situated waterways and straits through which goods worth billions of dollars pass routinely. Recently tensions flared up between Washington and Beijing over this dispute. How did China and the US handle the dangerous situation? Well, the answer is by increasing economic and technological cooperation. America’s multinational technology company, Apple Inc., is investing more money and opening a new research and development center in China. The previous lines were in the news and there is one thing that the Arab world should learn from this approach i.e. there is a difference between conspiracy and competition. No one came across the word “conspiracy” in any report or article about the US- Chinese disagreements.

In the Arab world, on the contrary, the word “conspiracy” is used very often while discussing or writing about any social or economic issue of the region.

The most important thing that we don’t talk about in the Arab world is the importance of unity. We don’t discuss about the trust deficit that is unfortunately in abundance between us — the Arabs. We don’t genuinely trust each other. It is maybe because of this mutual distrust that we have become used to seeing conspiracies behind every failure or issue that we face.

We have read so much about so-called conspiracies behind the European occupation of the Arab world and tend to ignore the fact that it was not just this region that was under European occupation. European powers had occupied almost every inhabitable part of the planet. Most of the countries under European occupation have moved on and many of them are today’s economic and military powers. But we, in the Arab world, still live in the past. It is not the so-called conspiracies that are keeping the Arab world behind from the rest of the world. It is our wrong approach toward life.

We still see all events in the Arab world as conspiracies such as the creation of Israel, the Six Day War, the Lebanese war, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, 9/11 terror attacks and the so-called Arab Spring. We never saw them as a result of events that not only hit the Arab world, but the entire globe. The more you are exposed, volatile, less homogenized and more corrupt, the more vulnerable you become to all sorts of internal and external threats. Social inequality plays a major role in exposing any country to outside intervention, which is then usually seen as a conspiracy.

In other words, we need to forge unity among our ranks and to ensure better education to emerge from this cesspool of problems. And it is not easy for any outsider to confront or to interfere in the affairs of a strong people. In the Arab world we blame the East and the West for all our problems but we never blame ourselves for poor education and health care systems, drug abuse and unemployment and as a result we are witnessing massive migration of the best Arab minds to the West.

It has been five years since the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring but we are yet to see any result. All the countries affected by the Spring have been sucked into a vortex of violence. However, we should not ignore the fact that the chaos in Iraq was not the result of any Arab Spring. It was created by the political and security vacuum left by the American invasion. But, that was an invasion. What excuse do the Iraqis have to continue killing and fighting each other after the departure of US forces from their country?

Iraq is a country with one the most massive amounts of energy reserves but the Iraqis continue to face massive power breakdowns. In Syria almost a quarter million of the population has been killed and millions have been displaced. Libya is simply disintegrating. And wherever you turn you will hear about some conspiracy behind all of these tragic events. At the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring, violence was expected. But, we are seeing a constant rise in divisions and killings. There has been an unprecedented rise in sectarian violence. And we all know that sectarian violence is never the result of any conspiracy. It is all about hate and revenge.

Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Our Fixation with Conspiracy Theories reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.