Compare and Contrast Arab History in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries
Arab civilization has a long history which was full of dramatic and often tragic episodes. At the same time, Arab world has managed to preserve its uniqueness and identity in spite of numerous efforts to establish control over this part of the world by different countries. In this respect, the 20th century was probably the most dramatic period in Arab history because it was the period when the threat to the maintenance of political, economic and even ideological independence of Arab civilization was under a threat.
Basically, this trend persisted in the early 21st century as well. At the same time, it should be said that the current efforts of some countries, especially the US, to establish control over the region of the Middle East, which is the basis of Arab world, are the result of the policy of Western countries that was started in the 20th century and that affected the development of Arab history dramatically.
In fact, Arab history of the 20th and 21st century, in spite of substantial differences, is still similar in regard to the great influence of Western civilization on Arab world and practically attempts of other countries control the political and economic life of the region, which, to a significant extent, defined the development of Arab countries in the 20th and 21st centuries.
On comparing the history of Arab world in the 20th and 21st century, it is primarily necessary to point out that this period of time was really difficult to maintenance of the independence of Arab countries. In fact, the beginning of the 20th century was marked by the policy of imperialism of Western countries, when the leading world powers, such as Great Britain and France attempted to establish their control over different parts of the world, including the Middle East. In this respect, the UK was the most successful in its efforts to establish its control over the region because the Middle East was strategically important to the colonial policy of Great Britain and its position in the world.
In fact, British were really successful in replacement of Turks in the Middle East as the dominant power that permitted this country to control the trade and maintain stable communication and links between Great Britain and India, which was its colony. In such a way, British controlled the Middle East to facilitate its colonial policy. At the same time, Arab world suffered a lot from such a situation because Arab countries did not actually had freedom and independence, especially in its foreign policy.
However, the further development of the history showed that the trend of Western states to dominate in the region persisted and even in the 21st century the Middle East is a strategically important region. To put it more precisely, after the end of World War II the policy of decolonization brought certain independence to countries of the Middle East and formally they could define their domestic, foreign, economic policy independently from any power in the world. On the other hand, it was obvious that in the second half of the 20th century Arab countries became hostages of the global opposition of two superpowers, the US and the USSR. It should be pointed out that in such a situation it was really difficult for Arab countries to preserve their political and economic independence. It is worthy of mention that they should actually chose between the US or the USSR and they had recognize their supremacy.
At the same time, the development of oil industry in the region provided many Arab countries with ample opportunities to play more important role in the world politics because natural resources became the basis of the economic progress of countries. On the other hand, it became the major threat to independence of these countries because the control over the region was strategically important for major importers of oil, such as the US and Europe. In fact, this threat which appeared in the 20th century persisted in the 21st century as well because similarly to efforts of the US to influence Arab countries in the 20th century, nowadays, the US still attempt to control the region basically because of its strategic importance and natural resources.
However, in this respect, it is necessary to underline that there is a significant difference in this regard between the 20th and 21st century. In the 20th century, the US rather attempted to negotiate the recognition of its supremacy by Arab states using economic aid as well as its influence on Israel to gain the support and obedience of Arab states. In contrast, nowadays the US basically use the strategy of economic and military pressure on Arab countries and Arab world has basically to obey to the policy of the US because of the threat of military intervention.
Such a striking difference in historical development of the Middle East in the 20th and 21st century may be explained by the Cold War and its end. During the Cold War in the 20th century, Arab countries could benefit from the opposition of two superpowers relying on the assistance of the USSR in the struggle against American oppression. After the end of the Cold War in the late 20th century till the present moment, the US dominates in the world and, therefore, Arab countries cannot resist to its oppression and dominance in the region. As a result, many states that used to be supported by the USSR in the 20th century, such as Iraq, are either occupied by the US or under political and economic pressure of Americans in the 21st century.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to underline the fact that, in spite of political, economic and military pressure, the cultural development of Arab world is characterized by the preservation of its basic traditions and socio-cultural norms based on Islamic values. In fact, culturally Arab countries were united in the 20th century as well as they are united in the 21st century. The similar cultural identity of Arabs make these countries closely interlinked and culture and religion may be viewed as the basis of their political and economic alliance in the 20th and the 21st century. However, it should be said that even cultural development of Arab countries is susceptible to dramatic changes. Obviously, the 20th century was characterized by the higher level of dominance of traditional Arab and Islamic culture, but in the late 20th century and, especially, in the 21st century, under the impact of globalization and pressure from the part of the US, Arab world tends to westernization that means the wide spread of Western values instead of traditional Arab ones. This resulted in certain liberalization of many Arab societies and this trend grows stronger in the 21st century.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the development of Arab history in the 20th and the 21st century was characterized by the permanent pressure from the part of foreign countries in terms of Western imperialism of the first half of the 20th c. and the Cold War of the second half of the 20th, and in terms of the current foreign policy of the US, which tends to control Arab countries. In such a way, politically and economically Arab countries were dependent in a way on foreign countries. At any rate, they have never absolutely free in their political and economic development either in the 20th c. or in the 21st c. at the same time, cultural development of Arab world contributed to the unity and uniqueness of Arab civilization in both 20th and 21st c.c. but even this field becomes more and more affected by Western influences in the 21st century.