Letter from Damascus: Superhighway to Damascus

BookForum – Jan/Dec 2005 

One of the most significant deficits in the Arab world today—and one which the highly publicized United Nations Arab Human Development Reports have so far failed to mention—is the staggering absence of young voices on the intellectual scene and in the public debate concerning societal and political reform. This is perhaps the starkest manifestation of the “knowledge gap or deficit” referred to in the reports, issued annually by the United Nations Development Program to monitor socioeconomic and political conditions in the Arab states. Arab countries, it seems, have somehow ceased to produce intellectuals—artists, novelists, poets, and political and social analysts—who could navigate new courses and harness popular sentiment to help lift their countries out of the morass in which they are mired.  Continue reading “Letter from Damascus: Superhighway to Damascus”

The Dead Weight of History

What’s one to do with the dead weight of history and demographics? No, I am not about to embark here on some elitist complaint against the “ignorant masses,” or the “mob,” I am merely referring to the all-too real problem related, in part, to the confusion surrounding issues of identity and belonging, and, in other part, to the sheer pressure that population explosion exerts on the basic social services that a state should provide in order to survive in this world (its survival being of major importance to the wellbeing of at least the majority of its inhabitants, if not all).

Continue reading “The Dead Weight of History”

From Nationalism to Country-Building: A Necessary Shift in Emphasis


Observers of Middle East contemporary politics have always contended that the Palestinian cause has often been used by the various ruling Arab regimes to distract the minds of their oppressed peoples from the need for internal political, economic and social reforms. There is an urgent need, however, now that the region seems to be undergoing conditions similar to those that existed in the early twentieth century, to flesh out this argument even further. Continue reading “From Nationalism to Country-Building: A Necessary Shift in Emphasis”