New Age Islam Edit Bureau
10 September 2015
Will The World Come To Europe?
By Ross Douthat
Walls, Borders, A Dome And Refugees
By Thomas L. Friedman
Russia and Iran Seek Control of Syria and Iraq
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Can We Live Next To An Iranian Syria?
By Jamal Khashoggi
Mahmoud Abbas: Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?
By Yossi Mekelberg
The Memoirs of Queen Elizabeth II: From Churchill to Cameron
By Chris Doyle
The Iraq War: The Root of Europe's Refugee Crisis
By Imran Khan
The Militarisation of the Refugee Crisis
By Jeff Sparrow
Will the World Come To Europe?
By Ross Douthat
September 8, 2015
My Sunday column took up the question of the world’s obligations to Syrian refugees, and looked back to an earlier column to question the wisdom of Germany’s present open door policy. Given the demographic pressure facing Europe over the next half-century— the aging of the native population and the rapid population growth to Europe’s southeast and (especially) south — I argued that the continent needs to manage migration policy very carefully, or risk a dramatic escalation of its existing assimilation problem (and the nativist backlash associated with it).
As a partial counterpoint, offering a more sanguine take on the underlying demographic issues, I recommend this piece by Matt Ridley for the Times of London, which makes the case that the long-run pressure on Europe will be much weaker than merely running the numbers for population trends on either side of the Mediterranean would suggest. Ridley’s core point is that it takes a truly extraordinary event, like the complete collapse of Syria and Iraq, to persuade large numbers of people to pick up and move, so it’s a mistake to extrapolate from the current wave of migration to a Eurabian or Eurafrican future:
With African populations growing fastest, are we glimpsing a future in which the scenes we saw on the Macedonian border, or on Kos or in the seas around Sicily last week will seem tame? … I don’t think so. The current migration crisis is being driven by war and oppression, not demography. Almost two thirds of the migrants reaching Europe by boat this year are from three small countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea. These are not even densely populated countries …
… demography is a poor predictor of migration. Nowhere in the world are people leaving countries specifically because of population growth or density … Tiny Eritrea, with only five million people, is a hell-hole for purely political reasons. It has a totalitarian government that tries to make North Korea and the old East Germany look tame: it conscripts every 17-year-old into lifelong and total service of the state. No wonder 3 per cent of its people have already left.
So it is simply not the case that migration of Africans (or Asians) will be driven by their ever-increasing numbers. Ethiopia, next-door to Eritrea, is the second most populous country in Africa, with higher population density than Eritrea, and 90 million people. But its government is only mildly authoritarian, its economic growth rate is an astonishing 8-12 per cent over the past five years and people are not clamouring to leave.
Geographically speaking, Africa is an enormous continent. You can fit China, India, the United States, Mexico, Europe and Japan inside it, and still have space left over. When it has a population of 2.4 billion in 2050, it will still have fewer people than the 4 billion who live in those places today. Of the 50 least densely populated countries in the world, 16 are in Africa. The continent is far from overflowing.
Ridley goes on to quote a range of optimistic projections about Africa, all of which suggest that the continent is unlikely to produce a Jean Raspail-style exodus in the next half century, and that its billions of inhabitants will be able to do well enough, and get rich enough, while staying home. And then, too: “Africa’s population growth will slow during this century,” and “the richer it gets the more that growth rate will slow.” So the only thing Europe should fear is a political-driven — or religious-extremism-driven — mass migration; the demographics alone will not make the current scene in the Mediterranean a permanent feature of European life.
Ridley may be right, and I would go with him this far: The Syrian crisis is distinctive, the current surge of refugees into eastern and southern Europe need not represent the beginning of a permanent emergency, and if it does the problem will be, as he says, heavily political rather than purely demographic. Demographic pressure doesn’t work this fast unless there’s a military-political catastrophe driving it, and if the Middle East and North Africa stabilize somewhat and the African continent as a whole stays on a solid economic path, the pressure will ease, the pace of change will slow, and this summer’s remarkable scenes won’t be recreated annually on Europe’s borderlands and shores.
But of course the Levant and the Maghreb may not stabilize for a while … and even if they do, migration rates need not hit this summer’s crisis point every year for demographic change to matter a great deal. In particular, the fact that Africa will be (hopefully) richer and more politically stable in 2050 and 2100 than today, and the fact that the continent theoretically has room enough for its growing population, by no means precludes steady northward migration over the next 50-100 years.
Mexican and Latin American immigration to the United States, for instance, has proceeded at a brisk pace since the 1970s in the absence of Syrian-style disasters or Eritrean-style nightmares — or, for that matter, extraordinary human density — south of the Rio Grande. Yes, Mexico was stagnant and occasionally crisis-wracked during this period, but it was much richer than most African nations, and yet still millions of people decided to move north, even risking their lives to do it, simply because the potential rewards, to keep and/or to send back home, were so obvious and large. And if you take the last thirty years of Hispanic immigration to the U.S. rather than the Syrian refugee crisis as the template for what might happen as Europe ages and African populations grow, you could still end up with a world-historical demographic transformation, as Noah Millman noted earlier this year:
… Historically, migration out of Africa has been relatively small, with only 440,000 people leaving per year from 2000 to 2005, a rate equivalent to roughly 2 percent of population growth. If this rate of out-migration continues over the next 35 years, then an additional 26 million Africans will leave the continent—mostly for Europe, based on past migration patterns.
But that migration rate is likely to increase for several reasons. Higher rates of migration within Africa, between countries and toward urban areas, will make for a more mobile society acutely aware of the opportunities outside the continent. The presence of significant diaspora communities will make it easier for new migrants to contemplate the journey. And, as Africa’s population numbers rise, both prosperity or stagnation could drive larger outflows, the former by providing greater means for travel, the latter due to a desperate battle for limited resources within Africa.
To get a handle on the possible scale of future African migration to Europe, it’s worth looking at past Mexican migration to America. Prior to the 1970s, migration from Mexico to the United States was negligible; fewer than 1 million Americans in 1970 were immigrants from Mexico. But beginning in the mid-1970s, migration from Mexico to the United States began to increase, and increased further with every decade until only a few years ago. Today, roughly 11 million Americans were born in Mexico. During a period in which the Mexican population doubled, growing by about 60 million people, an additional 10 million (on a net basis) migrated to the United States. Applying comparable ratios to Africa and Europe, between now and 2050 nearly 200 million Africans would be expected to migrate to Europe. Between one in four and one in five Europeans would be African immigrants.
It seems safe to assume that the 200 million scenario simply won’t happen; the width of the Mediterranean alone makes that hard to imagine, to say nothing of what’s likely to happen in European domestic politics. But then if you had predicted a few years ago that Germany would be accepting hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of mostly-Muslim refugees during a single period of crisis, that would have seemed fairly implausible as well. And this crisis doesn’t have to repeat itself exactly to set a precedent that attracts the young, the adventurous, the ambitious, and the wired-in and social-media-savvy from countries where they might do well enough if they stayed, but where no matter how they worked and saved they could never hope to have it as good as the average European.
That’s the dynamic, and the incentive, that’s drawn people north into the United States, and I suspect it will be enough to draw people north into Europe at rising rates even absent massive crises. Which is why the choices that Europe’s policymakers make now, the scale of the welcome they extend, matters for the long term: Not because the world must inexorably come to Europe, but because trends build on themselves, migration patterns get established, and the more people come and stay, the more will expect to, want to, and try to follow them.
Walls, Borders, a Dome and Refugees
By Thomas L. Friedman
Sept. 9, 2015
After Donald Trump proposed building a high wall all along the U.S.-Mexico border, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, not to be out-trumped, basically said, I see your wall and raise you one, stating that it was “legitimate” to consider building a wall along the 5,525-mile U.S.-Canada border as well.
Well, I see both your walls — and raise you a dome.
That’s right. I think we shouldn’t just put high walls on both borders, but also a retractable dome over the whole country and, for good measure, let’s mine our harbors, too — as Lindsey Graham jokingly suggested, criticizing his wall-obsessed fellow Republican presidential contenders.
I know, Walker’s proposal is crazy. But, alas, the fears that he and Trump are playing on with this wall theme are not crazy: Some very big tectonic plates are moving, and people feel it under their feet. The world is being redivided into regions of “order” and “disorder,” and for the first time in a long time, we don’t have an answer for all the people flocking to get out of the world of disorder and into the world of order.
Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, The Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.
But being surrounded by two oceans and friendly democracies in Mexico and Canada, the U.S. is actually less affected by this new era. (The net migration flow from Mexico to the U.S. is now zero.) In fact, we should keep enhancing our economic integration with both our neighbors in ways that can make all three nations more stable and thriving.
It is why, when it comes to our borders, I favor only high walls with big gates — yes, control the borders but with more efficient gates that enhance investment, common standards, trade, tourism and economic opportunity in all three countries. Nothing would make us more secure. When it comes to our neighbors, Trump and Walker are making Americans both afraid and dumb, purely for political gain.
But if either man were running for office in Europe today, his position on walls everywhere would be getting a big hearing, as masses of refugees from the African and Middle Eastern worlds of disorder try to walk, swim, sail, drive, bus and rail their way into Europe’s world of order.
And this is just the beginning. That is because the three largest forces on the planet — Mother Nature (climate change, biodiversity loss and population growth in developing countries), Moore’s law (the steady doubling in the power of microchips and, more broadly, of technology) and the market (globalization tying the world ever more tightly together) — are all in simultaneous, rapid acceleration.
This combination is stressing strong countries and blowing up weak ones. And the ones disintegrating first are those that are the most artificial: their borders are mostly straight lines that correspond to no ethnic, tribal or religious realities and their leaders, rather than creating citizens with equal rights, wasted the last 60 years by plundering their national resources. So when their iron fists come off (in Libya and Iraq with our help), there is nothing to hold these unnatural polygons together.
Since World War II, U.S. foreign policy has focused on integrating more countries into a democratic, free-market world community built on the rule of law while seeking to deter those states that resist from destabilizing the rest. This is what we know how to do.
But, argues Michael Mandelbaum, author of the forthcoming “Mission Failure: America and the World in the Post-Cold War Era”: “There is nothing in our experience that has prepared us for what is going on now: the meltdown of an increasing number of states all at the same time in a globalized world. And what if China starts failing in a globalized world?”
Historically we’ve counted on empires, like the Ottomans, colonial powers, like Britain and France, and autocratic strongmen, such as kings and colonels, to hold artificial states together and provide order in these regions. But we’re now in a post-imperial, post-colonial and, soon, I believe, post-authoritarian world, in which no one will be able to control these disorderly regions with an iron fist while the world of order goes about its business as best it can with occasional reminders of the nasty disarray on its frontiers.
Your heart aches for the Syrian refugees flocking to Europe. And Germany’s generosity in absorbing so many is amazing. We have a special obligation to Libyan and Iraqi refugees. But, with so many countries melting down, just absorbing more and more refugees is not sustainable.
If we’re honest, we have only two ways to halt this refugee flood, and we don’t want to choose either: build a wall and isolate these regions of disorder, or occupy them with boots on the ground, crush the bad guys and build a new order based on real citizenship, a vast project that would take two generations. We fool ourselves that there is a sustainable, easy third way: just keep taking more refugees or create “no-fly zones” here or there.
Will the ends, will the means. And right now no one wants to will the means, because all you win is a bill. So the world of disorder keeps spilling over into the world of order. And beware: The market, Mother Nature and Moore’s law are just revving their engines. You haven’t seen this play before, which is why we have some hard new thinking and hard choices ahead.
Russia and Iran Seek Control of Syria and Iraq
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
9 September 2015
Two years ago, Russian military arrangements were activated to prevent the fall of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria in the form of specialists, consultants and uninterrupted arms shipments. Russian interference back then coincided with an unprecedented semi-Iranian invasion of Syria.
Iranian generals and forces from its Revolutionary Guards carried out most of the combat missions along with the Lebanese Hezbollah, and Afghani and Iraqi groups. Russians were on the back lines, and Iranian forces on the front line.
U.S. reports highlight new, large-scale Russian activity, with potentially huge airlifts, as well as shipments of large housing units for around 3,000 Russian soldiers. Moscow wants to convince the world that it is not invading Syria, and that current events are merely a continuation of the defense agreement with the Assad regime. However, the scale of the activity is a lot larger now.
Russia may see in the current situation a precious opportunity to launch a full-scale war to wipe out the moderate national Syrian resistance. Iranian and Russian forces will then be able to take full control, given that Assad is just a fig leaf. Moscow wants to achieve what it failed to do with negotiations.
Given that the U.S.-led coalition is fighting terrorist organizations only, Russia and Iran now want to liquidate the national opposition and take over Syria, which is very important to rule Iraq. We are about to enter a new, dangerous chapter in the Syrian war.
Washington’s attempts to embarrass Moscow and make it reveal information about its interference will not stop Russia and Iran from using the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to take over Syria. The interference of Russia in Syria as a fighting force will provoke the Arab and Muslim worlds, and bring back memories of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Its interference will push thousands of youths to join terrorist and extremist organizations to defend Syrians. Then countries such as the United States will not have any pretext to convince the world to fight extremism. It will not be possible to reassure Middle Eastern countries about the Iranian-Russian alliance, which wants total control of Iraq and Syria.
So as not to ruin the nuclear negotiations, Washington did not confront or criticize Iran for sending, for the first time, forces beyond its borders to fight in these two countries. If conflict in Syria remained between Syrian parties, matters would have been resolved long ago, either with Assad accepting a political solution according to the Geneva I conference, or with the fall of the regime and the establishment of a political system that includes all Syrian components. Russian interference will prolong and widen the conflict.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.
Can We Live Next To An Iranian Syria?
By Jamal Khashoggi
9 September 2015
Like any war, the one in Syria will eventually be over, but it could lead to a permanently bad outcome. Today’s generation does not remember Israel being described as a dagger in the heart of the Arab nation. In the 1960s, Arab caricaturists drew the map of the world with blood trickling from where Palestine is located. Israel’s dagger continues to make us bleed.
A sectarian, Iranian Syria would be the second dagger, one that will remain for centuries, waging one war after another with us. It might not benefit from Russian support alone. Even Israel is ready to protect it - it is a Jewish state, so will feel less hostile next to sectarian and ethnic statelets: Shiite-Alawite, Kurdish and Druze, among others.
These entities cannot be compared to Sunni Arab countries, which together represent the whole Arab body. However, this body is weak because of disputes and totalitarianism. A caricaturist might draw this body with many daggers stabbing it.
Arabs did not notice what happened on Aug. 2 in Istanbul, even though Turkish intelligence provided all the details. In a hotel, three Syrians from Ahrar al-Sham, a rising force in the Syrian revolution, met with three Iranians and a Hezbollah representative, who remained silent throughout the meeting. The Iranians led the negotiations as if “Syria was theirs,” one of the Syrians said.
This meeting affects Arabs’ national security. Iranians are negotiating to shape the future of Syria as if it was their own country, angering and hurting the Syrian negotiators. What happened that day in Istanbul revealed the reality of the situation in Syria and its future prospects? It is a mere sectarian project.
Iranians were bargaining with Ahrar al-Sham over the displacement of Shiite Syrians to areas under their control, in exchange for the withdrawal of Syrian fighters from the village of Zabadani, which they wish to control. In short, Iran is redrawing the map of Arab Syria.
In order for Arab nationalists to realize the coming danger, they must see things from a sectarian point of view because Iran’s regional motives and alliances are purely sectarian. This battle determines the fate of Hezbollah, which is firmly established in Lebanon and is disabling politics there. No elections will take place in Lebanon before Hezbollah and Iran resolve their battle in Syria, which will merely constitute a supply line for the party.
If Damascus falls completely to the Syrian people, there would not be a pro-Hezbollah government. This was evident from the first day of the peaceful revolution, which called for elections, democracy and pluralism. Neither arms nor sectarian slogans were raised. However, Hezbollah took the side of the regime until it made democratic, free Lebanon an enemy of the revolution.
If the revolution succeeds, arms supplies to Hezbollah will stop, and it will retreat to being a party that draws its strength from polls and its Shiite base, heeding the demands of its people and providing them with better services and more jobs. Hezbollah will then give up its dream of a great Islamic republic.
Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels. Twitter: @JKhashoggi
Mahmoud Abbas: Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?
By Yossi Mekelberg
9 September 2015
There is nothing unusual about a politician entering the ninth decade of his life, and announcing his desire to retire or at least reduce his workload. However, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced his intention to quit his role as head of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), it was received with a mixture of understanding, concern and much scepticism.
For quite some time there has been an air of inevitability that, after more than a decade at the helm and celebrating recently his 80th birthday, the Palestinian political system might find itself looking for a new leader. The main concern is that when Abbas vacates his positon of leadership in the PLO and also in the Palestinian Authority (PA), it might lead to a period of extreme instability among the Palestinians and with Israel.
Nevertheless, there is also an element of doubt as to whether this veteran politician, who has so effectively used the threat of resignation on several occasions to galvanize his power, is pulling one more trick out of his sleeve, knowing that many would wish for him to stick around due to fear of the unknown in a post-Abbas era.
As a consequence of suspecting that he is trying to consolidate his power rather than resign, the PLO’s leadership decided to indefinitely postpone the meeting of the Palestine National Council (PNC), the PLO’s legislative body, where elections for a new executive committee were supposed to take place.
The convening of the PNC in Ramallah by itself raised many challenges. The PNC represents Palestinians living not only in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but also in the diaspora. Had the gathering taken place in Ramallah, many of the 740 PNC members would have not been able to attend for various reasons, including restrictions on movement and entry imposed by Israel.
This might have meant an inbuilt majority for those who support Abbas, and would have either encouraged him to stay and even increase his power, or would have elected a successor of his choice.
End of an Era
Regardless of the postponement of the PNC meeting, Abbas’s intended resignation drew attention to the fact that his leadership is gradually drawing to a close. This will be the end of the era of those who founded the PLO, and subsequently oversaw the transition of the organization from a mainly military resistance movement to an internationally recognized political force.
For Abbas, it has been a long personal journey from being a 13-year-old refugee from Safed due to the 1948 war, to Yasser Arafat’s successor as leader of the PLO and the PA after his death in 2004.
Succeeding Arafat, the great symbol of Palestinian nationalist revival, has always been one of Abbas’ greatest challenges. The latter has actually utilized his image as a grey technocrat to his advantage, an image that is diametrically opposite to that of his predecessor.
At the time of Arafat’s death the second Palestinian uprising was still raging, resulting in bloodshed and one of the most oppressive periods of the Israeli occupation. Moreover, PA corruption repelled many Palestinians, and the dream of self-determination seemed as remote as ever. After decades of Fatah’s nearly complete monopoly over Palestinian politics, the rival Hamas movement was making great strides in becoming an electable alternative.
Abbas’s steady leadership helped stabilize the Palestinian ship. As one of the founders of the PLO, holding senior positions and influencing the most crucial decisions in the very topsy-turvy history of the Palestinian liberation movement, he brought with him enormous experience intertwined with mild-mannered prudence.
Appointing Salem Fayyad as prime minister forged a successful partnership in combating corruption and making the Palestinian government more efficient under difficult circumstances.
Abbas’s first two years in office were probably his most difficult. The Israeli government under Ariel Sharon treated him with complete disregard. It was dismissive of him as a political partner for peace, and unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip without first negotiating it with the PA.
It was an Israeli folly, considering that Abbas played a significant role in the PLO’s recognition of Israel in the 1980s, the Oslo peace process, and his continuous brave stand against indiscriminate violence in resisting the occupation. The manner in which Israel withdrew from Gaza handed a great moral and political victory to his main political rival Hamas, which won the 2005 parliamentary election.
This led to one of Abbas’s greatest failures, the division of Gaza and the West Bank. This in turn weakened the Palestinian cause for self-determination immensely, and to this day casts a long shadow over Palestinian politics.
He also failed to fully embrace the opportunity for peace when it came during Ehud Olmert’s premiership, though it might not have been entirely his fault. The window of opportunity was very narrow, and circumstances in Israel were not favorable at the time.
Still, in the last few years Abbas successfully managed to shift the struggle against the Israeli occupation and ever-expanding settlements to the diplomatic arenas of the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, parliaments around world, and international public opinion.
His recently declared intention to scale down his political leadership might reflect fatigue, or even a genuine will to pass the torch to the next generation. Palestinians and Israelis may find very quickly that they miss his leadership. However, whenever he leaves office, it is very unlikely that he will fulfil his great dream of presiding over an independent Palestinian state – a tragedy for him and his people, even if he bears relatively little responsibility for it.
Yossi Mekelberg is an Associate Fellow at the Middle East and North Africa Program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, where he is involved with projects and advisory work on conflict resolution, including Track II negotiations. He is also the Director of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program at Regent’s University in London, where he has taught since 1996. Previously, he was teaching at King’s College London and Tel Aviv University. Mekelberg’s fields of interest are international relations theory, international politics of the Middle East, human rights, and international relations and revolutions. He is a member of the London Committee of Human Rights Watch, serving on the Advocacy and Outreach committee. Mekelberg is a regular contributor to the international media on a wide range of international issues and you can find him on Twitter @YMekelberg.
The Memoirs of Queen Elizabeth II: From Churchill To Cameron
By Chris Doyle
9 September 201
Think back to Truman, Churchill and Stalin. Think back to the time of the Korean war. This was when a young 25-year-old princess acceded to the throne of Britain, a dying imperial power some 63 and a half years ago. Queen Elizabeth II has officially become Britain’s longest serving monarch overtaking her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria.
Since then the Queen has made 270 official visits to 128 countries making her comfortably the most widely travelled head of state in history. (Queen Victoria never got beyond Europe) Only King Rama IX of Thailand has served longer as Head of State. Barack Obama is her 12th U.S. President, Vladimir Putin her 11th Russian/Soviet leader and Francis is her seventh Roman Catholic Pope. Has any other monarch or head of state had anything like her extraordinary breadth of experience?
So my humble proposal is that it is time that the Queen throws all tradition and protocol out of the palace window and pens a considered or even better a no-holds memoir. After all most world leaders write memoirs so why not her. For sure, it will not happen, but imagine it for a second.
She reportedly keeps a diary so would it be such a stretch to transform it even though she reportedly told inquirers, “Mine’s not for publication”. Indeed her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria kept an extraordinary diary and you can now read online the 40,000 pages of her journals.
An honest account would be a treasure trove surely of detail about major historic personalities and wise reflections. Would it not be fascinating to hear what she genuinely thinks after six decades plus of meeting the world’s leaders? Every one of her 12 Prime Ministers had to brief her on events on a regular basis. What did she make of Churchill - the real view not the official blurb? Did she really not like Margaret Thatcher that much? The Queen has met each and every one of the 12 American Presidents in power since the end of World War II except Lyndon B, Johnson so what did she make of them? What did she think of George W Bush saying on the White House lawn that she had been on the throne since the 18th century? ‘W’ then winked at her.
Her public profile is austere if anything bland, but those who know her privately nearly all agree she has a terrific sense of humour. This could be unlocked for a great page-turner avoiding the distant, stiff, detached language of her annual Christmas address.
There are so many questions to be asked (including what she really thought about being given a bull elephant by the President of Cameroon and did she really like the American TV series Kojak?) What were her genuine views about Princess Diana? How has she coped with a mass media that has shifted from referential to intrusive?
Queen Elizabeth II has a unique vantage point. Her reign started at a time of austerity with rationing after the world war; there was the Suez crisis, the Cold War, Vietnam, South Africa and the downfall of the apartheid, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break of the Soviet Union. In her time, women have risen to the highest offices. The world has become smaller with mass air travel, satellite TV, the Internet and social media. In Britain she has overseen the decline of empire but also the demise of the aristocracy replaced by a new celebrity class.
Back in 1952 Britain was a fairly homogenous white Christian country but today is a rich multicultural society with communities from across the globe. Given the extraordinary pace of change in the modern day world Britain has been transformed far more than during the entire Victorian era.
She also saw the extraordinary transformation in the Gulf region over these decades from her visit state visit in 1979. The Queen has ensured that the links between the British and Gulf Royal families have always been strong, a role kept up by Prince Charles in particular.
She often established a wonderful personal rapport with other leaders. There was the story confirmed to me by the late King himself that the Queen drove King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia through the grounds of her estate in Balmoral in Scotland. For a start, he had never been driven by a woman before, a shock in itself. But the Queen also drove too fast for him and he had to ask her to slow down. Was this on purpose?
Most people in Britain would say she has been an asset to the country. The Republican movement exists but the fact that it has never gathered huge momentum is to a large extent a shrewd understanding by the Queen that she must stand above politics and not be a figure of controversy. No doubt this instinct means she will publish nothing but what a pity.
But should we expect people in the 21st century to take on almost lifelong roles under such demanding circumstances? Pope Benedict set a precedent by retiring as Pope. The King of Spain also abdicated last year as did the Queen of the Netherlands the year before. As yet the Queen has not done so although she has cut back on her previously hectic schedule.
But she is a woman who has never known normal life – it is privileged but also no longer private. The media scrutinize every action, every gesture and every photo. Celebrities have their moments of fame often fleeting but ever since the age of then when her father became King she has been on a pedestal to be watched and monitored. As Queen, she has had to always appear to act properly at all times.
Is it not time though that the monarch be allowed down from the ivory tower? Could she be allowed to reveal some of her true self for posterity?
Surely someone who has seen, experienced and heard so much could enrich our understanding of this era. Rather than leave her barricaded behind the walls of her palaces and castles, before it is too late she should be invited to contribute her experiences and what she has learnt. We know so little of what she truly thinks.
Perhaps we could ask of her this one final duty, not to leave the scene without some contribution to our understanding of the last 60 years. A memoir would give a fascinating insight into the life of someone who had a ringside view of so much of the 20th century’s defining moments.
Chris Doyle is the director of CAABU (the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding). He has worked with the Council since 1993 after graduating with a first class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. As the lead spokesperson for Caabu and as an acknowledged expert on the region, Chris is a frequent commentator on TV and Radio, having given over 148 interviews on the Arab world in in 2012 alone. He gives numerous talks around the country on issues such as the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Islamophobia and the Arabs in Britain. He has had numerous articles and letters published in the British and international media. He has travelled to nearly every country in the Middle East. He has organized and accompanied numerous British Parliamentary delegations to Arab countries. Most recently he took Parliamentary delegations to the West Bank in April, November, December 2013 and January 2014 including with former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
The Iraq War: The Root of Europe's Refugee Crisis
By Imran Khan
09 Sep 2015
It's not that she is angry or even frustrated. She is just tired.
It's not the kind of tired a holiday nor a rest will cure. It's the kind of tired that comes with living in temporary accommodations for years. The kind of tired that comes with constantly battling heat and dust and looking after her children. The kind of tired that comes after you have been forced to flee for your life and carry your belongings in your hand to a strange place.
I meet Umm Lai in a displacement camp in Baghdad. Her story isn't unusual.
Across Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey people have crossed borders and travelled many kilometres within their own country to find respite from war.
Thousands have crossed continents and have ended up in Europe seeking that same respite. By and large it's taken Europe by surprise. Opinions vary on how to deal with the crisis. Some say Europe and the US should step up. Others say the rich Gulf states should use their enormous wealth to help.
What no one talks about is the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
March 2003 was the pivotal point. Based on controversial evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the war drums beat loudly.
The WMD claim was eventually publicly discredited by the CIA's own Iraq survey group report . That report proved whispers and intelligence community doubts from the time that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
But it wasn't just those who questioned the evidence. Mass opposition from the British and American public concluded in marches in various Western capitals opposing the war.
Those voices went ignored and in March 2003, the then US president and the British prime minister met in the Azores, Portugal, with the Spanish prime minister, and set into motion events that now include the dead body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi that washed up on a Turkish beach.
What the Iraq war did was allow space for anger at the unjustified actions of the Western coalition to be moulded into a hardline movement of fighters who would join al-Qaeda In Iraq and other groups.
Before the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, radical and violent movements were tiny in number. Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were the only real threat.
Arab governments realised that and exiled the group until it found sanctuary in Afghanistan, the very place that bin Laden, funded by Saudi Arabia and the US, learned to fight against the Soviets and hone his violent philosophy.
After the September 11 attacks, the extremists got the fight they were looking for when the US invaded Afghanistan.
Al-Qaeda was defeated, and its host, the Taliban movement, was ousted from power. The group has since waged an armed resistance against the US-backed successive governments.
The US then invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003.
Suddenly the radical groups had found a new cause and a new fight.
They learned new tactics. They became hardened fighters. They dreamed of a caliphate that would spread across the Arab and Muslim world.
Angry that the US had invaded another Muslim country, money and weapons were donated in huge number from Muslim countries by individuals who might never have thought about donating to a cause that was violent in nature.
Once irrelevant, al-Qaeda became a threat again, and for the first time the group found a foothold in Iraq.
The philosophy of armed rebellion and fighting for God spread. Pakistan, another Muslim nation, found itself fighting an armed rebellion, as did many other countries.
The 'Arab Spring' of 2011 raised hopes of democratisation in the Middle East, but many of the gains of the revolutionary movements have since been reversed.
Mohamed Morsi, who became Egypt's first democratically elected president, was toppled by the military in 2013. Initially it was not religious or even violent in nature.
It was popular anger at dictators propped up by the West coupled with frustration at the lack of economic development.
Down the dictators fell, and with them, decades of religious suppression. That religious fervour found expression in anger at the US' role in Iraq.
Suddenly religious groups were able to speak freely, and freely they did, mainly about the US and its role in the region.
Then when the protests reached Syria, President Bashar al-Assad knew he didn't want to suffer the same fate as his Arab counterparts.
The West quickly abandoned him and said no negotiations while he was in power. Left with little choice he moved on those that opposed him in a violent and bloody manner.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq became ISIL and took huge parts of Syria and Iraq. Other groups sprang up that used religion to recruit.
Syria unravelled and that's why you have millions of refugees.
The Iraq war was the war too far - the one that has changed the Middle East.
It was the war that solidified and unified disparate young men from different countries into following the path of violent jihad.
Had the Iraq war not happened, then Saddam Hussein would have been contained as he was.
This dictator was a threat to freedom and to his own people, but was no longer a threat to his neighbours.
The leaders of ISIL and other radical groups would have found death in Afghanistan or prison elsewhere. However, hindsight and "what if" the words of those are that have the luxury of not living in a tent.
The Iraq war did happen.
The refugee crisis is happening.
Now the only questions the world perhaps should be asking is how we can bring about a political solution to the war in Syria and how we bring all sides to the table.
What the refugee crisis has done is force the Western European public to think. Whether they can force their governments to act and bring about a solution is another question.
The architects of the Iraq war still say their actions had nothing to do with the current crisis.
In 2014, Tony Blair wrote an essay on his website and said: "The civil war in Syria with its attendant disintegration is having its predictable and malign effect. Iraq is now in mortal danger. The whole of the Middle East is under threat."
He argued and continues to argue that the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with the rise of groups like ISIL and wars in both Iraq and Syria.
I wonder how refugees across Europe feel about those words.
The Militarisation of The Refugee Crisis
By Jeff Sparrow
09 Sep 2015
On August 27, the new Australian Border Force (ABF) put out a press release explaining that, as part of something called Operation Fortitude, ABF officials would be stopping passers-by in inner-city Melbourne and demanding to see their visas.
The announcement caused immediate outrage on social media and, after a snap demonstration of several hundred people, authorities cancelled the operation, claiming it had been misunderstood.
Though the racist "White Australia" policy was a central facet of the Australian federation until its abolition in the early 1970s, mandatory detention for refugees was only introduced in 1992. The conservative government of John Howard made deterrence a major policy platform.
Since then, both major parties in Australia have been committed to harsh anti-refugee policies. The most controversial of these include housing asylum seekers on the impoverished nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru in centres notorious for allegations of sexual abuse and violence.
The ABF was created on July 1, at a cost of $7m, as a result of a recent merger of the Department of Immigration and the Department of Customs and Border Protection. The organisation is led by Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg, a former officer of the Australian federal police.
The 5,000 ABF officers wear black paramilitary tunics. Most are authorised to carry guns, detain people and conduct surveillance.
The increasing militarisation of refugee policy in Australia - a wealthy country that's largely isolated from the world's population traffic - reflects a broader international trend. The ABF echoes the American experience, where the US Border Patrol has been subsumed by the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection Agency. It guards the crossing from Mexico with assault rifles and military hardware, such as drones, helicopters and motion detectors.
As Todd Miller, the author of Border Patrol Nation, has written: The American approach to border security is being exported to nations where the US has interests - particularly Central America, but also Iraq, Afghanistan and South Africa.
This week, Israel announced the construction of a wall along its border with Jordan to deter what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as "a wave of illegal migrants and terrorist activists".
Meanwhile, in Europe, many governments are adopting military-style programmes to deter the influx of refugees, blaming traffickers for the crisis and threatening to destroy boats before asylum seekers can board them.
Hungarian authorities are considering using troops to control refugees crossing the border from Serbia. Tear gas, helicopters, barbed wire and dogs have all been deployed. Greek police threatened the refugees with batons on the island of Lesbos, French authorities have used tear gas on people trying to cross the Eurotunnel from Calais into Britain, and Macedonian officials have used stun grenades.
"Plans to use the army to stop asylum seekers in Bulgaria and Hungary are ill-advised," warned Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks last month. "Militarisation of borders is [sic] wrong answer to migration."
It might seem hyperbolic to identify the emergence of the ABF as part of an international war on refugees, especially since successive governments have justified Australia's immigration policy with distinctively humanitarian rhetoric.
The camps, the secrecy, even the boat turnbacks: They're defended as necessary for saving lives since they ostensibly deter refugees from making the dangerous crossing from Indonesia.
It's not a war against refugees, the government says - it's a war "for" them: a humanitarian intervention seeking to prevent drownings.
Framing militarised border policing as a humanitarian endeavour has consistently wrong-footed refugee advocates in Australia, torn between their instinctive hostility to the army's deployment against refugee boats and their awareness of the asylum seekers drowned each year.
It is useful, then, to note the striking parallels with recent wars fought by the West, many of which have also been promoted as humanitarian missions. There are similarities between the rhetoric of the "war on terror" and the rhetoric of what we might call "the war on refugees".
In 2003, George Bush and Tony Blair won liberal support for Operation Iraqi Freedom by advocating the mission as necessary to save the people of Iraq from Saddam Hussein.
Likewise, Western air strikes on Libya were launched as an operation to save civilians from certain death. Both interventions led directly or indirectly to large population displacements.
Indeed, technologies and strategies developed in the "war on terror" - from autonomous camera robots to security sensors - are being adapted to constrain the movement of people.
According to some estimates, the "humanitarian interventions" in Iraq and Afghanistan will eventually cost the US some $6 trillion. A small fraction of that figure could fund safe resettlement projects for all those fleeing from Syria.
The outpouring of sympathy over the recent death of Aylan Kurdi provides a glimpse of how the issue might be reframed.
Kurdi's death encouraged many in Australia to see refugees as humans. Those travelling to Australia don't require militarised immigration regimes.
Instead, they seek policies that facilitate their legitimate requests. Their demands are entirely reasonable.
Jeff Sparrow is a writer, editor and broadcaster, and an Honorary Fellow at Victoria University, Melbourne.