Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Интерьеры дореволюционных питерских квартир


ptiza.org

Интерьеры дореволюционных питерских квартир

На днях я наткнулась на снимки дореволюционных петербургских апартаментов. Долго и увлеченно их рассматривая, я не переставала ловить себя на мысли, что эти интерьеры вековой давности напоминают мне сегодняшнюю Англию, зажиточную, имперскую. После революции 1917 года они превратятся в душные, шумные коммуналки. А пока здесь царит праздник жизни, я предлагаю Вам «побродить» по их комнатам и узнать, кто были люди, которые здесь жили.

Квартира оперной певицы Марии Александровны Михайловой

Фонарный переулок, 1 
Mihajlova02Мария Александровна Михайлова (1864? — 1943, урожденная Ван-Путерен, сценический псевдоним Михайленко) — артистка оперы. Родилась в русско-голландской семье. Пению в Петербурге на музыкально-драматических курсах Е. Рапгофа (у проф. З. П. Греннинг-Вильде). Позднее в течение четырех лет совершенствовалась в вокальном искусстве в Милане у С. Ронкони и Париже — у С. Бакса и Де-Лаборде. В 1892—1912 гг Мария Михайлова была солисткой петербургского Мариинского театра.
Будуар
Столова
Кабинет
Детская

Квартира барона Икскуля фон ГильденбрандтаАлександра Владимировича

Б.Монетная ул., 15.
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Квартира генерал-майора, товарища министра внутренних дел, члена Совета министров В.Ф.Джунковского

Фурштадтская ул., 40
200px-Djunkovsky_Vladimir_(1865-1938)Влади́мир Фёдорович Джунко́вский (7 (19) сентября 1865 — 21 февраля 1938) — российский политический, государственный и военный деятель. До революции быд адъютантом московского генерал-губернатора, адъютантом великого князя Сергея Александровича и московским губернатором. После революции  вместе с группой генералов арестован и заключен в Алексеевский равелин Петропавловской крепости. Освобожден, однако вскоре признан опасным для советской власти и приговорён к заключению в концлагерь. В конце 1937 года 72-летний Владимир Фёдорович был вновь арестован. Расстрелян в феврале 1938 года.
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Квартира князя М.М.Андроникова

Наб.р.Фонтанки, 54.
Михаи́л Миха́йлович Андро́ников (Андро́нников; 1875—1919) — русский князь, авантюрист.
Князь Андроников, вертевшийся в придворных и правительственных кругах, подносивший иконы министрам, цветы и конфекты их женам, и знакомый с царскосельским камердинером. — Из воспоминаний А.А.Блока.
…известно <…>, что он предоставлял свою квартиру для секретных свиданий Распутина с Хвостовым и Белецким, а также и с епископом Варнавою. Желая попасть в тон царившему при Дворе религиозному настроению и создать этим же слух о своей религиозности, в своей спальне за особой ширмой устроил подобие часовни. <…> Достойно примечания, как это мною лично установлено при осмотре его квартиры и при допросе его прислуги, что князь Андронников в той же самой спальне, по другую сторону ширмы на своей двуспальной постели предавался самому гнусному … с молодыми людьми, дарившими его ласками за обещания составить протекцию.— Доклад товарища прокурора Екатеринославского окружного суда Владимира Руднева.
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Квартира литератора, редактора газеты «Биржевые ведомости» В.А.Бонди

Офицерская ул., 54.
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Квартира министра народного просвещения Л.А.Кассо

Наб.р.Фонтанки, 38
Лев Аристи́дович Кассо́ (1865, Париж — 1914, Санкт-Петербург) — российский юрист, государственный деятель.
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Квартира Соловьевых

Невский пр., д.51 
В начале ХХ века дом приобрел потомственный почетный гражданин, купец 1-й гильдии В. И. Соловьев — директор торгового товарищества, владелец нескольких домов и сети магазинов в этой части Невского. В это время в доме открылся филиал гостиницы «Большая Северная» и кинематограф «Мулен Руж». Здесь находился банкирский дом П. Ефимова, магазин обуви товарищества «Скороход» — Из Википедии.
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The world’s losers are revolting, and Brexit is only the beginning


JB: From Francis Fukuyama, "The End of History?" (Summer 1989)
"The end of history will be a very sad time. The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one's life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands. In the post-historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history. I can feel in myself, and see in others around me, a powerful nostalgia for the time when history existed. Such nostalgia, in fact, will continue to fuel competition and conflict even in the post-historical world for some time to come. Even though I recognize its inevitability, I have the most ambivalent feelings for the civilization that has been created in Europe since 1945, with its north Atlantic and Asian offshoots. Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again."
  Washington Post




THE world has enjoyed an unprecedented run of peace, prosperity and cooperation the last 25 years, but now that might be over. At least when it comes to those last two.
That, more than anything else, is what Britain's vote to leave the European Union means. A British exit, or Brexit, will make the country poorer in the short run, perhaps in the long run too, and might drag the rest of Europe down with it. That's because Britain is essentially ripping up its free trade deal with the rest of Europe. But of far greater concern than just dollars and cents is that this is the most significant setback in Europe's 60-year quest for "ever closer union," and the most shocking success for the new nationalism sweeping the Western world.
Brexit, in other words, is the end of the end of history.
That, of course, was Francis Fukuyama's famous idea that, with the end of the Cold War, capitalist democracy had not only defeated communism, but also every other ideology. It was supposed to be, as he wrote, the "final form of human government." And insofar as democracies tended to work together, this implied the future would be one where competition wouldn't lead to conflict, but would rather replace it. Tariffs would come down, money would move across borders to where it was needed most, and workers would too. This meant, then, that governments weren't the only ones that would become more alike. People would as well. They'd stop being citizens and chauvinists, and become consumers and cosmopolitans. You'd have nation-states without the nationalism.

For a while, this seemed true enough. Democracy spread, war lessened and economies opened up. In turn, international groups like the European Union and World Trade Organization codified it all. As any Mumbai taxi driver could have told you, the world really was a Thomas Friedman book.

Or at least it looked that way, if you didn't stare too closely. If you did, though, you would have noticed the cracks in this liberal international order. For one, financial capitalism didn't always work so well for countries. Money moved in and out of them at the speed of a mouse click, inflating and then popping bubbles along the way. From Mexico to Argentina, Thailand to South Korea, Hong Kong to Indonesia, and, eventually, the United States to southern Europe, these capital flows magnified the economy's boom-bust cycle, with an emphasis on the bust. 

For another, global capitalism didn't always work so well for workers in the United States and Europe even as — or, in some cases, because — it pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty everywhere else. In fact, the working class in rich countries have seen their real, or inflation-adjusted, incomes flatline or even fall since the Berlin Wall came down and they were forced to compete with all the Chinese, Indian and Indonesian workers entering the global economy. You can see that in the chart below, put together from economist Branko Milanovic's data. It shows how much real incomes have increased — or not — for the whole world between 1988 and 2008. Now, the way to read this is to imagine that everyone, as in everyone in every country, was lined up from highest to lowest income. The richest people in the richest countries (and every other one for that matter) would be in the global top 1 percent, the working class in the richest countries would be around the 80th percentile, and the middle class in middle-class countries like China would be at the 50th percentile.
Globalization didn't create a lot of losers, but the ones it did were concentrated in the countries that were the driving force behind it.

This was a political powder keg. If rich-world workers were losing ground even when times were good, what would happen if we got hit by one of the financial crises the new global economy seemed to spawn every few years? Well, things would get ugly. Although, in truth, they had already started to. Right-wing populists like Pat Buchanan in the United States, Jean-Marie Le Pen in France and Jörg Haider in Austria had scored surprising near-victories, if not actual ones, in the late 1990s and early 2000s by focusing the working class's incipient ire on a "foreign" enemy besides outsourcing: immigrants. This antagonism reflected economic anxiety, cultural fear and even racial resentment. Displaced workers felt like immigrants were taking jobs and benefits that should have been theirs. They were worried about losing the one thing — their national identity — the market couldn't take. And, a lot of times, they just didn't want to be around people who didn't look, sound, or worship like they did.
It didn't take long, then, for the West's triumphal globalism to fuel a nationalist backlash. In the United States it's Trump, in France it's the National Front, in Germany it's the Alternative for Germany and, yes, in Britain it's the Brexiters. 
SO Britain's "leave" campaign was about what you'd expect, especially considering that immigration had doubled the previous 20 years as people from the E.U.'s poorest east had come looking for work. Brexiters called to "take back control" from Brussels's bureaucrats. They warned that Turkey is about to join the E.U. — it's not — and flood the country with immigrants. They said that Europe's refugee crisis has pushed them to a "breaking point" in a poster reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. And they promised to earmark the funds now being sent to the E.U. for what they claim is theoverburdened-by-immigrants National Health Services instead. Never mind that they overstated how much money that'd be by a factor of two. Their basic argument was that Britain could only stop this influx of immigrants if it ditched the E.U. and its rules mandating the free movement of people and that the elites had failed the people by forgetting there was a Britain outside of London. The only real surprise is that all this happened in Britain and not some other E.U. country, since they were smart enough not to adopt the euro and thus avoided the worst of Europe's double-dip recession.
If he were around today, Louis XV might amend what he said to this: Après Brexit, le déluge. That's not, though, because of what Brexit might do to Britain's economy, but rather to everyone else's politics. Now, of course, it is true that leaving the E.U. without getting a new trade deal almost as good as the one it has now will make Britain permanently poorer. And it is also true that the uncertainty over what any future agreement will look like will put the brakes on business investment and possibly push Britain into recession. But the economic fate of one little island isn't what has global markets on edge. It's whether the rest of Europe will follow Britain out of the E.U. and into their own portmanteaus. In other words, whether Brexit will beget Frexit, Itexit and Nexit.
It might. Right-wing populists, after all, in FranceItaly and the Netherlands have already called for their own referendums on E.U. membership. And if they win, it wouldn't just tear the common market apart but the common currency as well. See, unlike Britain, all those countries use the euro. So if one of them were to leave, two things would happen: First, they'd have to change all the money in their economy, and, second, every other euro country would worry that they'd be next. That, in turn, would set off a slow-motion bank run across Southern Europe as people tried to get ahold of their euros before they could be turned into, say, liras that wouldn't be worth anywhere near as much. It'd be the mother-of-all financial crises. Which is why German, French, Spanish and Italian stock markets all fell much further than Britain's did after it voted to leave. Indeed, those markets dropped 6.8, 8.0, 12.4 and 12.5 percent, respectively, on Friday, while Britain's "only" declined 3.2 percent.
Brexit, it turns out, is more about Europe than it is about Britain.
THIS could be the beginning of the end of the euro, the European Union and the liberal international order itself. Like the French Revolution, though, it's too soon to say. Britain may yet back away from the brink. And Europe may yet fix the flaws in its currency and its bureaucracy to head off any more nationalist uprisings. Neither of those is likely, but we can't rule them out — just like we can't rule out the opposite. Brexit really might be the end of the E.U. if France and Italy follow Britain out the door; it might also be the end of the U.K. if Scotland and Northern Ireland decide they'd rather be part of the E.U. (or what's left of it); and it might even be the end of our era of economic integration if it helps propel populists to power across the continent who only care about putting their people "first." 
The E.U. may certainly seem to deserve this fate. It has let an economic fire burn across Southern Europe for nearly eight years, its only response to that has been to pour some gasoline on it, and it seems to think it has done its job now that that is down to just a smolder. Now, its first mistake was ignoring the economists who warned that creating a currency union without a fiscal union to go with it would end, well, as badly as it has. Its second one was ignoring the evidence that things were indeed going bad just as predicted, and blaming irresponsible governments instead. And its last one was all but blackmailing governments into slashing their budgets out of the misguided belief that this would get their sputtering economies growing again. It didn't. It was the economic equivalent of tossing a drowning person an anchor instead of a lifeline, because you thought they needed to get stronger and not bailed out. Which made the E.U. Europe's bête noire.
The sad irony of all this is that the E.U. was built to prevent the very kind of nationalist fervor its economic mismanagement and political heavy-handedness are provoking now. The dustbin of history exists for a reason.

And yet, and yet. It's easy for a generation that has only known peace and relative prosperity to forget that the arc of the political universe is long, and it bends toward wherever you point it. If that's toward chauvinism and isolationism, well, that's what you'll get. Europe's countries will end up with metaphorical walls around their economies, and eventually physical ones around their borders. Hungary's nationalist government is already well on its way with itsrazor-wire fences. This is a dangerous time for Europe. It has had walls before. It doesn't want them again. The only thing, then, that might be worse than the E.U. is the people who want to get rid of it. The same could be said of globalization. It might have made growth less inclusive and less sustainable than before — at least in rich countries — but it's hard to say the alternative would be better. We'd be a little poorer, and poorer countries would be a lot less able to grow.
The liberal international order isn't working for too many people, but, on balance, most economists would say it's still worth fighting for. After all, there are much worse alternatives. If we want to avoid learning that firsthand, though, we're going to need to build bigger safety nets for globalization's losers, and, in the case of the E.U., make it more responsive to voters. Otherwise, we might get the toughest lesson of all.
History doesn't always move forward.

The American Dream - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United"


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Blue Dem Warriors's photo.

Tomgram: Patrick Cockburn, An Endless Cycle of Indecisive Wars


tomdispatch.com

image (not from article) from

[Note to TomDispatch Readers: Patrick Cockburn has arguably been our premier journalist of the Middle East in these last years. For the Independent, he’s produced a body of journalism about our wars in the Greater Middle East and their consequences that is simply superb. His latest book (just out in paperback), Chaos & Caliphate: Jihadis and the West in the Struggle for the Middle East, offers a panoramic look at his on-the-ground reportage from the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to Iraq in 2015. I recommend it highly. You can buy it directly from his publisher, OR Books, by clicking here.
In addition, let me remind all of you that, in return for a donation to this website of $100 or more ($125 if you live outside the United States), you can get a signed, personalized copy of any one of 14 books, from an impressive range of authors, including Nick Turse and me, at the TomDispatch donation page and help keep this operation rolling. Tom]
Here’s an unavoidable fact: we are now in a Brexit world. We are seeing the first signs of a major fragmentation of this planet that, until recently, the cognoscenti were convinced was globalizing rapidly and headed for unifications of all sorts. If you want a single figure that catches the grim spirit of our moment, it’s 65 million. That’s the record-setting number of people that the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates were displaced in 2015 by “conflict and persecution,” one of every 113 inhabitants of the planet. That's more than were generated in the wake of World War II at a time when significant parts of the globe had been devastated. Of the 21 million refugees among them, 51% were children (often separated from their parents and lacking any access to education). Most of the displaced of 2015 were, in fact, internal refugees, still in their own often splintered states. Almost half of those who fled across borders have come from three countries: Syria (4.9 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), and Somalia (1.1 million).
Despite the headlines about refugees heading for Europe -- approximately a million of them made it there last year (with more dying on the way) -- most of the uprooted who leave their homelands end up in poor or economically mid-level neighboring lands, with Turkey at 2.5 million refugees leading the way. In this fashion, the disruption of spreading conflicts and chaos, especially across the Greater Middle East and Africa, only brings more conflict and chaos with it wherever those refugees are forced to go.
And keep in mind that, as extreme as that 65 million figure may seem, it undoubtedly represents the beginning, not the end, of a process. For one thing, it doesn’t even include the estimated 19 million people displaced last year by extreme weather events and other natural disasters. Yet in coming decades, the heating of our planet, with attendant weather extremes (like the present heat wave in the American West) and rising sea levels, will undoubtedly produce its own waves of new refugees, only adding to both the conflicts and the fragmentation.
As Patrick Cockburn points out today, we have entered “an age of disintegration.” And he should know. There may be no Western reporter who has covered the grim dawn of that age in the Greater Middle East and North Africa -- from Afghanistan to Iraq, Syria to Libya -- more fully or movingly than he has over this last decade and a half. His latest book, Chaos & Caliphate: Jihadis and the West in the Struggle for the Middle East, gives a vivid taste of his reporting and of a world that is at present cracking under the pressure of the conflicts he has witnessed. And imagine that so much of this began, at the bargain-basement cost of a mere$400,000 to $500,000, with 19 (mainly Saudi) fanatics, and a few hijacked airliners. Osama bin Laden must be smiling in his watery grave. Tom
The Age of Disintegration 
Neoliberalism, Interventionism, the Resource Curse, and a Fragmenting World
We live in an age of disintegration. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Greater Middle East and Africa. Across the vast swath of territory between Pakistan and Nigeria, there are at least seven ongoing wars -- in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and South Sudan. These conflicts are extraordinarily destructive. They are tearing apart the countries in which they are taking place in ways that make it doubtful they will ever recover. Cities like Aleppo in Syria, Ramadi in Iraq, Taiz in Yemen, and Benghazi in Libya have been partly or entirely reduced to ruins. There are also at least three other serious insurgencies: in southeast Turkey, where Kurdish guerrillas are fighting the Turkish army, in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula where a little-reported but ferocious guerrilla conflict is underway, and in northeast Nigeria and neighboring countries where Boko Haram continues to launch murderous attacks.
All of these have a number of things in common: they are endless and seem never to produce definitive winners or losers. (Afghanistan has effectively been at war since 1979, Somalia since 1991.) They involve the destruction or dismemberment of unified nations, their de facto partition amid mass population movements and upheavals -- well publicized in the case of Syria and Iraq, less so in places like South Sudan where more than 2.4 million people have been displaced in recent years.

Add in one more similarity, no less crucial for being obvious: in most of these countries, where Islam is the dominant religion, extreme Salafi-Jihadi movements, including the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda, and the Taliban are essentially the only available vehicles for protest and rebellion. By now, they have completely replaced the socialist and nationalist movements that predominated in the twentieth century; these years have, that is, seen a remarkable reversion to religious, ethnic, and tribal identity, to movements that seek to establish their own exclusive territory by the persecution and expulsion of minorities.
In the process and under the pressure of outside military intervention, a vast region of the planet seems to be cracking open. Yet there is very little understanding of these processes in Washington. This was recently well illustrated by the protest of 51 State Department diplomats against President Obama’s Syrian policy and their suggestion that air strikes be launched targeting Syrian regime forces in the belief that President Bashar al-Assad would then abide by a ceasefire. The diplomats’ approach remains typically simpleminded in this most complex of conflicts, assuming as it does that the Syrian government’s barrel-bombing of civilians and other grim acts are the “root cause of the instability that continues to grip Syria and the broader region.”
It is as if the minds of these diplomats were still in the Cold War era, as if they were still fighting the Soviet Union and its allies. Against all the evidence of the last five years, there is an assumption that a barely extant moderate Syrian opposition would benefit from the fall of Assad, and a lack of understanding that the armed opposition in Syria is entirely dominated by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda clones.
Though the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is now widely admitted to have been a mistake (even by those who supported it at the time), no real lessons have been learned about why direct or indirect military interventions by the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East over the last quarter century have all only exacerbated violence and accelerated state failure.
A Mass Extinction of Independent States
The Islamic State, just celebrating its second anniversary, is the grotesque outcome of this era of chaos and conflict. That such a monstrous cult exists at all is a symptom of the deep dislocation societies throughout that region, ruled by corrupt and discredited elites, have suffered. Its rise -- and that of various Taliban and al-Qaeda-style clones -- is a measure of the weakness of its opponents.
The Iraqi army and security forces, for example, had 350,000 soldiers and 660,000 police on the books in June 2014 when a few thousand Islamic State fighters captured Mosul, the country’s second largest city, which they still hold. Today the Iraqi army, security services, and about 20,000 Shia paramilitaries backed by the massive firepower of the United States and allied air forces have fought their way into the city of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, against the resistance of IS fighters who may have numbered as few as 900. In Afghanistan, the resurgence of the Taliban, supposedly decisively defeated in 2001, came about less because of the popularity of that movement than the contempt with which Afghans came to regard their corrupt government in Kabul.
Everywhere nation states are enfeebled or collapsing, as authoritarian leaders battle for survival in the face of mounting external and internal pressures. This is hardly the way the region was expected to develop. Countries that had escaped from colonial rule in the second half of the twentieth century were supposed to become more, not less, unified as time passed.
Between 1950 and 1975, nationalist leaders came to power in much of the previously colonized world. They promised to achieve national self-determination by creating powerful independent states through the concentration of whatever political, military, and economic resources were at hand. Instead, over the decades, many of these regimes transmuted into police states controlled by small numbers of staggeringly wealthy families and a coterie of businessmen dependent on their connections to such leaders as Hosni Mubarak in Egypt or Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
In recent years, such countries were also opened up to the economic whirlwind of neoliberalism, which destroyed any crude social contract that existed between rulers and ruled. Take Syria. There, rural towns and villages that had once supported the Baathist regime of the al-Assad family because it provided jobs and kept the prices of necessities low were, after 2000, abandoned to market forces skewed in favor of those in power. These places would become the backbone of the post-2011 uprising. At the same time, institutions like the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that had done so much to enhance the wealth and power of regional oil producers in the 1970s have lost their capacity for united action.
The question for our moment: Why is a “mass extinction” of independent states taking place in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond? Western politicians and media often refer to such countries as “failed states.” The implication embedded in that term is that the process is a self-destructive one. But several of the states now labeled “failed” like Libya only became so after Western-backed opposition movements seized power with the support and military intervention of Washington and NATO, and proved too weak to impose their own central governments and so a monopoly of violence within the national territory.
In many ways, this process began with the intervention of a U.S.-led coalition in Iraq in 2003 leading to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the shutting down of his Baathist Party, and the disbanding of his military. Whatever their faults, Saddam and Libya’s autocratic ruler Muammar Gaddafi were clearly demonized and blamed for all ethnic, sectarian, and regional differences in the countries they ruled, forces that were, in fact, set loose in grim ways upon their deaths.
A question remains, however: Why did the opposition to autocracy and to Western intervention take on an Islamic form and why were the Islamic movements that came to dominate the armed resistance in Iraq and Syria in particular so violent, regressive, and sectarian? Put another way, how could such groups find so many people willing to die for their causes, while their opponents found so few? When IS battle groups were sweeping through northern Iraq in the summer of 2014, soldiers who had thrown aside their uniforms and weapons and deserted that country’s northern cities would justify their flight by saying derisively: “Die for [then-Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki? Never!”
A common explanation for the rise of Islamic resistance movements is that the socialist, secularist, and nationalist opposition had been crushed by the old regimes' security forces, while the Islamists were not. In countries like Libya and Syria, however, Islamists were savagely persecuted, too, and they still came to dominate the opposition. And yet, while these religious movements were strong enough to oppose governments, they generally have not proven strong enough to replace them.
Too Weak to Win, But Too Strong to Lose
Though there are clearly many reasons for the present disintegration of states and they differ somewhat from place to place, one thing is beyond question: the phenomenon itself is becoming the norm across vast reaches of the planet.
If you’re looking for the causes of state failure in our time, the place to start is undoubtedly with the end of the Cold War a quarter-century ago. Once it was over, neither the U.S. nor the new Russia that emerged from the Soviet Union’s implosion had a significant interest in continuing to prop up “failed states,” as each had for so long, fearing that the rival superpower and its local proxies would otherwise take over. Previously, national leaders in places like the Greater Middle East had been able to maintain a degree of independence for their countries by balancing between Moscow and Washington. With the break-up of the Soviet Union, this was no longer feasible.
In addition, the triumph of neoliberal free-market economics in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse added a critical element to the mix. It would prove far more destabilizing than it looked at the time.
Again, consider Syria. The expansion of the free market in a country where there was neither democratic accountability nor the rule of law meant one thing above all: plutocrats linked to the nation’s ruling family took anything that seemed potentially profitable. In the process, they grew staggeringly wealthy, while the denizens of Syria’s impoverished villages, country towns, and city slums, who had once looked to the state for jobs and cheap food, suffered. It should have surprised no one that those places became the strongholds of the Syrian uprising after 2011. In the capital, Damascus, as the reign of neoliberalism spread, even the lesser members of the mukhabarat, or secret police, found themselves living on only $200 to $300 a month, while the state became a machine for thievery.
This sort of thievery and the auctioning off of the nation’s patrimony spread across the region in these years. The new Egyptian ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, merciless toward any sign of domestic dissent, was typical. In a country that once had been a standard bearer for nationalist regimes the world over, he didn’t hesitate this April to try to hand over two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia on whose funding and aid his regime is dependent. (To the surprise of everyone, an Egyptian court recently overruled Sisi's decision.)
That gesture, deeply unpopular among increasingly impoverished Egyptians, was symbolic of a larger change in the balance of power in the Middle East: once the most powerful states in the region -- Egypt, Syria, and Iraq -- had been secular nationalists and a genuine counterbalance to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf monarchies. As those secular autocracies weakened, however, the power and influence of the Sunni fundamentalist monarchies only increased. If 2011 saw rebellion and revolution spread across the Greater Middle East as the Arab Spring briefly blossomed, it also saw counterrevolution spread, funded by those oil-rich absolute Gulf monarchies, which were never going to tolerate democratic secular regime change in Syria or Libya.
Add in one more process at work making such states ever more fragile: the production and sale of natural resources -- oil, gas, and minerals -- and the kleptomania that goes with it. Such countries often suffer from what has become known as “the resources curse”: states increasingly dependent for revenues on the sale of their natural resources -- enough to theoretically provide the whole population with a reasonably decent standard of living -- turn instead into grotesquely corrupt dictatorships. In them, the yachts of local billionaires with crucial connections to the regime of the moment bob in harbors surrounded by slums running with raw sewage. In such nations, politics tends to focus on elites battling and maneuvering to steal state revenues and transfer them as rapidly as possible out of the country.
This has been the pattern of economic and political life in much of sub-Saharan Africa from Angola to Nigeria. In the Middle East and North Africa, however, a somewhat different system exists, one usually misunderstood by the outside world. There is similarly great inequality in Iraq or Saudi Arabia with similarly kleptocratic elites. They have, however, ruled over patronage states in which a significant part of the population is offered jobs in the public sector in return for political passivity or support for the kleptocrats.
In Iraq with a population of 33 million people, for instance, no less thanseven million of them are on the government payroll, thanks to salaries or pensions that cost the government $4 billion a month. This crude way of distributing oil revenues to the people has often been denounced by Western commentators and economists as corruption. They, in turn, generally recommend cutting the number of these jobs, but this would mean that all, rather than just part, of the state’s resource revenues would be stolen by the elite. This, in fact, is increasingly the case in such lands as oil prices bottom out and even the Saudi royals begin to cut back on state support for the populace.
Neoliberalism was once believed to be the path to secular democracy and free-market economies. In practice, it has been anything but. Instead, in conjunction with the resource curse, as well as repeated military interventions by Washington and its allies, free-market economics has profoundly destabilized the Greater Middle East. Encouraged by Washington and Brussels, twenty-first-century neoliberalism has made unequal societies ever more unequal and helped transform already corrupt regimes into looting machines. This is also, of course, a formula for the success of the Islamic State or any other radical alternative to the status quo. Such movements are bound to find support in impoverished or neglected regions like eastern Syria or eastern Libya.
Note, however, that this process of destabilization is by no means confined to the Greater Middle East and North Africa. We are indeed in the age of destabilization, a phenomenon that is on the rise globally and at present spreading into the Balkans and Eastern Europe (with the European Union ever less able to influence events there). People no longer speak of European integration, but of how to prevent the complete break-up of the European Union in the wake of the British vote to leave.
The reasons why a narrow majority of Britons voted for Brexit have parallels with the Middle East: the free-market economic policies pursued by governments since Margaret Thatcher was prime minister have widened the gap between rich and poor and between wealthy cities and much of the rest of the country. Britain might be doing well, but millions of Britons did not share in the prosperity. The referendum about continued membership in the European Union, the option almost universally advocated by the British establishment, became the catalyst for protest against the status quo. The anger of the "Leave" voters has much in common with that of Donald Trump supporters in the United States.
The U.S. remains a superpower, but is no longer as powerful as it once was. It, too, is feeling the strains of this global moment, in which it and its local allies are powerful enough to imagine they can get rid of regimes they do not like, but either they do not quite succeed, as in Syria, or succeed but cannot replace what they have destroyed, as in Libya. An Iraqi politician once saidthat the problem in his country was that parties and movements were “too weak to win, but too strong to lose.” This is increasingly the pattern for the whole region and is spreading elsewhere. It carries with it the possibility of an endless cycle of indecisive wars and an era of instability that has already begun.
Patrick Cockburn is a Middle East correspondent for the Independent of London and the author of five books on the Middle East, the latest of which isChaos and Caliphate: Jihadis and the West in the Struggle for the Middle East(OR Books).
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