Sep 20, 2003
Unless you lived in Transjorden, later the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan, from the period of 1930 to the mid-1950s, or served in the Arab Legion, or fought against them in the Haganah, it is unlikely you have ever heard of John Bagot Glubb. Otherwise known as “Glubb Pasha.”
It was Glubb’s fate to be one of those desert-loving Englishmen, but unlike T.E. Lawrence whose reputation was made in Saudi Arabia, Glubb Pasha was not transformed into a legend. Still, he played an extraordinary role as the British commander of the only Arab army to gain combat experience in World War II. Later his Legion would play a role in the 1948 effort by Arab nations to abort the United Nation’s partition that led to the creation of the State of Israel.
During WWI Jordan alone among the Arab states had supported the Allied cause and stuck by Britain. Following the war, the allies divided up the former Ottoman Empire. Because Britain had a stake in Jordan as well as Palestine, Glubb Pasha, a British serving officer, put his military expertise to work on behalf of King Abdullah of Jordan, the grandfather of the current king.
From the 1920s on, increasing numbers of European Jews had begun to migrate to Palestine, a British protectorate, to acquire land, and, inevitably, to clash with the indigenous Arab population that began to fear their growing numbers. Following the Holocaust and WWII, vast numbers of displaced Jews headed to Palestine to fulfill the Zionist dream of a Jewish State. Glubb Pasha was a witness to all of this.
In 1948 during the first Arab-Israeli War, Glubb Pasha led the Arab Legion with much success in Jordan’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in battles against the Haganah and subsequently the Israel Defense Forces. He would remain in command until 1956.
Glubb Pasha was of a generation that regarded military life as a profession of great honor. By all reports, he was an intelligent man with a strong sense of morals, a reasonable man, and honest. He was one of the few seconded to the Middle East who acquired a fluency in Arabic, but his views of Arabs and Jews reflect both an affection for the former and a distinct distaste for the latter. That he was anti-Semitic is of little doubt.
Glubb regarded only the desert Bedouin tribesman as worthy soldiers and saw in them the supreme virtues of an English gentleman.
Of the rest of the Arabs, Glubb wrote in 1945, “They are painfully conscious of their immaturity, their weakness and their backwardness. They show all the instability and the emotionalism of the adolescent (characterized by) touchiness and…(a) readiness to take offence at any sign of condescension by their ‘elders’. Slights give rise to outbursts of temper and violent defiance.” Commenting on their inability to run the affairs of their nations, Glubb said, “Why they cannot run these things so efficiently is owing to their lower sense of duty and public service. They easily slip into nepotism, dishonesty or favoritism. They nearly all realize this in their hearts, but they resent our saying so.”
I was thinking of Glubb Pasha’s insights when viewing yet another outburst of Arab angst, whether it was some story out of Baghdad or the Gaza strip. Predating the establishment of Israel by several decades, there often seems to be no winners in the conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis. Despite their inbred hatred of Jews, the Arabs are right to remind us that it was highly civilized Europeans that perpetrated the mass murder of six million Jews during WWII. By the end of the war, there were literally hundreds of thousands of displaced Holocaust survivors. Few had any incentive to return to their homes.
Writing to British leaders at that time, Glubb Pasha may have been extraordinarily prescient: “In precisely the same manner today, Zionism in Palestine is forcing Arab unity and is creating Arab fanaticism…The Zionists may win their round and the next and the next. They may win for 88 years as did the Crusaders. But there will be 88 years of war, hatred and malice and misery. And in the opinion of the present writer, the Arabs will in the end get the upper hand, even if it be in 200 years, and will push the Jews into the sea again.”
Or, more likely, Glubb Pasha will prove to be very wrong indeed.
The Jews for reasons of survival were the first trickle of change. They did “occupy” Palestine, but history is replete with the stories of peoples who did the same. The early Muslims occupied all of northern Africa up into Spain, and would have done the same with all of Europe if they had not been repulsed. With the World Wars and the discovery of oil, the West saw fit to organize the tribes of the Middle East into nations. To keep the oil flowing and with the end of the Cold War, the West was content to leave the various “kingdoms” alone for the most part, but the Islamic Revolution in the late 1970s changed everything.
What Glubb Pasha could not foresee was the way Arab fanaticism would force the hand of the most powerful nation on the face of the earth. He—and certainly not the Arabs—could not foresee that America would swiftly invade and swiftly defeat the Islamists in Afghanistan and the socialist dictatorship in Iraq.
Today’s King Abdullah has proven to be a staunch supporter of President Bush’s campaign to alter the future of the Middle East in order to introduce democracy, freedom, and human rights to an area of the world that has never known it.
We cannot see how radically this will change the future of the entire Middle East, but Iran knows this is coming. Syria knows this is coming. Lebanon knows this is coming. Egypt knows this is coming. Yemen, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia know this is coming. Every Arab knows this is coming!
The immigration of the Jews, the creation of Israel, the discovery of vast reserves of oil, and the current conflicts are the tectonic plates of change that herald the full scale invasion of the West and its values to the “sacred sands” of the Middle East. Change is coming to the Arabs and they literally have no choice but to embrace it.
Alan Caruba is the author of “Warning Signs”, published by Merril Press. His weekly commentaries are posted on www.anxietycenter.com, the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center.
© Alan Caruba 2003
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