Colonial Dynamics in the Middle East

Inside Syria

Reese Erlich
Prometheus Books, 2014

The Darker Side of Western Modernity

Walter D. Mignolo
Duke University Press, 2011


To many Westerners, the Middle East seems more confounding each day. How could the killings get any worse, the struggles more irrational? When the rebellion of Syria’s people against the oppressive Assad dictatorship suddenly turned into a civil war, thus giving strength to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the confusion only worsened. Reese Erlich, a prominent independent journalist, begins to unpack some of our questions. Setting the current struggles in the context of the world powers that created Syria, Erlich demonstrates how the histories and dynamics of international struggles are indispensible for understanding the current realities.

The deer-in-the-headlights response of Westerners who are wondering how the United States got back into bombing Iraq in response to ISIS can’t be fully understood without a grasp of the way Western modernity looks irrational and destructive to people Westerners think of as extremist fundamentalists. Theorists of decolonialization have been spelling this out for the past two decades. Walter Mignolo’s 2011 book is not a bit out of date, particularly when read in conjunction with his other writings. He seeks to conceptualize a world in which human beings and the natural world are no longer exploited in global capitalism’s quest for endless accumulation. Without validating the violent strategies used by some decolonizing projects, we can seek to understand why people might join movements that do not integrate into their practice a commitment to human rights.


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