The Middle East: Destabilization anyone?
Following a recent presentation in Estes Park, Colorado, the audience displayed a great deal of interest in the current controversy over Iraq. No one doubted our ability to prevail militarily; however, some expressed a concern about the stability of Iraq and its neighbors in a post-Saddam Middle East.
Time did not permit a full and complete exposition of my belief that the problem with the Middle East today is that the dictatorial governments sucking up the oil and gas riches of the Middle East today are too stable, too entrenched in power, too selfish and not interested in improving the health, welfare and economic opportunity of their desperately poor citizens.
So, just how poor are the ordinary people of Iraq and just how poor are their neighbors? The CIA World Fact Book provided what I wanted to know in terms of: geographic size, total population, life expectancy for men and for women, purchasing power parity (the annual wage of the average citizen expressed in dollars) and the percentage of working-age persons who are unemployed.
First, as a basis of comparison, let us look at some data from the two nations who are allied to effect a regime change in Iraq: the United States and Great Britain.
The United States is two-thirds the size of western Europe, our population is about 279 million, the life span of our average male is 74.37 years, of women 80.05, our average annual wage is $36,000 and our unemployment is at 4.0 percent. We are a republic with democratically-elected legislative and executive branches and an appointed supreme court
Great Britain is slightly smaller than Oregon, has a population of 59.6 million, the male average life span is 75.13, for women it is 80.66, their average annual income is $22,800 and inflation is at 5.5 percent. Great Britain is a constitutional monarchy; however, actual power is in the democratically-elected parliament which provides from its ranks the Prime Minister and his or her cabinet secretaries.
Kuwait, a constitutional monarchy, is slightly smaller than New Jersey, its population is 2.04 million, men’s life expectancy is 75.42, women’s 77.15, average income is $15,000 and unemployment is at 1.8 percent.
Saudi Arabia, a monarchy, is 1/5 the size of the United States, has a population of 22.7 million, average male life span is 66.4, women 69.85, average income is $10,510 and no unemployment figures are available.
Turkey, a republican parliamentary democracy, is slightly larger than Texas, its population is 66.4 million, on average men live to 68.89, women 73.71, average income is $6,800 and unemployment is 5.6 percent
Iran, a theocratic republic, is slightly larger than Alaska, its population is 66 million, males live on average to 68.6, females 71.37, their average income is $6,300 and unemployment figures are not available.
Jordan, a constitutional monarchy, is slightly smaller than Indiana, population is 5.1 million, male life expectancy is 75.1, women 80.12, their average income is $3,500 and unemployment is between 25 and 30 percent.
Syria, a republic under a military regime, is slightly larger than North Dakota, its population is 16.7 million, males live to about 67.63, females to 69.98, average income is $3,100 and unemployment is at 20 percent.
Iraq, a republic under a dictator, is twice the size of Idaho, its population is 23.3 million, average male life span is 66.9 years, females 68.0, average income is $2,500 and the unemployment figure is not known. Iraq’s average income is the lowest in the region. Evidently, Saddam spends their oil and gas income on his palaces and his weapons programs.
With the possible exceptions of Turkey and Jordan, all of these countries are run for the exclusive benefit of their ruling classes. The rich are fabulously rich; the poor are incredibly poor.
What would happen if the people came to power and could share in the oil and gas riches in the sands beneath them? Maybe, there is something to be said for destabilization.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy by William Penn – a novel about a terrorist attack on the water projects in Colorado’s high country.
©2002. William Hamilton