History6 Paper-Nationalism-0

History6 Paper-Nationalism-0 - ,History 6 Paper Stephanie...

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‘History 6 Paper Stephanie Cochran History 6; Prof. Garthwaite 3/1/2006 Nationalism of Iraq and Syria A nationality may be conceived of as a people who, because if their belief in their common descent and their mission in the world, by virtue of their common cultural heritage and historical career aspire to sovereignty over a territory or seek to maintain or enlarge their political or cultural influence in the face of opposition. Nationalism refers to the social movements, attitudes, and ideologies which characterize the behavior of nationalities engaged in the struggle to achieve, maintain or enhance their position in the world. (Louis Wirth, American Journal of Sociology, XLI (1935-36), p. 723.) Nationalism has been an elusive force in Middle Eastern history, and has been a particularly problematic concept in the development of both Syria and Iraq. Not only has nationalism been seen broadly as a failure in the Middle East, but it has greatly compounded problems for various leader and dictators in the region. Saddam Husayn and Hafiz al-Asad are two such leaders who failed to develop a sense of nationalism among their populations and consequently took blows to their legitimacy as just rulers of Iraq and Syria. In order to understand why these leaders failed to develop a sense of nationalism among their populations it is necessary to understand the histories of these unique countries and the internal as well as external forces that have impeded the development of a shared identity. Because any attempt to construct a shared past or common national history would be mostly a myth, leaders of Iraq and Syria were hard pressed to develop a sense of nationalism among their populations; however, the failure of nationalism in these countries was mostly due the political ideology and doctrine of the ba’ath party in these states. Iraq and Syria are two countries with complicated histories. The British mandate in Iraq and the French mandate in Syria were disorienting forces in their respective histories and hindered the development of a shared sense of national identity among the populations. Furthermore, the tribal and ethnic divisions that exist within these countries have hindered a sense of shared identity and have been a major force in the development of Iraq and Syria. Because these nations were merely loose confederations under Ottoman rule, the mandates of Iraq and Syria created nations out of tribes and ethnic groups that lacked a shared past and coherence. Thus, these groups that were strung together didn’t think of themselves as Iraqi or Syrian citizens, they thought of themselves as part of a family and a tribe. Most Middle Eastern and Arab people tend to identify first with their family of birth as part of a certain social class, and then with a clan, tribe, or sub tribe, which inherently places them within a religious group. The importance of tribal allegiance and tribal elites should not be underestimated in the case of
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History6 Paper-Nationalism-0 - ,History 6 Paper Stephanie...

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