The war between George W. Bush and Osama Bin Laden defeated both of its protagonists. The sorcerer's apprentices in the White House and Tora Bora had relied on the magic of their grand narratives of terror and martyrdom to reorder the world, but as sectarian clashes multiplied from Palestine to Iraq, Israel to Afghanistan, Lebanon to Pakistan, Bush and Bin Laden found themselves powerless to control the flow of events. Neither democracy nor jihad have prevailed in the Middle East. And with Iran's recent entry into the nuclear arena-raising fears in both Washington and the Arabian peninsula-the long-term crises in the Levant and the Gulf, far from being solved through military pressure or terrorist blackmail, now endanger not only world peace but also the global balance of economic power, through skyrocketing fuel prices. By casting doubt on development models based on abundant, cheap energy, these trends threaten to destabilize not just Western nations but poor countries as well.
The u.s. administration has emerged from this trial weakened and challenged on all fronts. The simplistic notion of a "new AmerIcan century" that underpinned neoconservative ideology during George W. Bush's two terms in office was no match for the resilient "complicated Orient:' But AI Qaeda and its affiliates were equally unsuccessful at mobilizing the Islamic world against the West. Zawahiri and Bin Laden were unable to galvanize the Muslim community in the Middle East and Europe, despite the grand hopes they had pinned on the spectacle of September 11, 2001. They were forced to fall back on a virtual umma, online and on satellite television. Their failure lies in the gap between the digital universe, where a mind-numbing stream of jihad declarations and communiques poured forth, and the daily reality of suicide attacks that mired Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in misery, led the second intifada in Palestine to a dead-end, and wreaked havoc in Europe.
On December 16, 2007, during his fourth conversation with a "journalist" from As-Sahab, Zawahiri devoted almost 100 minutes to convincing Internet viewers that jihad would triumph.l But in fact, each of his statements served to mask jihad's failure. Defense of the stillborn Islamic State of Iraq gave way to attacks on Sunnis who collaborated with the United States and other "merchants of religion." But his fiercest expressions of hatred were directed at the Shiites of Hezbollah and Iran whom Zawahiri accused of having "stabbed Islam in the back." AI Qaeda's top leadership had become so isolated from players on the ground that Zawahiri was forced to open a question-and-answer session on the Internet in a bid to widen recruitment.
AI Qaeda's grand narrative of global jihad through martyrdom was also being shredded from within by militants who, in retrospect, considered 9/11 to be a political catastrophe. In November 2007 "Dr. Fadel;' one of the top leaders of Egyptian Jihad, condemned Zawahiri from his prison cell, holding him personally responsible for the movement's setbacks. Zawahiri counter-attacked in a 190-page response, Ai Tabria (Exoneration), which he posted online. The title itself testified eloquently to the battle for legitimacy that was raging inside the jihadist movement. By 2003, after the invasion of Iraq, anti-Western and anti-American resentment in the Sunni world was being channeled into organizations affiliated with the Muslim Brothers, the jihadists' despised rivals. As for Shiites, Ahmadinejad's Iran-which the Sunni jihadists abhorred even more-had taken command of the battle against the West, thanks to its nuclear saber-rattling and the precious oil reserves that backed it up, marginalizing AI Qaeda even further.
The consummate failure of the two grand narratives that were imposed on the world in 2oOl-the war on terror and jihad through martyrdom-makes a new, realistic geopolitics necessary: a sober, far-sighted vision that takes into account the regional tensions and diverse social components of the Middle East and the Gulf, and leaves aside the ideological intoxications of military conquest and suicidal terrorism.
By the last year of President George W. Bush's second term, it was clear that his presidency would leave a disastrous legacy in the Middle East, one whose consequences would reach far beyond the failure to rid the world of terrorists. In hindsight, the war in Iraq resembled an invasion from colonial times or the cold war era, rather than the sur tical, postmodern military operation its original planners had envisioned. Instead of a mission similar to the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, what the Bush administration got was a costly occupation that faced bloody resistance from its inception.
Through its experiment in Iraq, the world's only military superpower rediscovered a principle it had encountered before, in Vietnam: that force is just one aspect of global influence, and not necessarily the most important one. Furthermore, when the use of force proves ineffective against an adversary who uses unconventional methods of combat-including suicide attacks-its deterrent capacity in the next crisis is weakened, and the credibility of the administration is undermined. At the beginning of the twentyfirst century, no other nation can deploy as many aircraft carriers or troops as the United States. But these are ill-adapted to the demands of occupation, as the dramatic abuses at Abu Ghraib prison demonstrated. When political instability and insurrection drag on for years, the problem of replacing exhausted troops and support personnel becomes critical, and more difficult.
As long as Washington's management of Gulf security guaranteed reasonably priced petroleum, Chinese industrialists could flood the planet with low-cost consumer goods and invest their profits in U.S. Treasury bonds, which kept the dollar afloat and allowed the United States to live on credit. But with American troops bogged down in Iraq, long-term deliveries of Gulf oil and gas became uncertain, and prices on futures markets rose steeply. Asian consumption kept demand high despite the rising cost, while speculators invested in barrels of crude as a sort of reserve currency. As a result, the value of the dollar plummeted.
These financial vicissitudes made American corporations easy prey for international operators. The sovereign wealth funds of oil-exporting countries (the pool of state-controlled financial reserves set aside for investments in foreign assets) were used to buy or invest in U.S. banks and other businesses, raising eminently political concerns in the land of free enterprise. The attempt by Dubai Ports World (the Emirates corporation that runs the port of Dubai) to purchase management contracts for a number of major American ports gave senators chills in 2005 and 2006. Citing the security risks such an operation would entail, they blocked it by a virtually unanimous vote.
During the heyday of Reaganomics and continuing into the Clinton years, when market regulation was relaxed and the global economy was booming, U.S. territory was thought to be insulated from terrorist aggression by the immense oceans that lie to the east and west. The Canadian and Mexican borders also seemed secure, though there were signs that the Canadian border was more permeable than believed. In December 1999 an Islamist Algerian terrorist, Ahmed Ressam, was arrested as he was crossing from Canada into the United States. He had undergone training at a jihadist camp in Afghanistan and planned to drive a vehicle loaded with explosives to the Los Angeles International Airport, where his attack would be timed to coincide with the millennium celebrations. Other radical Islamists had obtained political asylum and settled in Canada. Similarly, the Mexican border, with its steady stream of clandestine labor immigrants, was suspected of letting through Muslim terrorists as well.
The trauma of September 11, 2001, made the United States particularly sensitive about its borders, and Americans became more amenable to politicat interventions that would limit free-market movement. For some, capital investments from Muslim countries were viewed as potential threats to national security and for a time were restricted. Although vigilance continues to prevail in financial activities linked to the border (as in the Dubai Ports case), elsewhere in the United States the sovereign wealth funds of the Gulf states, pumped up by petrodollars, have bought interests in major American institutions, including U.S. banks endangered by the subprime crisis of 2007.
As the economy of the Gulf surges, debate has raged in the United States and the West between those who see sovereign wealth funds as the salvation of Western capitalism, which desperately needs liquidity and investment capabilities, and those who see these funds as Trojan horses, insidiously hostile to the West. Managers of sovereign wealth funds are keen to explain to anyone who will listen that their sole objective is capitalist profit, that their participation in Western business is minor, and that they have no political agenda-certainly not one of allowing Muslim states to control strategic sectors of American production or the banking system.
These worries were fueled by statements made by Bin Ladenor his digital doppelganger-in 2007 to commemorate 9/11. On a note disconnected from the usual rhetoric of jihadism, he developed a lengthy and surprising argument on the subprime crisis and the impoverishment of the middle classes in the United States. His solution was mass conversion to Islam. This argument, coming soon after Zarqawi's death and the disappointing debut of the Islamic State of Iraq, sought to increase Al Qaeda's attractiveness by striking new alliances with anti-imperialist or left-wing movements, whatever their cause, at a time when Iran seemed to be the main beneficiary of the American debacle in Iraq. The jarring tone of Bin Laden's statements opened Al Qaeda up to ridicule in some
quarters, but they showed that the jihadists were trying to engage with the global economic crisis and subvert it for their own benefit.
Whatever the reality of his financial threat-which was more propaganda than action plan-Bin Laden was extensively quoted in the media, and the magnitude of the reaction reflected a feeling, by now widespread in the United States, that the country had been deeply injured by the cost of the war in Iraq and the financial crisis it had precipitated. The world's greatest power could no longer undertake the kind of unilateral action that had been George W. Bush's trademark. The administration's wavering attitude toward an attack on Iran illustrated this transformation perfectly. Throughout 2007, in response to Ahmadinejad's combative declarations, belligerent statements emanating from the highest echelons of power in the United States and Israel suggested that a preventive strike on Iran's nuclear sites was in the offing. But the ideologues who were gathered behind Dick Cheney faced organized opposition from the Department of Defense and the State Department. Planners at the Pentagon knew that U.S. armed forces would find it almost impossible to engineer an attack on Iran while managing the occupation of Iraq, where the Shiite populations of Basra, Najaf, and Baghdad would likely rise up against any such strike.
In spring 2007 when I was visiting Tehran, observers told me that a U.S. strike on Iran was unlikely, since the administration knew that this action would be followed immediately by an Iranian attack on a neighboring oil-rich emirate, triggering a global economic and energy crisis. The National Intelligence Estimate pubfished in November 2007 confirmed this view. It showed that a strike on Iran would not only have unmanageable consequences on the ground in Iraq, but if Iran was pushed too far it might retaliate by bombing the Strait of Hormuz, through which oil and methane shipments pass, or it might strike one of its oil-producing neighbors. Such measures would cause the price of a barrel of crude to hit peaks no market could bear, and the global economy would suffer tremendously. The United States could not risk such disastrous consequences.
Furthermore, according to the NIE, Iran had put an end to its military nuclear program in 2003 after the leadership analyzed its costs and benefits in the context of international negotiations. Tehran would not be able to resume a weapons-production program before 2009 at the earliest. These revelations, based on highlevel military and civilian intelligence, convinced the U.S. executive branch to abandon the option of a strike against Iran.
The report had significance at two levels. First, it showed thata year before the end of Bush's term-the political authority of the White House was already weak in relation to high-level administrators, who read between the lines and concluded that the United States no longer had the means to carry out unilateral military action. And second, the authors of the NIE report emphasized thatregardless of Ahmadinejad's posturing-the Iranian leadership was open to a new foreign policy based on a realistic assessment of the costs and benefits of their actions.
In other words, the clerical establishment of the Islamic Republic might eventually participate in complex and conditional negotiations-a possibility that should not be closed off by unilateral action, according to the NIE. An approach based on force alone an option whose limitations had been exposed by the invasion of Iraq-presented more risks than anticipated benefits. A multilateral approach that would lead to the beginning of negotiations was the only sensible alternative. The fact that such negotiations would have uncertain outcomes gave rise to intense debate among the principal candidates in the 2008 U.S. presidential primaries. Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain both insisted that any talks with Iran would be conditional and would constitute neither appeasement nor capitulation.
President Bush's successor will have to bury the grand narrative of the war on terror and accept the reality of many power centers in the world today. With its military capacity stretched thin and its economic and financial superiority challenged by new competitors, the United States is being forced to align its own goals with those of its allies and deal with a new set of actors who are leading the world toward multipolarity. As Fareed Zakaria, editor and columnist of Newsweek, noted in 2008, a "post-American world" is taking shape before our eyes.2 To thrive in this new environment, Washington will need to abandon the hubris of the Bush administration and return to the path of multilateralism. The United States simply can no longer afford to be the lone horseman of the West.
Zakaria wonders about "the rise of the rest;' and chief among them, of course, are China and India, whose current strength lies in their demographic dynamism combined with an economic and entrepreneurial boom. There are two other poles, however, at either end of a vasthhared geographical space within which the Middle East is situated: Europe and the Gulf. These entities do not spring to mind as readily as the Indian subcontinent and the Far East, if only because European demographic growth is stagnant or aging, while the Gulf's still-small population (except in Saudi Arabia) is strongly marked by migrant labor. These frailties, however, are compensated by two strong points.
First, in an uncertain global economy, the European Union, with its twenty-seven member states, represents a zone of considerable economic power and stability, as evidenced by the strength of the euro, which has risen consistently while the war on terror has continued. As for the Gulf, its vast oil fields will make it the main exporter of petroleum for decades to come, increasingly so as other oil-producing nations, including the United States, consume their more limited reserves. The liquidity pumped into its sovereign wealth funds has transformed the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council into the planet's bankers.
In a multipolar world consisting of Asia and the United States to the east and west, what role can Europe and the Gulf play in integrating the Middle East into an extended regional economic union that will help mitigate the recurrent crises of the Levant and the Gulf? And what future relationship can this new regiop have with the United States, in the aftermath of the war on terror and the shattered dream of "a new American century"?
Today Europe is comparable to Asia or the Americas. As the immediate neighbor of the Middle East and North Africa, it is also an echo chamber for tribulations in the Levant and the Gulf, and these urgent concerns have become a factor in both the domestic and foreign policy of European nations.
During President Bush's two terms in office, Europe's voice was barely heard. Because the attack of September 11 occurred on U.S. territory, it naturally fell to the United States to take the initiative in reacting, but from the beginning Europe mobilized at the side of its ally. Later, when the United States decided to invade Iraq, Europe was called upon once again to align its policy with that of Washington. This alignment entailed accepting the neoconservatives' "new American century" project to reshape the Middle East and spread democracy throughout the region. In this grand scenario, "Old Europe" seemed to be little more than a continental Euro- Disney, where tourists from the United States and Asia could visit the chateaux of the Loire Valley or the Grand Canal in Venice while carefully skirting those parts of the urban jungle populated by Muslim jihadists.
Europe's response to the United States' invitation to join the Iraq invasion was fractured. France and Germany refused to comply and were mocked in Washington. Britain, on the other hand, went along with American policy, reviving the "special relationship" between the two countries made famous by Winston Churchill at the end of World War II. Partially as a result of its participation in the "coalition of the willing," Britain became a soft target of terrorism.
When riots broke out in French banlieues in the autumn of 2005, hawkers of the grand narrative on terror claimed that France too was the victim of an intifada because of its cowardice in reje1:ting the Iraqi adventure. There was in fact no link between the fictitious cause and its imaginary effect, yet Europe undeniably had become a locus of global jihad-as the attacks in London, the murder of Theo Van Gogh in Amsterdam, and the global outcry following the publication of the Danish cartoons made plain.
In the Netherlands and Britain, where it was believed that social peace could be reinforced by religious networks-not all of which proved reliable-these disruptive events have triggered an existential debate within the Muslim population. The authorities, too, have been forced to question a multiculturalist dogma that seems to have eased the way, in some cases, for extremists. But of course Muslims who have recently become European citizens and are appearing in growing numbers on the political scene cannot be reduced to AI Qaeda militants, and they are not necessarily repre: sented by the Muslim Brothers and their allies-who claim to be the key negotiators between the Muslim "community" (the borders of which they defined) and political authorities. In spite of recurrent riots in underprivileged neighborhoods, and social barriers ranging from academic failure to job discrimination, a slow but irrepressible movement of cultural integration and upward social mobility is taking place in Europe's population of Muslim origin.
The nations of the "old continent" are providing diverse terrain for live experimentation in possible ways of coexisting in the postmodern world-a world that is experiencing real difficulties but also developing hybrids that show new fertility and adaptability. Children of "mixed" couples who trace some of their roots to North Africa or the Middle East are growing up at a time when the first immigrant elites are assuming high-ranking positions in government administration and business or top-tier ministerial offices. Others have become artists or sports champions who inspire Europeans of all backgrounds. No matter what contradictions may result, the outcome will be the triumph of a shared identity and destiny over Islamist irredentism and exaltation of difference, and over European xenophobia.
Such hybrids appear to the south and east of the Mediterranean as well. The French language in North Africa and part of the Middle East, and English in most of the Middle East and the Gulf, are key vectors of participation in this globalized world. Exchanges through travel, ideas, information, and entertainment broadcast by the media pass not only to and from America but through Europe just as much as inside the Arab and Muslim world. These exchanges shape an informal, every-day cultural identity that cannot be reduced to radical hostility toward the West, as proclaimed by the jihadists, or hatred against Muslims and Islam, as formulated by European chauvinists. Rather, this identity is constructed through an ever-changing process of fascination and rejection, where friendship and enmity mingle in the register of intimacy. Despite discourses that demonize the Other-plumbing the depths of abomination in the form of Zarqawi's beheadings, or painting an offending caricature in the Danish case-there exists between Europe and its "Near East:' as the traditional European designation of the region indicates, an alternative to the failed narratives of jihad and the war on terror.
That alternative is the economic integration of the Middle East and Europe, creating a fertile space where entrepreneurial classes can grow and democratic processes can take root, especially to the south and east of the Mediterranean. Turkey already provides one example of integration between Europe and the Middle East. Regardless of the vicissitudes of politics, economic ties with the European Union have strengthened civil society, pluralism, and democracy in Turkey and have managed to transform the Islamist opposition into a ruling party that respects Ataturk's legacy of secular republicanism while erasing Ataturkism's authoritarian and militaristic dimensions.
But much of the Mediterranean basin around which many of humanity's greatest civilizations were built today lies fallow. The European Union turns mostly toward the Atlantic, to entrepreneurial opportunities in the West, while the nations of the Gulf are attracted by the flow of currency from the Far East, where the dire need for oil makes China and other developing nations generous with their payments. Between these two giants, the Mediterranean today remains economically neglected. But this ancient hub has a potential asset that both Europe and the Gulflack: a wealth ofhuman resources, which can be used for good but also for ill. With education and jobs, these populations will take a great part in the advancement of civilization. But if neglected they run the risk of embracing a neomedieval nightmare that blends misery with jihadist rage. Europe and the Gulf can look after their own best interests by embracing the rational option: favoring a renaissance in the Mediterranean that boosts the economic potential of its population. This option does not mean a union restricted to the countries that border this ancient hub of trade. The economic complementarity of these countries is too limited to make such a union work. What is needed, rather, is a much larger economic alliance, with the Mediterranean at its center but radiating out to Europe and the Gulf as well.
Each of the complementary regions has its own drawback. Europe is growing old and lacks the entrepreneurial dynamism and investment capital that would allow it to hold its own in the new century. The Gulf is underpopulated and needs to build academic and scientific institutions as well as a sophisticated industrial and economic policy in order to consolidate its vast wealth. North Africa and the Levant need jobs and education for a large population that otherwise would have no option except mass emigration. An economic renaissance centered on the Mediterranean would bring together, in one dynamic region, Europe's industrial and technological wealth and its academic and scientific expertise; the Gulf's petroleum assets and financial clout; and the human resources and rich cultures of the Levant and North Africa.
But any regional consolidation of the economic interests of Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Gulf must come up with a way to address the persistent structural conflicts that Washington's military engineering failed to resolve.
The main systems of conflict around which the Middle East revolves are found in the Levant and the Gulf. The crisis in the Levant is rooted in Israeli- Palestinian enmity and reaches into neighboring Lebanon and Syria. While this conflict is the focus of much anxiety throughout the world, the crisis in the Gulf is far more complex and dangerous for world peace, because it grows out of the rivalry between Iran and the Arab countries for supremacy over a body of water through which much of the planet's energy resources flow. Disagreement extends even to the Gulf's name:
"Persian" according to the Iranians (and most scholars) and "Arabian" according to the Arabs. Underlying this antagonism is an age-old conflict between Sunnis and Shiites for hegemony over the meaning of Islam-although Shiism is not restricted to the Farsi sphere, having deep roots in the Arab culture of Iraq and Lebanon.
By exercising influence over Hezbollah in Lebanon, Tehran has become a central player in both of these conflicts. With Iran's help, Hezbollah was not only able to defend itself against Israel's attacks (and even claim "divine victory") during the summer of 2006 but-after the end of Emile Lahoud's term in December 2007-was also able to block any candidate to the Lebanese presidency it considered unacceptable. The compromise that was finally reached in May 2008 incorporated a number of Hezbollah's preconditions.
The Annapolis talks convened by President Bush in late November 2007 in an attempt to find a peaceful solution to the IsraeliPalestinian conflict followed almost two terms during which the White House did no more than rubber-stamp Sharon's and 01mert's policies. In reality, these talks brought Palestinian and Israeli leaders together only in order to create a front against the Iranian axis. Indeed, what these talks demonstrated was that the United States' attempt to guarantee that the road to a negotiated peace in Jerusalem would run through Baghdad had failed. The breakdown of the war on terror paradoxically redirected that road through Damascus, southern Beirut, Gaza, and Tehran.
Ahmadinejad's threats to bomb his neighbors or the Strait of Hormuz if the United States continues to put pressure on Iran to dismantle its nuclear-enrichment program has created a "balance of terror" in the Gulf region. But this situation is not without danger for Ahmadinejad himself. By holding Iran hostage to this rationale, he deprives his country of full access to the wealth represented, on both sides of the Gulf, by a combination of energy resources and investment potential. By escalating the spiral of threatened violence and general chaos, he strengthens the hand of both neoconservatives in Washington and neo- Khomeinists in Tehran.
Set against this race to mutual destruction is another possibility: the integration of Iran within an economic union that would link it with its Arab neighbors across the Gulf, and, along a network of pipelines, with Europe. Such integration depends on the constraints that economic prosperity imposes on all its beneficiaries. Exporting natural gas to Europe requires durable agreements and stable relations between producers and consumers all along the way-much more so than does oil, which can take flexible routes and may have many alternative destinations. Natural gas pipelines preclude rash threats of cataclysm, which menace first and foremost the interests of those who make the threats.
Paradoxically, another crucial factor in the future peace and prosperity of the Gulf region is nuclear energy. To prepare themselves for coming decades when production plateaus are reached or global warming forces nations to scale back on their use of fossil fuels, the Gulf states must start investing in nuclear energy. A string of civilian nuclear power installations along either side of the Gulf will deter any armed adventure. Radioactive fallout from bombing Bandar Abbas in Iran or Dammam in Saudi Arabia would be indifferent to nation or faith and would devastate Persians and Arabs, Sunnis and Shiites alike. When an economic region becom~ sufficiently integrated in this way, hostile actions by any individual nation become self-destructive.
As a party with vested interests in the region, Europe could provide nuclear power installations as well as maintenance and security. The confidence bred by economic prosperity would deter terrorism in the long run, and in turn such confidence would allow the region's leaders to see nuclear energy not as a specter of global annihilation but as the key to sustainable development, and a complement to oil resources, the abuse of which will have a hazardous impact on the environment.
The embryonic region I have just described is no utopia. After the fiasco of the war on terror and armed jihad, joint economic development involving Europe and the Gulf around a Mediterranean hub is the only viable alternative for future peace and prosperity in the Middle East. Purely political solutions, without economic incentives, are bankrupt from the start. The failure to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli crisis provides an excellent illustration of this point. The Oslo peace process in the 1990S came to a halt in the violence of the second intifada because the small regional entity made up ofIsrael, Palestine, and perhaps Jordan and Egypt had no economic viability in the eyes of major international investors. The Oslo process was just a political exercise, instigated by governments alone, isolated from the world of banking and transnational corporations. For this reason, it was doomed to fail. The frustration and despair experienced by jobless Palestinians were as great as their original expectations had been. And a few years later some found an exit strategy proportionate to their disappointment in the form of suicide attacks.
The Levant and the Gulf today appear linked only to the extent that one conflict has contaminated the other-Iranian interference in Lebanon, so-called martyrdom operations seeping from Palestine to Iraq, and so on. But other peaceful manifestations of the link between these two regions are just as important, albeit not as visible, as the violent ones. Enterprising young Lebanese and Palestinians have managed to escape unemployment in Beirut, Ramallah, or Gaza and become businessmen, bankers, traders, or political advisers in Qatar, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. Peace will enable them to find opportunities for their native countries in the networks they have built in the Arabian peninsula. There, they rub shoulders with other expatriates: young Europeans, growing numbers of whom are second- or third-generation Muslim immigrants, who are investing their knowledge and international relationships in the Gulf. Banks are exploring the possibility of financing future nuclear development with current oil and gas revenues.
The warp and weft of peace and prosperity will rest on a framework of commitments from the Gulf to the North Sea. This entails not only the movement of capital, goods, and services but also massive investment in the education of younger generations and a shared management of culture. The first prerequisite is the circulation of languages and expertise, but also of tomorrow's elites in a cultural space where each individual can find familiar markers. In antiquity, the empire of Alexander the Great owed its fecundity to the coexistence of Greek, Levantine, and Persian civilizations in a single space. The Susa weddings were the physical expression of a universal culture born of mixture and hybridization which transcended the bord~rs that normally impede travelers, goods, and ideas. The early Islamic empire also blended the traditionally incompatible and hostile cultures of the Byzantine Mediterranean and Sassanid Persia, to create a new era characterized by exceptional development in science and technology. Fifteen centuries later, this region is not the center of civilization anymore, but it remains the planet's nerve center, capable of sending painful shocks around the world as long it remains isolated by conflict and poorly integrated into the global economic system.
The European Union's experience has shown that a vast economic, legal, and cultural space may be formed not through conquest or warfare but through the reciprocal adhesion of its members. However, the obstacles being raised to Turkey's entrance into the EU make clear that a simple extension of the European Union to include countries of the Mediterranean and the Gulf is not a realistic option for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, academic and cultural exchanges are well under way, while capital from the Gulf states is financing development in many sectors of the Maghreb, opening up fruitful opportunities for the export of European industry and technology to the region. This creation of local jobs may slow down migration to Europe while decreasing social instability in North Africa.
If Europe and the Gulf do not find the political will to bring about this economic renaissance, the Mediterranean will face many dangers-this is the principal lesson to be drawn from years of warfare between jihadists and the military forces of the United States. Europe and the Gulf states have no other viable option but to accept the challenge of building a hybrid civilization together, stretching from the North Sea to the Gulf, via the Mediterranean hub. If they fail to do so, they run the risk of declining together, joining other forgotten worlds in the museums of tomorrow.
The lesson for the United States in the Middle East is also clear.
After the failures of the Bush presidency, American influence can no longer manifest itself through armed force first and foremost but through the search for alliances with local actors. In Iraq, the triumphalist beginnings of the u.s. invasion have already given way to subtle compromises with both Sunnis and Shiites who were demonized or considered extremist at one time or another. These alliances were designed to allow for a calm withdrawal of American troops in the "post-Bush" period and to avoid chaos in the region. Such policies will succeed only if the responsibility for security and stability are shared with other nations that have a financial stake in Iraq's recovery. These actors are, first and foremost, the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The United States' unipolar policy led to the weakening of the United States as the key broker in the region. As a result, new brokers are now emerging. Turkey, under the aegis of the moderate Islamist A.K. Party, has become involved in Arab affairs-a move the West had blocked since World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Turkish leaders not only mediated on behalf of Hamas Islamists after their victory in the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006, they also hosted Syrian-Israeli talks in the spring of 2008. These events took place outside the realm of the Bush administration. Even Israel, a faithful U.S. ally, prepared itself for a multipolar future by entering into negotiations that would allow it to distance itself from the purely unilateral logic that prevailed when Ariel Sharon was prime minister. Although Israel's strategy of offering Syria a few guarantees in order to detach President Assad fr~m Tehran and to loosen the pro- Iranian axis in the Levant is clear for all to see, the fact remains that such initiatives, whether Turkish or Israeli, show striking autonomy in comparison with the alignment expected of them during the war on terror.
How to manage this emerging multi polarity in the Middle East in concert with all parties concerned-including the European Union and the Gulf states-is the principal challenge that faces George W. Bush's successor. To transcend terror and martyrdom, and to ensure the decisive marginalization of jihadist radicalism, the United States has no choice but to abandon ideology and go back to politics.