Warning: understatement on the way.
The situation in Egypt and Syria is not good.
Behind the political and factional moves in Egypt there is a simple economic reality: the country is bust, has awful infrastructure, and depends on external aid for its survival. No matter whether Morsi holds on to power, or a more or less jihad inclined person takes over, it’s unlikely there will be any meaningful improvement until the economic situation is tackled. And that won’t be easy.
Behind the civil war in Syria, there is the strong beating heart of religious hatred: Sunni v Shia. Syria’s economic problems are probably not quite as bad as those of Egypt – it did make an attempt to modernize its agriculture – but the differences are probably moot if you are a starving citizen. So, finding a solution to the insoluble civil war would not end the problems in Syria. Arming one side, or the other, or imposing a no-fly zone, seems a bit like shuffling chairs around on the Titanic.
What to do?
I wish I had a solution. I don’t. But I do have a suggestion that people in positions of power and much more talented than me, might consider: focus on the end result that would deliver the best for these failed states. Ignore the politics. Tackle the economics.
What do the people want? A roof over their heads, food to eat, and education for their children would be a good start. Employment would be more than helpful. How can these be delivered? By economic solutions. Aid may play a part, but it will (arguably) be wasted unless it is tied into real change. Not so much political change, but economic change. Maybe they need to ditch their currency. Maybe they need to slash bureaucracy (a classic home for corruption). Maybe they need to start again.
In other words, take a different perspective.
I’m an optimist. We have on this planet immense resources of invention and ingenuity. I believe that somewhere out there, there is an economic driven initiative that can help work towards improving the situation in these places. And with real improvements, the political benefits – or possibilities – will be for the common good. Ok; I’m a naive optimist. But isn’t it worth a try?