AMEPPA Conference 2013, Ankara, Turkey

The following paper was presented at AMEPPA (Association for Middle Eastern Public Policy and Administration) 2013 Conference in Ankara, Turkey.

AMEPPA’s Second Global Conference, 14-15 November 2013, Atilim University, Ankara, Turkey

“Crisis Management from within: Governing Chaotic Situations”

Nations as living systems: mix of order and chaos

Dr Samir Rihani
Research Fellow

University of Liverpool


The paper argues that nations are not machines but living (complex) systems. When functioning well they contain a mix of ‘order’and ‘chaos’. Neither extreme is right: the ‘order’of the Saddam’s years in Iraq was not better or worse than the ‘chaos’of the post-2003 years.

Few countries in the wider Middle East are functioning well, but others are not so fortunate. They oscillate between deathly order or wasteful chaos. Successful countries manage to achieve a delicate state of self-organisation that obtains the best from order and chaos. This is the key task facing nations in the region.

Understanding the dynamic nature of how nations function as living systems helps to suggest a number of actions that would assist in guiding the countries concerned towards self-organisation. Proposals to this end are presented at the end of the paper.

However, three sections are given at the start of the paper:

While the region squabbled over leaders and leadership

The region’s past casts a long shadow

Islam is a political economic philosophy

These preliminary sections are included to underline an important point that the fortunes of nations are outcomes of numerous interlinked influences that cannot be analysed in isolation in a reductionist manner.

Nations are complex adaptive systems that require ‘soft’styles of management based on trial and error and continual learning rather than the ‘hard’styles of management favoured by military and religious leaders accustomed to command-and-control and blind obedience. This ‘hard’style has been tested and found not only useless but harmful in the Middle East as elsewhere.

Treating nations as living complex adaptive systems is consistent with the theme of AMEPPA’s second conference:

First, ‘crisis management’: Complex systems often go through crises in their adaptation to changing conditions. When managed well crises are opportunities that enable the system to move in a new, more sustainable direction.

Second, ‘management from within’: Internal elements (mostly people in the case of nations) interact continuously within the system. Ability to interact (freedom, good governance, ..) and capability to interact (health, education,…) determine success or failure. Reliance on an external power or a ‘forceful leader‘is useless at best and harmful at worst.

Third: ‘governing chaotic situations’. The ‘chaos’of a system’s dynamics is essential to its proper functioning. Order is the same as death in a living system. The aim is not to impose order, as dictators set out to do, but to manage the chaos ‘softly’through better governance, etc.

Two (possibly unwelcome) conclusions emerge from treating nations as complex systems. First, evolution (or regression) happens at the most local level. Populations determine success or failure. External factors do play a role but that itself is enhanced or diminished by the state of human development of the citizens.

Second, evolution is a long marathon rather than a sprint to the summit. Little of significance happens overnight; through revolution, military takeover or the emergence of a resolute leader. The proposals put forward by the paper involve co-ordinated work over a period measured in years and not months.

The paper concludes that governments are part of the problem in most parts of the wider Middle East. It puts forward the idea of a concord based on an agreed agenda involving Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and universities in the region. The aim would be to spread a consistent message of demands for change that would be incorporated whenever and wherever possible into the normal output of CSOs and universities as they work independently.

While the region squabbled over leaders and leadership

Most of the Middle East has been in turmoil for decades. The agitation is mainly about who governs which country and who is for and who is against this leader or that.[1] Historic and recent diverting concerns have eclipsed more critical issues that require more urgent attention.

What could possibly be more important than who rules a country? Here is a sample of suggestions:

Depleted water resources. “…the Tigris and Euphrates river basins…have the second fastest rate of groundwater storage loss on Earth, after India.”[2]“Shatt al Arab, the river that flows from the biblical site of the Garden of Eden to the Persian Gulf, has turned into an environmental and economic disaster…”[3].

In 2012 a UN report was titled appropriately as “Gaza in 2020: A liveable place?”About 1.6 million people rely almost exclusively on water from the coastal aquifer which is expected to be unusable by 2016, and damage to the aquifer to be irreversible by 2020.[4]

Rising sea levels are threatening to flood the Nile delta in which most of Egypt’s 80 million people live and an area that currently produces about two thirds of the food required by Egyptians.[5]

Extreme religious factionalism is tearing communities apart.[6] What is happening has little to do with Islam and much to do with political entrepreneurs in search of power through ‘group solidarity‘(“asabiya”in the words of Ibn Khaldun the 14th century philosopher).

People aged 15 to 24 now form an unusually high proportion of the region’s population.[7] Their prospects fall well below their expectations. Sadly, their frustrations are often exploited in obscure and diverting political games.

“…Roughly 25% of 300,000 first degree graduates from Arab universities in 1995/96 emigrated. Between 1998 and 2000 more than 15,000 Arab doctors migrated.”[8] Recent insecurity has not helped. There was also a period of murder and intimidation in Iraq after 2003 focused on qualified people that accelerated migration for those who survived.[9]

Importation of economic ideas based on extreme economic liberalism, possibly under external pressure, creates tensions that these countries could not handle.[10] Evidence is available that these ideas themselves have their informed critics in the West.[11] Their adoption haphazardly in other societies without much thought is a recipe for discord and failure.[12] As described below there is also potential conflict between these imported ideas and the teachings of Islam as a political economic theory.

Corruption; virtually a pastime within some Middle Eastern societies, is one of the most potent means to negate development.[13] Iraq has become a byword in the field of corruption since 2003.[14] It might be a coincidence but Iraq has its own super rich now; showing the fastest growth in the Middle East in 2012![15]

The region’s past casts a long shadow

Analysis of the affairs of the wider Middle East is made more difficult because it combines several overlays that are impossible to disentangle:

a)  History binds as well as plagues the present states in the wider Middle East. Some tensions were created by the borders defined by colonial powers at the end of the First World War. Others were the result of the setting up of the state of Israel. Disputes also provide opportunities for intervention by external powers: there had been eight such destructive events in the last fifteen years.[16] Some powers, including the USA, need occasional wars simply to keep their military industrial complex going (in the words of President Eisenhower back in 1961).[17]

b) Conspiracies poison attitudes in the region towards western powers. There were several conspiracies that have left their indelible mark; such as the Sykes Picot agreement of 1916 that divided Arab countries into spheres of influence for the two colonial powers. The Suez conspiracy of 1956 between Britain, France and Israel was another event[18] A third example was the coup organised by the CIA (Operation Ajax) in 1953 to topple the elected government in Iran headed by Dr Mosaddeq.[19]

c) Two recurring sources of real or imagined conspiracies are oil and Israel. It is almost impossible to dissociate the interests of their respective lobbies from everything that external powers; primarily the USA, do and say in the region.

d) The emergence of China and Russia as active forces in the region has coincided with increasing doubts about US ability to retain its position as the world’s undisputed hegemonic power. Due to its location and its resources the wider Middle East is traditionally the theatre where global rivalries are played out.

Islam is a political economic philosophy

Islam is a spiritual religion in the recognised sense but it is also a political economic philosophy similar to realism, liberalism, Marxism and their offshoots.[20] It has certain ‘socialist’traits that do not sit well with economic neoliberalism, and this is especially clear in Ali’s teachings.[21] These features do not seem to be fully recognised locally or globally but they nonetheless cause problems.

Islam set out to define a ‘correct’way of living, on the political, social, and economic fronts. “…Muslims were commanded as their first duty to build a community (umma) characterised by practical compassion, in which there was a fair distribution of wealth…”(Armstrong 2004:6).[22] However, Simons, a past US ambassador to Pakistan pointed out that, “Islam was the world’s most powerful engine, agent, and vehicle for globalization…”(Simons 2003:3).[23]

Even the Shari’a law is regularly misunderstood; often by those who demand its wider application! At the height of the fervour that accompanied the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran it was understood by leaders such as Khomeini and Rafsanjani that “God had not revealed… all the laws that were needed for the ‘umma’.”(Armstrong 2000: 330)[24] Khomeini argued in 1987, “[The state could replace] those fundamental Islamic systems, by any kind of social, economic, labour,..,[systems] for the implementation of general and comprehensive policies.”(Armstrong 2000:329) Astutely, he and others like him appreciated that statements in the Quran related to a different age and they cannot be taken verbatim as the final words on all aspects that confront societies today.

Alarmingly, too many people in the Middle East and a number of local religious ‘leaders‘ who should know better have a view of Islam, Shari’a, and the partnership between state and Islam that does hark back to the simpler conditions that existed in the early years of Islam. This was seen most painfully when Islamic parties came to power. They failed but in the process they reaffirmed what some in the East and West had predicted would happen if Islamic parties were to gain power. These short-lived governments served the cause of Islam badly.[25]

It is not easy, therefore, entirely to divorce Islam from government in the Middle East and beyond. A close relationship between the two should not be taken as a strongly positive or negative feature. It varies from place to place and the effect simply depends on how that partnership is handled.[26]

The matter is given greater urgency, however, due to the obvious conflict between the teachings of Islam and fundamentalist economic neoliberalism that is advocated forcefully for the Middle East by some world powers and international organisations. This might well be a factor that lurks behind the media agitation against Islam.

All opinions are explainable and all scenarios are plausible?

Sections 1, 2 and 3 demonstrated, it is hoped, that circumstances and outcomes in the wider Middle East (similar to other parts of the world) are shaped by numerous interconnected factors. Leaving external powers aside, there are at present four competing regional groups; Arabic, Turkish, Iranian, and Israeli. Then there is an important Kurdish dimension that must be added to the mix. The four main groups have their own overt or covert lesser players. Furthermore, each country has its own factions; religious, ethnic or both, that provide reasons as well as targets for conflict.

Reading textbooks and articles about the region leaves the researcher, as well as the hapless citizen, in a thick fog of incomprehension. To make matters worse, the vast number of influences and interests offers a murky fishing pond for mischief for those driven by personal, national, religious and ethnic agendas.[27] Almost any opinion could be justified this or that way. Even the most impeccable sources of information present contradictory but convincing viewpoints of all descriptions leading to one possible conclusion: most analyses are explainable to a degree and most scenarios for the future of the region are plausible.

Is that a sound academic conclusion and are we, therefore, powerless to affect future prospects for the region and its people? An attempt will be made in the rest of this paper to explain why the first part of the question is valid. On the other hand, it will be argued that there is much that could be done to guide the region towards more positive outcomes. The use of the word ‘guide‘is critical and intentional. Treating nations as complex adaptive systems, it is suggested, offers a positive way to study and understand what seems to be on first inspection an impossible mess.

Nations are complex adaptive systems

There are two dissimilar systems in nature: mechanistic systems and complex systems. The first; such as the flight of a rocket, follow simple well-understood laws and are therefore easier to manage. They share the following characteristics:

Order: given causes lead to known effects.

Reductionism: behaviour of a system could be understood, clockwork fashion, by observing the behaviour of each of its parts separately.

Predictability: once mode of behaviour of a system is determined, its future when conditions change could be described unfailingly.

Determinism: processes flow along orderly paths that have clear beginnings and rational ends.

If nations were mechanistic systems then there should not be much difficulty in analysing their present condition and, hence, in forecasting their futures accurately. That clearly is not the case, which explains the wide variety of plausible analyses and predictions as mentioned in Section 4. Nations are complex (adaptive) systems, similar to all living entities, social groups, and economies. These systems are not as easy to analyse, predict, and manage. They possess the following features:

They have numerous internal components which interact locally according to simple rules to produce stable patterns for the total system. For a nation the components are people, companies, political parties, universities, etc.[28]

Ability for the parts to interact (within simple rules) is critical for anything to happen. The system is a mix of ‘chaos’ of local interactions and systemwide ‘order’. The market is an example of this mix of chaos and order. Without the local chaos of production, buying and selling the market stops functioning.

Defining simple and acceptable local rules to facilitate interactions (e.g. good governance in a nation) and maintaining the capability of the components to interact are the only practical way to manage the system. No outside agency commands a human being to continue living, or a company to succeed!

It is, therefore, only possible to guide the system ‘softly’ towards a desirable direction of travel. This is a reiterative process based on small changes and readiness to observe and learn and then to adjust accordingly. A game of chess illustrates this feature well. Managing the national macroeconomy is another, larger example.

Predictability in complex adaptive systems is limited to global patterns rather than the chaotic local details. For instance, is the total economy working, rather than what is happening to each transaction in the marketplace?

The brief pointers given above are intended to highlight the features of complex systems relevant to the topic addressed here and to underline the key point that nations behave as complex adaptive systems. References are provided at Appendix 1 for further reading.

Once the above structure and its associated internal dynamics is understood it becomes relatively easy to describe the conditions under which nations would perform well or otherwise. There are two basic needs that cannot be avoided to achieve a reasonable level of performance:

Individuals have to be capable of interacting locally (taking part in social, economic, and other activities). Capability is affected in the main by health, knowledge, and educational standards of all members of the population.

Individuals must be able to interact without undue constraints. Ability is dependent on social, political, and economic freedoms and opportunities.

There is of course no need to delve into complex systems theory to come to the above conclusion. Successive Arab Human Development Reports published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) defined three fundamental deficits; freedom deficit, women’s empowerment deficit, and human capabilities/ knowledge deficit. Bringing complex systems into the discussion simply provides scientific support for defining problems and suggesting remedial measures.

Viewing Middle Eastern nations in their correct format as complex adaptive systems reveals the nature of the actions needed to make a difference. To stand any chance of success nations must accept the following fundamental transformations:

‘Hard’management based on command-and-control imposed ruthlessly from the top must be discarded in favour of ‘softer’forms of management built on trial and error, learning, and inclusive engagement of all sectors of society.

Consequently, the role of ‘leader’(president, prime minister, etc.) requires radical revision with the aim of limiting its power and scope of responsibilities as well as the duration for holding such appointments.

Focus on improving governance by defining acceptable rules of interaction, and better human rights as well as social, political and economic equity.

Action must also be directed specifically at improving health and education for all citizens.

Dependence must be put on internal management of national and intra-regional affairs in preference to reliance on external interventions.[29]

A quick look at the above points reveals the difficulty, some would say near impossibility, of implementing such radical transformations. The region has overvalued the role of ‘leader’for centuries. In any case, is it possible to convince present (and aspiring) leaders to accept a proposal that would deprive them of their power and, just as difficult, the countless riches that come with these positions?

In short, it is futile to put reliance on most governments in the region to accept and implement what is proposed above. Equally obvious, without the changes specified these nations will continue to stumble along, drifting aimlessly from one punishing and aimless crisis to the next.

However, the picture is not totally black. These changes will eventually come about, one way or the other, throughout the Middle East. In many decades to come:

  • Populations will have attained levels of education and knowledge that make current practices unacceptable.
  • Populations would have developed the same awareness of the limitations of leaders and leadership that is now common in all successful countries.[30]
  • In a well connected world a tipping point is unavoidable sooner or later; caused by youth unemployment and demands for equality for women.
  • Feuding governments and domestic factions will reach a point of exhaustion beyond which people will refuse to sacrifice their lives for nebulous causes.
  • The world’s geopolitical system; including oil, US power, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, would have changed so much that sources of conflict initiated by external sources would have lost their potency.

Pessimists would say the above will take forever while optimists would think it only needs many thousands of rioters to bring the change about. Neither of these two scenarios is tenable: people in the Middle East cannot wait for changes that took centuries to happen in Europe and the USA. Equally, radical change will not materialise overnight on the back of riots, coup-de-tats, and new leaders. People in Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Libya and so on have learnt that lesson the hard way.

Treating a nation as a complex adaptive system offers two apparently contradictory ideas for progress:

It is virtually impossible to impose rapid change on a nation by force; domestic or foreign, as discussed in Section 6 below.

Policies are available however that would help a nation to change direction peacefully and at reasonable speed, as discussed in Section 7 below.

“What is to be done?”

There is no magic bullet when dealing with the development of nations. Lenin asked the above question in the turmoil that embroiled Russia at the start of the twentieth century. He and his communist colleagues felt a strong government; essentially the communist party, could bring radical change about in a short time. It is fair to say that Russia only began to make consistent progress once communist compulsion was rejected in favour of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) adopted by Gorbachev’s government in 1989.

China presents a similar picture. There were moments of sheer madness during the ‘great leap forward’in 1958 and the ‘cultural revolution’from 1965 to 1968 planned and executed by Mao and his communist party colleagues. Many millions died and more endured atrocities as a result of these schemes. Again China only began its move forward once the iron grip of communism was eased in the late 1970s in favour of more relaxed economic and social policies.

It is instructive to note that in both cases it took these nations decades to change direction. During that long period they suffered tribulations that are not very dissimilar from those being experienced in parts of the Middle East. In the meantime the populations were slowly learning and maturing. It was only at that point that new leaders came on the scene who were forced to ask themselves fundamental questions: ‘what are we aiming for, are we succeeding or otherwise, and what should to be done to do better?’These are healthy questions that should be continuously addressed.

Managing complex systems is a continuous process of discovery and learning. In the case of advanced nations these questions are routinely asked all the time through parliamentary committees, commissions, judicial reviews, election manifestos, academic debates, the media, etc. This is the case, at least to some extent, in a few countries in the Middle East but there is an urgent need to make this process more explicit and to seek to make it more widespread throughout the region.

In Russia and China, new leaders emerged at moments of crisis who on asking such questions felt the time has come for radical change. They could not have succeeded in undertaking the transition without citizens who were ready for the change. Most parts of the Middle east are not yet at that stage of human development.[31] In truth, the nations concerned are not mature enough to demand and acquire a new style of life. Equally, leaders are far too comfortable to seek or want serious reform. Again, therefore, what could be done in the wider Middle East to initiate and accelerate actions that took centuries in Europe and many decades in Russia and China?

Agenda for radical change

It is helpful to repeat here three easy options, much favoured in the wider Middle East, that would not lead to success:

Replacing one leader with another.[32]

Seeking help through external intervention.[33]

Calls for religious, gender, or ethnic extremism and intolerance.

Evolutionary transformation is the only path to sustainable progress. It involves a process of small and steady improvements; mostly taking place at local level, based on trial and error and experimentation. Advanced societies learnt this lesson about human development laboriously over several centuries up to the Enlightenment. There were revolutions, dictatorships, and wars, and the church imposed sanctions on scientists, intellectuals, and women that condemned these societies to the long Dark Ages. It is instructive to note here that during these Dark Ages free thinking in science and philosophy went on side by side with Islam.[34] Progress and Islam are not mutually exclusive.[35]

Critically, in all the turmoil that accompanied the Arab Spring one thing became clear: there was not even a rough and ready agenda beyond unhappiness about current leaderships and their tribal or religious affiliations. There was simply a desire to replace one group of leaders with another; possibly on the assumption that the new leadership would cure all. Clearly, the most fundamental question to be settled before anything could be done relates to an agreement on an agenda for radical change.

An agenda cannot be debated and agreed by people rioting on the streets no matter how patriotic and well-intentioned they might be. Advanced societies replaced that haphazard activity by periodic elections as a means of changing leaderships. The process is peaceful which is a major plus point, but just as important electioneering permits alternative agendas to be presented, debated and finally assessed through the ballot box. In other words, these societies have their own timetabled quiet revolutions every few years. This is often called democracy but its best aspects are tidiness and practicality.[36]

This facility is not yet available in many countries within the wider Middle East. There is, therefore, a need to adopt a means to agree and promote an agenda for radical change that is appropriate for conditions as they exist on the ground. As asserted earlier, it is not feasible to rely on governments in most locations to undertake that task. As outlined in Section 8 below, a community based approach might be the most appropriate path to follow to draft, agree and then seek to promote an agenda for transformation. The aim would be to create a groundswell of opinion that would convince governments of the unavoidable need to alter course.

On the bases of what has been discussed so far it is possible to suggest that such an agenda for promoting radical change, in locations in the Middle East where it is needed, must have two principal aims:

To address the capability of all citizens; regardless of gender, ethnicity, or belief, to interact in all aspects of life; social, political, and economic.

To address the ability of all members of the population to interact freely; regardless of gender, ethnicity, or belief, but within acceptable rules.

The rest of the agenda would follow naturally from the above:

Capability is affected by education, knowledge, and health but also by other possibly less obvious factors such as sport, cultural pursuits, respect for history and heritage, encouragement of reasoned debate, as well as appreciation of the value of diversity in all communities (such as the contribution made by religious and ethnic minorities).

Ability on the other hand is dependent on respect for human rights and other aspects of good governance (law of the land, separation of powers, equity under the law, abolition of emergency powers, etc.).

Drafting an agenda is assisted greatly by past studies; in particular the Arab Human Development Reports which provide a well documented source of information. There were other efforts that could add to what was advocated in the Arab Human Development Reports. For instance, a conference; “Arab Reform Issues: Vision and Implementation”, was held in 2004 at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt involving a number of organisations. The conference agreed a document that is now known as The Alexandria Statement 2004.[37]

However, it is fair to suggest that previous efforts have not succeeded in generating action. One explanation might be that past reports relied on governments to undertake the actions recommended by the studies. That was not an unreasonable hope as analyses, particularly those undertaken with such thoroughness for the Arab Human Development Reports, were both convincing and compelling. This paper recommends that a new approach be adopted that by-passes governments at least initially as described in Section 8.

The intention here is not to specify an agenda in detail but to put forward and seek views on the idea of community based action built on an agreed agenda. To assist in the discussion a few points are given below for a possible Middle East wide agenda derived from a complex systems’view of nations that goes beyond governments and state borders to embrace all ethnic and religious communities:

Focus on literacy, education, and knowledge with emphasis on education for young people, both males and females.

Special attention on health, with emphasis on primary health, social care, disease prevention, public health, and sanitation.

Call for equal opportunities and equity before the law for all persons irrespective of gender, ethnicity, and religious affiliation.

Address shortcomings in governance; including separation of legislative and executive powers, and restrictions on length of tenure for top state positions.

Respect for and updating of constitutions and charters for human rights.

Urgent need for interfaith and interethnic toleration and cooperation.

Adoption of pragmatic policies that allow experimentation and changes of direction within a learning environment.

Positive effort to involve the wider community affected by all decisions (stakeholder engagement, participation,…).

Respect for cultural and artistic endeavours; both inherited and modern.

Reconciliation between the traditional teachings of Islam and present day social, political, and economic demands and aspirations.

Community based action

The aim is to generate a groundswell of opinion in the communities concerned that demand changes that would lead to gradual achievement of the two aims specified earlier relating to capability and ability. The process would rely primarily on coordinated work by the numerous civil society organisations (CSOs) that currently operate in the Middle East; including non-governmental bodies, unions, religious groups, research organisations, the media, universities, etc. The resource they represent is considerable: there are about 300 reasonably independent think tanks and research bodies in the wider Middle East and about 500 universities. Equally, the task of seeking to produce some coordination between them should also not be underestimated.[38] The nature of the proposal should not be misunderstood. There is no intention to compromise the independence of the organisations concerned or their freedom of action.

Existing CSOs are already active in diverse fields but it would be fair to suggest that their output is spread on a very wide front and whilst each effort is excellent on its own the overall message is diluted and the impact is, therefore, muted. The proposal made here is that a concord (agreement, consensus, compact, or any other suitable name) is developed that seeks to create themed messages that focus on a few main issues derived from the agenda described above (but obviously greatly improved through further work and extensive consultation). A sample of CSOs are given as Appendix 2 simply to illustrate the type of organisations that might be involved.

The task of creating a concord between CSOs has to be initiated by a few organisations coming together to produce a draft agenda that is then presented to as many CSOs as possible for consultation. The aim would be to produce an agenda that commands general acceptance. That agenda will simply define the main points of concern and a few consistent messages designed to channel public opinion into positive directions. It must be stressed again that the intention is not constrain the work of individual CSOs. They would continue to undertake their work as normal but would be invited to highlight the main ideas contained in the agenda wherever and whenever possible. It is also hoped that their research agenda might also be amended to assist in promoting the project.

Comments on the ideas advanced in this paper in relation to complex systems view of nations, the agenda for radical change, and community based work are welcomed both at the conference and beyond.

Appendix 1. References and further reading on complex systems

Arthur, W. B. (1990) ‘Positive Feedback in the Economy’, Scientific American, February: 80-85.

Arthur, W. B. (1994) Increasing Returns and Path Dependence in the Economy, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Byrne, D. (1998) Complexity Theory and the Social Sciences, London: Routledge.

Coveney, P. and R. Highfield (1996) Frontiers of Complexity, London: Faber and Faber.

Day, R. H. (1994) Complex Economic Dynamics: An Introduction to Dynamical Systems and Market Mechanisms, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Elliot, E. and L. D. Kiel (eds.) (1997) Chaos Theory in the Social Sciences, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Gell-Mann, M. (1994) The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and Complex, Boston: Little, Brown and Company.

Gerogescu-Roegen (1971 but reprinted in 1999) The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press.

Geyer, R. and S. Rihani (2010) Complexity and Public Policy, Abingdon: Routledge.

Gleick, J. (1988) Chaos: Making a New Science, London: Heinemann.

Holt, T. A. (ed.) (2004) Complexity for Clinicians, Oxford: Radcliffe.

Jervis, R. (1999) Systems Effects: Complexity in Political and Social Life, Princeton: Princeton University Press

Kauffman, S. (1993) The Origins of Order, Oxford: Oxford University press.

Kauffman, S. (1996) At Home in the Universe: the Search for Laws of Complexity, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kernick, D. (ed.) (2004) Complexity and Healthcare Organisation, Oxford: Radcliffe.

Kravtsov, Y. A. and J. B. Kadtke (eds.) (1996) Predictability of Complex Dynamical Systems, Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Lewin, R. (1997) Complexity: Life at the Edge of Chaos, London: Phoenix.

Nicolis, G. and Prigogine I. (1989) Exploring Complexity: An Introduction, New York: Freeman.

Ormerod, P. (1994) The Death of Economics, London: Faber and Faber.

Ormerod, P. (1998) Butterfly Economics, London: Faber and Faber.

Ormerod, P. (2005) Why Most Things Fail, Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons Inc.

Rihani, S. (2002) Complex Systems Theory and Development Practice: Understanding Non-linear Realities, London: Zed Books.

Stacey, R. (1993) Strategic Management and Organisational Dynamics, London: Financial Times/ Prentice Hall.

Stacey, R. (1996) Complexity and Creativity in Organisations, London: Berret-Koehler.

Stacey, R. (1999) Strategic Management and Organisational Dynamics, London: Financial Times/ Prentice Hall.

Sweeney, K. and F. Griffiths (eds.) (2002) Complexity and Healthcare, Oxford: Radcliffe.

Waldrop, M. (1994) Complexity, London: Penguin Books.

Appendix 2. Sample of Civil Society Organisations

Carnegie Middle East Center (

Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (

Association for Liberal Thinking (

Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (

Center of Arab Women for Training and Research (

Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (

Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (

Gulf Research Center (

Middle East Research and Information Project (

[1] Conflicts over territory or religion are not a new feature in the Middle East. The legendary wars between the Sunni Ottomans and successive, mainly Shia, dynasties in Persia stretched over centuries. Moreover, what is going on at present as part of the ‘Arab Spring‘is in many ways the aftershocks of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

[2] See east-water-supply/?1=0 accessed 15 July 2013

[3] S .L. Myers, ‘Vital River Withering and Iraq Has No Answer’, New York Times 12 June 2010. The topic appeared in a number of Arabic publications: such as Jaridat al-Mustaqbal al-Iraqi of 2 September 2012.

[4] UN Country Team in the occupied Palestinian territories, ‘Gaza In 2020: A liveable place?’, August 2012, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO).

[5] See , and accessed 23 July 2013.

[6] Interestingly, this escalating peril was described in a book (in Arabic) published by Ali al-Adeeb, Iraq’s minster of higher education ( accessed 5 July 2013.

[7] F. Roudi, ‘Youth Population and Employment in the Middle East and North Africa’UN Expert Group Meeting on Adolescents, Youth and Development, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UN Secretariat, New York.

[8] Arab Human Development Report, 2003: 144, UNDP.

[9] See Adriaensens, et. al (eds.) (2012) Beyond Educide, Ghent: Academia Press, and also Baker, R. W. (2010) Cultural Cleansing of Iraq, New York: Pluto Press.

[10] See N. Clark, ‘Eastern Europe’s neoliberal disaster provides a warning for the Arab Spring’, The Guardian, 20 May 2012.

[11] See for instance Joseph E. Stiglitz, ‘The Ideological Crisis of Western Capitalism’, accessed 23 July 2013. Also G. Soros (1998), The Crisis of Global Capitalism, London: Little, Brown and Company.

[12] See excellent paper (Arabic) by M Diani, اتّساق الحرية الاقتصادية والمساواة الاجتماعية في نظرية العدالة

(Consistency of economic freedom and social equality in the theory of justice), published by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, No 5, Summer 2013, pp 25-50.

[13]‘Corrosive corruption’, The Economist online, 2 December 2011, accessed on 2 July 2012.

[14]‘Corruption and integrity challenges in the public sector of Iraq’, September 2012, UN office on Drugs and Crime, UNDP, Central Statistical Office of Iraq.


[16]‘Syria: feeding the fire’, Editorial in The Guardian, 28 August 2013.

[17] S. Jenkins, ‘Eisenhower’s worst fears come true…’, The Guardian, 16 June 2011

[18] accessed 20 July 2013.

[19] accessed 21 August 2013. Some would no doubt include the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its messy aftermath as another conspiracy. Moreover, Roland Dumas, former French Foreign Minister told SANA (the Syrian Arab News Agency) on i July 2013 that the plan to change the regime in Syria was planned two years before agitation started!

[20] See for instance F. S. Pearson F. S. and S. Payaslian (1999) International Political Economy, Columbus: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

[21] Ali is the cousin and son-in law of Muhammad. He is revered by Shia societies as the first Imam.

[22] K.Armstrong (2004) Islam, London: Phoenix Press.

[23] T. W. Simons (2003) Islam in a Globalizing World, Stanford: Stanford University Press.

[24] K. Armstrong (2000) Battle for God, London”Harper Perennial.

[25] Most Muslims live outside the Middle East and Islam and government coexist very well in these countries without much of a problem, if any. In the main, Islam becomes a ‘problem‘primarily in the Middle East and other areas that are experiencing economic and political turbulence.

[26] This is not a unique case. Christianity and Judaism are just as active in some countries.

[27] Unfortunately, the region does not have at present levels of education and awareness as well as the institutions that would enable it to deal with these tensions safely.

[28] The idea of ‘simple rules’is of key importance. Traffic on roads is chaotic but the chaos is made more manageable by having rules such as driving on one side of the road and obeying traffic signs and signals.

[29] This is more than just a technical point. The spectacle of the whole Middle East standing by while the USA and Russia debated behind closed doors the ‘Syrian problem’should have been demeaning and intolerable for any self respecting society. Oddly, for most countries in the Middle East this is viewed as a natural occurrence that does not raise any such concerns!

[30] Switzerland is of course the ultimate case where it is difficult to know who is ‘the leader’at any time!

[31] Convoluted deliberations of an Arab Charter on Human Rights by Arab states and the Arab League should convince one and all that Arab governments are not yet ready for radical changes on certain topics. See L. Zerrougui, ‘Arab Charter on Human Rights’, Essex Human Rights Review Vol.7 No.2, April 2011.

[32] See for example Special Report on Libya by Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, 3 September 2013.

[33] Such intervention comes at a heavy price to those seeking assistance. The Realist school of international relations provides a convincing explanation for this phenomenon. Henry Kissinger was and is a prominent believer in this school.

[34] J. Al-Khalili (2010). Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science, London: Penguin Books.

[35] S. Al-Hassani (Third Edition), 1001 Innovations: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization, Washington D.C.:National Geographic.

[36] Churchill described democracy in a speech in 1947 as the worst form of government except for those that have been tried from time to time!

[37]   This link does not work every time. However, the document could be downloaded through Google by searching for ‘Alexandria Statement’.

[38] The large list of think tanks and research groups makes fascinating reading. The relatively insignificant ‘noise’they make is baffling to say the least.