The Final Death of Nasserism
Posted on February 8, 2012
Gamal Abdel Nasser died in 1970, but Nasserism, the philosophy he founded, will finally die out in 2012.
Nasser, a charismatic and forceful President of Egypt, was the first Arab leader to meld militarism with socialism to create a new kind of modern governance in the Arab world.
Nasser’s exploits were legendary. Overthrowing the Egyptian monarchy. Creating the United Arab Republic. Seizing the Suez Canal. Attacking and losing to Israel.
He died of a heart attack, not by assassination. His successor, Anwar Sadat was not so lucky. After Sadat concluded a peace treaty with Israel, he was assassinated. Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, will probably be executed sometime this year (just a guess).
Nasser kept and his successors in Egypt all shared one enemy: Radical Islam. Islamists tried to kill Nasser, they did kill Sadat, and they tried repeatedly to kill Mubarak.
Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, and the Assad family (father Hafez and son Bashar), shared the same set of beliefs and the same enemies.
Hussein and the Assads embraced the same Ba'athism philosophy which means it supported Arab nationalism, Arab socialism, and Pan-Arabism. What it didn’t support was radical Islamic movements, like the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, or the Iranian Revolution.
Most of these leaders tried to keep the radical Islamists at bay. And if they could, they used brutal techniques to do so.
Undoubtedly, the Syrian regime hated Israel, as did the Gaddafi regime, and the Saddam Hussein regime. And undoubtedly, they supported terrorist groups that sought to attack that hated enemy.
But all of these regimes tried first to use force to bring the various tribes and religious sects within their country’s border. They were inspired not by the Iranian revolution, which they saw as a Persian threat, but by the example of Gamal Nassar.
With the decline and fall of Bashar Assad, that model is now dead. Socialism combined with militarism was always a bad combination.
The question today is what comes next?
Libya is a mess. Egypt is teetering on the brink of collapse. Syria is beset by civil war. And Iraq (which had a chance when the Americans were still there in force) is now seemingly sliding back into chaos.
The fear should be that what rises out of the ashes of Nasserism is religious extremism. And what arises from that is a holy war that will not be contained and cannot by stopped.