I just finished up the readings for a class on the history of the modern Middle East. The main book issued is one conveniently written by the professor of the course (James Gelvin) and is aptly titled The Modern Middle East: A History. Below is an excerpt that I think sums up the problems facing the Middle East today:
American policy towards the Middle East [after World War 2] was instrumental in promoting both development and the civic order development was to sustain […] To promote development, the United States adopted a multifaceted approach derived, in good measure, from its own Depression-era wartime experiences.
Here is Murray Rothbard’s America’s Great Depression. Now, I know libertarians are infamous for condescending suggestions to “go read a book”, but I don’t think we can really help it sometimes. Hoover’s interventionist policies and Roosevelt’s New Deal were disastrous for the American economy. Most, if not all, of the Middle East’s problems today can be traced to the institutions currently in place, and these institutions in their turn were created and codified based upon models that had entirely failed the West.
For the record, the developmentalist approach led directly to, you guessed it, economic nationalism and political despotism. You can find a convenient ranking of the world’s states based off of GDP (PPP) per capita here. According to the IMF, the US ($48,387) is ranked 6th in the world (the US also repealed or rebuked many of the Depression-era policies of the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations; the few that remain are among the most pressing problems American society faces today). The world average is $11,489. Egypt is ranked 104th, Iraq is 128th, Iran is 69th (coming in slightly above the world average at $13,053), and Syria is 118th.