Seeing the World Differently
I spent several hours yesterday in conversation with three Israelis who are traveling around the United States meeting with various organizations answering questions about the current political issues from a government perspective. Two of them are trained historians, although all Jews, to some extent, are historians. After a short while, we started discussing one of the points raised on the blog yesterday–the notion of relative peace. You know, one of the Israelis said to me, we’ve seen this world situation before. Now, anyone who has read James Michener knows that when an Israeli starts talking about history, grab a pillow, because the history of our oppressed people generally starts with the creation of dirt. Well, I was surprised when my guest only harked back to about 225 CE, a date which marks the moment when it was pretty clear that the Roman Empire was doomed and that the warlord structure of the Gauls and the Vandals was encroaching on Rome. And this, so he says, is the view of what is happening now, in the post Cold War era, that we are seeing the break down of the nation state system, and the rise of global warlordism, akin to the Middle Ages. We talk much about the global war on terror, and one of the struggles we have with the GWOT is the notion of extra territorial states–how do you fight Al Qaeada? But it’s not just Al Qaeada anymore. Its also Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and a dozen more, each of which has a loose tie to some kind of Islamic movement. Syria has already broken into the Somalia model,with one war lord battled another, with shifting alliances of other warlords, and its is also true in Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Libya, Tunesia, Iraq, Iran and a dozen other countries. And as my historian pointed out yesterday, its not just the Middle East. African states such as Congo, Mali and a dozen others are splintering as well. And at the same time that the European Union is integrating, the nation states themselves are breaking down into smaller geographic units, with nationalistic movements now active in 12 EU countries, any of which could go the way of Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union. Even the United States increasingly seems divided along irreconcilable political and geographic divides. One of the curious things about nation states is that they require nation states to contain them. When nation states break down into asymmetrical segments, the answer is not a nation state containment, but rather restoration of symmetry of the breakdown of the larger nation state into smaller states, until you have the kind of shifting feudal society we know as the Middle Ages. It is curious, the Israelis note, that John Kerry has made five trips to the Middle East to discuss the PLO problem–akin to trying to pull a small splinter why allowing a cancer to fester. The problem in the Middle East is no longer the PLO. The problem is the Arab League, which increasingly lacks the power to mediate violence, as the Arab League is a nation state system under attack on its own. The Arab League can’t promise peace any more than UNIFIL has been able to keep “peace” in Lebanon, and the United States and Egypt are already in breach of the Camp David terms, which required stability in the Sinai. And with Lebanon, Syria and other states on the Northern border of Israel devolving into warlordism, why should Israel negotiate with the PLO, when the PLO is a toothless warlord that can’t even control its own territory without Israeli assistance? No one quite knows where the Syria debacle is going. But it is interesting that Dyer sees a world of peace and prosperity, while the Israelis are doing what they did when Rome had the same view–bring in the porch furniture, hunker down, and hope that things will recover in a 1000 years or so.