Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Western Front: The End of Normalcy

by Daniel Greenfield

The Arab Spring didn’t accomplish a whole lot beyond swapping out a handful of dictators for their more obscure henchmen and Islamist allies, but it did kill the treaty model of regional normalization completely dead.

European models of conflict settlement never mapped well onto a region where there is no enduring form of government. Middle Eastern states are tribal arrangements ruled over by a combination of force and local consensus. A signed treaty with them was not an enduring agreement inherited by a republic, but an agreement with a family or an oligarchy.

The overthrow of Mubarak and the subsequent rejection of Camp David by his successors is a reminder that even the most famous regional peace accord could not outlast Sadat and his chosen replacement.

Israeli politicians on the left and the right have chased after the will-o'-the-wisp of normalized relations, but a normalization of relations that permanently moves conflict out of the sphere of armed warfare, and into that of trade competition and soccer matches does not exist in the region. The Saudi peace plan with full regional normalization is something that they could not offer to Israel, or even another Arab state.

The Middle East's players ricochet from competition to armed confrontation, each regional player always has its eye on the other, alliances are made, broken and reformed in only a few years.

Anyone who thinks the region is driven by honor and revenge only has to look at how quickly leaders will ally with the murderers of their own fathers for a temporary advantage. Or how quickly they will turn on their brother if the price is right.

Blood and religion create nebulous allegiances and enmities that are permanent in the long view, but flexible enough to accommodate temporary alliances. A Sunni and Shiite alliance cannot be sustained over the long term, but it is common enough in the short term.

Jews and Christians can never form a long-lasting agreement with a Muslim state for the same reason. But official and unofficial alliances are common.

European diplomats pressure Israel to do whatever it takes to achieve regional normalization, but they forget that their own regional normalization only occurred after hundreds of years of war, culminating in a devastating global conflict that displaced them from world power status. Europe's internal peace did not come from higher enlightenment, but the firepower of Pax Americana, which settled two world wars and averted a third.

The only possible Middle Eastern peace could come from a regional hegemony by a superpower. And half the conflicts in the region have been driven by the aspirations of Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Turkey to become that superpower. Should such a peace come about, it would be a Caliphate, a pseudo-Islamic empire built on repression and terror.

The Pax-Americana imposed a peace based on free enterprise and human rights. A peace built on the sacrifice of soldiers, wealth and trade.

A Pax-Caliphatica is unlikely to make similar sacrifices for regional stability. Like Saddam Hussein's Iraq or Ataturk's Turkey, it will be a prison of nations, overseen by an ethnic elite, whether it be Turks, Persians or Arabs, and a religious elite, Sunnis or Shiites, with brutal suppression of minority uprisings.

And that is the only credible hope for peace in the Middle East.

The absurdity of Israeli leaders signing peace treaties for generations with Muslim leaders who can be overthrown any minute was always obvious. But the fall of Mubarak brought it home.

Had they foolishly bowed to pressure and turned over the Golan to Assad for another peace treaty, the loss would have been even worse.

Similarly the Palestinian Authority was not able to outlive Arafat. The current Abbas/Fayyad entity financed by international aid and propped up by Israeli soldiers will fall to Hamas sooner or later.

And on top of that Israel is forced to prop up Jordan's King Abdullah II, the last of the British Empire's line of Hashemite puppet kings, whose own restive population will eventually toss him out.

It's not unusual for regional players to have their own client states, but Israel is the only one whose client states keep trying to kill it.

Hizbullah doesn't shell Syria, and Syria doesn't harbor terrorists who carry out raids on Iran. That's not because they wouldn't contemplate doing it. There is no love lost between the Shiites of Lebanon and the Alawis of Syria, or the Alawis of Syria and the Persian Shiites of Iran. But there would be consequences. Hamas has already paid the price for failing to back Syria. Hizbullah has been careful not to make the same mistake.

Western diplomats have been convinced that solving the Rubik's Cube of the Muslim-Israeli conflict is the key to regional stability. But the Arab Spring disproves it on both points.

The Arab Spring is a reminder that it is only a bit player in the larger dramas of the Muslim world. A scapegoat for Muslim states who come to terms with it behind the scenes, while using their state controlled media to spread paranoid and bigoted conspiracy theories about it.

And a reminder that no treaty can create regional stability when it can hardly outlast the men who sign their names to it.

While the Pax-Americana goes on believing that it can bring up the Middle East to European standards, a tide of immigrants is instead lowering the Pax to Middle Eastern standards.

The end of that illusory normalcy that provided safety, security and open markets to over a billion people is being swept away on the tide of the very belief that such a state was normal and that its very normalcy could be infinitely reproduced with enough goodwill and treaties.

There will be a high price to pay for that mistake. Israel is paying it already and will go on paying it until the mirage of worthless treaties and illusory agreements that shift as quickly as the desert sand is swept away.

For in the desert it is only those plants that defend themselves with prickles and tough skin that will survive. There is no use being an orchid in the desert. It is the sabras that survive.

Daniel Greenfield

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/10531#.TlPw4V3Smdd

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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