The Most Unpleasant Post I’ll Ever Write… and It Is About World Peace
I really don’t like this post. I don’t like what I wrote in it. Unfortunately, it seems accurate to me. So here goes…
Saudi Arabia has no troubles with Zoroastrians, Christians, Jews, or Shia Muslims. The Zoroastrians, Christians, and Jews who were native to the area were wiped out. The Shia minority, about 15% of the population, knows to watch itself. As in, they know they will get beheaded (quite literally) for any activities with which the ruling regime doesn’t like.
Jordan, for the most part, can be described as a nation of Palestinians ruled by a family that was imposed on them by the British. The Hashemite family has few problems maintaining control, however, since September of 1970 (i.e., Black September) 1970-1971, when they demonstrated how they would react to any sign of rebellion.
There was a time when many Muslims considered Alawites, the minority sect that runs Syria, to be non-Muslim. I believe the Hama massacre marks the last time anyone in Syria questioned whether the Alawites are Muslim, or made noises about whether members of that sect should be running the country.
When the Arabs invaded Egypt, they referred to the Egyptians as Copts. These days, the Copts are a persecuted minority. (And yes, Boutros Boutros-Gali is a Copt, but that doesn’t change their persecuted minority status.)
The pattern I’m getting at, sadly, is that peace only arrives through superior firepower and willingness to use it in the Middle East. And its not just the Middle East. Think of the Ainu in Japan, the Aborigines in Australia, the Native Americans in the US, and anyone who isn’t a Han in China.
The flip side of the coin is this: Lebanon is not a country at peace – or rather, when it is at peace, its never for long. The various warring sides are too evenly matched for any side to impose its will upon the others, so peace never lasts. But I think its fair to say that if one of the sides was able to impose its will on the others through violence, it would. Lord knows, there have been enough massacres in Lebanon by all sides to demonstrate that every one of them would happily make any sort of demonstration they felt would end things on their terms if they thought they could do it. I can think of only a few situations where a side that faced violence (whether merited or not) and had the wherewithal to end the violence by demonstrating a willingness to completely destroy the other side has not done so. One is when the side that has that ability has gotten tired. The loss of the Soviet Empire could have been averted had the Soviets simply been willing to nuke one or another Eastern European capital. (Note that I’m not advocating this, mind you, merely stating what would have kept the empire intact.) The Civil War in Chechnya is another sign the Russians are tired.
Another situation that comes to mind is the one between Israel and the Palestinians. As much as the Israelis – if they were willing to do to Gaza City what the folks running their neighboring countries have done to at least one of their own cities in the not so distant past, and what Hamas would happily do to Tel Aviv if given a chance, the whole place would be as quiet as Saudi Arabia or Jordan. Note again – I am not advocating this behavior, nor am I am saying the Israelis are right in this conflict – I am stating a fact as I see it.
In this post I’ve avoided the issue of what constitutes the boundaries of a country… which sometimes stretch, as in China absorbing Tibet. (I think that’s best explained by Ronald Coase in Theory of the Firm, I might add.) But I’ve also avoided making calls on a whole range of moral issues, such as whether the folks who were “first” were really there “first” or whether they just kicked out or oppressed some other group that was there “firster.” Most of the oppressed groups I mentioned above were previously oppressors in the same area. Aztlan was only paradise to the folks running the Aztec empire. Also – does or should being there first confer ownership rights on one’s descendants a few hundred or thousand years later? Especially given all the mixing of genes that went on along the way?
But let me raise two, and only two moral questions. Say that there were such a thing, collectively, as the Israeli consciousness, and it had to decide what to do. Given that it is facing an enemy bent on its destruction, given that it has the capability of achieving the peace that its neighbors (other than Lebanon) have achieved if it demonstrated enough ruthlessness, what would you do if you were that collective consciousness? And before you speak about how one or another action would destroy your soul, consider this: when you sum up all the people who ever lived in all the places that took the delenda est approach – which pretty much covers everyone alive today, you won’t find more than a handful that have ever regretted it. (You will find regret among those who have had the delenda est approach applied more recently to their group than their group managed to apply to others, but that would stop very few of them from turning around and using that approach if given a chance.)
Which brings up the second question… why aren’t the Israelis doing it? Its certainly not good press; based on the experience of the Saudis or Jordanians, its clear you get better press for being more ruthless than less. So what is going on?