Grand Expectations

May 8, 2009 at 7:58 am (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

The “international community” has been very busy trying to find ways on how Israel should engage the Palestinians or how the US should engage Pakistan.

Wilson and his maps

It doesn’t dawn on anyone that engaging requires at least two entities and that neither Palestine nor Pakistan have cohesive leaderships.

The West is to blame claim a few, who complain that Israel has undermined the Palestinian Authority and the US has destabilised Pakistan from the west. The truth is that Israel has been at war with the PA for decades and Abbas’ regime in the West Bank is the first they are actually attempting to prop up. As for Pakistan, the seeds of the problems they’re reaping began when Islamabad decided to intervene in the Afghan civil war. They did so of their own free will and no one maliciously enticed them with the go ahead.

There is a reason why in times of instability, states such as Turkey and Iran prosper and others such as Pakistan or Palestine dwindle. The objective reason is nationhood.

Both Palestine and Pakistan are artificial constructs basing their raison d’être on a conflict with a neighbour – Israel and India respectively – and on something as basic and inconsistent as religion. Elsewhere in the world, when a political force juxtaposes religion and politics, the responsible commentators criticise the lack of secularism. When a politician exacerbates an external threat in order to domestically profit from a “rally to the flag” sentiment, society censures the manipulation. In the instances of Palestine and Pakistan when the very foundations of these states-to-be revolve around myth instead of interest, no pundit is able to discern that peace negotiations just perhaps, may be hindered by the lack of a credible partner.

Ramallah and Islamabad are devoid of any cultural coherence or national conscience. Palestine only ceased to be a geographical designation in 1967 when Israel took over the terra nullius of what was left of the Mandate of Palestine – which the Jews called Judea-Samaria. Today the only identifiable feature of what a Palestinian is, translates into a forced upon jus sanguinis of all the Arabs inhabiting the Mandate – minus Jordan – in 1947. As for Pakistan, if the origin of the name weren’t enlightening enough, we watch daily how its sovereignty fades. In Waziristan, Swat, Buner, Baluchistan, the irredentist and subversive forces are endless.

And it is in these territories that Wilsonians wish to implement nation-building.

Agreed; we can all acknowledge the nationhood isn’t there, but before indulging in social engineering delusions of “constructing” nations, what about putting together states and consolidating regimes?1 Some Wilsonians have put forth the possibility of redrawing the map of the Middle East in order to create ethnically pure states. One cannot deny hegemonic ethnicities offer more guarantees of stability but to proceed with such narrow minded and simplistic solutions would only lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide.

The Ottoman Empire and the Balkans are perfect examples of the price exacted on populations for the attempt at creating western European style nation-states, where there have never been any. Granted, the dismantling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire did give more ethnic coherence to the Balkans, but at the expense of the regional balance of forces, the only possible outcome was to see the former Imperial territories falling under the Fascist sphere of influence and then that of the USSR’s. A Europeanist might even argue that western Europe has tripled its losses by now seeing eastern Europe more enthusiast of America – undoubtedly motivated by its prevalent Russophobia and Euroscepticism…

The empiricist truth is that eastern Europe never saw the need for nation-states as much as western Europe did.  The same historical fact applies to the Middle East, where tribal confederacies and loosely affiliated multi ethnic empires were the norm rather than the exception. The answer to the instability in the region is not to disaggregate what minimal structure we have in place but instead to help allied regimes to cope with their difficulties. To protect and foster like minded regimes is good. To demand of them moral compatibility, regime change and a western version of statehood while simultaneously requiring military assistance in a common war, is not.

As all good students of subversion are aware of, the best recipe for bouleversement, is a military engagement sprinkled with a bit of domestic dissent.


Ralph Peters' Middle East map tempering

It is not up to Israel or the US to solve the problems of others. The Palestinians will unite or they won’t but in the meantime Israel will keep relying on Fatah and antagonising Hamas. Pakistan will be pacified or not but the US must keep working with Islamabad and the Pakistani military overall, in the war against the Trans-Kush Deobandis.

If the Israelis decide not to continue on the path of the “two states solution” this is their prerogative. If the Pakistanis heed more to the words of a general rather than a politician there is no right to question it. One can but hope Jerusalem realises that West Bank settlements and Fatah propping are mutually exclusive and that Pakistanis understand American assistance to Islamabad is not meant to counter New Delhi.

Most of all, the West needs to understand that old rues aren’t instantaneously solved with good will, states and nations cannot be “created” and that low level conflicts can be a stable solution in themselves, in an area of the world which has seldom seen very strong centralised governance.

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