Tuesday, September 23, 2014
33

The New Thirty Years’ War

NEW YORK – It is a region wracked by religious struggle between competing traditions of the faith. But the conflict is also between militants and moderates, fueled by neighboring rulers seeking to defend their interests and increase their influence. Conflicts take place within and between states; civil wars and proxy wars become impossible to distinguish. Governments often forfeit control to smaller groups – militias and the like – operating within and across borders. The loss of life is devastating, and millions are rendered homeless.

That could be a description of today’s Middle East. In fact, it describes Europe in the first half of the seventeenth century.

In the Middle East in 2011, change came after a humiliated Tunisian fruit vendor set himself alight in protest; in a matter of weeks, the region was aflame. In seventeenth-century Europe, a local religious uprising by Bohemian Protestants against the Catholic Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand II triggered that era’s conflagration.

Protestants and Catholics alike turned for support to their co-religionists within the territories that would one day become Germany. Many of the era’s major powers, including Spain, France, Sweden, and Austria, were drawn in. The result was the Thirty Years’ War, the most violent and destructive episode in European history until the two world wars of the twentieth century.

There are obvious differences between the events of 1618-1648 in Europe and those of 2011-2014 in the Middle East. But the similarities are many – and sobering. Three and a half years after the dawn of the “Arab Spring,” there is a real possibility that we are witnessing the early phase of a prolonged, costly, and deadly struggle; as bad as things are, they could well become worse.

The region is ripe for unrest. Most of its people are politically impotent and poor in terms of both wealth and prospects. Islam never experienced something akin to the Reformation in Europe; the lines between the sacred and the secular are unclear and contested.

Moreover, national identities often compete with – and are increasingly overwhelmed by – those stemming from religion, sect, and tribe. Civil society is weak. In some countries, the presence of oil and gas discourages the emergence of a diversified economy and, with it, a middle class. Education emphasizes rote learning over critical thinking. In many cases, authoritarian rulers lack legitimacy.

Outside actors, by what they did and failed to do, added fuel to the fire. The 2003 Iraq war was highly consequential, for it exacerbated Sunni-Shia tensions in one of the region’s most important countries and, as a result, in many of the region’s other divided societies. Regime change in Libya has created a failing state; lukewarm support for regime change in Syria has set the stage for prolonged civil war.

The region’s trajectory is worrisome: weak states unable to police their territory; the few relatively strong states competing for primacy; militias and terrorist groups gaining greater influence; and the erasure of borders. The local political culture confuses democracy with majoritarianism, with elections used as vehicles to consolidate power, not share it.

Beyond the enormous human suffering and loss of life, the most immediate byproduct of the region’s turmoil is the potential for more severe and frequent terrorism – both in the Middle East and emanating from it. There is also the potential for disruption of energy production and shipping.

There are limits to what outsiders can do. Sometimes, policymakers need to focus on preventing things from getting worse, rather than on ambitious agendas for improvement; this is one of those times.

What this calls for, above all, is prevention of nuclear proliferation (beginning with Iran), whether through diplomacy and sanctions, or, if need be, through sabotage and military attacks. The alternative – a Middle East in which several governments and, through them, militias and terrorist groups have access to nuclear weapons and materials – is too horrific to contemplate.

Steps that reduce global dependence on the region’s energy supplies (including improvements in fuel efficiency and development of alternative sources) also make great sense. Economic assistance should go simultaneously to Jordan and Lebanon to help them cope with the flood of refugees. Democracy promotion in Turkey and Egypt should focus on strengthening civil society and creating robust constitutions that diffuse power.

Counter-terrorism against groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (which now calls itself simply the “Islamic State”) – whether by drones, small raids, or the training and arming of local partners – must become a staple of policy. It is time to recognize the inevitability of Iraq’s break-up (the country is now more a vehicle for Iran’s influence than a bulwark against it) and bolster an independent Kurdistan within Iraq’s former borders.

There is no room for illusions. Regime change is no panacea; it can be difficult to achieve and nearly impossible to consolidate. Negotiations cannot resolve all or even most conflicts.

That is certainly true, for the time being, of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Even if this changes, a comprehensive settlement would help the locals but not affect the dynamics of neighboring countries or conflicts. That said, a narrow ceasefire between Israel and Hamas should be pursued.

Likewise, diplomacy can work in Syria only if it accepts the reality on the ground (including the survival of the Assad regime for the foreseeable future), rather than seeking to transform it. The answer is not to be found in drawing new maps, though once populations have shifted and political stability has been restored, recognition of new borders might prove both desirable and viable.

Policymakers must recognize their limits. For now and for the foreseeable future – until a new local order emerges or exhaustion sets in – the Middle East will be less a problem to be solved than a condition to be managed.

Read more from "The Great War Revisited"

Hide Comments Hide Comments Read Comments (33)

Please login or register to post a comment

  1. CommentedAkbar Montaser

    As usual, Ambassador Haass fails to see the light. What are my reasons?

    Dr. Haass and neocon allies created the current mess in Middle East, particularly during the Bush Administration. Fortunately for our nation we have a President that strives to avoid wars. Yet, President Obama is receiving unjust allegations, judgments, and sentences.

    This nation was on the verge of collapse when the former President fortunately for the world left for the gangster ranch.

    President Obama has acted wisely on major domestic policy. Take Obamacare, for example. Obamacare reduced the health insurance cost for my daughter from $890/month to $450/m. Since her 12th birthday, a tiny tick made her ill. She is 42 years old, having chronic Lyme disease unable to work.. Our family has supported her thus far.

    In foreign policy, the President committed grave mistakes, such as attacking Libya. This policy is attributed to one of the most hawkish politician, Mrs. Clinton, as the Secretary of State. History will show she is one of the Secretary of State in the account of this nation. Under the mask of a Democrat, she articulated the assault on Syria, eliminating again a foe of intolerant Israel. Other hawks, such as Ambassador Haass, the so-called “American diplomat”, indeed a stanched ally of Israel, preventing for example negotiation with Iran.

    The neocons have a short memory. Mrs. Clinton stated in 2008, if elected, she would flatten Iran. This signifies killing 76.4 million Iranians! She intended to be Hitler genuine sister, yet over 10 times worse!

    In the second term, the President mostly kicked out a number of politicians whose devotion to Israel is ahead of their royalty to the US. I consider them traitors to this nation, with Mrs. Clinton first. Mrs. Clinton is the lawyer for Israel, even when Israel commits the most wicked crimes.

    Individual such as Ambassador Haass must never serve in sensitive positions dictating foreign policy contrary to our national interest. Dr. Haass is a member of pro-Israeli AIPAC and must not serve this nation offering advice to Presidents. An employee of Israeli Embassy in Washington established AIPAC!

    The President has acted rightly in the case of Syria. In fact, the nation rose against the war with Syria. Of course, the “Ambassador” does not even admit his portion of the crimes. He is just professing the region is ripe for unrest, just like 1618-1648! Good finding! He never addresses one key question. Who created the current muddle in the first place?

    The only reason our nation and people in Middle East are suffering is due to Israel not coming to peace with Palestinians. Those who support Israel neglect, for example, Nelson Mandela and President Carter called Israel racist. Compared to any nation, friends and foes, no nation has created so many million diehard foes for our decent people.

    Those who do not know history must attend History 101. Israel has been racist since its inception. Why?

    David Ben-Gurrion, The Father of Israel, said, “We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.”

    During this war, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister, Matan Vilnai, described the fate of Gazans. He used the word Shoah to remind the Holocaust of his people’s most dreadful carnage. The Israeli official applied the word “genocide” with lightness! Yet, few American outlets reported it.

    World-renowned Israeli historians such as, Professor Ilan Pappe, has affirmed that genocide “is the only appropriate way to describe what the Israeli army is doing in the Gaza Strip.”

    Vitally, the genocide in Gaza cannot or will not be judged only thru total losses. It is a gauged and premeditated genocide, death through long-term means. Gazans are one way or another less human; we should ignore them, lest there is a mass murder or famine.

      CommentedGary Mullennix

      You ignore history. The current mess stems from the Sunni-Shia imbroglio powered by tribal allegiances and made exceedingly dangerous by weapons far more lethal than the horse and saber of Saud's hegemonic effort. Harasses points are well taken. There is blood in the air. No one can yet accurately forecast how this will turn out. In an attempt to protect ourselves, we are now blamed by Montaser and Bahgdati. But it far older and more visceral.

  2. CommentedDaniel Brockman

    Mr. Haass orchestrated the bankrupt policy of a war on terror, and in this article he attempts to justify that policy. He draws a parallel between 17th century Europe and the contemporary mideast, then draws an incorrect conclusion from it: that "counter-terrorism" is our only hope.

    Counter-terrorism abandons principles of justice, and consequently it is self-defeating. Did the religious nut Osama Bin Laden kill thousands of people and burn property worth billions? That doesn't make him guilty of terrorism, but it does make him guilty of murder and arson. Those crimes can be best addressed by formal systems of justice.

    Our drone attacks on people administratively declared "terrorists" with tenuous justification based on unproven claims that they are "linked" to "terrorist" organizations has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people who had nothing to do with the tragic events of 9/11. The world sees their deaths as injustice, and us as the perpetrators of that injustice. Hence does our "counter-terrorism" create more enemies than it kills.

      CommentedCurtis Carpenter

      Mr. Brockman, you seem to imagine that the production of children can only happen in an environment of hopefulness and optimism -- which is a nice sentiment, but not one that squares with my observable reality.

      There are two issues at play here I think. One is -why- the Middle East is in the state it's in presently. The other is how to deal with that state. Both issues get lost if one begins by picking one side or the other and proclaiming it either a beacon of good or a beacon of evil, "just" or "unjust."

      I agree with your view that the "war on terror" does nothing to address either the "why" of the Middle East conundrums or the "how" of what should be done about them (if anything). But simply saying that justice should prevail is also not helpful. Do you doubt that either the Israeli tank commander in Gaza, or the young Palestinian launching a rocket toward Tel Aviv believes he has abandoned all claims to the pursuit of justice?

      What "system of justice" might be acceptable to both President Assad and the Syrian fighters that are trying to bring him down? To Israel under rocket attack and Gaza under shelling?

      Yuval Driskin has presented what I think is an honest appraisal of why the Middle East is as it is when he wrote ""When people lose hope for an improvement of their situation, they radicalize." I agree with your view that drone attacks (and a "war on terror", and discretionary wars of any sort in the absence of an existential threat) do nothing to address that "why." But for all that -- what can be done to give the people of Gaza hope for and a stake in a brighter future that hasn't already been tried?

  3. CommentedAndra Mirri

    Reminder: the separation between state and church comes from the time of the french revolution. During the reformation there was only an appropriation of the land of monasteries by local princes and their supporters.

  4. Commentedpieter jongejan

    In the euro countries we have the protestant north against the catholic south. The north has different norms of individual behavior than the south; the north saves more and the south spends more. The same devide is visible in the USA. The protestants were dominant in the 19th century; after WW1 the catholics and others have gradually increased their influence. The FED was founded in 1913 by about ten families. These ten familires decide about world interest rates and financial stability. Is the USA still a democracy or a oligarchy, where the financial interests of a small group of oligarches have become dominant?

      CommentedGary Mullennix

      Peter...regarding the creation of our national bank founded by 10 families. Have you read anything definitive about the founders and their huge efforts to fund both France and England's war efforts resulting in the potential of massive debt going unpaid as the war stagnated into exhaustion and their push to get the USA in on the side of the debtors? Murray Rothbard discusses this in his seminal work End The Fed. There should have been no "winner" in the Great War. Because of our new banking interest there was a winning side which is responsible for WWII and today's tortured travail

  5. CommentedPhilip Palij

    I agree with commenter Peter Mason for the most part but want to make the distinction between America and the American government. Facism has become the policy of the American government, a seamless alliance of mega corporations Washington political elite. The article does not discuss the most obvious cause of inter-generational unrest in the middle east - Israel. It is as if they are invisible as perpetrators of apartheid against Palestians and the systematic ethnic cleansing of the west bank and Gaza.
    How is it possible for Israel to be in illegal occupation of the West Bank, launch murderous attacks against civilians and get away with it.

    This is not going away, perhaps thats what the arms dealers and warmongers want.....

    This will go on far longer than 30 years, it already has

      CommentedSergey Zavyalov

      Philip Palij – You talk about Israeli apartheid against Palestinians but you don’t talk about Hamas apartheid against Palestinians….Hamas and other terrorists are directly responsible for the treatment of Palestinians in and out of Israel. Hamas is directly responsible for the power Israeli right-wingers are allowed to exploit from this conflict, and Hamas should be 1000% charged with crimes against humanity for the treatment of people they are supposed to protect in Gaza and the millions they embezzled from this conflict that was supposed to be spent on improving the lives of Palestinians.

      Israel needs to liberate Gaza from Hamas and begin a long road to reconciliation. Unfortunately while Hamas remains in position to terrorize Gazan’s and Israeli’s this conflict cannot have a constructive finish.

  6. CommentedPeter Mason

    This is an odious article, illustrative of the reasons why so many civilized people loath America. The historical comparison is all very well, and creates a nice tone of doom and a "when will they learn?" headshake about dusky foreigners, but what this article is really saying is that America should be engaging in permenant war, and that that fascist policy is a virtuous response to, not an acquisitive self-serving cause of, the suffering of the poeples of the Middle East and North Africa.
    "Dr"? Of what? Murderous profiteering?

  7. CommentedTravis Zly

    I would propose, with respect to Dr Haass, that the reason for the conflagration in the Arab Spring countries, and particularly in Gaza, owes to population demographics. Gaza, for example, is one of the most densely populated areas on Earth, with 1.8 billion people living in an area of 360 square kilometres. Almost half the population is under 15 years of age. The fertility rate is 5 children per woman, hence the high childhood mortality in the conflict.
    The wars in the Middle East, I suggest, are very similar to the 20 year struggle between militia groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, rather than the struggles between Catholics and Protestants in the 17th Century. The modern battles in Africa are fought over mineral resources, especially now that rare earth metals command very high prices for use in semi-conductor circuits. The sides in eastern DRC divide on sectarian and ethnic lines, but loyalties constantly shift.
    The recent warfare between North Sudanese Muslims, Darfur Africans and South Sudan Christians was clearly based on the exploitation of oil, rather than religious affinities.
    The recent murderous sweep by ISIS through Syria and Iraq, and the fragmentation of Iraq along ethnic/ religious lines, would appear to have at its heart, control of oil resources, rather than interpretations of religious doctrine (although tit-for-tat and opportunistic killings make up a large part of the violence). Qatar, Iran and Saudi seem to be the major instigators of violence in the Arab Spring, and may be proxies of multinational energy and petroleum interests, which dominate modern economies.
    All banks were closed when the July 2014 Israeli offensive against Gaza started, “so that the members of Hamas could be paid their salaries first” (AlJazeera News). This is not religion or patriotism, but rather greed.

  8. CommentedCurtis Carpenter

    "When people lose hope for an improvement of their situation, they radicalize. That is the nature of human beings. The Gaza Strip is the best example of that. All the conditions are there for an explosion. So many times in my life I was at these junctions that I can feel it almost in my fingertips." Yuval Diskin, director of Israel's internal security service Shin Bet between 2005 and 2011 (quoted from Der Speigel).

    Diskin's view is In tune with Haass' analysis as it applies to the Middle East in general, I think. It would be nice to imagine a growing appreciation of that view and the Haass policy suggestions -- but that is probably too optimistic by half.

      CommentedDaniel Brockman

      Curtis Carpenter: Half of the population of Gaza are children.

      A policy that theorizes that the people of Gaza are without hope, therefore about to "Explode", and therefore worthy of targeting with munitions, is a policy of war crimes. If the government wishes to end the attacks against the people of Israel, it must first abandon its willingness to justify its killing of children.

  9. CommentedPaul Ghils

    La comparaison est intéressante, car elle contredit - sans le dire - l'existence d'un monde spatialement et temporellement homogène, ce qui oblige à recourir à un schéma plus complexe, où s'entremêlent des moments disjoints dans un cadre spatial dont les coordonnées ne sont qu'apparemment uniques et cartésiennes.

  10. CommentedPaul Ghils

    I had made the same analysis, it is pleasant to concur. Similarities are quite obvious, which makes "global" analyses almost impossible if we consider one world in the same period of time, while we are referring to different worlds in disjointed timeframes.

  11. CommentedWalter Gingery

    Mr Haass could have been clearer about the basis for the similarity: sectarian identification. Fundamentally, both in the Middle East today, and in Pre-Modern Europe, your identity is based on your membership in a sect. Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Calvinist, etc., in Europe; Shia, Sunni, Alawite, Jewish, etc., in the Middle East.

    You are who you pray to.

    The point is that the region will only achieve peace when its inhabitants agree, as did Europeans, to stop trying to enforce the claims of sectarian allegiance on everyone else.

    Further note: in 1648, with the Treaty of Westphalia that ended the worst phase of the war, no state in Europe was democratic and liberal. That all came later.

  12. CommentedJ. S. Renau

    Mr Haass's ultimate point -- that the events of 2011 might be the beginning stage of a long process -- could well be correct, but in drawing an analogy between 2011 and the Thirty Years' War, I feel he needlessly muddies the water.

    Primarily, I think the shortcoming of Mr Haass's approach is that it urges us by implication to search for some "Protestant" aspect to the current crisis within the Middle East. Rhetorically, it falls then to the so-called moderates and liberals of the region to play the part; however, outside of the country in which the Arab Spring originated (and even then, perhaps not), there is not one Arab country that is both democratic and moderate/liberal.

    Mr. Haass's analogy, therefore, supports a flawed strategic logic (although Mr Haass is not necessarily guilty of it here). As we learned in Egypt -- and most certainly would learn again throughout the Arabian peninsula if that region's monarchs stumble -- is that the moderate and liberal elements of the region are far too weak to offer a viable alternative to the more militant strains of Islam.

  13. Commentedj. von Hettlingen

    It's unclear why Mr. Haasss should see the sectarian strife in the Middle East as "the new Thirty Years' War"? He is pointing out similarities "between the events of 1618-1648 in Europe and those of 2011-2014 in the Middle East". In both cases it is about "religious struggle between competing traditions of the faith". Mr. Haass sees the ongoing wars between the competing versions of Islam, and between jihadists and moderates as a reminder of the massively destructive Thirty Years War. Lasting from 1618 to 1648, the war saw Protestants serving in Scandinavian armies against Catholic forces loyal to the Holy Roman Emperor.
    Indeed history is full of wars that were bloodier than the First and Second World Wars. What is tragic is that the Arab Spring seems to be the continuation of the two World Wars, as the borders in the region had been arbitrarily drawn by European colonialists, which are now being rejected by radical forces. When the Europeans left the region they set up corrupt stooges who ruled with an iron fist. Abject poverty and high unemployement among the youth led to uprisings in 2011, which saw the demise of several autocratic regimes. In the absence of a strong civil society the new governments are "unable to police their territory".
    The "strong states" in the region - Iran and Saudi Arabia - are "competing for primacy" in Iraq and Syria. The fomented unrest sparked sectarian violence, which sucked militias and terrorist groups into the conflict. The ISIS has gained significance in recent months, after having captured parts of Syria and Iraq. The "erasure of the borders" there has allowed the Islamists to set up its Islamic State.
    It's unclear how long the conflict there will last. Nevertheless it will take years before the people in the Arab World to know the difference between "democracy" and "majoritarianism", as well as the meaning of elections and power-sharing. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a major source of grievances in the Muslim world against the West and especially the US, because of its support for Israel and Middle East policy. Failure to resolve the conflict continues to fuel Islamic extremism in the region. It was a root cause behind Osama bin Laden's war against Israel and the West.
    Towards the end of the piece, one can't get away with the feeling that Mr. Haass is advocating against Iran and its nuclear programme by alluding to the threat it poses to the wider region. Hence he is calling for a "prevention of nuclear proliferation (beginning with Iran), whether through diplomacy and sanctions, or, if need be, through sabotage and military attacks. The alternative – a Middle East in which several governments and, through them, militias and terrorist groups have access to nuclear weapons and materials – is too horrific to contemplate".

      CommentedPaul A. Myers

      You make many good points. With regard to nuclear proliferation, the situation is bleak and looking likely to get worse. Pakistan has 50 nuclear devices and is developing small tactical nuclear devices capable of field use. This is a scary development.

      What happens is that if Iran also goes nuclear, a bad situation gets much worse and the cumulative probably of some form of nuclear incident starts to move towards "dead certainty" from "remote." So stopping Iran has a compelling logic behind it.

      What to do about Pakistan? I would say that the world community some day, possibly quite soon, is going to wish that it asked and pursued this question with the vehemence that this threat poses to the world community.

      Like the Thirty Years War, can the course of events get worse? Most likely the answer is Yes.

      The worldwide prosperity fostered and incubated by Western liberalism may be tragically undercut by violent fundamentalist revolt in a region made dysfunctional by the legacies of Western imperialism and colonialism.

  14. CommentedSergey Zavyalov

    Hari Naidu - Reading through your bias comments I can clearly see that you are not only drinking the Hamas Cool-aid, but you seem to be drowning in it. Meaning that you clearly do not understand the level of control and propaganda Hamas has over Gaza’s population, nor do you see the clear picture that all of Gaza’s citizens are in reality Hamas hostages used as leverage for international aid and recognition.
    You fail to see Hamas position as a clear conflict of interest and your blind support for their hateful campaigns against the citizens of Gaza and Israel will lead to more hateful propaganda and eventual kidnapping of Israeli’s, with further escalation. Open your eyes for your ignorance ensures this conflict against innocent people never ends.
    Israel needs to be left alone to deal with the entrenched terrorist network with billions of dollars available to them; otherwise we can be sure that operations like this will happen every three years.

  15. Commentedhari naidu



    An open letter for the people in Gaza

    Paola Manduca, Iain Chalmers, Derek Summerfield, Mads Gilbert, Swee Ang, on behalf of 24 signatories

    "We are doctors and scientists, who spend our lives developing means to care and protect health and lives. We are also informed people; we teach the ethics of our professions, together with the knowledge and practice of it. We all have worked in and known the situation of Gaza for years.

    On the basis of our ethics and practice, we are denouncing what we witness in the aggression of Gaza by Israel.

    We ask our colleagues, old and young professionals, to denounce this Israeli aggression. We challenge the perversity of a propaganda that justifies the creation of an emergency to masquerade a massacre, a so-called "defensive aggression". In reality it is a ruthless assault of unlimited duration, extent, and intensity. We wish to report the facts as we see them and their implications on the lives of the people.

    We are appalled by the military onslaught on civilians in Gaza under the guise of punishing terrorists. This is the third large scale military assault on Gaza since 2008. Each time the death toll is borne mainly by innocent people in Gaza, especially women and children under the unacceptable pretext of Israel eradicating political parties and resistance to the occupation and siege they impose.

    This action also terrifies those who are not directly hit, and wounds the soul, mind, and resilience of the young generation. Our condemnation and disgust are further compounded by the denial and prohibition for Gaza to receive external help and supplies to alleviate the dire circumstances.

    The blockade on Gaza has tightened further since last year and this has worsened the toll on Gaza's population. In Gaza, people suffer from hunger, thirst, pollution, shortage of medicines, electricity, and any means to get an income, not only by being bombed and shelled. Power crisis, gasoline shortage, water and food scarcity, sewage outflow and ever decreasing resources are disasters caused directly and indirectly by the siege..."

    • Read the Letter in full

    • Full list of signatories

    Source: The Lancet
    ICRC visit besieged Al Aqsa Hospital in Gaza - Copyright: Corbis

    Support the letter


    If you would like to join The Lancet in denouncing the violence in Gaza by showing your support as a signatory of this letter then please submit your name and email address using the form below. Your name will appear in the list of signatories.

    Please note that your email address will be kept confidential and will not be used for marketing purposes.


  16. CommentedEdward Ponderer

    Mr. Naidu appears to have himself missed something of the reality, regarding the too blatant continuing distortion about the Israelis whom Hamas likes to call, per their Jihadist ideology "pigs and monkeys" to be slaughtered, as well as the more politically correct "racist," is best understood in terms of what the Palestinians themselves say among themselves. This piece reported on by YNET about a recent interview on PA television:

    -- "Each and every missile launched from Gaza against Israel constitutes a crime against humanity, whether it hits or misses," Ibrahim Khraishi, the Palestinian Authority's representative at the UN Human Rights Council, said in an interview to the PA television.

    Khraishi has not become a Zionist. He has complaints against Israel. He knows that the council he sits in has an automatic majority against Israel, and that if the Palestinians were to suggest that the council condemn Israel for spreading malaria in Africa, that proposal would be accepted.

    But he was referring to a body which is supposed to a bit more serious: The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. The idea to sue Israel there is raised every now and then. Khraishi tried to explain to the instigators that it’s a double-edged sword. The Palestinians have a unity government. Every crime committed by Hamas is a crime committed by the Palestinian Authority. They share mutual responsibility.

    Khraishi added that "many of our people in Gaza appeared on TV and said that the Israelis warned them to evacuate their homes before the bombardment. In such a case, if someone is killed, the law considers it a mistake rather than an intentional killing." He added that the Palestinians did not warn anyone about where the missiles launched from their side were about to fall, and so it was considered a crime according to international law.

    Therefore, you should stop being so enthusiastic about appealing to the ICC, he told the Palestinians.

    This is the reality of the missile aggression by Hamas--which is supposed to be the elected representative of the Gaza Palestinians and part of the unity government with the PA.

    There was a truce called by Egypt, supported by the Arab league, the PA, and the USA, that Israel honored and Hamas spat on--continuing to intensify its random barrage of civilian targets. The stopping of European and airline traffic to Tel Aviv is indicative of the simple reality that it would only take one hit of an aircraft, hospital, school or office building to "balance the numbers." Hamas wants this desperately, and it it only operation iron dome and "bad luck" on Hamas's part that has prevented such.

    The IDF warned civilian populations of intent and to evacuate, and if they remain it is their choice, as well as pressure from their supposed elected government. [The German people during WWII cannot be considered innocent victims of Hitler--so that the allies had no right to fight Germany if that meant that German civilians could get killed.]

    The Israelis sought to stop missile batteries fired from those locations--purposely placed there by Hamas. Hamas had no intent to warn, but rather sought, as policy, to kill civilians. The Palestinians themselves testify to this, so the blood libel against the IDF ought to stop.

    As to the "numbers game" of 500 Palestinians vs. "not enough Israelis"--without caring about intention, 50,000 Americans die on the road each year--so Detroit car manufacturers are clearly the biggest of war criminals.


  17. CommentedQuinn Bond

    Good article, though I don't think it goes far enough. We are witnessing the natural and evolutionary response to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the disassembling of Sykes-Picot. We only have to read our History books to see what results from a vanquished empire. Various tribal, ethnic and religious groups will have to sort it out for themselves. But, I think 30 years is a good approximation for major new regional players and stability to emerge and an additional 100 years towards growth and prosperity, though that could be sooner. However, I fear, it will get worse before it gets better.

      CommentedRichard S. Stone

      Yes, and the key phrase is "sort it out for themselves." The intervention by other powers, whether meant for good or ill, distorts the situation, and prevents a solution. We could argue that the ability of one side or the other to gather allies and aid might be a factor in who comes out on top, but we might ask if that will be a stable outcome. This is not a "moral" confrontation, or a struggle between right and wrong, although it might be a struggle between past and present. This is more about power and how organized and properly managed and wealthy the two sides are. It's one thing to talk, but as they say about sports in the USA, this is why they play the games, and not just talk about which group is the better team.

  18. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    Finally an analysis that points out that the future of the Middle East does not hinge on a forced Israeli-Palestinian "two state solution", but it is the other way around, no Israeli-Palestinian peace is possible until the whole region is settled, and those supporting and supplying the Palestinians and Israel from close or from far, and are actually very much interested in sustaining and perpetuating the constant war situation stop interfering.

    I also like that the article points out the grave responsibility of the colonial powers, although I would go back much further than 2003, the artificial creation of "countries" based on western interest in between and after the World Wars laid the foundations for most of the tragedy we witness today.

    I think any long term, sustainable Middle East settlement has to be achieved by those countries, nations, cultures, tribes, fractions that actually live in the Middle East, with other "power brokers" stepping out of the picture, withdrawing their self-serving interference, and only supplying neutral, positive support when needed.

    A progress towards settlement needs a safe, tranquil center to start from, expanding in circles, and I think here Israel has to play a pivotal role.
    I believe that an Israel, finally de-coupled from the US and other Western interests, solely building on their own national unity and tradition, and their important anchoring role in the region, could start mutual, and equal discussions with the people, nations around them, based on many political, economical, environmental or even military common interests among them.

    Obviously this would not be a quick, easy and smooth path but a long and gradual one, but people and nations simply have no other choice but prolonged and devastating wars.

    And as we see in Gaza, Syria, Libya, Iraq, the Ukraine and every other current hot spots, or based on the experience of the previous modern military engagements, wars today simply cannot be won, neither "remote controlled" or on the ground, the collateral damage is terrible and situation after the fighting is much worse.

    The only option is mutually complementing cooperation, building on the few, common interests, goals instead of sinking into the differences and hatred.

      CommentedPaul A. Myers

      Re: " ... does not hinge on a forced Israeli-Palestinian "two state solution", but it is the other way around, no Israeli-Palestinian peace is possible until the whole region is settled ... "

      Haass is correct that Middle East peace does not hinge on a "two-state solution," but it is incorrect to go further and say there cannot be Israeli-Palestinian peace without an overall Middle East peace. Events are much more loosely linked than your rigid logic suggests.

  19. CommentedPaul A. Myers

    I think drawing the parallel to the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century is excellent. This also points us towards the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 that ended the war but also provided the enduring architecture for relations between sovereign states in Europe and some of the basic principles of international law and organization.

    With that in mind, I looked at the Treaty of Westphalia in Wikipedia and it was very illuminating. Some of those lessons might apply and be useful for a future Treaty providing a comprehensive peace for the Middle East and an international order that is finally agreed to by the parties living there and not imposed from outside.

    In particular, a Middle East Treaty would grant Israel the right to exist in the same fashion as the Spanish Empire recognized the Dutch Republic while different religious groupings would set forth the rules of the road for their mutual coexistence and the operation of new nation states within the region.

    I think some scholarly work on lessons learned from the Treaty of Westphalia that might be relevant to future Middle East peace negotiations could develop some useful thinking in a very troubled region.

  20. CommentedJonathan Dembo

    I don't have a quarrel with Mr. Haas essential point. However, he has failed to take into account a major factor. Mr. Haas dates the "Arab Spring" to the self-immolation of a "humiliated Tunisian fruit vendor" in 2011. He is not alone in doing this. This has become something of a byword among the commentariat and pundits but it conceals far more than it reveals. In the same week that the vendor died, Christian South Sudan became independent from Moslem Sudan. Not only was this the first post-colonial border change in the whole continent of Africa but it represented the collapse of the whole radical islamic political front in North Africa and the Arabian peninsula. The Arab states that fell during the whole Arab Spring were all allied with the genocidal Islamic leaders of Sudan: Tunisia, Libya, Egypt; the Arab states whose leaders may yet fall were also in the pro-Sudan camp: Yemen, Syria, Somalia. The collapse of Sudan eliminated the main Arab Moslem foothold south of the Sahara and isolated the Moslem populations in Chad, Mali, Nigeria, and in the Sahara region and has led to the rise of radical organizations like Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Central African Republic which are fighting rear-guard actions against surging African Christian peoples. A Christian state now controls the flow of the Nile to Moslem Sudan and Egypt. The moral and physical collapse of Sudan carried with it the moral authority of the fallen Arab leaders and the self-respect of their peoples, who had fought for 30 years to maintain Sudan as a Islamic State. It would have strengthened Mr. Haas's argument to have mentioned this factor.

  21. CommentedMark Taylor

    Managed? Managed how, and to what ends? And for how long? Until radical Islam burns itself out, much like Fundamental Christianity circa 1650? Back then they had pikes, muskets, sabres, and cannon. These days its Kalashnikovs, RPG's, and whatever else they can pilfer from Uncle Sam.
    In the 30 Years it took for the people of Central Europe to realise that the correct interpretation wasn't really worth all that; somewhere between 25%-40% of the population of an area larger than Germany was killed off.
    We've had three years of this mess so far. And you claim its only going to get worse. Another 27 years and I fear there will not be any Middle East left.

      CommentedPaul A. Myers

      Your concern about "any Middle East left" is well founded. Thomas Friedman in the NY Times has written about the impact environmental degradation is having on an over-populated place and the near-certainty that global climate change will make conditions worse. Worsening environmental conditions can interact with increasing violent instability to create highly toxic conditions for "progress."

  22. CommentedVelko Simeonov

    Very sensible and pragmatic analysis of the situation and surprisingly adequate policy prescriptions.

  23. Commentedhari naidu

    Jeffery Sachs & Richard Haas are dealing with two different world-view of War. One is philosophical; the other is policy prescriptive. Neither appear circumspect or mention the current use of military power by Israeli/IDF against unarmed Palestinian civilian population. Nor do they admit it is American supplied military weapons which IDF is deploying against unarmed Palestinians. Bibi also has the audacity to claim that Hamas is responsible for +500 Palestinians killed by IDF, so far. IDF is actually killing the innocent with its monopoly of (American) fire power. If this is not a racist war, by definition, it’s difficult to explain it in any other context – and the issue is how it all ends finally?

    Erdogan (Turkey) has called it worse than Hitler’s WWII genocide. Bibi responded by labeling Erdogan *anti-sematic*. Erdogan may be elected next President of Turkey - in September. So, the conflict is being exacerbated by Bibi with Egypt’s (tacit) concurrence by President Assisi – Hamas & Muslim Brotherhood are birds of the same feather.

    This is a combustible mix of regional developments, so far.

    Today, Ex-Israeli Ambassador to US - Michael Oren – told The Times of Israel - Secretary Kerry was not invited for ceasefire talks by Egypt. But nevertheless Kerry is in Cairo today!

    Putin’s aggression against Ukraine - what was once the citadel of ancient Russia: Kiev. The argument that EU association negotiations and Berlin’s demarche may have inadvertently exacerbated the conflict is politically admissible; reason why now expect EU to finally ramp-up its sectoral sanctions against Russia – until there is a final peaceful resolution of the conflict.

    The death of 154 Dutch citizens on the Malaysian Airline’s disaster in Eastern Ukraine complicates Putin’s policy alternatives. And, depending on who finally succeeds Ashton, by end of year, it’s likely Putin will not like the subsequent medicine prescribed by Brussels.

      CommentedRichard S. Stone

      Reading this left me breathless, but fortunately not speechless. Lumping the Russian dictatorship issues in with the middle east issues? Yes, they are both products of poorly organized and poorly led regimes, but beyond that?

      Or is it just that the West and the Jews are wicked, evil people?

      In any event, it looks to me like Hamas is in fact a terrorist organization that cares little, if at all, for the population that lives in Gaza, or anywhere else. It is as if Hamas is alive, and all the people are zombies. Or is it the other way around? It doesn't really matter. What seems to matter is that the Palestinians cannot rid themselves of Hamas, if we assume they even want to. Israel is right to disarm Hamas, or compel it to no longer engage in hostile acts. Gaza is not a country and Hamas is not a duly elected and constituted regime, although it did win an election. If someone contends that Hamas is duly elected and is carrying out the will of the people, then the "poor Palestinian people" argument evaporates and they deserve what they are getting.

      But the real problem here is for outsiders to take sides, or to avoid doing that. And who are the outsiders? What does it take to not be a party with an interest here? I think that is what is difficult. So far, on this current Gaza issue, the US is doing the right thing, as are the Egyptians. We can provide limited humanitarian aid. Let them fight until one of them gives up. Hamas asked for this, and it's getting it.

Featured