The "National Interest" was kind enough to publish another piece of mine on the subject of a "Concert of the Greater Middle East."
The "National Interest" was kind enough to publish another piece of mine on the subject of a "Concert of the Greater Middle East."
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Col. Lang’s call for a “Concert for a Greater Middle East” would be consistent with a broader catholic ( note the small “c” ) approach toward globalization.
The first globalization occurred during the Roman Empire, when – for all practical purposes – the entire world was united.
A global culture emerged from that: St. Augustine reconciled Plato with Christianity; St. Thomas Aquinas reconciled Plato, Dante reconciled Virgil and Ovid. Christianity represented the ordered blending of Asian religion with Hellenistic civilization.
Later developments were consistent with this. The 16th Century Jesuit missionary in China, Matteo Ricci, for example, attempted to express Christian liturgy and doctrine in Confucian terms.
Such efforts are not exclusively Christian. The Tao of Islam: A Sourcebook on Gender Relationships in Islamic Thought attempts to reconcile Islamic and Taoist thought, for example.
Michelangelo portrayed this in his Sistine Chapel ceiling. The Asiatic Book of Genesis was portrayed in Classic style supported by both Old Testament prophets and Roman sibyls.
Therefore, if we were portray a modern version of what such a global “concert” would involve, we would basically redo the Sistine ceiling but in – say – Japanese silk screen style and supported not only by Old Testament prophets but also by Mohammed, the Buddha, and Confucius.
Note, however, that all these blends are ordered. The Divine Comedy is carefully organized into 100 cantos; while Aquinas’ Summa has been compared to a library’s card catalog.
Such ordered scenarios may not necessarily reflect the way the world is evolving. John Robb, for example, argues that the national entities that would be parties to such a concert are growing less and less relevant. The future may be inherently far too fractal, too chaotic, for such an organized system to work.
If that is correct, then the Roman empire and its organized catholicism may not the appropriate model. Perhaps, instead, the Indian subcontinent, with its polyglot mélange of peoples would be a better model.
You may be on to something. The first hurdle appears to be who sits at the table with the “adults.” The European “Great Powers” sat down at the table in Vienna to work out a plan that was essentially reactive: How to keep the ancient regime in power in what was, for all intents and purposes, a European problem that European states addressed. Similarly, for better or worse, the “Great Powers” reached their concert for the greater Middle East years ago. Arguably, the demise of the Soviet Union and the Iraq Wars marked its end. A “new” Concert of the Greater Middle East, as you propose, involves a much larger cast of actors both inside and outside the region. And, non-Middle Eastern states still own the table.
The second hurdle appears to be the mechanism of “divide and conquer.” As you suggest, the “Great Powers”, past and present, have been and continue to create and exploit the social, political, religious, and economic fissures which disrupt idealized Arab and Greater Middle Eastern unity. The artificiality of the state system extant in the Greater Middle East is an example. Another example is the Western economic penetration of the oil sector.
Do the “Great Powers” pursue a “new” Concert of the Greater Middle East on the basis of continued exploitation of the region and support to favored groups? The old concert (imperialism and Neo-imperialism) did enjoy some success. After all, Britain, the United States, and various friends beat back Arab nationalism, Arab socialism, and are working to beat back Islamism. Or, do they allow some semblance of self-determination (that old Wilsonian promise)? The matter turns on whether the new concert seeks long-term solutions with the advice and consent of the affected peoples or continues its embrace of short-term cosmetic reforms for the benefit of the status quo parties of despotism and exploitation.
Wait, I just wandered into the neo-conservative delusion—the democracy domino theory! Your proposal is far more pragmatic, as long as Armageddon is not at its end. What a mess-o-potamia (credit to Stephen Colbert).
Happy New Year
The following is in regards to the portion of the document that reads:
“the United States should demand of Iran that it place its nuclear and missile programs under full international controls”
The Iranian Ambassador to UN, Mr. Zarif stated, in Los Angeles Times
• On March 30, 2006, Iran proposed establishing regional consortia for fuel-cycle development with countries inside and outside the region, with joint ownership and division of labor based on the expertise of the participants. No one cared to respond to this proposal.
• During the September and October 2006 talks between Iranian nuclear negotiators and the European Union, Iran proposed an international consortium, an offer that was initially considered very promising by the Europeans but then was rapidly rejected as insufficient. Once again, they insisted instead on suspension.
These offers were exact replicas of the IAEA’s main proposals on multinational fuel activities, including enrichment, published Feb. 22, 2005. Iran’s readiness to implement them presents a unique opportunity not only to remove concerns about our fuel-cycle activities but also to strengthen the Nonproliferation Treaty by providing a model for other countries with similar enrichment programs. No other country with similar technology has been prepared to be as flexible as Iran.”
So, in principle Iran has publicly and privately stated its willingness to subject its enrichment facilities to international control.
The rocket forces are entirely different and I see no chance of them being under any international control – ever.
“The United States and the international community must learn to “divide and conquer” in Iraq. The variety of people in the Middle East is no different than anywhere else. The need to “neuter” Islamic jihadis is overwhelming. Muslims and Arabs hate the idea that outsiders can see the “daylight” between them and make use of it, but the fact is that there are enough mutually hostile factions in the “Sunni Triangle” that some factions can be made allies in the fight against jihadism.”
Well said but it takes a subtle and deep understanding of the affairs of other peoples to exploit their divisions to achieve a desired end, it requires finesse and a long attention span.
The British had that in India, it took decades to develop. It relied on a class of administrators who resided in the country, were fluent in its languages, customs and were ultimately committed to the success of the venture.
We are much in need of such expertise. Several years in to our Iraqi adventure I see no sign that anything like this is developing in a DC still dominated by crudest most ideologically skewed views of the Middle East.
Speaking of the crudely ideologically I fear anything looking like a grand bargain with “rejectionist” Tehran will play at all well with Iraq’s neighbors:
and it’s worth bearing in mind that these are the countries that produce folks who fly 747s into buildings when annoyed. We are evidently doing a fine job of dividing peoples out there at the edges of the empire but seem to have forgotten the disciplines necessary for ruling them.
Off topic: I note today a WP obituary of Roberta Wohlstetter, who died Saturday in NY. Somewhere in this blog, Lang recalled an interesting encounter with her & her husband, Albert.
Hopefully we will have a Power Point briefing on Glorious Leader’s speech tonight, from you tomorrow, at a civilized hour in the morning.
The problem that I see is that several of the parties have reason to believe they will gain more of what they want by war and chaos than by a diplomatic compromise.
Iran for example, is already starting to look like a major power in the middle east. Why would they agree to give up their most effective weapons for a stamp of legitimacy for the U.S.?
The same analysis can be applied to the Kurds. Kurdistan is independent in all but name. This proposes asking them to fight their own people and make deals with one of their biggest enemies, in exchange for, essentially, a U.S. guarantee that they’ll keep what they have now.
I’m not sure the U.S. has the credibility left in the region for this to work.
this ‘surge’ is looking more and more like a ‘shifting the focus away’ from what bush is really up to — his buildup for a war on iran. that’s what i see — bush’s surge is a distraction of the public view and congress’s view so neither one will notice his iran war footing buildups [until its too late]. the old shell game at work.
Iran has every reason to negotiate in good faith with the United States. Those reasons are measurable in bomb tonnage or perhaps in kilotons.
As for the Turks, they still need friends. pl
Carrying on from Duncan Kinder’s ideas and others on this forum. Just in case, Colonel, a grand concert is not arrived at in the Middle East, and instead there is “War and chaos”, even then I do not believe everything is lost.
I’ve just been reading Stephen O’Shea’s “Sea of Faith: Islam and Christianity in the Medeival Mediterranean World,” which, as well as listing all the great battles of the confrontation – Yarmuk, Poitiers, Manzikert, etc – also deals with those intense moments of collaboration, mutual exchange, mutual celebration – a melding of the antagonisms – in Cordoba, Toledo, Sicily etc. What he calls “convivencias.” The places where, often informally, the great tenets and templates were transferred from civilization – Islam – to barbarism – Europe.
In the Middle East certain areas already are showing signs of debate and complexity – even if not of democracy and convivencia. Nasrullah’s Hizbullah does not only seem to be fulfilling that basic requirement of all politics – feed and house your followers (and how long since Bush or Blair have taken any notice of that!)- but it is also reaching out to Christians and secularists. The Sadrists rhetoric, anyhow, is wanting some sort of reconciliation with some Sunnis and even (Iraqi) Christians. Turkey is a precious and not-to-be-abused near democracy. If the Palestinians were ever given a chance to stand on their own feet, then there are quite strong elements of democracy and pluralism in their culture.
Perhaps those countries and elements in the West who are not welded to the Bush/Likud/Blair death cult could start reaching out to such elements in the Middle East…?
These are desperate times, but from small acorns…
I’m wondering about this plan to have U.S. personnel removed from the mega bases in Baghdad, and move in with members of the Iraqi army on “mini bases” aka police stations, in the neighborhoods.
Tom Ricks said on the Rose show tonight NONE of the military he’s talked to in Iraq are for Bush’s plan.
Now I see why.
The United States engaging a concert of Middle East seems inconceivable under the current administration. They lack the desire and certainly the understanding to bring it about. I don’t have much confidence about any subsequent administration either. Watching Clinton’s limited manouvering room during the Oslo process left me thinking that a US president is in an impossible position when it comes to making sensible policy in the Middle East.
I am thinking that the biggest losers from chaos in the Middle East are probably the ruling classes of the Gulf States. They would be in the middle of the action and certainly have the most to lose.
Mightn’t they decide to do an end run around the US? Alot of the agreements you suggest do not need the United States direct involvement, or the role of the US could be taken by the EU or Russia. The Gulf States could also force deals along by being extremely generous in terms of money. Rather than a big conference they could start small gradually build up on a deal by deal basis, with each deal making the subsequent one a little easier until the US had no choice but to sign on.
Or there is the possibility of new leadership in Israel deciding this is a good idea. I know it sounds unlikely but its more probable in Israel than in Washington, and would certainly be more significant.
I can’t see a conference as the best way to go. It would inevitably build up expectations making agreements very difficult to come by. And alot of the participants have no credibility in each other’s eyes. A patient incremental approach led by someone or a small group of widely respected people from both inside and outside the region quietly negotiating over a period of years sounds like a much more promising way to go.
– The probability of war with Iran now increases significantly. We are talking a lot of offensive posture/heavy equipments being put in position.
– Israel is heating up.
– Unless there is change, Iran will take this as a hostile moves which then feed into the already trigger happy Bush administration. Nuclear reactor ignition is key flash point.
– Initial conflict might happen in less than one year unless there is significant effort to cool it.
-Saudi and Israel is pressuring Bush to hold Iraq together, vis a vis Iran.
– It’s slow burn civil war. (It’s better than full scale civil war I suppose)
– Death squads and neighborhood conflicts are ravaging baghdad. Somebody is doing the Negroponte gambit in Baghdad.
-Question: When the civil institutions breaking points happens and essential infrastructure breaks, what happen next? This is Khabul under Soviet occupation.
– The minute Baghdad is destroyed ala Fallujah, Iraq as a nation ceases to exist from practical point of view.
essentially, Iraq is quickly turning into front line of big arab powers instead of a fail occupation effort. This is of course to be expected and highly predictable.
Powers to watch
a) Iran/Syria (Russia/China)
d) Al Qaeda
The rest of arabs nations will soon have to decide where to stand and Iraq crumble to dust and turns into frontline of regional conflict.
My prediction as Bush administration support crumbles. It’s policy will become either a) more beligerent/and reflecting hard right Israel b) fractured and incoherent, changiing tack every 3-5 months. c) comitting fatal mistake.
Iran is in the next biggest player now. followed by Israel and Al Qaeda.
I recommend the editor’s letter in current (February 2007) VANITY FAIR Magazine: “The Measure of the Man (or Woman)”. Discussing GWB’s character, it starts…”I have always thought you could take the measure of a man by his sports manners—that is to say, the way in which he conducts himself on the playing field…”
I don’t see it posted on the VF website, but perhaps it will be eventually. That’s http://www.vanityfair.com
Of course, the magazine will be on the shelf at your local public library soon, if not already.
Question: Do we have a signed document or credible quote from Prime Minister Maliki saying “please send 20K+ more U.S. troops to my country”?
I didn’t think so. Our partner is less than willing.
“’The government believes there is no need for extra troops from the American side,’ Haidar al-Abadi, a Parliament member and close associate of Mr. Maliki, said Wednesday. ‘The existing troops can do the job.’”