Middle East Lessons Learned

Once again the dogs of war howl in the Middle East (to use the common Anglo-centric term for what has variously been called the Cradle of Civilization, the Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia, the Outremer, the Levant and South-west Asia. Yes, I know those are not synonyms. So?).

Once again outsiders think they can impose simplistic solutions on tribal warfare that spans most of human history. Since Alexander defeated Persia, Europeans (or their American and Australian progeny) have tried to impose this or that system on top of the shifting sands of Earth’s only spot common to three continents. The Greeks failed, the Romans failed, the Caliphates failed, the Crusaders failed, the Mamelukes failed, the Byzantines failed, the Ottomans failed, the League of Nations failed, France failed, Britain failed, the United Nations failed and the Soviet Union failed. Yes, and George Bush and Barrack Obama failed (not to mention Reagan and Eisenhower). Vladimir Putin will fare no better. He’s a botfly to the festering sore Southwest Asia has always been.

In almost seven decades observing the potential and limits of military action, I’ve also learned a bit about the malleability of human nature. In a nutshell:

Wars are hard to win.

Peace is even harder to fashion.

Transforming a culture is almost impossible.

We could blame God. Everyone in the neighborhood was getting along—cooperating on a big construction project, in fact, until he muddled their language and set them against one another. Even those who don’t believe in YHWH, let alone the Bible, have to admit that no one long holds that eastern coast of the Middle Earth Sea.

Or blame the Jews? God ripped Abram out of his father’s presumably comfortable home on the Euphrates and trundled him to a particularly inhospitable land and promised it to him and his seed … forever. Therein lies the rub. Nothing lasts forever. Especially not in the Middle East. But Israel, after a hiatus of nineteen centuries, is back. Standing on its divine land grant and defying all comers.

A wise man once said that the imposition of Israel brought peace to the Moslems. Otherwise the Arab nations would constantly war with each other. Depends on how you define peace.

Once again we think we’ll fix it. We won’t. We can’t. We need to get over it

We should hesitate to rush our sons and daughters into the abattoir which the Levant has been as long as man has kept records.