It's Not Israel, Stupid

You think Israel is the cause of Islamic violence around the world? An Iranian writer details the unbelievably long list of unresolved disputes in the area.

Amir Taheri concludes his article:

…All told, in the past six decades, this region has witnessed no fewer than 22 full-scale wars over territory and resources, not one of them having anything to do with Israel and the Palestinians. And these international disputes… are quite apart from the uninterrupted string of domestic clashes, military coups, acts of sectarian and ethnic vengeance, factional terrorism, and other internal conflicts that have characterized the greater Middle East, not infrequently attaining impressive heights of cruelty and despoliation. Nor is that the end of it. Underlying all of this are the unmoving facts, documented at length in the annual volumes of the Arab Human Development Report, of chronic instability, severe economic underachievement, social atrophy, and cultural backwardness. The greater Middle East is the only part of the world still largely untouched by the wave of positive change that followed the end of the cold war.

The notion that all of these problems can be waved away by “solving” the Arab-Israeli conflict is thus at best a delusion, at worst a recipe for maintaining today’s wider political, diplomatic, and social paralysis. For what is the reason behind the failure of the 1991 Madrid conference, the slow but steady death of the 1993 Oslo accords, the collapse of President Bill Clinton’s final effort to negotiate a peace deal at Camp David in 2000, and the faltering history of President George W. Bush’s “road map”? The reason is hardly the want of diplomatic efforts, especially on the part of the United States. No, the reason lies elsewhere, and is plain to see in the sorry tale we have rehearsed.

It is this: with the exception of Israel and with the partial exception of Turkey, the entire Middle East lacks a culture of conflict resolution, let alone the necessary mechanisms of meaningful compromise. Such a culture can only be shaped through a process of democratization. Only democracies habitually resolve their conflicts through diplomacy rather than war, and only popular-based regimes possess the political strength and the moral will to build peace. This is why, unless we mean to consign the Middle East back to the “swamps” from which the United States, its allies, and the region’s reformers have been seeking to extricate it, democratization remains the only credible strategy in and for the “arc of crisis,” and the only hope for its suffering inhabitants.

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