The Muddle East:
a.k.a. The Middle East 2006

Michael H. Glantz
23 February 2007

The Muddle East: a.k.a. The Middle East 2006

For as long as I have been alive, the Middle East has been a point of turmoil, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. More wars have taken place there then I can recall. More deaths of all kinds from shootings to rockets, to missiles, tanks, to beheadings, to machine guns, Kalashnikovs, pistols and so on. Had I dropped in from another planet in this period, I would have to assume that such bloody turmoil was normal for the region but that normality would be interspersed with relatively short periods of what could be construed as peace.

Face it. Factions in the Muddle East hate each other, wanting to control, if not annihilate, all the other parties that oppose them. The roots of these hatreds are psychological and religious, as well as historical. Some of those roots are based in reality, while others are based on misperceptions and, oh yeah, politics. For a long time following the Second World War, the conflicts were driven by the two Superpowers, the US and the USSR, using different governments or factions within governments as proxies to do their ideological bidding. This required arming everyone (down to kids) with weaponry and hatred of their enemies, real and manufactured. The end of the Cold War along with easy access to newer, deadlier more sophisticated weaponry and explosives, which were being sold to anyone who could afford them raised the potential for devastation to a new level. It gave lone assassins and small groups an inordinate amount of military fire power and, therefore, political influence. The advent of the cellphone and the Internet expanded even further their potential destructive influence.

So, the Muddle East is armed to the teeth. Supplies of arms for all factions are seemingly endless. There are lots of pronouncements about wanting peace, but not at any price. Each faction or group wants something from the others that the others are not willing to give up. I can just picture a summary of a negotiating session among so-called diplomats: “ Israel will not disappear of its own accord and the militant Arabs (groups and countries) will not stop trying to make it disappear.” And now Hamas and Al-Fatah groups are out to dominate each other politically and, maybe more importantly, religiously.

Perhaps one problem is that the region has never been “normal”: normal in the sense that each country “loves or at least respects the borders of its neighbor's territory or religious affinity.” While most Arab governments in the region wish to see Israel disappear, it is highly likely that the religious violence of the kind that we see today in Iraq — Sunni vs. Shia (or, in southern Iraq, Shia vs. Sunni) — or in Gaza would continue to keep the Muddle East in turmoil and a potential catalyst to regional armed conflict, even if there were no state of Israel.

Many proposals have been offered for peace, but they require some sort of compromise, and compromise does not seem to be a viable concept in the Muddle East. Like many regional pundits, I have no solution that would come close to being acceptable to all parties. I am not alone. No one seems to have such a solution. When I think of sluggish diplomatic responses to such armed conflicts (which in fact are a form of non-responses in favor of the status quo), what comes to mind are scores of Emperor Neros playing their scores of fiddles as the region crumbles time and time again.

The result? While the so-called diplomats continue to dance around the task of picking a viable path to regional peace, thousands of innocent people, Arabs and Israelis, Sunnis and Shia, who just want to get on with their lives, will die. They are faceless victims to the outside world. They will be seen as "collateral damage," to use military jargon. (Ooops, sorry; you were killed either in the crossfire or to generate terror in others.)

It makes no difference to the dead and wounded victims whether they were collateral damage, as a result of an attack on a military installation (called counterforce attack) or a wanton random rocket attack launched at an urban marketplace (called countervalue). No way really exists to apologize to those victims or to make up for the harm done to their families and to the prospects for future generations. The loss of sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins, grandparents and friends is incalculable and is forever. Dead is dead. Wouldn't it be nice if ideological causes died rather than innocent people?

Why is it that governments can always find money to make war and can never find money to make peace?

So sad to see. So sad to say.

--Michael H. Glantz

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