Find a solution – or else!
Looking back to 1948, most Arabs regardless of ideology opposed the creation of the state of Israel. Nor did they want the establishment of an independent Pales-tine. Indeed, millions of Arabs refused to even recognize the Palestinian people as a distinct nation. Some believed the land area bordered by the Mediterranean, the Jordan-Saudi border, the Sinai and the Lebanese-Syrian border should be a part of the former Jordan mandate. Others wanted modernday Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria reunited under the rule of Damascus.Still others argued for a pan-Arab republic as advocated by Gamal Nasser, Egypt’s leader in the 1950s and ’60s. Nasser believed that only a secular, socialist and modern Arab republic could truly integrate with the rest of the world.About 20 years after the creation of the Jewish state, Yasser Arafat emerged with yet another view for the region: an independent Palestinian state inclusive of present-day Israel, Jordan and all territories captured during the 1967 war, including Amman, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. But the most destabilizing of all worldviews materialized during the Iranian revolution in 1979 – view that can be argued has become the mantra for Islamic terrorists worldwide. Iran’s former leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini, proselytized that the problems within the Islamic world (Islamic versus Arab because Iranians are not Arabs) were the result of corrupt Islamic governments that A) had collaborated with Christians, Jews, and Hindus for decades; B) strayed from the precepts of Islam; and C) were no longer religiously based. Khomeini’s envisioned a pan-Islamic caliphate – a society ceding all religious, military, political and cultural authority to Islamic law and control. A Shiite, Khomeini’s grand strategy was to extend this caliphate from Indonesia to the Iberian Peninsula. However, his vision was soon opposed by the Wahhabists (Sunni fundamentalists) in Saudi Arabia whose primary advocate was Osama bin Laden. Whether Shia or Sunni, Islamic fundamentalism deems that only a transnational Islamic regime can restore Islamic power and prestige in the world. It is from these extreme ideologies that al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and other Islamic fascist groups were formed. Iran is religious, while Syria is secular, but both want Israel destroyed. Saddam’s Iraq was secular and the antithesis to Khomeini’s religious Iran, but both funded terror organizations. Hezbollah is Shiite and attacked the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1982, while al Qaeda is Wahhabist and attacked us on 9/11. Both hate us, the Jews and each other.Each of these factions has a differing ideology and idea about what the region (and the world) should look like. So while it’s simple to say, “Why should we care about what’s happening in Iran, Lebanon or Syria?” the reality is that a religiously motivated conflict could engulf the entire region with devastating impact on the rest of the world.Arguably, we are now engaged in World War III; and in an age when nuclear, biological or chemical weapons can potentially find their way to fundamentalists who remain undeterred from targeting civilians, anything less than actively countering this threat courts disaster. So how do we engage these fanatics?Limiting the West’s will to respond aggressively is the fact that 61% of the planet’s known oil reserves lie in the ground beneath contentious Islamic states. And while it’s easy to talk of ending American oil dependency, it’s quite another to implement a program that should have begun during the Nixon administration-leaving us with the current geopolitical and geophysical realities.Our traditional European allies are hostage to Mideastern oil, too, but they have the additional problem of dealing with their restive Muslim populations-no small concern, but nevertheless an excuse for inaction and reminiscent of their historical policies of appeasement (see Hitler-circa 1933). While the notions of peace agreements and cease-fires are well-intentioned, if these ideas really worked the Middle East would be the most peaceful place on the planet because lord knows there’ve certainly been enough of them during the past 48 years.Islamic fundamentalists are dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the elimination of American influence. Both scenarios are patently untenable, rendering the aforementioned concepts palliatives, not solutions. We must always look to diplomacy, but how does civilized society negotiate with those who by definition cannot be negotiated with? If a terror organization’s charter (Hamas) or a head of state (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) announces to the world Israel cannot exist, what options are left? In light of the increased sectarian violence in Iraq, I’m no longer convinced that the invasion there was a sound strategy to fight this war. Perhaps the execution was mismanaged or the administration under-estimated Iranian influence with the Shiite militias or maybe this is the best we can hope for in the short-term-only history will give us those answers. Nevertheless, the fact remains we are engaged in a wholly unique conflict, which means that the strategies, tactics and geopolitical maneuvering, are in many cases new and untried. And while no one wants their son or daughter to be cannon fodder in a “trial & error” war, we don’t have the luxury of waiting for this problem to magically disappear. In the meantime, history tells us that democratic governments don’t declare war on one another, making it reasonable that the ultimate vision for the region should be one of plurality, basic human rights and the other conditions attendant to democracy. But perhaps democracy isn’t possible in a region that’s politically and religiously convoluted almost beyond description. If that’s the case, then I fear it’s only a matter of time before a terror organization or a rogue state obtains a weapon that will cause devastation in Tel Aviv, London or New York, and wreak absolute havoc with the world’s economy.Butch Mazzuca, a local Realtor and ski instructor, writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com Colorado, Vail
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