Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, February 13, 2012


In case you don't remember, that was the year Hitler repudiated the Treaty of Versailles and ordered German rearmament; and passed the Neurenberg Laws depriving Jews of German citizenship. There is no equivalent of Nazi Germany today. The purported "threat" from Iran is utterly specious. So no, despite the economic parallels I don't see 1935 as a good analogy for the present critical moment. However, I do worry about a parallel to 1914, when WWI began, as a result of various minor disputes and posturing, mostly over central Europe, spiraled out of control.

This time, it's instability in the Middle East. No, not Iran's nuclear program, although the hype about it, the Israeli threat to bomb Iran, and the ongoing covert war between Israel and Iran make the mix all the more volatile. What worries me is the likely collapse of the Syrian regime, which threatens a sectarian civil war that will draw in Syria's neighbors and quite possibly blow Iraq apart in the process is the most worrisome prospect. Lebanon, Bahrain, and other countries in the region with sectarian and ethnic fault lines could also be destabilized. Of course Egypt and Libya are already very shaky and even Jordan is starting to look wobbly.

As the U.S., Russia and China maneuver to protect their interests and pick up the pieces -- with the U.S. very much in thrall to whatever the Israeli government claims is in its interest -- unpredictable complications will ensue. The likelihood of the great powers coming into direct military conflict is very small, but the consequences for the world economy as the most important oil producing region blows up and the the rest of the world falls to squabbling could be dire. What happens after that is unforeseeable.

I write this not to ruin anyone's day, but to proclaim that no, more than ever, is a time for statesmanship and international cooperation. Instead we're hearing a lot of bellicose nonsense from people who are only interested in partisan advantage, and who have no understanding of the people and politics of the Middle East.

1 comment:

roger said...

it does not look good.