Well, well, so it has now come to this in the Arab-Asian-Islamic realm: Americans bomb hospitals in northern Afghanistan by mistake. Russians bomb northern Iran by mistake. The United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and others in the region assist assorted Syrian rebels to overthrow the Assad regime in Damascus. Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah assist the Assad regime to beat back the assorted rebels. Iraq, Kurdish forces and Iranian-backed militias fight directly against ISIS, or the “Islamic State,” while ISIS torments and threatens everyone around it, and destroys ancient monuments.
Some ten million refugees and internally displaced persons from Syria, Iraq and Yemen wander around trying only to remain alive until the next day, many risking their lives in desperate journeys by sea to anywhere that will take them in. They don’t necessarily seek a better life; they only want to make it with their children to the next day, and many never make it.
The hapless Lebanese government cannot agree on picking up garbage, while increasingly strident young Lebanese activists accuse the government of having become stinking itself, like the garbage. The always wondrous Egyptian government pursues the most anti-democratic and restrictive human rights policies seen in the region for half a century or more, but it still receives accolades and aid from many Western and Arab states, with the Russians knocking on the door to assist as they can.
Iran does not have time to do anything much other than desperately keep the Assad regime afloat in Damascus, and receive an endless stream of Western corporate delegations looking to do business in the country as sanctions against it are lifted. Yemen is steadily sinking into a nearly irreparable state of de-development and chaos at the receiving end of the Saudi-led war against it, which has liberated areas in Aden and the south that were not really contested in any serious way. The war has also seen Saudi, Emirati and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) soldiers being killed by the dozen, creating real pain at home, but still with no clear “victory” or political resolution in sight.
Israel and Palestine, plagued by catastrophic leaderships, have succumbed to the primordial human emotions that see them both engage in terrible killings, for different reasons, yet always with the same result: intensifying their mutual dance of death. Theirs is not a war in the classical sense any more. Today, individual men and women—angry, scared, vulnerable, dehumanized—kill other individual men and women, often on the spur of the moment, almost reflexively or unconsciously. A voice in their head tells them to kill that Palestinian or Israeli, thinking it will make them and their families safer—but the exact opposite is the result. An irrational rage takes over their minds, and they look for the nearest Israeli or Palestinian to kill, with a knife, a car, a rifle or fire in the victim’s home at night. A few days later, they might be the ones killed.
There is, amidst the chaos and violence that engulfs so many parts of the Middle East, a clear pattern that only fools would ignore—and indeed the fools among Arabs, Americans, Israelis, Turks, Iranians, Russians and some Europeans who engage in the tortured Arab lands engulfed in military conflict indeed do ignore this pattern of repeatedly confirmed reality.
It comprises two related principles that have been validated across thousands of years of history in this region: a) there can be no lasting military solution to political problems that are created by human beings, and their cruelties and poor policies; and b) the lack of military solutions to political disputes is screechingly amplified when foreign military powers send their armies into the local conflicts, such as we are seeing in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Those conflicts in particular also remind us that external powers who wage war with their armed forces are always prepared to see the local battleground countries totally destroyed if need be. They do this because they say they need to protect their interests or assert their honor, or some such foolhardiness that is the way of powerful countries that use their power in foolish ways.
It is a waste of time right now to analyze how to chart a political course out of the suffering and destruction in Syria and Iraq especially, but also in Yemen. Young men with their big guns from many countries have statements to make, honor to uphold, principles to assert, and, in all this, gigantic delusions to display in public for all the world to see, and laugh at.
But they do not hear the laughter from the noise of their big guns. When they finally learn these ancient lessons of history about the futility of military solutions to political disputes, and the savage consequences of foreign military adventures, they will calm down, and maybe— inshallah—grow up. Many of us may still be alive to see that day. Many others will not. The age of the young warriors is upon us, to our great misfortune.
Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly in the Daily Star. He was founding director and now senior policy fellow of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. On Twitter @ramikhouri.
Copyright ©2015 Rami G. Khouri — distributed by Agence Global