"In the Middle East, things can always get worse."

-- Samn! at Ad Orientem.

This is what Samn!'s quote got me thinking about:

There are two countries in Egypt: one is secular, educated and open; the other is theocratic, uneducated and closed. The latter outnumber the former by at least five times. The former group, many Christian, forgot to reproduce. Syria has the same problem. So does Lebanon. The French set up Lebanon specifically for a Christian majority to govern. Lebanon is now majority Muslim; the Muslims remembered to reproduce. Lebanon's Parliament recently voted to keep itself in office for another year. Like Egypt's generals and Syria's Assad family, they seem pretty worried about what their country's democratic majority might want to do.

Jordan is a dumping ground for the whole region. I know a Jordanian immigrant whose brother is still there. The only way to get a middle class lifestyle in Jordan is to work for the government. That's the global norm for most places: the Big Men extract rents from their fellow countrymen and set up a government and military to keep the wealth where it is. Jordan seems mostly to be in the business of foreign aid and inviting people in to scratch around for whatever natural resources they can find. When the foreign aid and natural resources run out, the state we call Jordan won't exist. The region will revert to its historical norm, warrior-kingdoms and raiders stuck in an arid region at the back end of everywhere else.

I could write several paragraphs about the world's last feudal monarchies: the Gulf Arab states. They are social and cultural disasters which will revert to their historical norm as well, warrior-kings, raiders and pirates, living in the desert.

Israel and Palestine. In 1948, who on the Palestinian side thought that a geographically discontiguous nation could survive as a viable state? Palestine is the world's largest prison camp. Israel is a successful nation-state. Most small, homogenous states with a ruthless devotion to the national interest are successful. Israel will still be around after her neighbors have collapsed.

One of the more hilarious things about the Middle East is Kurdistan. The Kurds are a classic nation-state. They are geographically contiguous and linguistically and ethnically distinct, and strongly inclined to keep things that way. But when Britain and France were divesting their empires and handing out states to their friends in the Middle East, they didn't give one to the Kurds. It was as if Kurdistan--this whole contiguous region of several million people--didn't exist. Obviously, the Kurds didn't bother making friends with the British and French. Anyway, the Kurds have kept their heads down and worked hard to maintain their nation. They keep things on a friendly level with their host state where they have to, and where they don't they ignore the host state and govern themselves.

Germany is another nation-state that people pretend doesn't exist; it's just supposed to be part of "Europe." After World War Two, the victorious Allies--the US, Britain, France, the USSR (now Russia) and Nationalist China (now Red China)--set up the UN. The UN is hilarious. It has a General Assembly where Haiti has the same vote as Germany. Of course, even international bureaucrats realized the whole concept of the UN was hilarious so the Allies also set up the supra-UN, the Security Council, and gave themselves permanent seats on it to make sure Germany never threatened their hegemony again. Now that Germany is re-united and sovereign, the Security Council's new mission is to run the whole world. Britain and France are presumed to be more important to running the whole world than Germany. This too is hilarious. Britain and France are disappearing under a flood of immigrants and net tax consumption. Germany is depopulating and having to import Turks from their traditional allies in the Ottoman Empire, but they are still the wealthiest nation in Europe. Germany is running Europe's monetary and fiscal policy right now. Germans remain a very insular and ethnically conscious people. After Britain and France have broken up into their respective nations, I bet Germany will still be around.

In summary, the powers that be in the Middle East and Europe are doing exactly what they were doing just before World War One, and later before World War Two: running roughshod all over the place doing stupid things. I've been using the term hilarious because that's what it would be if not for all the firepower involved.


SFG said…
And things were any different 500 years ago? Nations didn't have a global reach, but there is only the same old rule: the strong do what they will, the weak suffer what they must.

BTW, I doubt the population of the Security Council makes much difference to Germany. For all that people love to admire their former martial virtue, the nation actually benefits more from peace: having lots of neighbors means they have lots of trading partners, but their strategic situation in a war is awful.

As for Israel: just wait until their relatives in America wane in numbers and the foreign aid stops.