The future of the middle east

The rise of ISIS seems to have caught the attention of hitherto oblivious segments of the US public. Cutting off the heads of western journalists seems to do that. What we are seeing is the total collapse of civilization in that part of the world.

That is what civilizational decline looks like in real time. The roots of the crisis were visible four years ago before the so-called Arab Spring beguiled the foreign policy wonks. Hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrian farmers already were living in tent camps around Syrian cities before the Syrian civil war began in April 2011. Israeli analysts knew this. In March 2011 Paul Rivlin of Tel Aviv University released a study of the collapse of Syrian agriculture, widely cited in Arab media but unmentioned in the English language press (except my essay on the topic).

The Syrian food crisis had a lot to do with the collapse of Syria.

In response to the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, President Assad reduced taxes on oil and sugar, and cut import tariffs on basic foodstuffs. This action had unintended consequences. A blogger on the Syrian website reports, “I spent fifteen days on formalities to reduce customs duties on some basic food items, but I have not seen a glimmer of hope on the horizon. This was supposed to reduce the prices of the targeted goods. On the contrary, a liter of oil that sold for 65 Syrian pounds [US$1.38] now sells for 85 pounds.” That’s an increase of 30% over the month. Other bloggers report that the prices of basic foodstuffs have risen by 25% to 30%.

This has resulted in the presence of 14 million refugees with no hope of relief.

When I wrote in 2011 that Islam was dying, this was precisely what I forecast. You can’t unscramble this egg. The international organizations, Bill Clinton, George Soros and other people of that ilk will draw up plans, propose funding, hold conferences and publish studies, to no avail. The raw despair of millions of people ripped out of the cocoon of traditional society, bereft of ties of kinship and custom, will feed the meatgrinder. Terrorist organizations that were hitherto less flamboyant (“moderate” is a misdesignation), e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood (and its Palestine branch Hamas), will compete with the caliphate for the loyalties of enraged young people. The delusion about Muslim democracy that afflicted utopians of both parties is now inoperative. War will end when the pool of prospective fighters has been exhausted.

This is the proximate cause of the 30 years war.

So great was the devastation brought about by the war that estimates put the reduction of population in the German states at about 25% to 40%.[62] Some regions were affected much more than others.[63] For example, Württemberg lost three-quarters of its population during the war.

This will be the outcome of the present conflagration in the middle east.

But Islamic society is even more fragile. As Muslim fertility shrinks at a rate demographers have never seen before, it is converging on Europe’s catastrophically low fertility as if in time-lapse photography. The average 30-year-old Iranian woman comes from a family of six children, but she will bear only one or two children during her lifetime. Turkey and Algeria are just behind Iran on the way down, and most of the other Muslim countries are catching up quickly. By the middle of this century, the belt of Muslim countries from Morocco to Iran will become as gray as depopulating Europe.

Hopefully, we will be able to avoid intervention if the violence stays confined to the middle east.

Almost no-one in Washington appears to be asking the obvious question: what should the United States do in the event that there are no solutions at all?

No one, that is, but US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius March 22 that “the unrest has highlighted ‘ethnic, sectarian and tribal differences that have been suppressed for years’ in the region, and that as America encourages leaders to accept democratic change, there’s a question ‘whether more democratic governance can hold … countries together in light of these pressures’.”

We might have kept Iraq together if we had left a strong presence there but Obama has abandoned that strategy and there will be no going back.

The administration’s romantics, such as Samantha Powers, the Irish human-rights activist who once called for UN troops to take over the Israel-Palestine conflict, and United Nations ambassador Susan Rice, appear in charge of Middle East policy. Anyone who doubts that ideology trumps raison d’etat in the Obama White House should read Stanley Kurtz’ just-published book, Radical-in-Chief.

This was written in 2011. It is still true. What do we do then ?

A terrorist organization that beheads Americans and posts the video needs to be annihilated, but it is not particularly difficult. The late Sam Kinison’s monologue on world hunger is to the point: they live in a desert. They may be hard to flush out of towns they occupy, but they cannot move from one town to another in open ground if warplanes are hunting them. That is what America and its allies should do.

We should support the Kurds with weapons and Special Forces coaching like that which flushed the Taliban early in the Afghan war. Of course, the Big Army then came along and ruined things like they did in Viet Nam. The Kurds seem to have established a functioning society that is unusual in the Muslim world.

Why is this happening ?

What seems suicidal to Americans may appear rational to an existentially challenged people confronting its imminent mortality.

Self-immolation of endangered peoples is sadly common. Stone-age cultures often disintegrate upon contact with the outside world. Their culture breaks down, and suicides skyrocket. An Australian researcher writes about “suicide contagion or cluster deaths – the phenomenon of indigenous people, particularly men from the same community taking their own lives at an alarming rate”.

The Muslim culture is dying at the contact with modern life. That they will strike out may be understandable.

And if we know that we shall presently die of rabies, what is to prevent us from biting everyone we dislike? Countries sometimes suffer the equivalent of terminal illness.

The Muslim world is in trouble and we cannot fix it. We can avoid some of the pathology by avoiding Muslim immigration, which Britain is now finding a serious problem.

The Muslim world has not produced an innovation of note in seven centuries; except in Turkey, it lacks a single university that can train students to world standards (and only 23% of Turkish students finish high school). To expect the Arab Middle East to compete with Asia in light manufactures or information-technology outsourcing is whimsical.

Iran might have had a chance before Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, but most of its human capital has long since fled.

We need to avoid the Muslim self-immolation that is seen with individuals like Major Hasan and the Irvine limousine driver who went on a personal jihad at LAX in 2002.

As for the rest, We cannot do the killing ourselves, except, of course, from the air. We are too squeamish under the best of circumstances, and we are too corrupted by cultural relativism (remember George W. Bush’s claim that Islam is “a religion of peace”?) to recognize utterly evil nihilism when it stares us in the face. In practice, a great deal of the killing will be done by Iran and its allies: the Iraqi Shi’a, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Assad regime in Syria. It will be one of the most disgusting and disheartening episodes in modern history and there isn’t much we can do to prevent it.

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