Kenichi Ohmae, one of Japan’s better known elder futurists, once wrote a best-seller, Borderless World — which thought through what eventually became known as globalization and the integration that has come to some corners of the world with the information age. His primary thesis was that states, as we once knew them, would erode in favor of much larger regional blocs and systems of international management and institutions.
States seem to have struck back, particularly since 9/11, with bigger police and intelligence operations, larger fortress systems for deterring bad guys and screening normal humans from evil-doers, more responsibilities for home security and national defense, and so on. But it is essentially the state vs. the non-state Islamic movement that has long been a feature of the Middle East, and as Robert Dreyfuss has written in his intriguing history of American engagement in the Middle East, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, the United States and Britain have long been on the side of fueling illiberal Islamist movements as a counter-current to nationalist governments in the Middle East, many of which chose to affiliate their interests with the former Soviet Union.
Now, the transnational movements that the West helped fund have matured and are wreaking havoc in a cycle of historic blowback. Nick Kristoff gets at this tension between states and non-state movements like Hezbollah in an interesting article in the New York Times today titled “Feeding the Enemy“.
At the conclusion of his piece, Kristoff writes:
Plenty of experience shows that Israel can’t deter private terror networks, but that it can deter states. Syria, for example, despises Israel but doesn’t launch rockets or kidnap soldiers. So Israel might benefit from firmer states in Lebanon and Gaza that actually control their territories. Instead, the latest Israeli offensives foster anarchy to both the north and the south, potentially nurturing militant groups that are not subject to classical deterrence.
If Israel is ever to achieve real security, we have a pretty good idea how it will be achieved: the kind of two-state solution reached in the private Geneva accord of 2003 between Arab and Israeli peaceniks. The fighting in Lebanon pushes that possibility even farther away — and in that sense, each bombing mission harms Israel’s future as well as Lebanon’s.
Kristoff is, in part, wrong — in my view — about Israel’s ability to deter terror networks. (although my new colleague at the New America Foundation and Century Foundation Daniel Levy disagrees with me on this point).
When I was in Jerusalem in March of this year and meeting with intelligence and other leading national political figures in Israel, a close advisor to Ariel Sharon and subsequently Ehud Olmert said the following:
We know from listening in to conversations between Hamas members that they have given up firing up Qassam rockets. They finally get it. If they fire one off, they usually hit nothing at all — and one of their guys gets his head blown off. We know they don’t do it now. It’s Islamic Jihad that continues to be a problem, but they are disorganized and Hamas one of these days will deal with them. But we know that these guys in Hamas are ultimately rational and aren’t all out to martyr themselves.”
Israel seems to have developed a system of deterrence with Hamas that worked — and leading Israelis recognized Hamas’s calculation of interests.
Israel is now running the risk of failing to find effective and “scaled” strategies of response and deterrence to deal with Hezbollah and is instead running the risk of outraging states — states that thus far have demonstrated profound restraint in reaction to what Israel has been unleashing in the region.
As it stands now, Israel is legitimating and helping Hezbollah’s profile and stature to grow — in a potential state context — rather than working to isolate and delegitimate Hezbollah as a failed movement that Lebanese should definitively reject.
Kristoff also mentions that with regard to a final deal between the Israelis and Palestinians, nearly everyone agrees that a final deal will look something like the well-known Geneva Initiative, which only gets 35% support from israelis when the words “Geneva” are attached to the poll, but which secures 65% of Israeli support when just the key principles of Geneva are tested for support.
I agree with Kristoff that this path is probably the right direction, and the U.S., Europe, Egypt, the Saudis, the Russians, and the UN for the most part know the same. It’s about time to get back on a constructive path and put it to Israel to develop strategies that both secure its national safety while at the same time understanding that there is no safety and stability without resolving the launch of a credible Palestinian state.
I am in Pittsburgh today and New York tomorrow, doing some work and planning with Daniel Levy, who actually wrote under the wing of former Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin the Israeli part of the “Geneva Initiative” mentioned in the Kristoff article. On Thursday of this week, Daniel Levy will be formally announced as a joint fellow of the New America Foundation and Century Foundation and director of a joint Middle East Initiative.
— Steve Clemons