Words like ‘insanity’, ‘derangement’ and (more mildly) ‘irrationality’ are used more and more these days in discourse about the Middle East.
In no particular order:
The insane hatred for Israel in Europe. David P. Goldman explains the European derangement (his word) here:
The flowering of Jewish national life in Israel makes the Europeans crazy. It is not simply envy: it is a terrible reminder of the vanity of European national aspirations over the centuries, of the continent’s ultimate failure as a civilization. Just as the Europeans (most emphatically the Scandinavians) would prefer to dissolve into the post-national stew of European identity, they demand that Israel do the same. Never mind that Israel lacks the option to do so, and would be destroyed were it to try, for reasons that should be obvious to any casual consumer of news media.
Europeans cannot live with their past. They cannot live with their present, and do not plan to have a future, for they do not bear enough children to forestall demographic ruin at the hundred-year horizon. With its high fertility, national spirit, religiosity and unabashed national self-assertion, Israel reminds the Europeans of everything that they are not. Much worse: it reminds them of what they once desired to become. The idea of Israel as well as the fact of Israel are equally intolerable to them.
Europe is still Israel’s biggest market, unfortunately, and its spite can be painful, although not fatal.
While we’re talking about attitudes toward Israel, there is the consistent irrationality of the Obama Administration. For example, John Kerry said this yesterday:
I think that it is more critical than ever that we be fighting for peace, and I think it is more necessary than ever… As I went around and met with people in the course of our discussions about the ISIL (Islamic State) coalition, the truth is we – there wasn’t a leader I met with in the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation that they felt.
This is nothing more than the discredited ‘linkage theory’ which claimed that every problem in the Middle East would be solved if only the Palestinians could be appeased by being given a nice piece of Israel to chew on. The fact that Kerry could bring this stinking red herring back from the garbage dump of bad excuses to squeeze Israel with a straight face is remarkable (but then Kerry has always been impervious to reality when it goes against his ideology).
Much of the problem with the administration is a combination of ineptness and the State Department’s permanent inability, since the days of Marshall and Truman, to come to grips with the idea of a Jewish state. Rigidity when ideology is contradicted by reality is a form of irrationality, and when carried to the extreme that it interferes with one’s functioning, becomes a mental disorder. But I’m convinced there are other, darker motives at work in the White House as well. Only some of it is rational.
Then of course there is the savagery of Da’ash (or ISIS if you prefer), which is so far from the norms of civilized society that its practitioners — many of whom originate in civilized societies — would be called insane if they acted the same way in a different context. Yes, public beheadings are a form of psychological warfare, but there is also a negative response to their subhuman behavior which they don’t seem to care about. To a great extent, they do what they do because it makes them feel good.
In addition to irrationality, the ongoing withdrawal of American power from the region is bringing about a chaotic situation as traditional alliances, blocs and in some cases (Iraq, Syria) nations crumble. This state of affairs is hugely complicated with numerous entities — Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Russia, the US, Hamas, Da’ash, the Kurds, etc. all with different agendas and shifting alliances. There is a mixture of rational and irrational motives.
Interestingly, Israel’s traditional bitter enemies Saudi Arabia and Egypt seem to want to cooperate with Israel. The Saudis know that Israel doesn’t want to overthrow their regime, and won’t bomb their oil fields — but Iran might. And Egypt’s Sisi and Israel have a common enemy in Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. At the same time, Israel’s traditional ally, the US, is moving toward an alliance with Iran against its former allies Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Michael Doran explains,
An examination of Obama’s recent moves in the Middle East reveals that he has exploited the U.S.-led military campaign against the Islamic State (IS) in order to increase cooperation with Iran in matters of regional security. Of course, administration officials dismiss any suggestion that they are “coordinating” with the Iranians militarily. In their next breath, however, they grudgingly concede otherwise—acknowledging, for example, that we provided advance notice to Tehran of the anti-IS coalition’s bombing plans in Syria. They also acknowledge opening “a quiet backchannel” to Tehran in order to “de-conflict” Iranian and American operations in Iraq. …
Too clever by half, this distinction is hardly lost on America’s traditional allies in the region, all of whom regard the Iranian alliance system, which includes Syria and Hizballah, as their primary enemy. Middle East media are replete with stories of backroom deals between Washington and Tehran. Given the enormous gap between what the Americans are claiming in public about Iran and what they are seen to be doing in private, even the false reports carry an air of plausibility.
As the US moves away from Israel and as the charade of nuclear negotiations with Iran continues, making it more and more likely that Iran will become a nuclear power, the Israeli policy of simultaneously aligning herself with the US and trying to resist US pressure to give up the store to the Palestinians is becoming more and more dangerous.
In part II I will suggest some different ideas.