Saturday, December 1, 2012

'The ideology of Islamism has been on the rise for generations and now aims to expropriate the Arab Spring...'

From Charles Hill, at The Caravan, "World Order in the Age of Obama" (via WSJ):
The ideology of Islamism has been on the rise for generations and now aims to expropriate the Arab Spring. The ambitions of the1979 Iranian Revolution and Sunni fanaticism are transmogrifying into the kind of major religious war that the Treaty of Westphalia sought to forestall.

Thucydides traced the war that ruined ancient Greece to Sparta’s fear that Athens’ growing power was crossing the line where it would be impossible to contain. Israel faces that threat from Iran, as today’s international structures for the maintenance of international security have failed to halt Iran’s drive, propelled by religious ideology, to possess nuclear weapons. Israel, bereft of its traditional sense of American support, is making ready to act against Iran’s menace to its existence. President Obama’s priority must repair relations with Israel by visiting the Jewish state and convincing its leaders that the U.S. understands Israel’s uniquely dangerous position.

And there now grows a deepening appetite for gain. America, perceived as eager to shed the burdens of world order in order to be “fundamentally transformed” through European-style social commitments, talks of engagement even when Iran’s “diplomacy” is a form of protracted warfare. The enemies of world order translate the American election results into the lexicon of abdication, telling themselves that their time has come: there is a world to be gained.

Only America’s return to world leadership can halt this deterioration. “Sequestration” will relegate the U.S. to a second rate power and must be reversed to enable American strength and diplomacy to be employed in tandem. Without this the prediction of a Kepler for today must be grim. As the biographer of Augustus Caesar wrote in the years just before the Second World War, “Once again the crust of civilization has worn thin, and beneath can be heard the muttering of primeval fires. Once again many accepted principles of government have been overthrown, and the world has become a laboratory where immature and feverish minds experiment with unknown forces. Once again problems cannot be comfortably limited, for science has brought the nations into an uneasy bondage to each other.”

In this maelstrom lie opportunities not for idealism but for the cold, austere use of power, soft and hard, in order to, as Augustus was advised, teach the arts of peace to all. The old platforms for the region, including the “peace process,” are gone. New structures must be built and only the US can lead the construction job. Peace is not at hand, but statesmen can see the possibility of laying foundations for a new Middle East in Syria-Lebanon, Egypt-Gaza, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, and even, should we finally get serious, in Iran.