Belmont Club » Hotline to History
For nine years now we have endured lectures from the smug and half educated about how the bitter rivalry between Sunni and Shia meant that there was plenty of room to sit back and let master chess players spin competing alliances. It was always balderdash. Not that they don't hate each other, they do, but that means nothing since we cannot trust any of them in any such engagement. This internal dispute has been going on for over 1200 years. The Sunni would be happy to see Israel bloody Iran and they would be happy to see Iran exterminate Jews. If they can gain power versus Iran cheaply they would be happy but if they have to endure a temporary Iranian ascendancy they would do that, and then betray it at the first opportunity, rather than actually exert themselves or assist in Israel becoming a permanent fixture with allies who are freed of dependence on imported energy.
Compare the fruitless cobbling together of fantasy alliances to control the Iranians now with those of Nixon/Kissinger 40 years ago. Now we dance around the Iranian regime while refusing to acknowledge the organizing principle they base their entire program on and which they repeatedly shout in our faces while our suave sophisticated pundits stick fingers in ears and go "I can't hear you." The efforts of the Tricky Dick and Henry K, who still produce a foaming two minute hate when mentioned to one of the bien pessants, were by comparison successful and would have endured if not tossed away by Wee Jimmy Carter. That is because Nixon/Kissinger recognized that the Pahlevi Shah's regime was not based on the quicksand of religion but on nationalism. That is a firmer basis for negotiating lasting agreements. Nations have interests, citizens or subjects, and assets that they can build on and be held to agreements based on reciprocity.
Religions only have followers who are tools that can be picked up or dropped as convenient and they can always back out of an agreement after citing a new instruction from a Higher Authority. This is especially true with regard to Islam whose founder routinely, whether on destroying irrigation and date trees, having sex with a nine year old, executing prisoners after a truce, or sending assassins under cover of friendship, would violate what had been his own traditional moral code to suit his purpose. It has proven difficult to negotiate agreements for any but the most narrow and specific alliances with the Arabs because most of them are still not real nation-states. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 dragged that country back from the Shah's efforts to modernize it through nationalism. Similarly the Islamists in Turkey are unraveling the efforts of Mustafa Kemal, which had for four generations partly transformed the former seat of the Caliphate.
The post nationalist tranzis like the Yurps think that is wonderful, since their experience of nationalism has included unhappy events like the two World Wars. They are confusing the primitivism of prenationalism, either religious or tribal, with the post-nationalist administration of communities already transformed by capitalism and socialism. They have proven wrong on every count. The Europeans are proving to be still stubbornly best organized in national units. Failure to do so only stimulates regression to more tribal identifiers and criminal pre-capitalist social behavior. In Weberian terms they regress from a state of Organic to Mechanical Solidarity. The non-Europeans who were never transformed by capitalism and nationalism and will only respond to immediate external pressure for short time goals.
The Japanese are a modern capitalist society who like the Europeans could move into post nationalist relations, if they had different neighbors. As it is they are emerging from the shadow of American power and will have to negotiate how to safely restore themselves as national, and nationalist, actors. Potentially Korea, Taiwan and the non-Islamic nations of South East Asia could all emerge as normal nation-states.
China is attempting to conduct itself as a rational national actor, as opposed to being motivated by some ideology, but they have two handicaps;
1. their capitalist revolution is imperfect and the rule of law is poorly instituted,
2. because of their size and history they have imperfect demarcations between local loyalties and national pretensions. China is really very fragile as both an economy and a polity.