In addition to continuing to have no “Grand Strategy” for its operations against enemies it incubated in the past as rivals to its enemies then, Israel has taken two fatalistic key steps towards long-term defeat unless it figures out how it wants to fight and build its future.
First, it rewards what have been increasingly successful US efforts to train, equip and recast Palestinian security forces in the West Bank by… taking more West Bank land to extend its illegal settlements. This Israeli habit of ruining a potentially good thing has its recent parallels.
To wit, after years of ignoring a promising peace proposal (with credible backroom promises of troops and funding) from the Saudis,
pursuing hackneyed political strategies to boost Fatah by outside measures irrelevant to Palestinian realities in such a disastrous fashion that it boosted Hamas to power instead and
ravaging the budding Palestinian economy in Gaza with a blockade that achieved little tactically,
Israel now votes into a position of power and influence a party that promises to rip asunder Israeli society from within by destroying the civil peace between Israeli Jews and Arab Israelis.
After decades of pointless but damaging discrimination against them in economic, education and political sectors that they ignored while remaining loyal to Israel, Arab Israelis are now being considered a “fifth column” for Israel’s enemies by prominent Israelis. This behavior has “convenient scapegoat” written all over it, in addition to the growing realization among Israelis that they will not know peace in their lifetime, without recognition of their leadership’s culpability for this tragic state of affairs.
Zakaria sums up what is at stake:
It’s a dangerous spiral: the worse the distrust gets, the less loyalty Israel’s Arabs feel toward their country—and vice versa. Last week’s election has brought the issue into the open. Its resolution will define the future of Israel as a country, as a Jewish state, and as a democracy.
God forbid what happens when/if an Israeli Arab youth blows himself up in a shopping mall or corner market. What kind of response will America have to an Israeli attempt to deport tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs for “disloyalty” as the Russian immigrant extremists amongst the nativist parties clamor for? Even without potential homegrown terrorism, Lieberman and his ilk will only increase in influence as war continues abroad for Israel. There will come a point when Israel must choose what kind of country it will be and whether its democracy and constitution will surive that choice is very much up in the air.
Are military governments (dictatorships, transitory regimes and something in between) a thing of the past or likely to reappear as a more prevalent form of government in the near future?
Military governments were once en vogue in the Cold War but after the Berlin Wall fell were considered to be a dying breed. Yet autocrats from Raul Castro to Pervez Musharraf have moved in and out of uniform when conveniently expedient, adopting different trappings of power to fit circumstances, masking for some the power base that acts as a bedrock for their rule; the military. Fresh additions have joined in recent years, as Bangladesh is controlled by the military after the utter failure of its two main political parties to govern competently and Thailand just had elections little more than a year after the Prime Minister was thrown out of office by the military while abroad.
Rumblings persist in Turkey and Pakistan of the military returning to power because of political and social squabbles that are impediments to progress and the sudden passing of leaders in Egypt or Libya would likely see the barracks become the center of power for a time or longer. Failure of the civilian central government or spiraling chaos in Nigeria, Ethiopia or Angola would almost certainly bring the generals back.
In the out years, governments in Indonesia, South Africa, Cuba, Mexico and Argentina could see a military regime in effect because of turmoil within. More fantastically but worth considering is the potential for military governments in say, Israel or America, after withering terror attacks or disasters, that prove too much for civilian governments to handle.
What factors could hinder or improve the viability of military governments for nations in the 21st Century?
The clarion call heralding democracy’s ascendancy around the world has certainly been muffled of late. Setbacks and near failures have occurred from Venezuela to East Timor to Kenya since the turn of the century. The shine is off once promising states such as Georgia or Uganda and while real gains have been made in Colombia and Turkey, they are largely the result of charismatic, effective leaders who may be one of a kind for this generation, not enough to sustain critical advancements. The petro-authoritarians buoyed by the black gold in Moscow, Riyadh and elsewhere are in vogue now and will likely remain so until prices fall significantly, a not so certain cyclical assumption some may be tempted to make regardless. China’s example has become a more powerful draw for nations in Asia and Africa, while the democracies in America, Mexico and Brazil peer across increasingly leftist Latin America. Money, diplomatic cover and geopolitical rivalry keeps afloat pariah states like Sudan, Burma and Zimbabwe.
The tolerance for non-democracies is high, even among democracies themselves, whether it be for security, economic, political or cultural reasons.
Renewed or newly minted military governments would not find as considerable a hostile environment as in the past 15 years.
The US will need to learn to work with military governments again, as it did in the Cold War, without incurring serious damage to its reputation or policy integrity (as occurred with Indonesia before East Timor’s independence). It may even endeavor to prefer them in certain situations in states of prime concern. Learning how to overcome the objections of democratic ideologues within and outside of the government who may not understand the need for nuance and flexibility in our relations with other countries will be a serious challenge.
(Towards more productive relationships with military governments in the next part….)