Friday, December 10, 2004

The End of History?

What if the geopolitical fallout of the Afghan elections, the coming Iraq elections, Ghadafy's WMD conversion, the Saud family's new sobriety, Assad's peace overtures, Egypt's "new spirit," the failure of the Intifada, Bush's re-election, and the death of Arafat created the conditions for the Palestinians and the Israelis to finally sign a true and lasting peace agreement?

Can disbelief be suspended for a moment long enough to contemplate such a miraculous and improbable event?

Can we envision a world in which homicidal teenage fanatics don't blow themselves up in corner pizza shops, Israeli armored personnel carriers sit idle, and the security fence decays due to lack of maintenance?

Would we finally see the "End of History," as Francis Fukuyama predicted in the late 90s, and which the events of 9/11 so dramatically interrupted, finally come to fruition? With the catalyst of the Jihadist casus belli dissipated, we could retreat back to our golden shores, pop the bubbly, and get on with our comfortably- insulated suburban lives, right?

Not so fast. Because deep down it's not about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It's about us. And Amir Taheri believes that those whose sole focus is on that conflict are missing the even bigger picture:

"Right now there are 22 active conflicts across the globe in which Muslims are involved. Most Muslims have not even heard of most of them because those conflicts do not provide excuses for fomenting hatred against the United States."

From Chechnya, to the Sudan, to Serbia, Kashmir, the Philippines, and to Thailand, similar Muslim/non-Muslim conflicts are raging without any of the same daily outrage and angry passion that inflames the Arab street over the Palestine issue.

"If Muslims hate the US because it backs Israel which, in turn, is oppressing Muslims in Palestine, then why don't other oppressed Muslims benefit from the same degree of solidarity from their co-religionists?"

The answer, as Taheri prompts, has to do with what the U.S. represents, its perceived cultural hegemony, its sole superpower status, and the Mideast elite's fear of U.S.-sponsored initiatives to promote liberty and democratic institutions. Added to that mix are traditional societies organized around social hierarchies and norms, averse to separate church/state structures, subject to the religious submission inherent in Islam, and you have a region that isn't going to yearn for the next episode of Desperate Housewives.

So, we can wish, hope, and pray for a political resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But it wouldn't be the End of History - only a welcome success in what will be a long and difficult struggle to reconcile two civilizations.