Paris has had what will likely be the worst acts of terror on Paris since the occupation. My heart and grief go out to the French people, who do not deserve this. The Middle East is a burning building. Put out the fire of regional turmoil and the smoke of terrorism in Europe and America will slowdown and cease rather than see the fire spread here, as firemen we have to stop treating the present map of the Middle East as though it were a building worth saving. The fire has burned too long, spread too easily and the building was too poorly made to be saved. The West needs to rethink its strategy in the Middle East.
France has long anticipated these kinds of attacks, the Charlie Hebdo massacre was a prologue but terrorism has been coming out of the Middle East since the 1960s. Europe and America has an unfortunate history of not recognizing the evil of terror whether it is Iran, Hezbollah, the PLO, Black September, the PKK, Baathist Iraq, Hamas and Iran and we treat these organizations like they are reasonable. They are not, they seek political profit at the maximal cost of civilian lives which is only reasonable to the David Koreshes and Charlie Mansons of the world. Terror organizations “profit” in their way from being unreasonable. What happens in Paris will happen in Berlin, in New York, in Washington and in LA and it will happen for the same reasons; the West has been outsmarting itself by seeking a series of political solutions to military and police problems.
US and European foreign policy must recognize there is no point in differentiating between international and domestic security philosophically. We no longer live in a world where we can ignore a genocide or just stand to the side and boo one, we cannot tolerate sustained instability anywhere. What happens in Kabul, Waziristan, and especially Iran and Syria is very relevant to Paris and Washington. France and the EU will have to further increase their security but this is only a costly and temporary solution with diminishing returns. There will always be exploitable gaps in security, this Maginot line cannot be hermetically sealed or made qualitatively better; the West can only try to keep up with the times. The real ICBMS in the Middle East travel by foot and bear arms, if we do nothing different then real missiles will come later. The civilized world is looking at decades to repair the Middle East but we do not have to be its victim or its colonizer yet we are in a state of war that we did not ask for.
Europe and its allies must stop thinking about security in post second world war terms. Stop trying to solve the riddle of religious extremism and fanatical nationalism as though every crazy problem can be solved with diplomatic therapy and instead work towards resolution – resolutions unlike solutions don’t have to make everyone happy or be reactionary in preserving the status quo. Syria has been a hot bed of terror for decades, a peaceful Syria will have different borders and different rulers. Iran must be contained, Iraq like Syria will likely break up. Yemen may deserve a political solution after the Houthis declare a ceasefire. Gaza is in an unacceptable state not because of the blockade but because Hamas remains in power and it must reform or go. The Arab Spring was about democracy, accountability and personal freedom and most people got Islamism instead and in the case of Egypt this was followed by renewed strongman rule. That means we may not be popular or a perfect model of how Middle Easterners should self-govern but we are not ideological aliens. The West should support constitutionalism and independent judiciaries and then human rights as training wheels for democracy but in the meantime NATO is not competent to manage American and European interests in the Middle East. For example, NATO member Turkey is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas and has been accused of being a supporter of the Islamic State until recently and can be easily be seen as sympathetic to Sunni terror and this compromises a NATO deeply concerned by Islamic radicalism. But NATO wants Turkish Airbases and chooses to ignore the obvious logistical and security problems. Unless the current government completely repudiates supporting terrorism, and follows through with policy changes, we must be careful of working too closely with Ankara which is far from seeing NATO’s security or regional stability as being in its interests. For Erdogan’s Turkey, NATO is just a stepping stone to becoming a greater regional power based on the idea that the Middle East and Turkey will be improved if Turkey is the hegemon. There is no reason for the west to support going backward a century in the Middle East. NATO is also unable to expand membership to other states in the Middle East because a European and American organization of democracies founded on European security is not compatible with the Middle East nations that are not democratic republics. We need an alliance that can embrace more parties and more kinds of parties in the region and turn out those nations that fail us in way that NATO cannot. We need a security organization that can choose to have direct ties to a tribe if that is what is needed.
Fortunately, Most of the Gulf and the Levant may be ready to form such an alliance, even with Israel due the tremendous instability caused by Al Qaeda, ISIS and Iran. Such an alliance with a genuine anti-Islamic terror philosophy which has no tolerance for international terror must be translated into practical policy but may also be easily embraced by religiously conservative nations and people who want to differentiate themselves from odium of Islamic terrorism. We need a new alliance of Middle Eastern Nations, Europe and America composed minimally of France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and conditionally Iraq, the Kurds and Turkey. There might even be room for Russia should it abandon Iran. This security organization must be very clear that the PKK and similar organizations must renounce attacks on civilians, Turkey must renounce support for all terror organizations and if it does not than this new organization bases in Greece, Israel and Kurdish and possibly Gulf and Jordanian areas. Provided the Kurds agree to be pro-western, democratic, anti-terror and flexible regarding borders with Turkey. Turkey will need to recognize the right of Kurds to a nation with Turkey and Kurdistan coming to an agreement on borders and rights of ethnic Kurds. If Turkey fails either to be anti-terror or pro-Kurdish then Turkey is out at least until Turkey elects a responsible, pro-western government. Similarly if the PKK remains a terror organization then Turkey need not recognize any Kurdistan and the alliance’s work with various Kurdish militias may need to be short term and to the exclusion of the PKK. Developing flexible relationships that do not overly compromise is not only possible but will be far more effective than applying a European security organization outside of Europe.
Egypt must be supported at the expense of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezbollah and all must be given the opportunity to renounce terrorism and must agree not to attack our allies and if they fail then they become potential targets of the alliance and their calls for political power and autonomy go unrecognized and seen as illegitimate. Lebanese inclusion in this treaty will depend on Hezbollah’s status but the treaty must be as anti-Iran as it is anti-ISIS -- even if we need only contain and constrain Iran. I suggest building on history and call this alliance MEATO as it will be more comprehensive than METO was.
The PLO and PA will be given the opportunity to renounce terror, renounce “the right of return” and renounce claims on Jerusalem, accept Ramallah as their capital and recognize Israeli cities in Judea and Samaria in exchange for a recognized, viable and internationally Palestinian supported state. Should they not agree then Israel should be pressured to declare unilateral borders it can live based on having a hostile neighbor but in consultation with Europe and the UN who will serve as advisors and vote getters for a UN vote of recognition. Then a Palestinian state or two states will be recognized in what is left over. Either way, a separate organization will be created that is regionally and internationally funded to handle claims of lost property for Jews and Arabs from the Israeli – Arab conflicts and that will end the conflict as we know it. Obviously this is a big reversal for Europe and Muslims states to embrace but frankly the hour is well past when Europeans at least should have evolved on this issue. If the Palestinians want to be Palestinians and have a state called Palestine there are viable options and if the world can’t make them go that route then it is time their ambitions are routed as the Palestinian cause cannot trump the need for regional security and cooperation. That conflict is far less important than it used to be as the Middle East now faces real regional problems than the mere luxury of Arabs claiming a version of Manifest Destiny in the name of Pan-Arabism at Israel’s expense.
Real challenges are going to be Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria and possibly Egypt. Additionally, Afghanistan and Pakistan may erupt as well as parts of Africa but creating stability in the Middle East will ease a lot of other burdens. Unpacking and Iraq and Syria into political entities with a path for political, cultural and economic stability is the goal of a new alliance. The Middle East needs Europe and America to lend military and diplomatic force while remaining honest brokers towards a series of political solutions that result from liberty created by military intervention against terror organizations that are arrived at in partnership with regional governments when possible and/or tribes and ethno-religious groups. The emergence of cooperation with smaller sub groups will help the Europe and the UN deal with similar problems in South Asia and Central Asia, particularly in the Waziristan province of Pakistan. The difference between this and the Bush invasion of Iraq will be the emphasis on openness, regional cooperation, thoughtful planning and competent leadership.
The job of this security organization will be to secure the borders of ME states in the organization by stable entities within failed and terror states which will in turn reduce the ability of terror organizations to harm Europe and America. Such a resolution may require redrawing the map for some states in the region who may then join our alliance. In some cases, security and eventual tranquility may require invasions of terrorist strangleholds, or a cold war like containment policy for other places like Iran but the point is Western and Middle Eastern forces will work together to militarily defeat regional terror organizations, create sustainable states, especially of Kurdistan which will help buffer the Gulf and Central Asia against unstable areas but also to create tranquility in places such as Gaza and Yemen. In contrast to the post world war one period, there are now states and groups that can develop realistic solutions to their own problems supported by a world community that respects and find assistance to be in their own best interest.
For too long the world has been too reactionary with the Middle East, wanting all problems to be solved without anything changing. A few all out Middle Eastern Wars, 9/11, the Madrid Train Bombing, 7/7 (London bombings), Mumbai attacks, Charlie Hebdo and now Paris tell us we must be more invasive at least in the Middle East before Europe and America face full blown guerilla wars domestically. Conflict at home is the state of emergency that is slowly emerging from successes like the attack on Paris, where we will probably find that ISIS has cooperation in sourcing targets from domestic terror groups or with French citizens who are members of ISIS as the attacks show an intimate knowledge of France, are part of a larger continuity of local insurgency. So far, Western involvement in the Middle East since the end of the cold war has been accidental, reactionary and often working against our own security. It is past time to revise our strategy and to accept the work before us.