The United States has added another Muslim country to the list where its soldiers are fighting. The administration that is dead set against condemning Islam is now active in Yemen as well as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya. Some are major battlegrounds, others provide occasional activity against targets of opportunity, cooperation with Western allies, or with Saudi allies who want quiet near home.
9-11 produced an uptick, but did not begin the fiction of not fighting against Islam along with the reality of a deep immersion in the Middle East. The first Gulf War was 1990, and the first attack on the World Trade Center 1993.
Israel appears to be no more than a rhetorical diversion. It is a Western country, vulnerable to pressure, with internal divisions between left and right that invite demands from outside. It would be wrong to expect serious movement on what optimists call a peace process. Who should Israelis trust in a time of uncertainty? Who should Westerners trust among the Palestinians when calls for turning back history to 1967 are the same stuff as less restrained talk about conquering for the Prophet all the way to Andalusia, and adding to Muslim populations further north and west until they can seize it all?
The Economist is anything but a Zionist mouthpiece, but its most recent issue contemplates the success of uprisings against the regimes of Yemen and Syria, and the improbability of Palestinians forging a unity that will enable them to govern together. An item on Israel tucked away on the side of its web site does not concern domestic warfare, but arguments among politicians and technocrats about how to deal with demands from the Middle East and the West.
One of the lead articles on The New York Times web site describes the worsening economy of Egypt, and what that means for democratic aspirations held by Egyptians or those who cheered their rebellion.
The 18-day revolt stopped new foreign investment and decimated the pivotal tourist industry. The annual growth slowed to less than 2 percent from a projected 5 percent, and Egypt’s hard currency reserves plunged 25 percent.
In a region where economic woes enraged an entire generation, whether and how Egypt can fix its broken economy will be a crucial factor in determining the revolution’s success. It could also influence the outcome of the revolts across the Arab region, where economic troubles are stirring fears of continued instability, authoritarian crackdowns, or even a backlash against what had appeared to be a turn toward Western-style market reforms.
The government of Turkey has been even more hostile to Israel than The Economist or The New York Times. Now, however, the Turkish Prime Minister is accusing Syria of atrocities.
September may be unpleasant. Despite opposition from the United States and Germany, Palestinians may continue with their intention to obtain recognition as a state by the United Nations General Assembly. There are indications that Mahmoud Abbas recognizes that he has gone too far with the statehood threat, but cannot resist Palestinians who are pushing him forward. Palestinians have spoken about delaying a declaration of statehood if Israel recognizes Palestine with the borders of 1967, or if the United States commits itself to prohibiting further construction by Israelis beyond those borders.
There are no reports about Israeli or American acceptance of those proposals.
A Palestinian said, "We are trapped with September. We don''t know what to do after that."
Palestinians in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Gaza are talking about marching toward Israel. Israelis are arguing among themselves about the force that should be directed against those who get to the fences. Local and overseas activists decry the 9 deaths on the Mavi Marmara and the 10 or so, on the Syrian border, without comparing them to the numbers killed routinely by Arab regimes elsewhere in the region.
Nothing is humane enough for Jews and others who have trouble viewing Islam as a problem, and trace their heritage to protests against European, Latin American, and North American abominations.
Arab Spring has not been good for the Palestinians. Dreams of democracy have fallen to reports of Syrian refugees fleeing to Turkey, and Gaddafi''s army passing out Viagra and ordering offenses of rape.
It is tempting to wonder if the Viagra story is the same stuff as British claims of German atrocities in World War I. Has Viagra really become a weapon, or only a figment of propaganda? Likewise the report that senior officials in Syria are contemplating a war with Israel as a way to dissuade their people from attacking the regime.
Israel remains with advantages of political stability, economic and military prowess, a willingness to talk, and security activities infinitely more restrained than practiced by Muslim regimes against their own people. None of those traits persuades those who have nothing but criticism for the Israeli government, but they contribute to unity at home and the support of some who count overseas. Paradise is not on the horizon, but our future looks better than what Palestinians and other Arabs are cooking for themselves.
May I not tempt fate with a conclusion that is excessively confident, but with enemies like ours we do not need too many friends.