‹ Alle Einträge

Müssen wir lernen, den Nahostkonflikt zu ignorieren?


Edward Luttwak, nonkonformistischer Militärstratege und Sicherheitsberater, ist immer wieder für einen irritierenden Zwischenruf gut.


Luttwak Foto: CSIS

In der Titelgeschichte der stets lesenswerten Zeitschrift Prospect ruft er dazu auf, die Überschätzung der Bedeutung des Nahostkonflikts und des gesamten Nahen Ostens endlich zu beenden:

Strategically, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been almost irrelevant since the end of the cold war. And as for the impact of the conflict on oil prices, it was powerful in 1973 when the Saudis declared embargoes and cut production, but that was the first and last time that the „oil weapon“ was wielded. For decades now, the largest Arab oil producers have publicly foresworn any linkage between politics and pricing, and an embargo would be a disaster for their oil-revenue dependent economies.

(…) Humanitarians should note that the dead from Jewish-Palestinian fighting since 1921 amount to fewer than 100,000—about as many as are killed in a season of conflict in Darfur.

Nicht nur, dass die strategische Bedeutung übtertrieben wird, auch die Hoffnungen, ein Frieden zwischen Israelis und Palästinensern würde bei anderen Konflikten Schlüsselfunktion haben, ist falsch:

Yes, it would be nice if Israelis and Palestinians could settle their differences, but it would do little or nothing to calm the other conflicts in the middle east from Algeria to Iraq, or to stop Muslim-Hindu violence in Kashmir, Muslim-Christian violence in Indonesia and the Philippines, Muslim-Buddhist violence in Thailand, Muslim-animist violence in Sudan, Muslim-Igbo violence in Nigeria, Muslim-Muscovite violence in Chechnya, or the different varieties of inter-Muslim violence between traditionalists and Islamists, and between Sunnis and Shia, nor would it assuage the perfectly understandable hostility of convinced Islamists towards the transgressive west that relentlessly invades their minds, and sometimes their countries.

Arab-Israeli catastrophism is wrong twice over, first because the conflict is contained within rather narrow boundaries, and second because the Levant is just not that important any more.

Dannn geisselt Luttwak lustvoll das „Mussolini-Syndrom“ der Überschätzung der militärischen Stärke nahöstlicher Regime. Nasser wurde masslos überschätzt und in Nullkomma nichts geschlagen. Saddam passierte dasselbe gleich zweimal. Und nun:

Now the Mussolini syndrome is at work over Iran. All the symptoms are present, including tabulated lists of Iran’s warships, despite the fact that most are over 30 years old; of combat aircraft, many of which (F-4s, Mirages, F-5s, F-14s) have not flown in years for lack of spare parts; and of divisions and brigades that are so only in name. There are awed descriptions of the Pasdaran revolutionary guards, inevitably described as „elite,“ who do indeed strut around as if they have won many a war, but who have actually fought only one—against Iraq, which they lost. As for Iran’s claim to have defeated Israel by Hizbullah proxy in last year’s affray, the publicity was excellent but the substance went the other way, with roughly 25 per cent of the best-trained men dead, which explains the tomb-like silence and immobility of the once rumbustious Hizbullah ever since the ceasefire.

Then there is the new light cavalry of Iranian terrorism that is invoked to frighten us if all else fails. The usual middle east experts now explain that if we annoy the ayatollahs, they will unleash terrorists who will devastate our lives, even though 30 years of „death to America“ invocations and vast sums spent on maintaining a special international terrorism department have produced only one major bombing in Saudi Arabia, in 1996, and two in the most permissive environment of Buenos Aires, in 1992 and 1994, along with some assassinations of exiles in Europe.

It is true enough that if Iran’s nuclear installations are bombed in some overnight raid, there is likely to be some retaliation, but we live in fortunate times in which we have only the irritant of terrorism instead of world wars to worry about—and Iran’s added contribution is not likely to leave much of an impression. There may be good reasons for not attacking Iran’s nuclear sites—including the very slow and uncertain progress of its uranium enrichment effort—but its ability to strike back is not one of them. Even the seemingly fragile tanker traffic down the Gulf and through the straits of Hormuz is not as vulnerable as it seems—Iran and Iraq have both tried to attack it many times without much success, and this time the US navy stands ready to destroy any airstrip or jetty from which attacks are launched.

Es gebe auch keineswegs die immer wieder beschworene „nationale Einheit“ der iranischen Bevölkerung angesichts des Atomprogramms. Die Wirklichkeit des Landes sei vielmehr von wachsenden ethnischen Spannungen gezeichnet, und selbst in der persischen Elite zeigten sich tife Risse im Blick auf das Nuklearprogramm.

Der größte Fehler aller so genannten Nahostexperten – und zwar der Hardliner wie der Softies – sei

the very odd belief that these ancient nations are highly malleable. Hardliners keep suggesting that with a bit of well-aimed violence („the Arabs only understand force“) compliance will be obtained. But what happens every time is an increase in hostility; defeat is followed not by collaboration, but by sullen non-cooperation and active resistance too. It is not hard to defeat Arab countries, but it is mostly useless. Violence can work to destroy dangerous weapons but not to induce desired changes in behaviour.

Softliners make exactly the same mistake in reverse. They keep arguing that if only this or that concession were made, if only their policies were followed through to the end and respect shown, or simulated, hostility would cease and a warm Mediterranean amity would emerge. Yet even the most thinly qualified of middle east experts must know that Islam, as with any other civilisation, comprehends the sum total of human life, and that unlike some others it promises superiority in all things for its believers, so that the scientific and technological and cultural backwardness of the lands of Islam generates a constantly renewed sense of humiliation and of civilisational defeat. That fully explains the ubiquity of Muslim violence, and reveals the futility of the palliatives urged by the softliners.

Das bringt Edward Luttwak zu der trockenen Feststellung: „Backward Societies must be left alone.“

With neither invasions nor friendly engagements, the peoples of the middle east should finally be allowed to have their own history—the one thing that middle east experts of all stripes seem determined to deny them.

That brings us to the mistake that the rest of us make. We devote far too much attention to the middle east, a mostly stagnant region where almost nothing is created in science or the arts—excluding Israel, per capita patent production of countries in the middle east is one fifth that of sub-Saharan Africa.

Gefällt mir ganz gut, dieser Ton – als Korrektiv zu unserer gelegentlichen Überaufgeregtheit (auch hier in diesem Blog). Aber wenn ich dann so was lese, kommen mir doch Zweifel, ob es so geht, wie Herr Luttwak es sich vorstellt.