Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Israel's Long Term War

From The Asia Times Online, 13 Sept 2011, by Spengler:

..Seven months after the start of the Arab uprisings, Israel's position is a paradox. The prospects for a formal peace are the worst since 1977, while Israel's military position has improved. 

The Syrian army is too busy butchering protesters to attack the Jewish state, and the uncertain position of the Bashar al-Assad regime weakens its Lebanese client Hezbollah. Egyptian popular sentiment has turned nastily against Israel, but the last thing the Egyptian army needs at the moment is a war with Israel that it inevitably would lose.

Egypt is a failed state. It has no way out.

Chinese pigs will eat before the Egyptian poor, as wealthy Asians outbid impoverished Arabs for grain. Egypt imports half its caloric consumption, and its foreign exchange reserves last week dipped below what its central bank called the "danger" level of $25 billion covering six months of imports, down from $36 billion before Hosni Mubarak was toppled.

The reported reserve numbers probably include Saudi and Algerian emergency loans. With no tourism and much of the economy in shambles, the country is sliding towards destitution; it barely can feed itself at the moment. What will Egypt do when its reserves are gone? Almost half of Egyptian adults can't read, and the 800,000 young people who graduate yearly from the diploma mills are qualified only to stamp each other's identity cards. It is not surprising that football rowdies attacked Israel's embassy in Cairo last week.

The rupture in Israeli-Turkish relations, in turn, reflects Turkish weakness as well as the fanaticism of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey faces a short-term squeeze and a long-term crisis. Erdogan won re-election last June more as an economic manager than as neo-Ottoman imperial leader, but his economic success rested on a 40% rate of bank credit growth, and a consequent current account deficit equal to 11% of gross domestic product, the same level as Greece or Portugal.

As I reported last month (Instant obsolescence of the Turkish model, Asia Times Online, August 10, 2011), Turkey's stock market has fallen by nearly half in dollar terms since late 2010, and its currency has lost 20% of its value. Erdogan's economic Cave of Wonders has dissolved into the Anatolian sand, and Turkey faces a long period of belt-tightening.

Turkey's economic problems are a discomfort; its ethnic problems, by contrast, present an existential threat in the long run. In a quarter of a century, Kurdish will be the cradle-tongue of nearly half of all Turkish children, as Kurds have four to five children per family while Turkish-speakers have just 1.5. At some point, Turkey in its present form will cease to exist. Kurdish nationalism is stronger than ever; as Omar Aspinar [1] of the Brookings Institution wrote on September 11 in Zaman Online:
Kurdish political aspirations have reached unprecedented levels in the last 10 years ... Kurdish ethnic, cultural and political demands are fueled by a young and increasingly resentful generation of Kurds who are vocal and frustrated not only in Eastern Anatolia but also in Turkey's large Western cities including Istanbul, Izmir, Mersin and Adana. Turkey's nightmare scenario is Turkish-Kurdish ethnic violence in such western urban centers.
The Kurds know that the demographic future belongs to them, and that Erdogan's frantic calls on Turkish women to have more babies will do nothing to change matters. "The Kurdish issue," warns Aspinar," remains Turkey's Achilles' heel."

Rather than isolate Israel diplomatically, Turkey and Egypt have buttressed its diplomatic position. By declaring the United Nations' Palmer Commission report on the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident "null and void", Turkish President Abdullah Gul put his country in the position of the rogue state. Egypt's failure to prevent an attack on Israel's embassy was a gross violation of international standards. Diplomacy, though, makes little difference, because Israel requires only the support of the United States.

The most likely outcome is a prolonged low-intensity war in which Israel suffers more rocket attacks from Lebanon and Gaza, and occasional terrorist infiltration from Sinai and the West Bank, but no organized military threat from its immediate neighbors.

Iran's nuclear program presents an existential threat to Israel, and remains the great unknown in the equation.[Actually it's a well-known existential threat, and a likely cause of a real "hot" war soon, but that's another story ... SL]

As Jonathan Spyer wrote in a September 11 report for the Gloria Center, Iran's attempt to lead an anti-Israel resistance bloc "has fallen victim to the Arab Spring", particularly after Tehran aided the despised Syrian regime. But Speyer warns that this "should be cause for neither satisfaction nor complacency".

A country that knows it must fight daily for its existence may thrive under interrupted stress. That is unimaginable for the Israeli peace camp, which dwindled into political insignificance after the Intifada of 2000, as well as for America's liberal Jews. But most Israelis seem to have adapted well to a long-term war regime...
Post a Comment