The Fourth Reich is Rising

The Fourth Reich is rising. Not in Germany where, in spite of the recent elections, most people seem to have has learnt their lesson. But in Israel. The country which claims to be the only one in the Middle East which is democratic and in which free speech is allowed (nice of the authorities to allow free speech, isn’t it?). The country where my parents, having narrowly escaped the Holocaust, (see on this my post, “How My Family Survived the Holocaust,” 17.12.2015) immigrated. The country in whose military four of my five children have served. The country for which several of my relatives, acquaintances and students have died. The one in which I have spent practically all my life and which I have always loved.

No longer. For almost two years now a 33-year old Arab-Israeli (and self-proclaimed Palestinian) poet, Ms. Dareen Tatour, has been under house arrest. Far from home and relatives, with electronic cuffs on her leg, and without access to either a computer or a cellphone. Her trial got under way in April 2016, and has still not come to an end.

Did she kill an Israeli? No. Did she try to kill an Israeli? No. Did she assist terrorists or fail to betray them to the Israeli authorities, as those authorities, in their infinite wisdom and compassion, demand? No. Did she engage in any other out of God knows how many activities Israel has prohibited? No. So what why did the police knock on her door at 0400 in the morning, and what are the charges which could cost her eight years in jail?

Saying what she thinks. As by putting the following poem, originally written in Arabic, on Facebook.

Resist, My People, Resist Them

Resist, my people, resist them.

In Jerusalem, I dressed my wounds and breathed my sorrows

And carried the soul in my palm

For an Arab Palestine.

I will not succumb to the “peaceful solution,”

Never lower my flags

Until I evict them from my land.

I cast them aside for a coming time.

Resist, my people, resist them.

Resist the settler’s robbery

And follow the caravan of martyrs.

Shred the disgraceful constitution

Which imposed degradation and humiliation

And deterred us from restoring justice.

They burned blameless children;

As for Hadil,* they sniped her in public,

Killed her in broad daylight.

Resist, my people, resist them.

Resist the colonialist’s onslaught.

Pay no mind to his agents among us

Who chain us with the peaceful illusion.

Do not fear doubtful tongues;

The truth in your heart is stronger,

As long as you resist in a land

That has lived through raids and victory.

So Ali** called from his grave:

Resist, my rebellious people.

Write me as prose on the agarwood;

My remains have you as a response.

Resist, my people, resist them.

Resist, my people, resist them.

 

* Hadil al Haslamon, a 18-year old Palestinian girl who attacked—so the Israelis claim—a group of bullet-proof wearing, heavily armed, heroic Israeli soldiers with a kitchen knife and, like so many others, somehow managed to die after being shot “in the legs.”

** Ali Kosba, a Palestinian teenager who threw rocks at an Israeli military jeep, shattering its windshield. Trying to run away, he was shot in the back and killed by a heroic Israeli colonel who, according to the military spokesman, “felt in mortal danger” of his life.

Book of the Month

B. Bueno de Mesquita and A. Smith, The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics, New York, NY, Public Affairs, 2011

From time to time, as if by some miracle, one has the pleasure of coming across a good book on political science. A book, say, like Kautilya’s Arthashastra (The Science of Politics) which goes back to the third century BCE. Or Machiavelli’s Prince, which was ritten in 1512. Or, to mention a modern example, Edward Luttwak’s 1969 volume, Coup d’Etat. A book whose author does not content himself with trying to answer abstract questions such as what the origins of government are, what it is, why it is needed, what its purpose is, what its elements are, how it has developed through history, how it is constructed, what kinds of government there are, etc. etc. But one that offers practical advice on what is almost the only thing that matters: namely, how to gain as much power as possible and keep it for as long as possible.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith have written such a book. Right from the beginning, they make it clear that their work is about power, not the glory of God, or morality, or how to improve the lot of the governed. For them (as for George Orwell in 1984, incidentally), the objective of power is power; something which rulers have known and understood since time immemorial, but which philosophers, academics, and assorted do-gooders tend to overlook. Forget about religion, philanthropy, justice, equality, liberty, fraternity (fraternity!), ideology, community, and similar soft-headed fancies. They exist, if they do, in order to serve power, not the other way around. At best they may adorn it; but only fools believe they form its essence.

As the authors, following Thomas Hobbes, say, the key point is that no one is so strong that two or three others, joining together, cannot overcome him. In other words, no man can govern alone; he, much less often she, needs supporters. Simplifying a little, this means that there only exist two forms of government. In one, which throughout history has been the most common by far, the man at the top must make a relatively small number of key supporters happy in order to keep the majority of people in check. In the other, which historically has been far less common, the benefits of government are distributed among a far larger number of people. The former is known as autocracy, the latter, as democracy. As Machiavelli, speaking of aristocrats versus commoners, says, government consists of a balancing-act between the two groups. Anyone who forgets that is lost.

Having erected this framework the authors use it, in my view very effectively, in order to answer a whole range of questions. If dictatorships are often poor that is because, by extracting the resources in question, they discourage people from working and producing. If dictatorships have an abysmal human rights record that is not, at any rate not necessarily, because dictators are bad people. It is because, in order to survive, they have to extract as many resources as possible from the majority of the people so as to pay off their supporters. If natural resources-rich dictatorships often have the worst human rights record of all, that is because, controlling the resources in question, the number of supporters they must bribe is even smaller than in other regimes of the same kind.

If dictatorships are bad at coping with natural disasters—as, for example, the military government of Burma was when it allowed over a hundred thousand people to die in the aftermath of a cyclone—then that is because they tend to divert any outside aid they may get to their own supporters. If revolutions devour their children, as the saying goes, then that is because the dictators whom they bring to power fear, often not without reason, that those “children” could use the same tactics as they themselves did.

If democracies rarely fight one another, that is because the people at the bottom—who, under this kind of regime, do have a voice—seldom have much to gain from war. The same consideration also makes democracies wary of casualties; if their rulers do not care for the dead and the injured, at any rate they are forced to put on a pretense, attend funerals, stand to attention, shed crocodile tears, etc.

Yet do not deceive yourself. Democracies are not necessarily peaceful. Precisely by virtue of being democratic, they simply cannot stand the idea that someone does not like them or share their alleged values. As Franklin Lane, who was President Wilson’s secretary of the interior, once put it: “If the torch of liberty fades or fails, ours be the blame.” Off with the Kaiser’s head! From ancient Athens through the French Revolution to the USA, there are few things democracies like doing better than beating down on small, weak dictatorships. Just ask Kim Jong un.

Briefly, it is all a question of who supports whom and what resources he or she is allocated in return. Morally speaking, democratic rulers are no better, no less inclined to doing whatever they can to cling to power, than their autocratic colleagues. The one difference is that the former rely on the many to keep the few in check; the latter do the opposite. In return, democrats provide some public goods: such as roads, education, healthcare, and, most important of all, the kind of stable legal framework people need in order to work and to prosper. This basic fact, and not ideology or people’s personal qualities, shapes the nature of the governments they form and lead.

Though oversimplified at times, the volume is a real eye-opener. All the more so because it deals, implicitly if not explicitly, not merely with states but with every kind of hierarchical organization: including churches, corporations, trade unions, and what have you. And all the more so because, in the end, all it deals with are things as they have always been, and are, and will always remain.

Where It May Lead

Israel, for those of you who do not know, has gone bonkers. Batty, crazy, soft in the head. Not a day passes without presidents, ministers, MKs, top civil servants, officers, policemen, professors, rabbis, physicians, psychotherapists, teachers, coaches and actors being charged with all kinds of alleged sexual offenses that reach from paying a woman a compliment all the way to sodomy and rape. Charges having been pressed, plea bargaining—a method, incidentally, often used by the Inquisition too—enters the picture. Essentially it consists of inventing hard to prove, but very serious, crimes so as to blackmail defendants into admitting to lighter ones. As a result, acquittals are practically unknown; even the few who do escape “justice” are often branded for life. No wonder that Israel’s prison population includes a higher percentage of “sex offenders” than that of any other country.

Does all this ring a bell? Good. Or else I would scarcely have used my own country of eight million to make my point. An enormous body of research notwithstanding, the causes of the great feminist revolt, of which the above situation is very much an outcome, remain somewhat mysterious. Betty Friedan, whose 1963 book The Feminine Mystique, played a key role in starting it all, attributed it to growing sub-urbanization which left middle-class non-working women stranded in green deserts. Other factors included the desertion of the home in favor of paid work, which brought countless women into close contact with strange men against whom, they keep claiming, they have no defense; a sharp decline in fertility, which seems to have left many of them slightly wrong in the head; the requisitioning of childhood by the state, which emptied the home and left mothers with too little to do; and a long list of others. Including, not least, the near disappearance from Western life of war, meaning that women have less need of men to defend them; a sort of dialectical reaction to the Sexual Revolution, which made women feel they had given their consent too easily; and a resurgence of that age-old phenomenon, penis-envy. See, on the last of these points, my post of 16.6.2016.

The relative importance of these and other factors, as well as the way they interact with each other, could be discussed forever. In this post, however, what interests me are not the causes of the phenomenon but its possible outcomes. So here are a few, listed in no particular order.

  1. Feminism may collapse under its own absurdities. For both men and women, this seems to be the most desirable outcome. However, at the moment it appears remote. Judging by the example of women’s parking places, discussed in my post of 10.8.2016, feminists’ ability to invent new absurdities is far from exhausted. Particularly because their demand for better defenses against men is combined with shrill shrieks requiring equality with them; making certain they will never make much headway in either direction.
  2. The barriers between the sexes may start rising again. Historically, one characteristic of Western society has long been the relative ease with which men and women were allowed to interact in public. Some observers even believe that, vis a vis non-Western one, this was their greatest advantage. True or not, feminists’ endless complaints about sexual harassment in all its varied forms seem about to change this situation. In many places separate schools, separate buses, separate taxis, separate railway-carriages, separate hotel floors, separate sport facilities and even separate police forces are multiplying.
  3. Feminism may continue to drive more Western women to work and fewer of them to have children. The long-term outcome will be smaller populations and demographic decline; resulting in the rise of societies that have resisted the disease. To put it in a different way, feminist societies will be forced to make way in front of non-feminist ones. As the fact that one in four people world-wide is now a Muslim, as against just one in six back in 1950, trend upwards, shows, this is already happening.
  4. Gaps between the life expectancy of men and women, which over the last two centuries have been steadily growing in favor of the latter, will close again. In other words, women will lose their advantage in this respect, as indeed they began doing in the mid-1970s when large numbers of them, misled by the feminist siren-song, first started taking up paid work. The situation whereby, in Western populations, women usually outnumber men 50.5 to 49.5 will be reversed and the historical one in which men outnumber women restored.
  5. More men may renounce study, work, marriage and family life. For anyone who follows the literature, the fact that there exist a growing number of men who refuse to have anything to do with women except, perhaps, have sex with them on a more or less temporary basis is obvious. These men feel that recent social and legal changes have created a situation in which they are discriminated against in every possible way; as one British man put it, he and his mates have been turned into dispensable sperm donors and ambulant ATMs. So they refuse to play ball and drop out instead, leaving legions of frustrated women in their wake.
  6. A counter-revolution and the end of democracy. As the constant feminist demand for protection against big, bad men shows, the only reason why feminism has enjoyed any successes at all is because men have failed to resist it as strongly as, perhaps, they should have. However, as more and more men feel pressed to the wall—see Article 5 above—they may reach the conclusion that things cannot go on as they do and that some kind of fundamental change is necessary. Some people see the recent victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton as the herald of just such a change.
    But that is only the beginning. Women now form a majority in all Western populations. Hence more fundamental change will hardly be possible without first restricting and then doing away with women’s right to vote. A change which, in turn, will almost certainly be possible only if it is accompanied by the abolition of democracy and the establishment of some form of government based on different principles.

Obviously all these scenarios are interrelated in any number of complicated ways. Being seventy years old, chances are that I will not live to see any of the last-named five changes fully implemented. But my three sons and two daughters, I am very much afraid, almost certainly will.

 

PS I just read the Trump Administration is going to include several key figures who have been accused of assaulting women. As, of course, he himself has been. A sign that change is finally under way, perhaps?

The Clash of Civilizations and the End of History*

Each year at this time, I teach a course about the Future of War at Tel Aviv University. Each year for several years, I look for an alternative to the late Samuel Huntington’s 1994 essay, “The Clash of Civilizations.” And to its progenitor, Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 essay, “The End of History,” to which it was a response. Each year I fail to find anything as well written, as sweeping, as provocative, and as scintillating to make my students break their teeth on. And so it pleases me to devote today’s post to the question, where do those two pieces stand in the contemporary world?

To start with Fukuyama, the argument, following in the footsteps of Hegel, goes roughly as follows. History consists of man’s unceasing search for the best system of government as an indispensable step towards The Good Life. In 1776 (the American Revolution) and 1789 (the French one) that system, in the form of liberal democracy, was discovered. In October 1806, following Napoleon’s defeat of Prussia at Jena, it triumphantly asserted itself. Since then, in spite of many ups and downs, it had continued to make progress by overcoming the challenges, first of Fascism and then of Communism. Now that the latter had followed the former into the dustbin of history, it was poised to take over the entire earth. This is made evident by the spread of globalization and, with it, the invasion of McDonald, Coca-Cola, and Toshiba; nowadays, no doubt, Fukuyama would have added Google, Facebook, and Amazon.com. To be sure, the road ahead would be rough. There were still many islands of backwardness around, plenty of hurdles to overcome. But the shining goal, liberal democracy, had become clear to all or almost all. As it spread and asserted itself war would wane way, giving birth to a peaceful, if somewhat “sad” and boring, world.

clash_of_civilizations-755716Not so, answered Fukuyama’s former teacher at Harvard, Samuel Huntington. Globalization is at bottom a superficial phenomenon, unable to paper over what he calls differences in identity. By that he meant “history, language, culture, tradition, and, most important, religion. The people of different civilizations have different views on the relations between God and man, the individual and the group, he citizen and the state, parents and children, husband and wife, as well as differing views of the relative importance of rights and responsibilities, liberty and authority, equality and hierarchy. These differences are the products of centuries. They will not soon disappear. They are far more fundamental than differences among political ideologies and political regimes.” Such differences need not, but often will, lead to armed conflict and bloodshed. Particularly now that the influence of universal ideologies has been decisively weakened, “Conflicts between groups in different civilizations will be more frequent, more sustained and more violent than conflicts between groups in the same civilization; violent conflicts between groups in different civilizations are the most likely and most dangerous source of escalation that could lead to global wars; the paramount axis of world politics will be the relations between ‘the West and the Rest;’ the elites in some torn non-Western countries will try to make their countries part of the West, but in most cases face major obstacles to accomplishing this; a central focus of conflict for the immediate future will be between the West and several Islamic-Confucian states.”

Who was right, who was wrong, how and why? To proceed in reverse order, Huntington’s prediction that “a central focus of conflict for the immediate future will be between the West and several Islamic-Confucian states” has come to pass. Had he added Russia, he would have been spot-on. Nevertheless, these differences in civilization have not led to large-scale war. Let alone to “global wars” (an oxymoron, that; while a global war is possible, global wars are not). Instead, today’s largest and most bloody wars are fought within civilizations, often with foreign “help.” So in parts of Africa; so, even more, in the vast area that reaches from Latakia on the Mediterranean to Basra on the Persian Gulf. Not to mention Afghanistan and the surrounding countries. Huntington’s claim that states would array themselves according to their cultural preferences has not come true either. To the contrary; as China’s rise continues more of its neighbors, ignoring such considerations as much as they can, are seeking closer ties with the United States.

Another cardinal error Huntington committed was to make the Ukraine part of Christian-Orthodox civilization. To the contrary: with its population made up partly of westward-looking Catholics and partly of eastward-looking Orthodox, it is currently involved in civil war. The Ukraine, to use Huntington’s own terminology, is a torn, or split, state. As he himself pointed out, such states are particularly likely to witness a clash of civilizations within their borders. As, for example, is currently happening in Egypt; and as may still happen in Turkey.

And how about Fukuyama? Writing in 1989 he grossly, if understandably, underestimated the ability of “Islamic Confucian States” (in reality, Islamic fundamentalist movements and one paramount Confucian State) to challenge the West. As of 2015, the day when liberal democracy will triumph in places such as the Middle East, North Africa, Russia and China remains a long way off. Still in other ways he was not entirely off the mark. First, a quarter century since “The End of History” was published, neither Islam nor Confucianism—supposing that is what China is all about—is in any position to challenge the West on the ideological level. All around the world it is to Washington DC, not to Mecca or Beijing, that people seeking a political framework that will make The Good Life possible turn their face; when everything is said and done, neither Islam nor Confucianism have made broad inroads beyond their own adherents. If anything, in fact, Islam’s attempts to spread its message beyond those adherents have led to a sharp, at times paranoid, reaction. Second and perhaps even more important, no liberal democratic states have gone to war against one another. A fact which suggests that a war-less world and the end of history are, if not yet at hand, at any rate possible in principle.

So far the protagonists, their relationship, their differences, the points on which they were right, and the points on which they were wrong. But is there anything they have in common? I think there is. First, both assume that the end of the Cold War did in fact represent a critical turning point in history. Either such as marked the end of one kind of conflict and the beginning of another (Huntington); or that represented the beginning of a process which would eventually culminate in a world without war and thus to the End of History (Fukuyama).

Second and perhaps even more important, both focus on what, for lack of a better term, I shall call spiritual factors. For Fukuyama, the paramount one is ideology. For Huntington, it is identity. In doing so they leave out any other number of factors that have always led, and presumably will continue to lead, to war in the future too. Chief among them are technological developments; competition for economic resources in a world where such resources are said to become less and less plentiful; and, over-arching everything else, the “perpetual and restless desire for power after power that ceaseth only in death” (Thomas Hobbes). The least one can say is that, in any attempt to understand the future of war, these factors must take a paramount place side by side with those Fukuyama and Huntington have focused on.

Is anyone ready to take up the challenge?   

* Thanks to my students at the Program for Security and Diplomacy, Tel Aviv University, who stimulated me to write the present essay.