|Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's|
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The gruesome civilian beheadings in Saudi Arabia and Iraq in recent days are part of an entire fabric of increasing conflict throughout the Mideast, and there's little foreseeable expectation that the level of conflict will decrease again.
The level of conflict can be thought of as a collection of "trend lines" that have been going mostly upwards for several years. Major historical wars (such as World War II) have begun after similar periods of increasing conflict.
Ten years ago, this wouldn't have happened and didn't happen. America's leaders (government, business, etc.) were from the risk-averse generation that grew up during World War II, and are willing to compromise and contain problems. America's leaders today are from the Baby Boomer generation, born after the war, that's unwilling to tolerate terrorist attacks, and believes it can easily win any new war.
The same sort of generational change is occurring throughout the countries of the Mideast (except Iran, Iraq and Turkey), which is the fundamental reason for the increasing level of conflict.
Below is a list of the major Mideast hotspots, and where they may be heading.
The Jews and Palestinians appear to have entered a generational crisis period in 1999, starting with the beginning of the suicide bombings that drove Israel out of South Lebanon.
Although full-scale war has not broken out, the level of conflict has been increasing steadily.
Israel has been killing Hamas leaders, leveling thousands of Palestinian homes in Gaza, and is going ahead with a plan to wall off Israel, restricting the Palestinians to three enclaves connected by corridors, which is infuriating the Palestinians.
The Palestinians have promised major retaliation by the end of the year for the killings of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his replacement, new Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi. Whether they meet that deadline or not, there's no doubt that they're secretly planning a series of major terrorist attacks, and will continue such planning until one succeeds.
The stresses are also exposing conflicts among Palestinian factions resulting from Israel's planned withdrawal from Gaza. The razing of Palestinian homes in Gaza has exacerbated the hostilities between Palestinian groups. The ones who lost their homes are blaming the groups that dug the tunnels that Israel used as justification to raze the homes.
Israel's withdrawal from Gaza will leave a power vacuum, that Egypt and Lebanon have announced plans to fill. This is bringing Egypt into direct conflict with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian factions.
I have long felt that Gaza and the West Bank look like nothing so much to me as a place where a civil war among Palestinians could "spiral out of control." The involvement of Egypt and Lebanon makes it more likely that any local civil war will quickly expand to a larger regional war, and then to a war engulfing the Mideast.
Similarly the level of violence has been increasing in Pakistan.
Sunnis have been blowing up Shi'ite mosques in Karachi, and Shi'ites have been assassinating Sunni leaders, including repeated attempts on President Pervez Musharraf's life. Muslim tribal leaders are infuriated about Musharraf's crackdown on al-Qaeda suspects, and retaliation is threatened. The level of conflict and violence has been increasing steadily for about a year.
It was just a couple of years ago that the tension between Pakistan and India over Kashmir seemed dangerously high. That tension was alleviated with agreements between Musharraf and Indian leaders, but the recent election upset has raised concerns. Both India and Pakistan are prepared for war, and a Muslim civil war in Pakistan or Kashmir could set up a regional war between Pakistan and India.
Terrorist activity has been increasingly precipitously in Saudi Arabia, and the situation seems to be deterioriating continually. These activities have killed many Muslims, although they've recently been targeted at specific Westerners. Bin Laden has stated his committment to bring down the House of Saud, and al-Qaeda won't rest until he succeeds.
The war between Orthodox Russia and its war-torn Muslim republic Chechnya has been boiling for over ten years. Russian President Vladimir Putin's Chechnya policy suffered a major setback on May 9, when a terrorist bomb killed Kremlin supporter Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, and civil unrest is now spreading into the neighboring Ingushetia. Major historical civil wars and conflicts between Orthodox and Muslims have often begun in this region. The last major Russian civil war was the brutal conflict led by Leon Trotsky and Josef Stalin that killed tens of millions of Russians in the 1920s, and the region is well into a new generational crisis period that should lead to a refighting of that war.
There is a growing level of tension between Tbilisi and Moscow over Georgia's separatist province of South Ossetia, which is in the same region as Chechnya. The level of conflict has been building for years, and it may combine with the civil unrest occurring in Chechnya and Ingushetia.
Uzbekistan has been experiencing some violence, but not nearly comparable to the previous regions.
What makes this country worthy of note is that it has terrorist training camps, and, along with Chechnya, has been supplying manpower to al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.
For a year, pundits and high-priced analysts have been predicting that the situation in Iraq would "spiral out of control" into a Sunni-Shi'a civil war or uprising against the Americans. It drives me crazy because Iraq is in a generational awakening period, just one generation past the 1980s Iran/Iraq crisis war, and these things are impossible.
But there is a possible scenario which none of the pundits are considering, as far as I know: A mid-cycle war, declared by the Iraqi government against al-Qaeda. This would be similar to our Korean war or our Vietnam war in that it's essentially political in nature, at least on the Iraqi side.
The terrorist attacks in Baghdad are infuriating the Iraqis. They're demonstrating and protesting against the Americans, but the real anger is sure to be directed against al-Qaeda, or terrorist leader Musab al-Zarqawi.
After June 30, the Iraqis will have a sovereign government, and the leaders will be anxious to look for ways to show their independence from the Americans. It's quite likely that the new Iraqi leaders will use their position to demand that al-Qaeda immediately cease and desist from the terrorist attacks, and then to threaten some kind of military action if they don't.
How this might unravel cannot be predicted, but there are many ways that the Americans could be dragged in.
Like Iraq, Iran is in a generational awakening period following the 1980s Iran/Iraq war, so the Iranian people are in no mood for another war. But Iran's leaders are still committing to expelling all Westerners from the region, including the Americans and the nation of Israel. To this end, the United Nations' inspectors at the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Commission) have recently censured Iran for lack of cooperation with nuclear weapon control. It now appears that Iran will be developing nuclear weapons, further destabilizing the region and threatening a nuclear attack on Israel.
None of the above scenarios is certain, of course, and some are less likely than others. But it seems pretty certain that crisis wars around the Mideast are building in "genocidal energy," the kind of energy that eventually triggered previous major wars, and the same can be expected to occur in the Mideast in the next few years.