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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 15-May-2011
15-May-11 News -- Mideast envoy George Mitchell resigns, ending one more grand peace process

Web Log - May, 2011

15-May-11 News -- Mideast envoy George Mitchell resigns, ending one more grand peace process

Mitchell is just the latest of envoys to fail

Mideast envoy George Mitchell resigns, ending one more grand 'peace process'

George Mitchell, President Obama's Special Envoy for the Mideast, resigned on Friday, after two years on the job, accomplishing pretty much nothing. It comes as Palestinians commemorate the anniversary of the founding of Israel, the "Naqba" or catastrophe. It also comes shortly before President Obama's major Mideast speech on Thursday, as well as imminent planned visits to Washington from Jordan’s King Abdullah and Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

George Mitchell with President Obama
George Mitchell with President Obama

According to the President's statement:

"He is – by any measure – one of the finest public servants that our nation has ever had. Even though he already had an extraordinary legacy – serving the people of Maine, leading the Senate, and bringing peace to Northern Ireland – he took on the toughest job imaginable and worked grueling hours to advance the interests of the United States and the cause of peace."

The comparison to Northern Ireland is fatuous. When Mitchell was "bringing peace" to Northern Ireland in the 1990s, it was not a generational Crisis era, and the sectarian conflict between Catholics and Protestants was nowhere near a crisis war.

By contrast, the Palestine region is in a full-fledged generational Crisis era, headed for a new war, refighting the war between Jews and Arabs that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the founding of the state of Israel, 63 years ago yesterday, on May 14, 1948.

So Mitchell never had a chance to bring peace. The poor guy kept shuttling back and forth between Ramallah and Jerusalem, hoping to work his Northern Ireland magic again. But with the wrong generational constellation in place, there was no magic to be found.

Let's not forget that there's another Mideast envoy, Tony Blair, who was appointed by the Middle East Quartet (United Nations, Russian Federation, United States, European Union) on the day in 2007 when he resigned as prime minister of Britain.

Tony Blair was also going to bring peace to the Mideast. Blair is often given credit for ending the bloody Sierre Leone civil war in 1999. But the Sierre Leone civil war had already climaxed, so it was going to end anyway.

As an aside, it's worth remembering the late Richard Holbrooke, who was appointed special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, because of his work brokering the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the Bosnian War in 1995. However, that war had ALSO already climaxed at the massacre at Srebrenica.

I don't wish to take away from anyone's accomplishments, but I'm just saying that a genocidal crisis war is an elemental force of nature that must run its course, and it's just as much a part of human DNA as sex is. Peace is not an option in the Mideast.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, I sometimes compare a crisis war to a ball rolling down a hill. A war may begin with years or even decades of low level violence -- occasional terrorist acts or police actions, but with general restraint on both sides. In the analogy, the ball might start out very slowly, going back and forth, perhaps getting stuck in the tall grass. Soon it starts to pick up speed, going faster and faster, gathering momentum. Once it has enough momentum, it can't be stopped by any human force. Finally it reaches the bottom in a massive explosion. In the case of a crisis war, it starts out slowly, and becomes increasingly violent as time goes on, ending in a crisis climax, a massive genocidal explosion.

But once the explosive climax has been reached and passed, a new phase begins, and the society enters a "recovery" phase. The survivors of the war vow that they'll never let anything so horrible ever happen again, and they set up institutions and define austere rules to guarantee it. People like Blair and Holbrooke were part of the generational Recovery Era in their respective negotiations.

None of that applies in any way to the current situation between the Palestinians and Israelis. As I wrote in 2003 in "Mideast Roadmap - Will it bring peace?", my first posted Generational Dynamics analysis, the region is headed for war that cannot be prevented.

Mitchell and Blair were not the first Mideast envoys since then.

In 2005, the Quartet appointed James Wolfensohn to be Mideast envoy. He actually accomplished quite a bit. He negotiated several agreements between the parties. And, as former President of the World Bank, he used his formidable list of contacts to get investors to purchase dozens of greenhouses left behind by Israeli settlers when they left Gaza, so that Palestinians could use them right away to get hard currency by growing food for exports.

When Wolfensohn resigned in 2006, I wrote about it in "International game of 'chicken' leading to disaster in Gaza", and I quoted the following from an Israeli commentator:

"But Wolfensohn is leaving in apparent disgust with the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the international community, regarding the entire effort to isolate the Hamas government a punishment of the Palestinians, which will only lead to more despair and intransigence on the Palestinian side. Ever the diplomat, he is not stating outright how disgusted he is, but he has made clear that he is furious about broken Israeli promises to take steps to ease conditions for the Palestinians, particularly Gazans, where half the population is now living beneath the World Bank's own measure of poverty -- less than $2 a day. He's no less frustrated by the Palestinians, particularly their inability to rein in the lawlessness that took over in Gaza. Indeed, while some of the greenhouses he purchased were successfully handed over to Palestinians (who are going bankrupt because of Israeli security restrictions that make agricultural exports out of Gaza extremely slow and difficult) others were ruined by in fighting by rival gangs that nobody in Gaza can control. As for the international community, which 'hired' him as an expert in economic development, he is disgusted with its inability to intervene with anything other than isolation of the Hamas government."

Wolfensohn got out just in time, as the war between Israel and Hizbollah in Lebanon began shortly thereafter. That was followed by the war between Fatah and Hamas in 2007, and then the Operation Cast Lead war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza early in 2009. See what I mean about the ball rolling down the hill, gathering momentum?

Today we seem inexorably headed for the creation of a Palestinian state by international mandate in the United Nations by September. I cannot for the life of me see how that's going to work, based on pre-1967 borders. That's just a formula for another war.

In the meantime, the entire Mideast region is inflamed. The Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings are showing signs of increased violence, the Libyan uprising is nowhere near an end, the Yemen uprising is growing more violent, and tensions are growing between Iran and Saudi Arabia over the situation in Bahrain. The Syrian uprising is leveling off (Syria itself is in a generational Awakening era, not a Crisis era), but it's spilling over into Lebanon, where the Palestinian population is becoming increasingly restive.

It would be nice if mediators like Mitchell, Blair, Wolfensohn and Holbrooke could actually accomplish something, but once generational theory tells you what's really going on, you realize that they can neither cause nor prevent the events that they're supposed to influence. We hope that George Mitchell enjoys his retirement.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-May-11 News -- Mideast envoy George Mitchell resigns, ending one more grand peace process thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-May-2011) Permanent Link
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