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 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 30-Nov-07
Tony Blair compares the Mideast peace process to the Northern Ireland peace process

Web Log - November, 2007

Tony Blair compares the Mideast peace process to the Northern Ireland peace process

Generational Dynamics illuminates when such historical comparisons are valid and when they are not.

People are always quoting the famous phrase by George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Politicians and historians are always trying to discover ways to apply the lessons of the past to the present.

Unfortunately what is true in one place or time may or may not be true in another place or time. For example, there was an international oil embargo against South Africa in the late 1980s because of Apartheid, and it was one of the factors that successfully ended Apartheid.

On the other hand, there was an oil embargo against Japan in 1941, and it led to Pearl Harbor and international war.

So, what do we learn from history? Do we learn that oil embargoes work, or do we learn that oil embargoes don't work?

Generational Dynamics gives us at least a partial answer. The oil embargo against South Africa worked because it occurred at the time of the climax of an Awakening era. Politics and morality play a big role in societies in late Awakening and Unraveling eras, and so a political act, like an embargo, can have a big effect.

The oil embargo failed against Japan because Japan was in a generational Crisis era. During a Crisis era, morality issues are far less potent, and something like an embargo can easily be considered to be an act of war.

Thus, when you're trying to learn lessons from history, you have to make sure that the generational eras correspond.

Another example is the civil war in Darfur versus the so-called "civil war" in Iraq.

I've said for years that a civil war in Iraq is impossible, because Iraq is in a generational Awakening era, and any incipient civil war fizzles quickly. That's exactly what happened in Iraq.

Contrast that to the real civil war in Darfur. Politicians around the world have been whining because no one has "stopped" the Darfur civil war. I wrote from the beginning that the Darfur is in a generational crisis era, and a crisis civil war CANNOT be stopped, just as a tsunami cannot be stopped. And indeed, the UN and the international community have failed completely and repeatedly to stop it.

That's the difference between a generational Awakening era, as in Iraq, and a generational Crisis era, as in Darfur.

If people in the State Department or the United Nations understood generational theory, they wouldn't make so many mistakes. Generational theory, properly applied, could give any country a substantial advantage in international relations. Unfortunately, no one even wants to consider it.

This finally brings us to the main topic today, Tony Blair's comparison of the Mideast "peace process," going on today, versus the Northern Ireland peace process.

The "Troubles" of Northern Ireland peaked in 1972 with "Bloody Sunday," in which the British army fired on a large mass of civil rights protestors, killing 26. (A roughly similar event occurred in the US in 1971, when the Ohio National Guard fired on Kent State students, killing four.)

These are Awakening era events -- violent to be sure, but still Awakening era events. Violent Awakening Era events are never crisis civil wars, but the issues surrounding them either grow and fester, leading to civil war in the next Crisis era, or else they die out, usually in the next Unraveling era. The latter is what happened in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. Bloody Sunday ostensibly pitted the Protestants against the Catholics, but there has been no recent history of a major war fault line between Protestants and Catholics. The amount of violence has substantially disappeared since 1972.

But no such reasoning applies to the Mideast. There IS a major fault like between Arabs and Jews in the Mideast, and they fought an extremely bloody and genocidal war in the late 1940s when Palestine was partitioned and the state of Israel was created. Israel was created on May 15, 1948, and the Palestinians today still commemorate May 15 every year as "Al Naqba - Catastrophe Day."

Mideast envoy Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister. <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: CNN)</font>
Mideast envoy Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister. (Source: CNN)

And so, from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the Northern Ireland Troubles would have led to peace with or without the help of politicians, while the Mideast troubles must lead to war with or without the help of politicians. Politicians make ABSOLUTELY no difference to either situation.

That doesn't stop them from taking the credit, though. (As the old joke goes, it's like the rooster taking credit for the sunrise.)

And that's exactly what Tony Blair did on Thursday, when interviewed by reporter Hala Gorani on CNN International.

The context of the interview was the Mideast summit in Annapolis that ended on the same day. The "accomplishment" was that everyone agreed to talk some more. It's really kind of pathetic, but it's what politicians do.

Here's how Blair began:

"The really important thing about the conference at Annapolis is that it has launched a process with a time table, namely 2008. And not to talk about SOME of the issues, but to resolve ALL of the core issues between Israel and Palestine. And that is a, you know, it's a huge undertaking. It's a very big challenge. And, of course, there will be lots of people be skeptical because of all the failures in the past. But actually this is a very strong statement and commitment by both the Israelis and the Palestinians and the president of the United States has put the weight of the U.S. behind it. So, you know, there's a lot that's got to happen now that it's a very strong and important beginning."

Coquettish Hala Gorani interviews Tony Blair on CNN International <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: CNN)</font>
Coquettish Hala Gorani interviews Tony Blair on CNN International (Source: CNN)

You know I like Tony Blair, because he always has a friendly, positive demeanor, even when he's blowing hot air.

The "peace process" has repeatedly failed to accomplish anything for decades, and Blair is saying that EVERYTHING will now be accomplished within a year. Why? Because of a "very strong statement and commitment" by both sides. What was that commitment? To talk more.

Gorani asked Blair about the Jerusalem issue, which she indicated was one of many issues on which neither side is willing to compromise. here's Blair's response:

"You know, one of the things I learned when I did the northern Ireland peace process is that things that seem absolutely irresolvable, you know, things that -- where the parties just, you think, that can't be done, actually can be done if the will is there and some hope and credibility comes back in the process. So -- and it's not for me to negotiate the issue of Jerusalem here, but I don't believe if you get everything else working, it will be impossible to find a way through."

Now this is simply wrong. Here's where Blair is comparing an Awakening era political dispute to a Crisis era fault line dispute. The first is resolvable, and the second is not. Having "some hope and credibility" has nothing to do with it. There is simply no comparison.

Gorani picks up on the comparison by comparing the northern Ireland terrorist group, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), with the Palestinian terrorist organization, Hamas:

Gorani: "Now you mentioned northern Ireland and this was a great success achieving peace in that part of the world after so many decades of bad blood between two communities. But the IRA, which was considered a terrorist group that nobody could ever talk to, was then embraced in the end. Why not do the same with Hamas? What is the difference?"

Blair: "The difference is very simple. When we actually got the Sinn Féin political party associated with the IRA into the peace process, we did so on the basis that certain principles were accepted. And let me make it very clear, it's not that people are saying, we will never contemplate dealing with Hamas. Hamas can be dealt with provided that they except the two principles of the gateway into the process. Number one, there should be two states, so Israel's got a right to exist."

Comparing the IRA to Hamas really illuminates the lash of generational theory, and why it means that the two situations are completely different.

Fault lines and generation gaps
Fault lines and generation gaps

Here's a diagram that I worked up several years ago to illustrate what goes on, and how generation gap lines are distinguished from fault lines. When I have some time, perhaps I'll turn it into an animated GIF where the horizontal generation gap line moves up and down automatically.

But here's the idea: In the years immediately following a crisis war, the horizontal generation gap line is near the bottom of the diagram, and there's a large older generation of war survivors who have vowed to spend their lives preventing any such war from ever occurring again. That's why the portion of the vertical fault line that's above the horizontal line is shown as a dotted line; violence across the fault line is muted because neither side wants another war.

As time goes on, the horizontal line moves up; the older generation disappears, and the younger generation grows larger. The portion of the vertical fault line that's BELOW the horizontal line is shown as a solid line, because it's a real fault line, and the level of violence and hostility grows.

It's a shame that people in our State Dept. or the United Nations don't have a clue about any of this stuff. At the very least, it would allow them to concentrate their resources where they might actually do some good. (30-Nov-07) Permanent Link
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