Sunday, August 20, 2006

Can the U.N. at last be effective
against violence?

In complement to my pro-Israel stance in the Hezbollah-Israeli war, I need to say I am not an Israeli hawk. For many years, I was vocally biased for the Palestinian cause, but was increasingly disappointed by Palestinian leadership failures, and the last straw was Arafat's all-now-or-nothing abandonment of the Clinton effort in 2000—an immaturity that just got more extreme as Israel got more moderate in the following years. A basically bipartisan stance toward the peace process can include belief that one side has more work to do than the other.

Peace is an engineering problem, as well as a matter of principle. If the Palestinian administration can't control violence among its people, it has no leadership basis for causing moderates in Israel (let alone liberals) to successfully sustain their end of the process. Tragically, pan-Arabist rocket attacks have destroyed the security potential of the Israeli barrier plan and destroyed the credibility of Israeli political centrism. Time after time, Arabs shoot themselves in the foot.

The Palestinians—perhaps the Arab people—have an obsession with revenge that isn't justified by history. I used to accept the Arab line against Israel, but the more I sought to find the origin of the Arab grievance, the more it got displaced further back into history, until it disappeared in a legacy of colonialisms unrelated to Jews. (Was it the Romans against the Assyrians? At the moment the Romans—excuse me, the Italians—are being invited by both Lebanon and Israel to lead the U.N. force)

Peace is not proximally about history; it's a synchronic state of affairs—the "engineering problem" that allows disputes of history to be properly remedied. Right-of-return issues can't be addressed without peace first. Borders can be changed, but not without some peaceful borders to contest through civil means, specifically an international forum whose authority is effective against terrorism. What can that global authority be, if not the U.N. (and supposing it's not to be the U.S., which, by the way, has been the leading agent of bipartisanship; the Palestinians have made a mockery of the the "Quartet" process). But the U.N. hasn't yet been effective for curbing terrorism against Israel.

Above all, the world has to make the UN effective. The tenuous cease-fire in Lebanon and the processes now in play have world historical importance for the evolution of globally bipartisan conflict resolution prototypes (and globally nonpartisan regional development), which didn't have a chance until 1989 (end of Cold War) to be what it was supposed to be—which couldn't yet work effectively in 1991 (Saddamist invasion of Kuwait), couldn't yet work effectively in Bosnia or Kosovo, and couldn't yet work effectively to enforce sanctions effectively against Saddamism. In each case, a coalition outside the UN (NATO or a "coalition of the willing") was required for the UN to have credibility in an enforcement process. Today, the UN has a chance—with the IAEA over Iran; and Lebanese sovereignty over its southland—to show its capacity for the global role in conflict resolution, which can be to lead the creation of prototypes for region-based conflict resolution generally. But Hezbollah has to let that happen. The news at the moment is that Lebanon hasn't yet stopped Hezbollah's importation of more arms, which is a twofold violation of the cease-fire agreement (and Lebanon's earlier backpedaling on commitment to disarm Hezbollah in the south was also a violation).

People should recognize that local conflict resolutions are the substance of the process of evolving global, generalizable approaches to conflict resolution. Concordantly, the democratic experience in one locality is the only possible basis for other fledgling democracies to avoid pain in social learning. Likewise for trade disputes and for human rights, etc.

The "rarefied space" (first "[MP]" comment) of diplomacy is a kind of communicative engineering that strives to merge its designs into real, existing institutional structures, as we all seek better institutional designs through ideally fractalic, isomorphizing successes in localities that may have genetic robustness across geographies.