Arab reunification - would we stand by and congratulate?

The relationship of the NATO countries to Russia is often debated in our media. Russia could (well, it is doing so now) revive its economic strength and political influence.
Recently, I've heard a rumour that Russia has offered NATO the independence of Kosovo and therefore a solution for the lingering problem that ties some thousand western troops in Kosovo. The price would be that NATO wouldn't be allowed to accept membership of the Ukraine and Georgia (I didn't know that such a move was ever in discussion...).
That tells how difficult the relationship on the eastern frontier is and how much seems to go on in the secret diplomacy.

But let's have a look at NATO's southern frontier. To date, there are many weak states - no nation states, just states. The people would happily embrace the idea of a pan-arab union.
The dictatorships with their determination to survive independently are probably the only thing that keeps such a union from getting relevant (there's a multinational Arab League, but that's about as relevant as the common EU foreign policy).

Let's think about it. We promote democracy in the Arab world and tell them all the time that their existing lack of democracy is what hurts them most. We already learned in Iraq that democracy and freedom have their disadvantages in the region as dictatorships suppress some conflicts.

What would happen if indeed all Arab countries became democracies? It's really not improbable that this would lead pretty quick to an Arab federal state (to keep the oil riches for the oil rich regions instead of helping Moroccans with Saudi oil) and a revival of Arab nationalism.
Now this would be a unification that would directly threaten Israel, as it survives in part because the Arabs aren't united.

So apparently our interest to promote democracy collides with our interest in our security as well as most NATO countries' interest to keep Israel alive as a kind of Western enclave. We'd probably need to invite Israel into NATO to keep it independent once it's surrounded by a pan-Arab state. That would make us official arch-enemies of the Arab nation and wouldn't promote our external security at all.

But the probability of an unified Arabs isn't the only thing that questions the huge efforts to promote democracy at our southern frontier.
In general, people assume that democracies are more peaceful, more respectful than dictatorships and pose less threat to their neighbours. This is - judged by historical experience - a dubious assumption.

History knows many very belligerent democracies. Athens, for example was much more belligerent than the autocrat Sparta. The English had the very first (relatively) democratic nation state in Europe, yet they built an empire by aggression and became involved in many European wars just to influence the overall balance of power.
The USA was democratic from the beginning, but holds the record for invading other countries in the 20th century. Many U.S. invasions (especially till WW2) in Latin America give a strong evidence that democracy does not necessarily mean respect for other countries' sovereignty.
For comparison; the latest invasion of a foreign country originating in Iran/Persia that I could find in history records was launched in 1739 - but they were never democratic.

One reason for democratic belligerence is that dictators are often more focused on keeping their own people under control. A lost war does often end a dictatorship (remember the 1982 Falklands War? It was the death blow for the military dictatorship in Argentina). Dictators depend less on the support of capitalists/companies than democratic parties that need to finance their election campaigns. Dictators don't need such support; instead, they seek the support of institutions that manipulate the people more directly, as church and media. Church and media aren't nearly as interested in the economical booty of warfare.

The world isn't all black and white - democracy is the political order for greatest freedom and in the sum good, not evil. Yet promoting democracy doesn't necessarily mean that all things improve or even that those who do promote it do benefit of such an activity.
Germany struggled for centuries with its geographic position among powers instead of in a corner like Spain, UK or Russia. It's an unpleasant geo-strategic position. I guess it would be no pleasure for the NATO countries to have a large and united Arab federation on one and a renewed Russian zone of influence (or alliance) on its other European frontier.

Such a situation might become reality.

The history on the road to such a situation might be full of conflicts because we'd probably try to avert the consequences of our own doings.


No comments:

Post a Comment