#WorldWar1Centenary, #Gaza – a history lesson for the Middle East?

I don’t normally blog about politics but my maternal grandfather was in World War One (briefly, he lied about his age and when they found out he was 16, he was promoted to Corporal and sent right back to UK! The army’s youngest Corporal) so I feel justified on the centenary of that war.

The war to end all wars?  A great and noble sacrifice?  I regret to say that none of these things apply.  WWI was an act of monumental international folly which resulted in….well, what did it result in?  Stalemate and the Versailles treaty.  Starvation and hyper-inflation for Germany.  The Great Depression.  The end of the Ottoman Empire, the end of Austria-Hungary, 16 million dead (10m military, 6m civilian), fascism in Europe and a defeated and humiliated Germany ripe for fascism which led directly to World War II.  However, now we have peace in Europe (even in the Balkans) but the reminder of the past is just on our borders in Ukraine.

Let’s look at the result of four European wars. the Napoleonic, Franco-Prussian, WWI and WWII where UK, France and Germany took it in turns to fight each other.  The overall result now is that UK, France and Germany are allies with more-or-less the same borders as two hundred years ago (although it took three wars and 90 million dead to define Germany’s borders) but we now work together to defend each other in the event of an outside attack.  Did it take four wars to achieve this?  Yes.  Was it necessary to have four wars to achieve this?  Of course not.  Anyone with a bit of common sense could have worked it out.  The threat was always Russia and still is.  If you want to see where the greatest threat is, look for the big guys.  Size matters.

I watch with horror at what is happening in Gaza, with both sides claiming to have right (or God) on their side, yet look at the broader picture.  The big military powers are Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and Iran.  Iraq is a basket case and the others don’t really count, militarily.  Contrary to popular belief, the Saudis see no threat from Israel….but Iran does.  Saudi fears an Islamic revolution.  Iran exports them.  Shi’ite Iran also has a problem with Sunnis and the Saudis are guardians of Islam and predominantly Sunni.  So, who is the main threat to the Arab nations of the middle east?  Well, the answer is pretty obvious and it ain’t Israel.  In the end, any war will be fought for land and resources, as ever, but the overt justifications can be moral or religious.

I predict that within 50 years, there will be a military alliance between Egypt, the major Arab/Gulf states and Israel.  But, will it be necessary to have a war to bring this about?  I hope not but I suspect so.   If that is the case it underlines the basic stupidity of man in failing to understand the mistakes of history and those that do that are doomed to repeat them. It isn’t necessary, of course.  It just takes some pragmatism to sort out the Palestinian issue once and for all.  I’ve always thought that if the Arab nations really wanted a solution for Palestine, they’d have sorted it out years ago.  The fact is that even the Arabs consider the Palestinians to be itinerant trouble-makers, so we are where we are.  Sometimes I wonder whether having millions of Palestinian refugees suits the rest of Arabia because it is a stick to beat Israel with without having to resort to conflict again.  The Arabs aren’t very good when faced with an angry Israel.

So, come on, Saudi….take a look at European history, then take a lead and sort out the mess in your back yard.  You might find that the Israelis aren’t as bad as you thought and having them on your side might avoid another war.

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