I saw an interview on TV of Lakhdar Brahimi, the Egyptian diplomat who was the UN Secty General’s Special Envoy for Syria, upon his retirement from that post. He apologized to the Syrian people because he was unable to do anything significant to stop the civil war raging there. He admitted that Syria is basically destroyed, that ca. 160,000 men, women and children have been killed there in over 3 years of fighting, and that perhaps 7 million people have been displaced as external and internal refugees, about one third of the population, that it is now the largest refugee problem in the world. He admitted that the UN was in stalemate because of the support for opposite sides by different members of the UN Security Council, Russia and China supporting Pres. Assad and the West, the US, UK and France, supporting the insurgents. What he didn’t specify is that the Sunni Arab states, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are supporting the Islamist rebels, while the West is trying to only support the democratic opposition, and Iran is supporting Assad.
One thing that he said that impressed me was that there is no going back to the status quo ante, in other words, Syria is now sundered and cannot be put back together again as it was. He wished both sides would accept and understand this, since both sides think that is what they are fighting for. I will call this the Humpty Dumpty theory of history, and it should be applied more widely, for example, to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The very basis of the Arab view is that a historic injustice has been done to the Palestinians and that they are fighting to reverse that injustice. But, the cat has been let out of the bag, so to speak, and Humpty Dumpty has fallen (to mix metaphors) and this cannot be put back together again. History cannot be reversed! The Palestinians can no more go back to “Palestine” as it was, than the nations of Europe can go back to before WWI or WWII or the USSR can be put back together again (someone should tell Putin that).
What is most ridiculous is that the Islamists, al Qaeda and particularly the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) are fighting to instal a new Caliphate over all the Sunni Arab world, and in fact over all the world (including the US and Europe), a status that is based on the early medieval Islamic period when they briefly (for ca. 100 years) controlled a huge unified Empire that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Morocco to India. Not only did it break up into many separate countries (Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, etc.), but it can never be put back together again! Someone should tell them this, because it is going to cause a great deal of suffering, death and destruction until they find this out. Perhaps I should be more worried than I am, because there is an upside to this, while the Islamists are fighting a lost cause, to go backwards, we are meanwhile going forward. While their young men are fanatically blowing themselves up and killing their own people, our young men are learning biotechnology and computer science. Perhaps I am being a bit harsh, one must never under-estimate one’s enemy, as history has shown, but some generalizations are nevertheless true. Perhaps the Islamists have never heard of Humpty Dumpty, someone should tell them.