In his last commentary, Wallerstein made some conclusions that are, to say the least, frightening.
<<The dangers the coming Iraqi war pose for all of us are threefold: (1) It may go far towards creating Huntington's "clash of civilizations," transforming it from a rhetorical misapprehension of reality into an organizing principle. (2) It will probably lead to the use of nuclear weapons, thereby ending the taboo, and making their use commonplace in the future. (3) It will legitimate "preemptive action," something the interstate system has been trying to outlaw for some 500 years. And on top of all of this, there will be no clearcut outcome, no immediate end in sight. We live in a chaotic world. But we don't have to up the ante so radically. Unfortunately, we are going to.>>
The second scenario of "making [the use of nuclear weapons] common place in the near future" is, of course, the most alarming of the three. It is so terrifying that I would assume it is the least likely scenario of the three.
The first and third scenarios, however, are in the process of becoming a visible reality. The humiliating and degrading policy of the US towards the Middle East is producing in the Arab world a level of anger that I have never seen in my life. It is very possible that this coming invasion of Iraq will trigger this anger to a level that few regimes in the region will be able to survive unscarred. The Islamic groups will acquire more legitimacy and play a more significant role in destroying what’s left of the dismal Arab state system, leaving in its path the possible emergence of a vibrant transnational Islamic movement. Israel's Sharon or Netanyahu will also join in, using this moment to force a mass exodus of Palestinians to a level that may reach higher than we previously witnessed in 1948 and 1967.
Besides the awful carnage such a scenario will surely bring to the Middle East, the US and Israel will not stop there . This is, after all, a "War against Terrorism," meaning, of course, that these militant groups must be confronted by the "civilized" world. In pursuing this policy a viscous circle will develop: increased US and Israeli militancy and a widening network of Islamic militancy. Benjamin Barber, Samuel Huntington, and Bernard Lewis, joined by thousands of journalists and intellectuals, will be writing bestsellers that will be read, or at least bought, by so many Americans that it will put Prince Diane's biography to shame.
The "Clash of Civilization" will in time become a household term. People in power see the utility of the term. It locates the causes of violence/terrorism to a religiously based fanaticism, rooted in a dysfunctional culture, religion, or civilization. Such an essentialist perspective deflects the issue away from US and Israeli involvement in the mess we are in and places it on the shoulder of some "medieval mentality," a fourteenth century culture that has yet to join the modern, civilized world.
Bush, although not Sharon or Netanyahu, will, of course, be forced to repeat the PC phrase that this is not a war against Muslims but those evil forces who have hijacked this peaceful religion. For you see, the US hawks know there is a limit to the discourse of civilization. On the one hand they want Americans to view the hostilities as rooted to causes emanating from some dark forces which the angels of the world will do battle. But they cannot be seen as the angels fighting God's battle. No, they must be viewed as the angels fighting on the SIDE of God, this universal being, looking to rid of the world of all the satanic demons that hide in our caves and cities. It must do all it can to appear as serving the universal interest of humanity. Anything less may backfire and create the image that this war machine kills human beings, poisons their water supplies, destroys their homes and family, and leaves the population further removed from a healthy, vibrant life to which they aspire.
On the day of invading Iraq, or shortly thereafter, Bush will enter an American mosque, take off his shoes, and begin his sermon. Some will listen in joy and raise flags, others in horror and disgust, but we will all finally meet Darth Vader.
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