The Enemy of My Enemy is Actually Pretty Cool
The defining geopolitical conflict of the current generation will be the crisis in the Middle East. In fact, the defining geopolitical conflict since the dawn of civilization has been the crisis in the middle ease. For at least ten thousand years or more people have been fighting each other for control of the region.
The current crisis, with Iraq, Syria, ISIS, and all the other players in the region, is an interesting one. Crisis doesn’t seem to do the situation justice.
On the one hand, you don’t see new states popping up every day. On the other, the reestablishment of a Caliphate, a staple of medieval times, seems to be a step in the wrong direction.
There are a lot of potential outcomes for the conflict, and nobody knows what to do about it. In lieu of a practical solution to the problems in the middle east, we might as well speculate on the best possible outcome. The best thing that could actually happen, short of God showing up and bending the rules of space and time to make everyone like each other.
It seems clear that the first step toward any solution is the formation of an international coalition to combat ISIS. There are a lot of nations that have a lot to offer such an alliance, but there are two states that must be a part of the coalition for it to have any lasting effect. These states are not the United States, China, Russia, or other big players in the world. The first necessary nation is Israel, and the other is Iran.
An alliance of this sort may seem impossible, but it could happen. Nothing makes friends like having a shared enemy. Both Iran and Israel have a lot to lose if things get much more chaotic in their neighborhood.
They are natural allies in the conflict, as long as the coalition can get over old wounds and prejudices. While it may be perfectly understandable for a person or a state to hold some grudges, that doesn’t make it ok.
If Israel, Iran, and the rest of the world cannot form an inclusive coalition, then it demonstrates a simple lack of statesmanship. While no middle-eastern nation has the best reputation for diplomatic talent, it would be straight-up embarrassing to be defeated in the State game by a group as backward and brutal as ISIS. And out of pride or mistrust, no less. That is like Napoleon losing a game of checkers to a child, because he refused to say, “King me!”
If Israel and Iran can’t get along to face a common threat, and the rest of the world can’t help them, then maybe we deserve a chaotic Middle East. It is after all the home of the first great dynasties. It is an ancient land that will not yield to petty squabbles.
Then again, what starts as a temporary alliance could become a lasting partnership for two former rivals. This could bring peace, prosperity, and stability to the region. In theory.
Of course the most recent example of rivals-turned-allies didn’t have such a rosy ending. But a cold war is better than a hot insurgency, and all that stuff between the Soviets and the West just sort of worked itself out, right?