Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Of Exile, Guilt and Messianic Aspirations!

I seem to be on my way back to the spotlight again, at least for a brief spate. I have been quiet for far too long this time, but I am gradually but surely being pulled out again from the doldrums of administrative work to the kind of activism I am more accustomed to and comfortable with.

So, recently there were a couple of quotes and references to me in the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe and the Kansas City Star, and now a short essay of mine (reproduced below) has just appeared in the current issue of Witness Magazine, a prestigious literary endeavor supported in part by the International Institute for Modern Letters with which I am affiliated as a fellow. But I do encourage everyone to support this important endeavor and actually buy the whole issue which contains more than 40 wonderful essays, short stories and poetry collections, written by a group of exiles, or “exilians” to borrow the term of Wole Soyinka unearthed by Chris Amani. Other contributors include suc fitrures as Hasanthika Sirisena, Er Tai Gao, Joan I. Siegel, and Fernando Garavito.

Of Exile, Guilt and Messianic Aspirations

Guilt is a would-be messiah’s constant companion, so, naturally, as a man mired in messianic expectations, - and how could a liberal heretic working within the context of a traditional Arab-Muslim society not be so afflicted? – I am riddled with guilt.

Now guilt is quite the interesting emotion. One can feel it both for acting and for refraining from action. But things can get a little more complex when one examines the motives involved.

In my case, my basic motivation was my constant obsession in remaining true to myself. But in doing this, and in following the dictates of my conscience and taking them to their logical conclusions, a process that took me on a long journey through different modes of religiosity and heresy, I ended up turning my back on the very foundations of my culture. I have made myself irrelevant to the very people that I sought, and seek still, to change. Somehow, and in being true to who I am, I stopped being true to my people and to my calling. But then, can I really be true to my people on their own terms? How can be a messiah then? How can I save the world?

For yes, even a secular heretic like me can still speak of a calling, of salvation and of messianic expectations and aspirations, of a deep-seated desire to be the awaited messiah, the savior of all, the fountain of undying hope that our humanity might still amount to something good. When one’s guilt stems from such a predicament as mine, the predicament of having a living and kicking conscience and a burning spirit of free and critical inquiry, messianism cannot lag far behind. Indeed, messianism is indeed intrinsic to the whole affair.

As such, if I am, at some instance, riddled with guilt, I am simultaneously buoyed with messianism. Yes, you can actually take faith out of the Arab. His Messiah Complex, however, is a completely different matter, especially in these desperate times for the Arabs when both the religious and nationalist radicals and the sociopolitical liberals seek to make themselves relevant, the first by force of arms and archaic laws and customs, the others by force of reason, that all too neglected and abused commodity.

So, is it any surprise really that my messianic aspirations should get me where I am today?


Trying to be relevant – when everything about you is so alien, and hence irrelevant, and when you are guided by a principle that prevents you from betraying yourself, a principle that puts your individuality above what most, if not all, people around you perceive as representing the common good, while you have a different understanding altogether of what this common good actually is – might as well be an exercise in futility, a desperate attempt at seeding the darkside of the Moon. So be it. I have been working against my own inborn and growing cynicism for all my life it seems. And look where that got me!


Internal exile, alienation, external exile, more alienation. Some people are not born to belong anywhere it seems. Yet the whole point of messianic aspirations is to be able to belong somewhere, at some point in time, somehow, to something that you can believe in, because you have built it yourself.

In this respect, both the sociopolitical liberals and the religious and nationalist radicals are the same. A certain messianic ethos unites us both. But our methods tend to differ, and so does the quality and scope of our respective visions. Indeed, and while there will never be a room for us, the liberals, in a radical’s world, there will always be a room in our liberal world for all the radicals, barring those who crossed over to terrorism, of course.

For the world everywhere seems devoid of a soul until you breathe your own soul into it; only then can you actually belong to it. And belonging is too precious a gift to be denied to anyone no matter how different he/she happens to be. Both the radicals and we are indeed entitled to belong, to seek to belong, to try to build the world that we can belong to. In the interim, we can only belong to the community of family and friends that we built around ourselves, or that we accepted. Everything else is exile.

Exile, then, is both a choice and an imposition.

When I gazed for that solitary moment deep into my interrogator’s eyes, the eyes of that allegedly dashing 50-something general clad in civilian attire and sporting a Saddam-like moustache and a stern smile, stern enough to befit the brother-in-law of the President, the head of his military security apparatus and the number two man in the country, I realized the limitations of my messianism: I cannot save the world, at least not at that point, but I can save my family, not to mention myself. I could have settled for silence or cooptation, I guess – a death threat having already been hinted at as a possible third alternative, - but I managed to subtly maneuver my way into exile, planting it as a fourth alternative into my interrogator’s sympathetic mind.

I can live with exile. Indeed, I can be true to myself in exile. I have always been in exile anyway, even whilst in my all too warm and loving motherly womb, I swear. My adopted family has as well. Indeed, it is our sense of exile that united us all at one hapless point: the exile in Khawla’s eyes, in Oula’s smile, in Mouhanad’s tears. We will carry our sense of exile wherever we go, after all, we are a family of messianic heretics, and our heresy(ies) might be just be the only home we can ever really have. But the guilt emanating from the various difficulties, no matter how little and mundane they happen to be at times, that my precious threesome is now facing in external exile as a result of my own actions, choices and maneuvers in life, is quite burdensome at times. So is the guilt of having made it out, of having had the luxury of choosing exile, rather than settling for what has been laid out in front of me, as was the fate of so many of my colleagues.

But there is also a little envy at play here, an envy of their ability to continue to maneuver from within and to, occasionally, prick the system, perhaps until it bleeds, one day.

All dictatorships are hemophilic, once you prick them they bleed to death. If only I can still help prick mine.

This thought continues to haunt me here, in my external exile as I am still yearning to achieve some relevance there, in my internal exile. Yet, to be able to accomplish this, I now have to become relevant here first. I have to learn how to maneuver here as well, so that, here too, I wouldn’t have to settle for what it is laid out in front of me and could still remain true to who I am. I have managed to achieve this before here. I am as much a product of the good old U.S.A, as I am of Syria. I am of the East and the West, proportions notwithstanding. If my exile is ever to know an end, I have to be relevant to both worlds, I have to belong to both, I have to breathe my soul into both, and I have to save both, save me from both and save both from me. I have to be a multi-faceted messiah, it seems, to make all this work.

This seems like a losing battle, I know. But, what better battle is there, these days, for someone so riddled with guilt, so buoyed with messianic aspirations, so obsessed with being on the right side of his own personal history, and so envious of all those who can still make a difference in life so as to dwarf us all?

But I want to walk among the giants, so I can put an end to my guilt, and my exile, if only for a little solitary moment before the parting.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The HISHee Rebellion!

The assassination of Pierre Gemayel is not some haphazard ill-timed event, but a carefully calculated one meant to help push Lebanon further and further along the path of internal implosion. And the HISH (Hezbollah-Iran-Syria-Hamas) Alliance is definitely to blame here, the particular considerations related to their particular decision-making and implantation strategies notwithstanding.

The current summit on Iraq, which Tehran is currently hosting is another calculated event organized by HISH with the purpose of helping close ranks on the US presence in Iraq and their entire regional adventure. On the short run, however, HISH spin-doctors might make it appear as though the Alliance is actually taking a more proactive approach towards stabilizing the situation in Iraq thus helping establish a better negotiating position vis-à-vis the US.

But what is actually taking place is an attempt to hijack Iraq from the US, making US position there quite untenable by weakening its allies and uniting its detractors under a coalition affiliated with HISH. Pretty soon, the political scene in Iraq will be divided into two major currents, an embattled one made up of the last few pro-US statesmen and officials, and the a pro-HISH current made up of all parties opposed to US-presence in Iraq, a coalition that might actually grow to attract and accommodate many Sunnis, both Islamists and Baathists, in due course of time. (Initially though, the alliance of Islamists and Baathists might linger as a third current).

Both major currents will be multi-ethnic in essence, albeit the Shia will figure more prominently in them, by sheer force of demographics. Kurds might also figure prominently here, as many of them seem convinced of the need to plan a post-US strategy that could safeguard the gains that they have already made on the grounds. The US does indeed stand to lose its last major allies in Iraq, as it seems to have outlived its usefulness for them (which is in essence a favor returned. The Kurds do feel that were betrayed by the US and several western powers repeatedly before).

These moves will leave the US very little room to maneuver. As things stand right now, it is indeed up to HISH to grant the US a graceful way out, or not, depending on the price the US is willing to pay. And nothing less than everything is now acceptable to the HISHees. Good luck with engagement.

One option that the US has is to do some immedaite escalation of its own, both militarily and diplomatically. But this is more likely to backfire and prove equally as disastrous, unless its NATO allies are willing to back it, which they are not. None of them is willing to engage in all-out regional war, which is what the current HISHee brinkmanship is all about.

A less humiliating exit strategy might be to out-Baker the Iraq Study Group and withdraw without any talks with anyone, leaving the HISHees, among other regional and international powers, to handle the Iraqi mess. Should some prominent Iraqis indeed crossover to this HISH Alliance, the US position will receive some justifications, at least on the domestic front, seeing that such a move would be interpreted as a sign that Iraqis are willing to tackle their problems on their own by talking and reaching agreements with their trouble-making neighbors. Indeed, the Iraqis have already made an agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Syria, after more than 25 years of strained relations. Coming at this particular point in time, this is an interesting move indeed.

True, a withdrawal by the US forces at this stage will undermine, at least temporarily, the position of the March 14th coalition in Lebanon, as the Assads and Hezbollah will be encouraged to unleash their wrath even more wantonly they have done so far. And true, the move could hamper all regional efforts at reform and democratization for a certain period of time. But, seeing that the other options that the US has at this stage might still lead down this same path, the move may not be as defeatist, not to mention immoral to the eyes of some in the Bush Administration.

Indeed, if the Bush Administration should ever adopt the withdrawal option, this might be exactly how they would end up doing it. They will not talk to anyone, they will make any concessions.

This move will give the HISH Alliance another one of those pyrrhic yet divine victories they are so fond of, for they may or may not be able to help control the mess in Iraq, and this aside, they will still be vulnerable to all sort of international pressures with regard to issues such as the Hariri Investigation, Iran’s nuclear program, Hezbollah disarmament and the situation in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the US is bound to receive much blame for its policies, but it will be simultaneously courted by all and sundry in the region and Europe to return and help stabilize the situation. This will put the US back on top of things again, and will allow American officials to ask for serious cooperation from their regional and NATO allies in preparation for Round Two of the conflict. For there will of course be a Round Two. And a Round Three, and a Round Four if necessary. The HISHees will not lay quiet, and they will rather press their perceived advantage to the fullest.

For the HISH, armed with a heavy doze of hubris, will prove too unruly for most powers, and all would realize the need for breaking it, despite the legitimacy of some of its claims.

True, European interests may not coincide with those of the US in this. But Europe's interests cannot be served by accommodating all of the HISHees, they can only accommodate Iran, a non-nuclear Iran to be specific. But Iranians leaders are too proud, and they are unlikely to concede to European demands on the nuclear issue. This is why Europe will ultimately have to turn back to the US for succor. Without a credible coalition and a credible threat, discussions with Iran will go nowhere. Yes, Iran will have to be acknowledged as a major regional power, they sacrificed a lot to get where they are today. But they have to do it without the nukes, and without this Alliance. Hezbollah will need to be disarmed, the Assads will need to go. Hamas will need to moderate its tone, so progress can be made in Gaza. To achieve this, Europe needs the US as much as it needs it.

As such the withdrawal that I am talking about here is merely tactical and will not serve as a major strategic shift in the thinking of the current administration. I don’t believe this administration is ready to review it entire strategy in the region, but they do urgently need to revise their tactics, so, I am throwing this entire idea in the fray for to generate debate on the two hot topics: what is really happening in the region at this stage? And should the US do about it on the short and long terms?

Addendum: The Somalia Link

The deeply flawed report by the UN on HISH arms sales to Somalia may not be off the mark all together. In reality, it is indeed in the interest of the Alliance to expand its scope, and Syria has for long had relations with Somalia even through these troubled times, this is why you find so many Somali bananas in the Syrian (and Lebanese) markets. For bananas are indeed the main trade item for the Somalis, and not Uranium. But banana sales can still bring enough returns to fund the low-tech warfare going on in Somalia, and now the Islamic Courts Union is in control of this trade. But, since my friends in Syria and Lebanon can still purchase Somali bananas, this new state of affairs does not seem to have had any negative impact on trade relations between Syria, Lebanon and Somalia. In due course of time, the ICU could indeed be recruited to join the HISH.

Is this an exaggeration? Well, just consider the ongoing security cooperation between Syria and the Sudan, and Iran and the Sudan, especially with regard to the situation in Darfur. Visits by Sudanese security officials to the capitals of Syria and Tehran are as regular as clockwork, and have been for a couple of years now. As all sides seem to have their troubles with the international community, and with the same main actors in it (mainly: the US, Britain, France), the emergence of such cooperation is indeed all too natural. Somalia and the Sudan are well-nigh members of the HISH, a fact that will become clearer in due course of time and should help sound alarm bells.

Addendum 2:

This article in the Wall Street Journal quotes
me on the potential impact of the Iraqi Study Group report on the situation in the region, especially with regards to the Assads. Basically, I say that the Assads feel empowered by the mere possibility that the reports will recommend talks with them, and as such, they are more willing than ever to push their perceived advantage. By continuing to prove themselves as troublesome, the Assads hope they can project themselves as invincible and indispensable.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A New Cabal Rising!

Who are the realists?

Well, if memory serves me correctly, and it does, they are the selfsame crowd that supported the Afghan mujahideen and facilitated, and downright aided, the emergence of Bin Laden and Taliban. This strategy did serve to humiliate the Soviets, no doubt about that, but it did also, well, help plant the seeds for 9/11.

Policies have consequence. And Short-term ill-considered policies have far more devastating consequences on the longer run than people realize. But US officials have been notoriously lax when it comes to thinking about long-term effects of their policies. The realists in particular seem to suffer from this tendency.

A colleague has recently related to me that relates an interesting yet all too real anecdote about the current nominee for Minister of Defense, Robert Gates. He said that in an interview with Canadian TV back in 1993, Mr. Gates was asked about whether he, among other colleagues in the Bush I administration, had ever thought about the consequences of their support of Islamists during the Reagan years, not to mention the early years of the Bush Administration. Did they ever ponder what the consequences of empowering these extremists Islamic movements would be? The interviewer wanted to know. Mr. Gates replied: “No.” The interviewer asked again: “You mean you never thought about it.” Mr. Gates replied again: “No.”

So, are the realists thinking about the long-term consequences of engaging and, therefore, empowering the Assads? Hell, are they even seriously thinking about the real short-term impact of such a policy, or are they simply locked in that arrogant wishful assumption of theirs that the Assads could be won over, and that they could indeed be, not just helpful mind you, but very helpful, in saving the US from itself and from its idiotic misadventure in Iraq?

Anyone cares to hazard a guess?

During my recent talk at Brookings, one of the attendees, a well-known and respected former diplomat, asked me whether I did not think that US diplomat are smart and clever enough to be able to convince the Assads, once they engage them, of them of the usefulness of breaking away from Iran.

That’s the real problem here. US officials, their ideological predilections notwithstanding, think always that they can outsmart their way out of any mess that they outsmarted themselves into. They come to this “game” with their smug confident attitude and want us to have faith in their wisdom, because, hey, they know things about our own realities that we somehow don’t. They invest their egos in this “game,” while we invest our lives. They gamble with the lives of 300,000 or so Americans, while we are forced to see their three or so hundreds and raise them a few hundred millions more.

Now the neo-cons, because they had a place for us, Arab democrats, in their plans, that is, when victory was eventually achieved, asked us for our advice then ignore it and proceeded to do what they were inspired to do, expecting us to adjust all the while, or, from their point of view, catch up, because of course they knew better. The realists, however, won’t have to play this game with us, because the place they have reserved for us in their particular schemes is right there on the margins of things, in exile or in the dungeons of the ruling regimes. This is where everybody thinks we belong anyway. To everybody’s loss.

For while we may not have all the answers, not by a long shot, this is still our region, and these are still our peoples, and we are the liberal secular progressive democrats here, for all our shortcomings. We are the only ones who can bridge the gap between our two worlds. Relegating to the sidelines and keeping us there, will only serve to perpetuate this conflict or clash, not solve it.

Meanwhile, and according to Syrian officials, the country has no prisoners of opinion, the mysterious death of Ali Kan’an, the brother of the late and very much suicided General Ghazi Kana’an, was just another suicide, and the cancellation of a public conference attended by American religious leaders critical of the Bush Administration, who went to Syria “bearing a message of peace to the Syrian people” was meant to actually “encourage deeper bilateral dialogue” with Syrian counterparts. Oh yeah, this lot is engageable.

Indeed, the showdown in our part of the world has often been more a battle of wills than a battle of wits. If the realists want a return to the status quo ante, the Assads and their Iranian allies, have long moved on. They want more. They always wanted more. Not just their survival. They want a resolution to all outstanding issues, they need that, and they think they are well-positioned to get it. Then they will ask for more.

You don’t want to deal with these types from a position of weakness, and you don’t want to give them more than you take from them – they need to be downsized, not empowered. And mechanisms for their eventual change have to be introduced into the equation, no matter what.

But for whose benefit am I really writing this now, when I know for sure this time that no one will listen, and many will just vilify?

No my friends, antagonists and sparring partners, I will not cease to blog, but I will give more thought to my choice of themes from now on.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Heretical Odds & Sacrificial Ends!

So, all tests came back negative, and the two more scheduled for the future appear to be too routine to warrant fretting about. I remain both ulcer-free and cancer-free. I am more gnawed by angst than by disease, it seems, and my symptoms, no matter how painful and bloody, continue to be mostly psychosomatic. No one dies of that, no one dies of hemorrhoids, and no one dies of gastritis. And I am no longer too young for any of these things, but I am getting too old to think that I can still afford to ignore them.

So, while Khawla and my doctors conjure up a new dietary lifestyle for me, one that I will most surely find impossible to fit within everything else I have to juggle these days, I can finally go back to my beloved and necessary hobby of blogging – of emptying my soul out for the benefit of those hapless specks out there who remain interested in perusing them for reasons that continue to be unfathomable to me. Who’s punishing whom here?, I can never tell. But I can tell you this, my two ends, that is, my mouth and my anus, have witnessed enough punishment recently, and they deserve some rest, albeit none is forthcoming. I am doing some punishment as I type.

So, what is the best way I can return to abusing myself again? Let me see… How about wasting my breaths on some something totally foolish and idiotic, not to mention soul-poisoning, like politics, especially Syrian politics?

And a lot has been happening in this regard recently. But most of it smacks of too much bullshit to warrant any direct dabbling or handling on my part. This is why I will restrict my return to a more active blogging-style to the following points:

* The recent White House meeting with representatives of the National Salvation Front was, contrary to attempts at undermining it by many, quite a success and indicated a growing willingness by members within the current administration to assume a more open posture towards one of the most important and pragmatic Syrian opposition groups in exile. This openness is not restricted to members of the National Security Council. Indeed, and over the last few months, we have had quieter endorsements from all relevant decision-making centers within the administration. No, this does not mean that the Administration will be holding direct talks with Khadddam and Bayanouni soon, for tactical and ideological reasons on both sides. But contacts with the NSF through its liberal members will now take place regularly and on a high enough level to make it worth our while at the NSF to make point of acknowledging them at this stage.

So, people can denounce, speculate, object, interpret, analyze and dismiss the fact and nature of these contacts to their hearts’ content, but, and at the end of the day, the fact cannot be denied: there is indeed a new kid on the block these days, a new player that, whether people like it or not, and for better or for worse, will make quite on an impact on the scene of Syrian external opposition. Attacks, denunciations, vilifications from all sides are more than welcome and encouraged. And please, interested ones, be as profuse, profane and vociferous about it as you like. Free publicity is appreciated.

Let’s not forget in this regard as well that similar high level contacts have taken place in Europe as well, and in the region itself. The NSF will open an office in London soon, and soon thereafter an office in DC. Whether people are going to engage the Assads or not, we still have to be ready. We still have to be relevant to whatever process that unfolds. Personally, I can finally say that I am, come what may.

* There was recently a resurgence of talks about a deal that is being cooked with the Assads. Perhaps an effort in this regard was indeed made by the British, but then, and as the French tell us, it did not pay off. Perhaps the Assads are too confident to accept the pitiful deal the British were offering, and perhaps, the one element that the Assads want to see included in the deal is exactly the one element that no one can deliver at this stage: an end to the Hariri investigation. Be that as it may, for now, there is no deal, and the Hariri investigation continues to remain as the major source of headaches for the Assads wary.

* Indeed, the age of dragging dictators by their hooves to trial may not be over yet. This is what the jailed heroes of the Syrian opposition suggested yesterday upon hearing the news of the Saddam verdict. Michel Kilo, Anwar al-Bounni and Kamal Labwani were quite outspoken despite their growing physical fragility following days of hunger strikes and a physical assault on Labwani by one of the criminal inmates.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Heretical Contribution towards A New World Order!

This whole divide between neocons and realists, between democracy-advocates and engagement-advocates is in fact quite meaningless and rather beside the point. For neither side has what it takes to make a difference in the problems of our beleaguered region, not to mention the world, or to make any serious progress in the war on terror. Both sides tend to recommend policies that are in essence nonsensical and will pave the way for further deterioration of the situation not only in our part of the world, but everywhere.

This split reflects a serious identity crisis that plagued and continues to plague the US in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of what I would call Phase I of the Cold War, since I believe that the Cold War is still very much with us having only transitioned from a mostly bipolar to a clearly multi-polar confrontation, involving the EU, Russia, China, and to an extant Japan, on the global stage, various regional powers, such as turkey, Iran, Indonesia and India, and the continuingly enigmatic Canada and Australia, still in search of global role and identity.

For, indeed, the identity crisis seen in the US has its equivalent elsewhere in the world, and not only among First World states, but also throughout the “nether” regions of the world, with Islamic terrorism being one manifestation of it. And all sides are, in effect, busy exporting their particular identity crisis and many of its necessary consequences to the world at large. In the absence of the institutional framework upon which the emerging New World Order can be based, this export commodity is having a devastating effect upon the peoples of the “nether” world.

The need for launching new processes and embarking on building a New World Order was considered in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990. It is very telling, however, that the US administration at that time was unwilling to pursue its victory to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime for fear that this will create serious problems and rifts within the international coalition that was established at the time. This was symptomatic of the fact that while the world could agree on a coalition to return to a certain status quo ante, it would have major problems when force is used to effect regime change, regardless of the justifications involved. There was something missing in the existing equation, the rules of the UN themselves, to allow for that, and no one wanted to venture something new.

The peace process launched in the Madrid conference in 1991 and which lasted until 2000 was another way for trying to create new realities in the Middle East that ended up in failure, for a variety of reasons. But one of the most important reasons, yet least studied ones, is the fact that Europe, Russia, and the US have failed to cooperate together effectively in this matter, and occasionally seemed to compete and to undermine each other’s various initiatives. This helped drag out the talks and gave much leeway for radical forces and spoilers to intervene. The reasons for this inability to coordinate between even allies, old and new, was the fact that similar processes or need for such processes to take place existed elsewhere in the world, and the interests of the various international powers involved often conflicted and the UN, in its current format, did not provide the adequate avenue for arbitration between the different parties.

For this reason, different powers acted, directly or inadvertently, as spoilers with regards to each others ambitions and designs. The US and Europe opposed Russia in Chechnya, and competed with Russian interests elsewhere in the Caucasus and Central Asia, so Russia opposed US and European plans in the Middle East. China wanted the world to agree with its stance with regard to Taiwan and to accept China as a new superpower and all the trimmings involved, the US and the EU are having a hard time accepting this with all its ramifications, so China opts to act as a spoiler on a variety of issues.

Different powers have long staked their territories long before the emergence of China, but now, China wants in. China wants a share of the spoils and of the international decision-making process. This situation is eerily reminiscent of the position of Germany in the early 20th Century, but there are many differences as well. The current forms of hegemony and territoriality are fare more subtle than they used to be, and China’s role as a spoiler is also more subtle.

The failure of existing international institutions to help provide a new way for the international decision-making process and international arbitration encouraged recourse to such new institutions as the G8 summits or expanding old ones such as NATO. It also encouraged the formation of temporary coalitions and recourse to unilateral actions when a situation warranted.

Obviously this state of affairs is creating many problems and is impeding the resolution of so many conflicts around the globe. What the world today needs in order to create a New World Order worthy of the name is to create the suitable conceptual and institutional framework for it. Indeed, before we can speak about new Marshall plans for this or that region, or new Madrid or Barcelona processes, not to mention effectively contemplate engagement processes that can actually deliver the desired fruits and not backfire and blow up in all our faces, the world needs a new world conference similar to the ones that took place of yore at Versailles and Yalta.

The conference should focus on the need to agree on a new set of rules, arrangements and institutions that can help establish the overall framework of the desired and needed New World Order. We cannot keep on stumbling on from one crisis to another in this manner. This state of affairs does not augur well for the future at all, and will not hold for long. Indeed, the conceptual vacuum that exists today in the realm of international affairs will surely pave the way for large-scale confrontations, several of which are bound to take place in our region, and one seems to be in the offing indeed for the very near future. Nuclear weapons and the greater subtlety of contemporary politics notwithstanding, world wars are not completely out of the equation yet, as we like to believe, so we cannot yet afford to rest on our laurels. Hell, when it comes to peacemaking, we don’t really have that many of them.