The notion that other countries can implode without consequences for us has been exposed as a fantasyby Bronwen Maddox / December 10, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
The terrorist attacks in Paris on 13th November marked the end of what we might call the peace dividend: the 25 years that have followed the end of the Cold War, and the happy reckoning, sliding into complacency, that western governments could afford to spend less on defence and to think a little less about threats to their societies.
It wasn’t just Paris that’s smashed it, of course. The millions of refugees streaming towards the European Union’s borders (3m are expected to try to enter the EU in 2016), and the 700,000 who have made it through in 2015, have made clear that it is a fantasy to think that countries can implode, as Syria has done and Iraq threatens to do, without consequences for the countries north of the Mediterranean who are now deeply disconcerted about how to respond.
They didn’t see it coming partly because of wishful thinking—a desire not to get militarily involved in the Middle East after the lessons of Iraq, although diplomatic efforts, it should be said, have still been considerable. Those may yet secure a more-or-less stable federal structure of Libya, while John Kerry, US Secretary of State, made heroic efforts to broker a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and failed no more than did many before him. Another factor in the blindness was a sense of confusion and doubt about what helps a nation develop or rebuild; development economics is in disarray about the extent to which you can create the conditions in which aid and other help works. Afghanistan, now threatening to unravel, offers an unwanted lesson that it takes far longer…