Political forces in the huge region from Afghanistan to Somalia appear to be moving toward confrontation (e.g., the Lebanese civil war, the Ethiopian-Eritrean border conflict). Problems fester unresolved, indeed frequently unaddressed, even unacknowledged. Both elite and popular frustrations seem to be growing. It is difficult to find evidence that would suggest that things will improve over the next few years. The region seems to be moving deeper and deeper into an historical era characterized by confrontation rather than consultation, anger rather than empathy, the intentional disregard of opportunities for cooperation, the exploitation if not the manufacturing of excuses for hostility.
The longer such trends exist, the more momentum they acquire. The more accustomed people become to extreme positions, the more they think their positions are reasonable and the less willing they become to listen to reason. Behavior that yesterday might have been just rude may tomorrow come to be seen as justification for war. Increasingly, those desiring to make trouble find opportunities, those desiring peace are accused of “treason.”
It’s time to do some hard thinking about the long-range implications of our behavior.