THE BLOG
06/15/2007 09:19 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Unintended Benefits of the Mess in Iraq

The civil war in Iraq, and the battle between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza, while tragic, do serve a useful purpose: they put the lie to the myth, created by Muslim nation-states and bought into by many Western governments, that the source of all the trouble in the Middle East is the Arab-Israeli conflict. Solve the Palestinian issue, people say, and you will have peace in the Middle East. Restore to Muslims their sense of national and religious pride, and you will quell the loathing and hostility that has poisoned their relations with the West.

True, the Israeli-Palestinian stand-off must be resolved to both sides' satisfaction. And, yes, Western colonial governments who robbed Muslim nations of their oil and other natural resources for the better part of the last century have a lot to answer for today. But Israel has only been around for 50 years. The war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims dates back 1400 years. It has been, and again is, an effective rallying cry with startling longevity. It was the reason the war between Iran and Iraq war, which began in 1980, lasted eight years and took one million dead and countless other victims. It's the reason Iraq's other neighbors are horrified today at the prospect of that country becoming a satellite state for Iran.

Muslim clergy and governments have managed to get a lot of mileage out of the existence of the state of Israel because they have tapped into another age-old antagonism -- against Jews -- that they created and nurtured among their flock. Long (and by that, I mean over a thousand years) before the first Zionists arrived in the region, Jewish citizens in Muslim countries were considered ritually impure, subject to special taxes, and second-class citizens. In some countries -- Iran among them -- entire communities were massacred time and again. Back then, we were accused of killing Muslim children and using their blood to make Matzo. With the advent of the state of Israel, we were labeled Zionists and therefore enemies of the Muslim state. In each case, we were, and still are, used by one leader or another in the perpetual power-grab that is the region's idea of "transition".

So you can create peace between Israel and the Palestinians all you want; you're not going to bring lasting calm and stability to the Muslim world. The only way that's going to happen -- and I realize I'm being politically incorrect here -- is if a balance of power is created and maintained within the various Muslim states -- something akin to the Cold War. Which means, among other things, that the United States needs to establish a Sunni-led government in Iraq. And the only way that's going to happen -- now I'm beyond politically incorrect -- is for Western powers to find and back a tyrant as cruel and bloodthirsty as Saddam. Or Qaddafi. Or Khomeini. You name it.