Political Promise

A Chaos Theory

In Jonny Roberts on June 16, 2010 at 8:10 pm

By Jonny Roberts

A few days ago a very strange feeling hit me. I turned on BBC News and there appeared Tony Blair. As someone who is dismayed to the core of his soul to call David Cameron the Prime Minister of his homeland this was a, albeit seconds-long, welcome jump back to the 2005 and before. For those who didn’t catch it; Blair was being interviewed in his capacity as Middle East Envoy for the ‘Quartet’ of the UN, EU, Russia and the US (which by my reckoning means the 27 European nations, Russia and US get twice the representation?). As Blair has been called in to try and sort out this utter mess in Gaza it struck me that back in 2005 when Blair left office we may have been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan but the world seemed more stable. It should be noted at this point – I do not credit Blair much for this, this is observation on a nasty seismic global shift that would prove beyond even Alistair Campbell’s inflated view of the former Prime Minister’s powers.

I’m not sure if it’s the global economic meltdown that has seasoned the feelings of international chaos but things certainly seemed more stable in the middle of the last decade. Terrorism had rocked the world at the beginning (in 2001 and 2003) but that all seemed to be coming from one place – Afghanistan, or so we were told and so happy to believe. Now, looking across the pages of the more globally-minded newspapers war, division and chaos seem to reign as much as they did in my early childhood where I hated my parents watching the news – why interrupt the tales of mutant pizza-loving ninja turtles to watch people being blown apart in a place called Yugoslavia or see sights of Irishmen walking away from rubble, faces covered in blood. Children shouldn’t have to see these things. I fear its time to put the kids in the other room again.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not new, of course. I’m only 23 and I’ve already seen the so-called ‘Roadmap to Peace’ re-written and re-drawn, withered and withdrawn. The two most recent explosions of violence have been more worrying. If the 2007 shoot-out between Hamas and Israel caused friction between Israel and the Quartet then the attack on the flotillas has seen the world react in a stronger way than ever before. It seems we’ve veered off the roadmap onto some unkempt side roads they forget to draw on. I am beginning to wonder whether a Palestinian state may come more from necessary immediate international intervention in the face of all out-war than the more saintly proposals of a mutual and peacefully created state, a dreamy ideal that seems so long ago now.

As I’ve said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not new so even with these dramatic escalations in tensions it would be hard for me to argue a return to more globally unstable times on the basis of this battle in isolation. War is unfortunately a constant state for the world, some may think before Afghanistan in 2001 war was last fought in the previous Gulf War of 1991. That this overlooks our previous interventions in Kosovo and Sierra Leone is bad enough but much worse is that many Britons either do not know that for centuries there has not been a day without warfare somewhere on earth. It is perhaps because of this reason that in our culture obsessed with the ‘here and now’ we find little time but to shrug our shoulders with indifference to conflicts which don’t involve our British troops. Whilst the markets fret about what coalition government will do to the stocks and shares they should spare a thought for Thailand where the country is locked in deadly civil war or the latest reports from Kyrgyzstan where old ethnic tensions have come to a violent fore this weekend and civil war grips there too. We used to believe if we sorted out Afghanistan we’d sort out Al-Qaeda. Now we know they are operating globally, whilst we fight it out with medieval Islamist fanatics (Taliban) in the Afghan provinces the threat of terror comes from Pakistan and Yemen, two countries with their own bitter internal fighting going on. When we ban methadrone within weeks of a bad report in the Daily Mail proclaiming drug-fuelled mayhem across Britain, spare a thought for Mexico where thousands are dying because the government is trying to clamp down on drugs gangs. These problems are getting closer and closer to home too. The Euro is in ruins prompting Germans to question the point of the EU for the first time. The Turkish are fed up with the perpetually dismissed dream of joining the EU in the face of racist burqa-banning in what is increasingly seen as a Christian Union and are looking to lead an Islamist Middle East. Most recently, in the heart of Europe, Belgium has elected separatists as their main party in a move that could spell the end of a united Belgium. As the boom’s gone bust the world is looking in-ward just when we need it to stick together.

At one point in the last decade it seemed like we had a Live8 or similar every week, ending global poverty, ending environmental disaster, it felt like the world was united behind common causes. Today every penny counts and nations are no longer keen to meet their agreed commitments to the developing countries and as a result the developing countries will be less keen to play market-embracing ball with the West. Climate change is now treated with increasing scepticism and immigration is the biggest issue on the electorate’s mind in Britain as the EDL marches through the county town of Buckinghamshire. I’m only 23, I’m the lucky, constant boom, post-Cold War generation and to me this sure seems a lot more like chaos than anything we’ve seen before. I hope I’m wrong.

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