Science Fiction Project - Free Culture
Analog - All editorials - John Wood Campbell
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Anytime people get the idea that any one system or idea is The One Right Solution to All Problems, they're headed for Trouble, Grade A, Class 1.
The One Best Solution always has limits, conditions, and dangers.
Nuclear power is a great way of generating lots of energy with a small mass of fuel - provided you don't make it too compact.
If a man has a bad heart, carrying some nitroglycerin around with him is a good idea - but not by the pint.
There are circumstances where any One Best Solution turns out to generate Impossible Problems.
Jewish organizations have long been among the world's most staunch supporters of democratic systems - but right now they're up against an Impossible Problem created by the concepts of Democracy. The "Impossible" characteristics reflect back and make it extremely upsetting for them, because the only practical solution to the impossibility is to deny the all-out-and-always validity of Democracy, which is emotionally extremely distasteful to them.
First, recognize clearly that the six-day war of last summer was truly, absolutely, and one hundred percent an anti-Semitic war. Inasmuch as the Arabs are Semites, and the Jews were fighting them, it was unarguably one hundred percent anti-Semitic, no matter which side you were on.
The Jewish Semites, however, have wandered over the Earth for many centuries - almost two millennia - and have learned the lessons of Western science, technology and culture - lessons that have deeply modified the original Judaic cultural traditions.
The Muslim Semites, however, have wandered only over the very limited ranges of their Middle-Eastern countries, and have strongly and quite successfully resisted Western culture, science and technology.
The result is that the cultural split between the two groups is very wide indeed; the Arab Semites now follow ways far closer to the ways of the desert nomad people led by Moses and Aaron than do the Jews.
Muhammad himself, originally a camel-caravan master, would have been quite at home with Joseph's brethren going into the Egypt of the Pharoahs.
David Ben-Gurion would certainly not be.
Fundamentally, the split between Arabs and Jews - both true Semitic peoples, both revering Moses and the Old Testament - is a matter of the split between a technologically modified cultural pattern - the modern Jews - and the Old Traditional cultural pattern. The split is deep and emotional; it is deeper even than religion - which is, after all, only one facet of any cultural pattern, however important a pattern-facet it may be.
And herein lieth the problem that is an Impossible Problem of Democracy. The Arab peoples, at a very deep, personal level, reject their fellow Semites who have perverted, blasphemed against, the Old Traditional Ways.
Consider for a moment what would happen if Nasser announced that he was making a true treaty of peace with Israel - that his Egyptian government was ready to accept the reality of the world-situation, and admit that Israel - unpleasant as the idea might be to him - did exist as a going, organized, and powerful nation.
Sitting over here, we may think of Nasser as a totalitarian style dictator, imposing his arrogant and arbitrary will on his helpless people.
Sit on his "throne" for a while, and see how completely untrue that is! It's no "throne" - it's the Egyptian Hot Seat. Egypt has much too much Democratic feeling among the people to allow Nasser to make them accept any decrees - any acts - of his that they do not personally like.
And accepting the existence of a strong, capable Israeli nation is something they most violently do not like.
If Nasser signed a treaty with Israel - thereby acknowledging the real-world fact that Israel does exist - the Egyptian people would, if he were lucky, throw him in the Suez Canal and see if he could make it across. In any case he would most certainly and suddenly be thrown out of power, his government and its acts instantly denied, and the treaty with Israel declared to be the private act of a madman, having nothing to do with Egypt.
If King Hussein of Jordan - a monarch, and therefore appearing to the more extreme believers in Pure Democracy as being necessarily an evil tyrant ruling his people with a brutal hand - tried to sign such a treaty, he might survive because he is a thoroughly modern, and highly competent and courageous king; he can and does fly his own jet planes. He might be able to make it out of Jordan before the people caught him.
Any treaty he signed would be rejected instantly - and the mere fact that such a treaty had been foisted on Jordan would be enough to trigger the Jordanian people to restart the war.
What's needed to settle the problems in the Near East is a good, sound, powerful totalitarian tyrant, with the power and the iron determination to use that power as needed, who could and would beat the Arab peoples into forced recognition of the facts of the real world around them. To brutally yank them out of their LSD hallucinatory world in which they dream that they are now a great and modern power. Sure - once the Muslim peoples were the world's leaders in Science, Technology, in philosophy, the arts, and in government; they have a great history. Egypt was the world's great source of civilization for twice as many millennia as have elapsed since Rome fell flat on its face.
But they aren't now - and haven't been for most of the last millennium. Which is a fact they, the people, do not care to acknowledge. In the Six-Day War, Israel demonstrated with shattering completeness that the finest of modern technical equipment, in ample supply, with adequate supplies of highly competent Russian instructors, did not convert a people a millennium out of date into a modern army.
The Arab armies had more and equally good technical equipment; their weapons were first-class.
Their people, however, are a backward people - they're turned around and looking backward to an immense and glorious past. And dreaming that they did those great things. They didn't; it was their remote and daring ancestors, who surged across the world, with new, tradition-breaking ideas and ideals.
What is absolutely essential in the situation that really exists now, in the real world, is to get the Arab peoples to abandon their deep, strong, emotional convictions, to accept that their Old Time Culture is now as magnificent - as admirable - but as dead a ruin as Cheops Pyramid, or the Sphinx.
By its very definition, Democracy can't do that; the will of the people is to maintain things the way they want them - the way they are. To be a leader, any President of an Arab nation must carry out what the people want, and organize them to maintain that desired goal.
What's needed is a driver, a tyrant, who will force the people to give up what they truly want, and accept what they truly must.
In the real-world situation that exists in the Near East now. Democracy, by its very definition, won't work. The people of the Arab nations deeply, wholeheartedly and genuinely want Israel not to exist.
No government that acknowledges it does exist, by signing a treaty with Israel, will be a Democratic government, therefore. And the outraged people will demolish any such government immediately and violently - and probably immediately restart the war against Israel.
I now invite you. Dear Reader, to play a quite unfunny game. You can try it on friends - those you don't mind losing particularly.
"You have just been made Controller of the World; you have authority over all the world, and responsibility for all the people of the world."
"What are you going to do about the Middle East?"
Of course, the minimum-effort, least-loss-of-life quick solution would be to abolish Israel, re-disperse the Jews, and let the Arabs go back into their millennia-long LSD dream of being still a great and world-leading civilization. I. e., to be a Democratic Leader for the Arab point of view.
How are you going to get it over to those Arab peoples that, to be the first-class citizens of the world they think they are. they have to change, they have to give up their beloved traditions?
By being a ruthless, dictatorial tyrant, perhaps?
Go ahead - propose a solution! The only limits are your imagination - and the implacable realities of a real world.

February 1968