The Roadmap to Serfdom

The spontaneous and magnificent order seen in among birds in flight is hard to understand, much less simulate. Yet, that is the noble challenge of the modern state. Woe to her! To manage from above a million details with a billion variations in time! Certainly a state can’t be expected to do it alone. It needs thousands of willing participants in its machinations, millions more silent and standing by, and it needs a roadmap.

The latest roadmap is given to us from above by a Quartet of dominant states and superstates (US, EU, Russia and the UN). This roadmap, while appearing bland and spineless to the casual observer is really bland and spineless for a reason, and beyond that, it is a Very Important Document. I know this from my time working in the Pentagon where my bosses and co-workers spent an inordinate amount of time working on modifications to the roadmap over the past year. Why the Office of the Secretary of Defense was so interested in something more naturally seen as the purview of the State Department is a mystery; perhaps members of the Defense Policy Board found the subject intriguing. Dare I say neo-con cabal?

Reading the long awaited roadmap, one must remain impressed by the ability of cabals to preserve their interests. This document reflects what the parties must do. In it, the word "Israel" or "Israeli" occurs a total of 50 times, "Palestinian" occurs 58 times, "Palestinian state" occurs 13 additional times, and Palestine once. As parents, I think we can recognize where the language is taking us, and it wholly reflects the power differential. I’m repeating myself in that certain tone, and my wayward child is tuning me out, hoping the lecture will end soon so he or she can get a drink of water.

The Palestinians are wondering about water, too. They need wonder no more. Phase II of the Roadmap provides for a "Revival of multilateral engagement on issues including regional water resources, environment, economic development, refugees, and arms control issues." Well, isn’t that nice.

Water is the most critical of regional issues, and the Jordan River Basin is its turbid soul. Israel gets this, figuratively and literally, as illustrated by the occupation of the Golan Heights (preventing non-Israeli approved diversion of the Jordan’s headwaters and managing the Yarmuk River) and its occupation of the West Bank (controlling the Yarqon-Taninim aquifer, reportedly the source of 20—40 percent of Israel’s sustainable water supply). The third major source of Israel’s water supply is the coastal aquifer bordering the Mediterranean Sea. However, this source, entirely under control of the state of Israel, has been over-drafted for years, is extensively salinized and a fourth of it is otherwise polluted.

Fortuitously, the United States now controls the other big regional basin, the Tigris-Euphrates. With combined US and Israeli pressure on Turkey, Syria and Jordan, US-Israeli superstate …err… cooperative regional management of water is assured.

It is common knowledge that state management of public resources is problematic, doomed to be politicized and inherently unjust. If only, if only. If only the market could be brought in. Steven Plaut of the University of Haifa recently studied Israel’s disastrous water management history, and recommends market pricing and market reforms.

But, as Plaut elaborates, governments enjoy managing things, and while they are not good at it, state management provides guaranteed and enriching returns to the State itself and to State-favored interests. And of course, if they could have just one more chance, just a few more resources, they could make it even better for the rest of us, too.

And if not, why hold sovereign states accountable for bad management of the "treasure of the Israel-Palestinian-Iraqi-fill-in-the-blank people" anyway? It is so much easier to take your military or better yet, someone else’s bigger badder military, and just take other folk’s property. It is the nature of imperialism, its taproot the ever-ravenous imperative of state survival and vitality.

The problem between Israel and her neighbors isn’t geographic resource allocation, historical manipulation, violence, culture, religion or even the awful criminal injustices against people on both sides of the fence. That’s life, and it’s why we are all here.

The problem is the dominance of the state in the livelihoods of the people — whether seen in checkpoints, pervasive state ownership, militaristic societies and economies dependent on weapons production, sales, and controls, the kleptocratic veil over the ever shrinking number of legitimate producers, and the prevalence of state-tolerated and integrated Mafioso. Israel, her neighbors and the Palestinian Authority share and revere a common language, and it isn’t market freedom and individual property rights.

The roadmap, consciously designed to fail in its ostensible purpose of peace, is a roadmap designed specifically to strengthen statism in Israel and in the region. It comes complete with specific recommendations for increasing centralization on both Israel and Palestinian sides. To support this unnatural tumor, more resources must be consumed, and while the health of all concerned will decline, the roadmap hasn’t neglected to request generous outside aid and assistance to ease the pain.

Israel and Palestine are not an overwhelmingly American concern, even if neo-conservatives and evangelicals hoping for mass end-of-time conversions of the Jewish faithful feel that it is. But there could be a way for us to help. The foreign policy gnomes in Washington have repeatedly told us we invaded Iraq to replace the WMD and terrorism with the benefits of free speech, free movement and free markets to the Iraqi people.

Notwithstanding that our sententious intellectuals (bless their neo-conservative hearts) didn’t mean a single word they said, I must say it that sounds exactly like a roadmap Israel and Palestine could use. Where do I sign up?