The Middle East of the early 21st century is looking more and more like the Thirty Years’ War of the early 17th century that tore apart the Germanic states of the Holy Roman Empire. Religious sectarianism? In the 17th century, Catholics and Protestants killed each other with gusto. Disunity? Yes, within and among the various Germanic states of the Holy Roman Empire. Great power intervention that made matters far worse? Yes, Protestant Sweden and Catholic France intervened in a big way, among a host of other lesser powers. Privatized, for-profit militaries that threw more fuel on the fire? Yes, Albrecht von Wallenstein, the greatest mercenary captain of the age, created his own empire until he was assassinated in 1634.
The war finally ended when it burnt itself out, and when European leaders realized the more they intervened, the more they risked the infection spreading to their own kingdoms. Thus came the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, but not before roughly eight million people, most of them civilians, died in and of the war.
When will conflicts in the Middle East finally burn themselves out? In 2048? When the oil is finally gone? (Sadly, water may replace oil as a major source of conflict.)
And when will great powers like the United States realize the more they intervene, the more the infection spreads elsewhere? Indeed, the more it comes home to endanger the United States?
Speaking of 30 years, when did the war for the greater Middle East truly begin? With the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s? The creation of Israel in 1948? The end of World War I and the breakup of the Ottoman Empire in 1918? Biblical times?
The Thirty Years’ War worked to delay German unification until 1871, after which Germany, late to European power politics, decided to rattle its saber for a bigger seat at the table. World War I was the result.
What will be the long-term effects of constant warfare in the Middle East? Impossible to see, perhaps, but the short-term ones are before our eyes: more instability ahead, more innocents dead, more hatred spread.
The time is now to put a stop to the killing.