Changes in Space and Time

Throughout history, we have experienced numerous political revolutions and conflicts which changes the face of humanity. From the period of the cavemen, to conflicts between shepherds and agriculturalists, until conflicts that resulted from Europeans reaching new shores. Each of these periods changed the structure of humanity and its way of life. Various revolutions across time and space created new states, new approaches, and new coalitions.

One of the most significant changes took place in 1916, the Sykes-Picot agreement, which created new states, new spheres of influence, and divided various areas between the superpowers who ruled at the time. However, these agreements were not stable, as the world underwent a second world war, which resulted in the Yalta agreement, which brought about less borders, and greater areas of influence. Following the fall of the Iron Curtain between East and West in the late 1980s, new changes occurred in the world, altering areas of influence.

The “Arab Spring”, the most recent major revolution and conflict, ignited a process of change which is at the height of instability. The “Arab Spring” illustrated to the world that the false political structures that were imposed on various societies and minorities around the world by the Sykes-Picot agreement are no longer relevant at the beginning of the 21st century. This great global shock not only brought down these borders, but also brought new reasons for international conflict to the forefront, emboldening religious and inter-ethnic conflict. These struggles have changed the daily reality of various areas across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, while impacting both Europe and the Americas.

This social earthquake shocked the world, but did not bring about a new system that could deal with the various new challenges that humanity must face. Since the beginnings of the 21st century, it has become clear that several societies cannot co-exist with one another due to conflicting interests. The conflict between various religious faiths are destroying the quality of life in various places – Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Libya, and Algeria. All of these states are shaken be the shattering of the Sykes-Picot understandings and the lack of a new system which could bring about common denominators for a shared existence.

The global hegemony of various superpowers have been replaced by a new race for leadership by new powers. Overpopulation was often thought of as a problem and a reason for hunger and poverty, but has more recently translated into the economic power of massive supply and demand, as China and India compete for new global leadership. In our ever-changing world, we see that the United States has lost its authority around the world, while Russia, which was previously weakened at the end of the Cold War, has assumed a position of power and influence which threatens Western hegemony in various places. Middle Eastern states have new patrons in the struggle to impose new hegemony. Within the Muslim world, there are powers that are trying to assume the leadership of an Islamic empire, which wants to leave its print on the character of humanity.

Among all of these events, we must deal with the difficult phenomenon of refugees, as tens of millions leave their homelands to find a new home. Their departure changes the face of the society from which they come from, as well as the society where they arrive. Like lava from a volcano, the human lava flows away from hunger, war, and danger, creating unchecked migration, bringing both positive and negative changes to every place they arrive.

Due to the size and breadth of this phenomenon, various publics have no way to receive a balanced picture of reality. Thus, the global media looks at these issues which captures the imagination and creates fear and wonder, but do not present the problem in its complexity nor do they propose solutions. The world must face this difficult challenge, without any guide for determining a policy for the immediate or distant future. In these conditions, there is a need for a new path. There is a need for regional coalitions comprised of societies that have common interests and the ability to engage in productive dialogue. Cooperative coalitions must put forth a new agenda for dealing with these problems, giving a response to these dangers.

Today, the world is falling behind in dealing with the challenge. When interests seems oppositional, and points of friction so sensitive, it is difficult to foresee true coalitions. However, today’s challenges present an excellent opportunity for building coalitions which will deal with these problems, by finding natural partners. Such a coalition is necessary to secure and provide a viable future for the Eastern Mediterranean area. If a coalition would be created, it would serve as a lighthouse for other states and societies to join and provide a regional response to today’s problems.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center
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