Married to the Mediterranean

When Venice ruled the Eastern Mediterranean, there was an interesting custom: once a year, the Doge, who was the top dog in Venice, would take a ride across the lagoon on a ridiculously ostentatious boat for a ceremonial marriage to the sea.

Without water, of course, Venice would be nothing.

It was in a boat like this that the rulers of Venice would “marry” the sea.

Without the Mediterranean, Western Civilization as we know it would probably be nothing. There is no other geographical area on Planet Earth that contains such a dense and important patchwork of cultures and civilization, from antiquity right up to the present.

The Mediterranean has in one way or another inspired poets, challenged naval tacticians, fertilized fields, cross-pollinated languages, enriched the commercially savvy, given birth to goddesses and given a backbone to the economy of many a modern nation that borders it.

Anyone who loves this sea of seas could be forgiven for wanting it to be completely demilitarized, but that wouldn’t be practical. The great part of the Mediterranean’s liquid volume is not under the jurisdiction of any one country.

But in terms of tourism and commercial importance, it is vital that the Mediterranean and in particular its eastern reaches be secure and free from troublemakers.

There should be an international Mediterranean maritime inspection unit composed of a roving fleet of modern vessels staffed with inspectors empowered by the UN and a selection of nations to board and inspect any suspect vessel, regardless of flag or registry, and impound it as necessary.

Such a force would serve as a deterrent for everything from keeping Russians away to wayward flotillas at bay, and could foil the nefarious intentions of international arms smugglers.

Inspectors could be attired in uniforms designed by Giorgio Armani and come from every country bordering the Eastern Mediterranean, including Israel and Egypt, but naturally excluding Turkey, which has been a pest in these parts since even before their illegal conquest of Cyprus in 1571.

Should Turkey decide to leave northern Cyprus (which it invaded again with certain relish in 1974) perhaps it could be invited to join the conversation. But just last month a Turkish coast guard vessel crept into Greek territorial waters, resulting in – surprise! – a collision at sea.

Turkey is a bullying nation, and seems to have taken a cue from Germany when it comes to giving Greece a hard time. The culturally invaluable waters of the Aegean, like those that separate Israel and Cyprus, would stand to benefit greatly from a new maritime inspection unit as suggested above.

However to come to fruition this would also demand a robust and unapologetic U.S. foreign policy stance that I suspect will not be forthcoming under a renewed and characteristically craven Democratic administration.