Federalism:  The Missing Arrow in the American Quiver

Dr. Robert D. Crane

Posted Feb 13, 2006      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Federalism:  The Missing Arrow in the American Quiver

by Dr. Robert Dickson Crane

  Both conflict management and conflict resolution require two basic elements.  The first is recognition of the other’s humanity by all sides to a confrontation.  And this, in turn, must come from appreciation of the sacredness of human nature and of every individual person.

  The touching advocacy of this approach is in Yitzhak Frankenthal’s Arik Institute, which is dedicated to remembering the murder of Yitzhak’s son, Arik, by Hamas extremists.  His chosen method of remembering this tragedy is to work with Palestinians to seek better ways to justice than resorting to violence.

  His story is beautifully told by the head of the of the Israeli Policy Forum, L. P. Rosenberg, in the February 10th, issue of its news magazine, from which the following excerpt summarizes the mission of the Arik Institute:

  “Frankenthal sponsored hundreds of events in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank.  His work took him to places a kipah-wearing Israeli would never have expected to go.  In both Gaza and in the West Bank, he met with Palestinians of all stripes, including many from Hamas (and the Hamas leadership as well).  Frankenthal showed me a video in which he addresses a huge Gaza crowd about the need for reconciliation.  Hundreds of young men were both listening and screaming back.  The anger was intense.

  “He told me, ‘Some of these guys scream in such anger.  They don’t often have the chance to express their feelings to an Israeli.  But the anger is so close to excruciating pain and hurt that often they scream until they collapse in tears’.

  I asked him if he was afraid in Gaza, Jenin, or wherever.  ‘What is the worst they can do to me?  Kill me?  So what.  I lost my son.’ he says.

  “Frankenthal believes in communication.  He thinks that both Israel and the United States should open up a dialogue with Hamas as soon as it ‘removes its covenant calling for the destruction of Israel.  Israel should challenge the Hamas in positive and constructive ways’.

  “‘It is true, the Hamas murdered my Arik, but this was not because of Arik but because there was no peace. Through conversations with many Hamas members I know that a great opportunity is now at hand.  Israel and the international community must pressure Hamas to change its covenant, as they pressured the PLO some fifteen years ago.  As soon as Hamas changes its covenant, Israel and the international community must acknowledge Hamas as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and begin a final negotiation for peace’.

  “‘It is possible to reach a peace agreement with Hamas, but it is not possible to continue the occupation hoping for a period of calm. This has never happened and never will’.”

  The second most essential element in any successful conflict resolution is structural.  Good will is the currency of success, but good will alone will not buy a cup of coffee  

  “The path least trod,” to quote Henry David Thoreau, is the structure and methodology of federalism.  This strategy has not been tried in seeking to gain universal acceptance of the Jews throughout the Holy Land and to gain Jewish acceptance of the right of Christians and Muslims to live there wherever they want.  Two states could well be a good temporary solution for a couple of decades or more until the concept of a religious state is recognized as an abomination that can cause the elimination of all civilization and until the reduction of mutual hatred permits consideration of ways to decentralize economic ownership as a means to political federalism. 

  As a specialist all my life in long-range global forecasting, my assessment is that the greatest threat to global civilization is not the ethnic and religious imperialism of Jews but rather Muslim extremism and its wild dream of an Islamic state, even as a global caliphate.  No matter how perverted many Zionists have been, the Jews have never dreamed of conquoring the world (though some would say that through the Neo-Cons they already have), whereas there have always been Christians and Muslims with imperial pretensions based absurdly on the perversions of their own religion.

  The only possible rival to the Neo-Con/Zionist dream of global domination is a mirror-image dream of a Muslim global caliphate.  The Americans do not envision the use of nuclear weapons as their ace in the hole, because they do not think it is necessary, whereas the extremist Muslims do.

  Frankenthal’s approach of mutual understanding by those who seek peace will go nowhere if the extremists on each side dream only of establishing their own apartheid state.  A more realistic goal is a federation of peoples with political power decentralized through broad-based ownership of productive wealth.  An Abrahamic Federation based on such a strategy would provide a micro-model in the Holy Land for the entire world to follow, as advocated at http://www.cesj.org in the second of its special features:

Special Features:
A New Model of Nation-Building for the People of Iraq and Abraham Federation: A New Framework for Peace in the Middle East

    The same model would be great also for the Fertile Crescent, where very disparate peoples will chew each other up if forced to live in one state, as for whatever reason the Neo-Cons want, or in three rival states as most other people want.  A confederation of autonomous political nations with common ownership of the major national resources through shares of stock owned equally per capita by everyone in the confederation would be the best way to prevent the “scorpions in a bottle” syndrome, because political power follows economic power.  Political power can best be decentralized through many different ways of broadening the base of ownership while respecting the sanctity of existing individual owners so that concentrated ownership in a state monopoly or a private oligopoly will be pulverized by vesting equal shares of voting stock among all the legal residents of the confederation.  They, in turn, will hold the ultimate tools of power, namely, the ownership of economic wealth, and as free owners they would have a powerful incentive to make sure that the system continues to work on behalf of order and justice. 

  The non-federal solution based on concentrating power, either economic or political, can not work over the long run in either the Holy Land or the Fertile Crescent.  Forcing people to live separately in their own ghettos is a prescription for mutual annihilation.  And forcing them to live together in a state that was artificially created in order to assure that they will forever fight each other will merely assure that its original intent will be fulfilled. 

  One might wonder why the policy makers in Washington cannot see the advantages of federalism, especially when our political system is based on it.  Perhaps the reason is that the Neo-Cons prefer a totalitarian monopoly of power wherever they can impose it under the mantra of freedom and democracy. 

  This afternoon coming home from work through the minority areas of South Chicago, the drive was interrupted by prolonged delays caused by ambulances and demonstrations with bull-horns and signs demanding “Impeach Bush and Cheney.”  Of course, there were also cars driving around with American flags on them, which the demonstrators surely regarded as desecrations of the flag by associating it with Bush and Chency. 

  Since I saw nothing in the papers announcing that such demonstrations would be held, I wonder whether they will even be reported in the news.  The sophisticated police strategy is to suppress reports of uncontrolled unrest as the best way to keep it from spreading.  This worked quite well thirty-five years ago when the Weather Underground bombed two hundred banks and not a word about this ever appeared in any major paper.  I found out about it only through classified reports when I worked at the U.S. State Department as the Deputy Secretary’s liaison with the National Security Council.

  The chaos in the world, and fear of it, which for decades have primarily motivated the Neo-Cons, cannot be overcome by trying to enforce stability at the cost of justice.  As the founders of America clearly recognized, order, justice, and freedom are interdependent.  One cannot have one without the others.  They made this clear in the Preamble to the American Constitution in which, in order of both priority and political process, the goals of the Great American experiment were justice, order, prosperity, and freedom.  The very concept of justice has never entered President Bush’s vocabulary, except in the sense of vengeance, yet this is the only concept that all of the people of the world understand and demand. 

  One can differ over its meaning, but justice provides a paradigm of thought to inform all policy, both domestic and foreign.  Within this paradigm of justice a major structural goal can and should be federalism, because only with it can the good intentions of peacemakers succeed.