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Sunday, August 31, 2003

Relocating the Middle East

The Middle East "situation" seems insoluable. I have many acquaintances who study it. The conflict is a historical one. It is so embedded in history it has become cultural instinct. That makes it virtually impossible to solve through rational negotation. On top of all that, a single disaffected person can destroy a carefully-negotiated peace; any peace is quite unstable.

I have a proposal. No, actually it's really just a crazy idea. But I wonder if it might work. And it isn't as crazy an idea as changing their religion, bombing them to submission, or any of the currently fashionable approaches that are doomed to fail.

Here's the idea:

About a decade ago, Disney started making a planned community called Celebration. You could say it's a utopian family-oriented community of safety, cleanliness and high technology, or you could say it's a hideous cultural fascism.

Celebration puts Disney in reality's realm
Welcome to Celebration Florida

Either way, first take $200 billion, which is easily less than what the "free world" spent on the Middle East conflict ourselves in recent years. Use some of it to build a Celebration community for Arab Muslims. They won't be orthodox or fanatic, so you don't have to worry as much about mixing them. The main reason to segregate them is so they feel comfortable with their own community, much like a Chinatown district in a large city. It also won't need to be nearly as nice as Celebration, just a step up for the war torn natives. Maybe it's in New Mexico.

Use the rest of the money to offer relocation to 1 million Arab nuclear families. You have at least $100k to spend on each of them. This will appeal most to the younger Arabs who want a better life and more opportunity for their kids. You aren't trying to entice the Saudi Arabians. But the Iraquis, Iranians, and other war-torn countries may feel this is a good deal.

The community will be a state of the United States. It has some limitations in what laws they can pass. Maybe it works better to make them outside of the US, for reasons of cultural pride. But maybe that will make it less attractive. Essentially you are creating pull to remove the best future prospects away from the region. The farther away they are, the less they will obsess about it. If you give them a comfortable community, ability to relocate entire families, hope for their children, and an ability to direct their own culture, you remove many of the objections to the relocation. Even good medical care may be sufficient to move many of them.

Do the same with Isrealis. There are fewer of them, so it will be less expensive. You may not even have to do it, since it's already happening there as hard liners turn off the moderates who drive their economic growth.

Over time, any such "closed" community will diffuse. It happened to the Chinatowns and the Italian and Irish conclaves before them. It's even happening to the Mormons that dominate Utah. Now it is happening to the newer southeast Asian communities. It may take generations, but that will be faster than any other Middle East solution.

A collateral benefit of the closed community is that it is less likely to take jobs from US citizens in the short term. In the long term, well, I'm sure the AFL/CIO will be in there trying to organize them.

Of course this will merely make the fanatics more fantical and further destabilize the region. But now you may not feel as bad about military containment, without occupation. In fact, the more negative pressure created by containment, the more attractive you make emigration to the closed community.

Ok, it isn't a polished idea. I just thought of it today, although I have long wondered what happens if we give people mobility. My charitable work has shown that you can give all you want to a poor country, but the rich people running it will generally take it all, leaving very little for the poor. The poor are too poor, oppressed, ignorant, and unhealthy to MOVE OUT. What happens if, rather than blowing them up, we give them an escape?

How about we drop a zillion webcams while we're at it, to catch on TV tyrants if they try to prevent their people from leaving. Apparently that gives us sufficient excuse to drop some smart bombs. Certainly more evidence than we had going into Iraq.

It's something to think about: build boats, not bombs.