JERUSALEM–From the veranda of the King David Hotel here, it is possible to enjoy a drink while gazing appreciatively across a ravine at the impressive site of the Old City, an ancient enclosure of narrow cobbled streets that includes holy sites critical to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is also possible, in 2014, to stand up and walk there, should the spirit move you. The low ground (Jerusalem is a city of steep hills, built in the dusty mountains separating the coastal plane from the Jordan River—no one said pilgrimage should be easy) is bypassed by taking a detour through the sparkling new Mamilla mall, built as a Las Vegas-style nod to the architecture of the Old City. Within minutes the quarter-mile or so has been traversed, and you stand amidst various holies of holies.
In the words of David Petraeus shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003: Tell me how this ends. Scotland, you may be aware, is voting on the question of independence from the UK today. The polls show a tight race, with all of the passion on the pro-independence side. When the votes are tallied early Friday morning, the results may well end the political connection between Scotland and England that has been in existence since 1707.
Yet the unanswered questions about how an independent Scotland might actually function are innumerable. The Scottish National Party (SNP), which drives the independence movement, has invested a level of detailed planning in the post-independence aftermath that makes the U.S. post-war scheme for Iraq in 2003 look like the Schlieffen plan.
Among the problems: how will Scotland pay for the vast welfare state that currently subsists on wealth transfers from England to the north? How will its presumed anti-nuclear stance square with membership in NATO? What will its currency be, considering that the Westminster government has said it won’t want them on the pound anymore? SNP answers to these questions are characterized by their wild optimism and thoroughgoing vagueness. Better to be free of the Westminster yoke now, and work out the details of a more perfect social democracy later.