When three men who happened to be Iranians who like Thai women (doesn't everyone?) and who aren't very good around bombs set off three explosions in Bangkok, it was not just an isolated incident.
In the context of the history of geopolitical and economic conflicts, it is but the most recent flare-up in the ''great game'' that the West and the East have played since before the Battle of Marathon in 490BC, before there was Christianity, Islam or Zionism, although there was already Judaism.
The great game - empires love to play it.
The Greek city states and the Achaemenid Persians played it. The Romans and the Carthaginians played it. The Romans and the Parthian Persians played it. The Byzantines and the Sassanid Persians played it. The Europeans and the Ottomans and the Arabs played it. They all played for the prizes of Mediterranean political and trade dominance, and control of the silk route from India and China.
The British and the Russian empires played it. The prize was central Asia in general and Afghanistan in particular in the interests of creating a buffer to protect British-India from any other colonial power that wasn't familiar with the words to Rule, Britannia.
When the Portuguese decided to sail around Africa to reach China and India, they did so because those Arabs, Turks and Persians were too stubborn to be dislodged from sitting on lucrative trade routes. When Christopher Columbus sailed west he had a similar motivation, but he found something entirely different. More recently, the Americans and the Soviets played it. The prize was geopolitical and economic dominance worldwide.
One thing we can take from this is that the great game has been played for as long as there have been empires. Another thing we can take from this is that if you live on a lucrative trade route and/or a geopolitically strategic region, somebody will be messing with you, always _ with special condolences to Afghanistan.
One more thing we can take from this is that Persia, now Iran, has appeared on the list more than once. This is because historically they are empire builders who throughout the past have stood at the gateway between the West and the East, which makes them, in the eyes of the West, always in the way.
In the modern West-versus-East context, let's define the West as the US, Israel and their allies and the East as the Muslim world of the Middle East and North Africa, with Russia and China watching carefully from the sidelines.
The West and the East don't fight because one is Christian and the other is Muslim. They fight because they have conflicting geopolitical and economic interests and they are in each other's way.
Looking at the map of today's world, it is not surprising that Iran finds itself sandwiched between Iraq and Afghanistan, two countries that were recently introduced to freedom and democracy the hard way.
Iraq is smack in the middle of the Middle Eastern world, which it benefits the West to keep off balance, never to be united by a common language and faith so that it can become a powerful geopolitical and economic force.
It is also a strategic location to provide a check on an ever-growing Turkey.
Afghanistan lies in the underbelly of a resurging Russia. It can also check Pakistan and India, as well as watch over the various former Soviet satellites in Central Asia who inherited fancy weapons that make everyone else uncomfortable.
China is sandwiched between Afghanistan on one side and staunch Western allies South Korea, Taiwan and Japan on the other, with the US fleet floating nearby, policing the surrounding sea.
You may want to read George Friedman's The Next 100 Years for a better understanding of the geopolitical map of the world, and to make sure I'm not just making this stuff up.
Looking at the map of the world, whether by accident or design or a bit of both, this round, bumpy thing called Earth is dominated by a Western hegemony through and through, politically, militarily, culturally and economically, to one degree or another.
China may one day challenge this hegemony, but that day is not today, especially not in terms of political influence and military might. Korean pop might one day replace Western pop, but not while Lady Gaga still lives and breathes.
This doesn't make the West the hero or the villain in this story, just the winning team, while everyone else either plays catch up or accepts the reality and makes the best of it.
As the West sits on top of the global pyramid, there are naturally nations that might want to be in that seat. This doesn't make those nations heros or villains either. Everyone wants to be on the winning team. The task then is for the West to maintain the geopolitical and economic structure that keeps it at the top of the food chain.
In maintaining the current geopolitical and economic structure, national interests inevitably come into conflict and hence minor wars are engaged in this great game.
The benefit of having a dominant hegemony is that wars often are minor, as opposed to the devastation of the world wars in the last century where several nations of more or less equal power forged alliances and contested to defend and expand their national interests.
Wars are fought because both sides believe they can be victorious; that belief, however, doesn't necessarily have to be based on logic. If one of the two conflicting nations doesn't believe it can win, it would likely seek terms and peace would be restored.
In the current hegemony the West's military might is undisputed, with the Iraq war illustrating that fact clearly. With no chance of even fantasising about winning a conventional war, what has been called ''terrorism'' has become the only available method to wage war against the West. The logic is simple: You don't have to beat your foe down to the ground; you just have to hurt him enough until he decides the fight and the prize is not worth it. (See the Vietnam war.)
This method of warfare has given rise to the underrated 21st century debate: Is one man's terrorist another man's freedom fighter? Meanwhile simpler minds focus on the ''fanatic'' Muslims, ''evil'' Christians and ''conniving'' Jews debate. This is because their handicapped intellectual capacity is bogged down by propaganda that prevents them from understanding the true cause of conflicts: self-interest.
No matter how wars are fought, the nature of the conflict is the same. In the great game of geopolitical and economic dominance, nations simply behave to defend and expand their national interests, which inevitably bring nations into conflict.
Why expand and not just defend? There are many reasons, but most importantly, as the old martial art adage would have it, ''the best defence is a good offence'', which helps justify Western military might ''defending'' its national interests in some remote desert on the other side of the world.
Surrounded by hostile elements, Israel's national interest is to maintain its independence and sovereignty under the threat of destruction.
Being isolated and marginalised as part of what former US president George Bush called the axis of evil, Iran's national interest is to strengthen itself to maintain its independence and sovereignty.
The US and its western European allies are interested in staying on top. Hence, they have to interfere in regional/local political affairs that threaten to upset the current global structure.
What we saw in Bangkok this past week is some 2,500 years of the ongoing geopolitical and economic rivalry between the West and the East coming to a country that has enough problems of its own.
The Thai authorities have so far refrained from blaming anyone. This is because this is not our fight and the last thing we would want to do is make extremists on either side angry _ we have enough problems of our own.
Be that as it may, security experts have warned us that we won't be able to escape the fight. The modern world is a globalised one. The current great game isn't just played in the confines of the Mediterranean world. Over two millennia of technological advancements have widened the scale and scope of all conflicts to ensure that everyone suffers their share.
Thailand is but another theatre, albeit a tiny one, in this great game that the big boys with destructive toys play.