Monday, August 21, 2006
There is a three-story gray stucco apartment house on Park Boulevard in Oakland. As of late last week, the flag of Lebanon hung from one window of that building. From another window, in what seems like another apartment, hangs the flag of Israel. I have no idea what kind of dialogue is going on inside the building -- Israel and Lebanon are, technically speaking, not even at war with each other -- but I imagine things are sometimes a little tense in the hallways.
The world is everywhere around us and we are everywhere in the world, even when we are going to the grocery store. There are no bystanders anymore; even if you don't want to be in, you're in. Which apartment would you enter first, and why?
There's no right answer. Suffering is a constant on all sides, and governmental misbehavior is epidemic. The Israelis apparently instituted their huge offensive (the excuse was the two kidnapped soldiers, but it is clear the invasion has been planned for some time) in the belief that the air strikes would turn the people against Hezbollah because they would blame it for their plight.
When has that ever worked? The people of Vietnam did not blame their government for the bombings, they blamed the Americans. The people of Iraq didn't blame Saddam Hussein for the bombings, they blamed the Americans. Why? Because that's who was doing the bombing. It's not a complicated reaction. What are the markings on the plane? OK, we'll hate them.
It's the Dick Cheney School of International Relations -- one would have thought the Israelis were smarter than that. So after 30 days of destruction, more than a thousand people killed, not much has changed. Israel's peril is still real. The Palestinians are still wretched. The only thing that has changed is the condition of the towns and villages of southern Lebanon.
Ah, but guess who's in there providing succor to the needy? Hezbollah. This is also not a surprise; Hezbollah was doing that before the bombings -- that's how it has gained followers. It's a tactic even older than Tammany Hall, and it works; it's the Christmas turkey theory of politics. You just can't blow away an indigenous social and religious movement with an air campaign. If you bombed Texas for 30 days, would you get rid of the Christian conservatives? Nope. You'd create a lot more of them.
Jimmy Carter made a statement about the conflict in Lebanon the other day; it did not receive wide enough coverage, so I'm going to reprint a few paragraphs:
"It is inarguable that Israel has a right to defend itself against attacks on its citizens, but it is inhumane and counterproductive to punish civilian populations in the illogical hope that somehow they will blame Hamas and Hezbollah for provoking the devastating response. The result instead has been that broad Arab and worldwide support has been rallied for these groups, while condemnation of both Israel and the United States has intensified ...
"Leaders on both sides ignore strong majorities that crave peace, allowing extremist-led violence to pre-empt all opportunities for building a political consensus. Traumatized Israelis cling to the false hope that their lives will be made safer by incremental unilateral withdrawals from occupied areas, while Palestinians see their remnant territories reduced to little more than human dumping grounds surrounded by a provocative 'security barrier' that embarrasses Israel's friends and fails to bring safety or stability ...
"A major impediment to progress is the U.S. administration's strange policy that dialogue on controversial issues will be extended only as a reward for subservient behavior and will be withheld from those who reject U.S. assertions. Direct engagement with the Palestine Liberation Organization or the Palestinian Authority and the government in Damascus will be necessary if secure negotiated settlements are to be achieved. Failure to address the issues and leaders involved risks the creation of an arc of even greater instability running from Jerusalem through Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran."
In other news: I trust you read the series by Jill Carroll about her three months as a hostage. It's remarkably evenhanded, considering her harrowing circumstances, but it does not hesitate to blame the murderers for their murders and the terrorists for their terror.
It is good to remember that when Carroll was finally released and told reporters that she'd been well treated by her captors -- which was true -- she was immediately attacked by right-wing columnists for being soft on terrorism. Wrote John Podhoretz of the National Review: "It's wonderful that she's free, but after watching someone who was a hostage for three months say on television she was well-treated because she wasn't beaten or killed -- while being dressed in the garb of a modest Muslim woman rather than the non-Muslim woman she actually is -- I expect there will be some Stockholm Syndrome talk in the coming days."
There was no talk because there was no syndrome. I mean, even being taken prisoner by terrorists allows you no slack in the attack dog community.
You've heard this before, but it's still true: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.