August 13, 2006

Too Much Reliance on Violence is Driving the World Crazy

The wars in the Middle East have been tragic not only for the people of the Middle East but also for the world. Bush's conflating every violent act taken in the Middle East as the actions of evil terrorists and that any and all responses against the violent acts are justified because they are part of the war on terrorism is creating a world that increasingly unstable and more certifiably insane.

One of the very first things that Bush did when he came into office was to decide that he was not interested in spending any time in trying to help resolve the Palestinian problem which since then has been allowed to fester into a huge gaping wound that is now infecting increasing parts of the world with its own particular sickness. Bush is a strong authoritarian and believes that if you are vicious enough, you can force people into doing what you want. Yet, he has foolishly done everything he can to prove Osama bin Laden was right in claiming that Americans are the enemy and they hate the Islamic world.

As a long time observer of the conflict in Israel and Palestine, its been clear that the most extreme elements on both sides have been allowed to control the agenda. Whenever there has been any sign of a breakthrough, one side or the other will do something that raises the ante. Thus, when Rabin signed the Oslo Peace Initiative, he was murdered by an Israeli extremist which opened the door for further land grabs of the West Bank. And when the PLO was recognized by Israel, Hamas came up with the tactic of using suicide bombers. The tit-for-tat actions followed by bigger reactions has simply ratcheted things up so much so that it is almost impossible to see a way forward because right now everyone on both sides believes that only violence can work against their enemy.

Kevin Drum writes, "It's human nature to demand action following an attack. Any action. Counseling restraint in the hope that it will pay off in the long run is politically ruinous."

Yet, if that was true, the world would have been blown up a thousand times over, because we would never see the end of any war. And it is not true that the reaction of a people has to be created out of anger and revenge and greater than the wrong that was done.

Caleb Carr writes that even in the history of warfare, thoughtful leaders have held back from just reacting in order to find a better solution. And he condemns the foolish actions that have created such a mess in Israel and Lebanon.

Unlike FDR, however, the current Palestinian, Hezbollah and Israeli leaderships have been unable to embody anything like military or diplomatic restraint. They have instead displayed ever-increasing and more self-defeating impatience, a wholehearted willingness to bail each other out of their respective worst mistakes and a mutually callous attitude toward civilian death.

Nearly identical mistakes and miscues, interlocked in a sickeningly seamless and seemingly unstoppable pattern: In this as in so many things, these enemies have displayed what Freud called "the narcissism of small differences." Those differences seem far less small, however, when one realizes that the narcissism extends to the belief that their causes are worth not only the lives of the most innocent on both sides of every border, but the risk of a regional or even a global conflagration.

What Caleb Carr doesn't talk about in his piece is the part that Bush and his henchmen have played creating this dangerous game. It's been clear from the beginning of the war against Hezbollah, the Bush administration has been egging on the Israelis (see Seymour Hersh's piece today).

Indeed, as Robert Wright explains in his article in the Washington Post today, the reputation of the Americans is seriously damaged by the latest go round. And no one comes out of this looking worse than Condi.

Yet America's image abroad emerges from the crisis badly battered, in part due to prolonged negotiations widely perceived in the Arab world as deliberate to allow Israel to pursue its military agenda -- with U.S.-manufactured weaponry, analysts said.

Rice's comment on the conflict as part of the "birth pangs" of a new Middle East was particularly "crude, insensitive and cruel," said Rami G. Khouri, an analyst and columnist for Beirut's Daily Star newspaper. "She was basically seen as saying you have to kill Arabs to remake them and you have to allow Israel to destroy Arab movements to make better nations.

"If it is a new Mideast, it won't be the one she is expecting," Khouri said, particularly coming after deeply troubled U.S.-led efforts to transform Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Afghanistan.

After the July 30 Israeli airstrike on Qana that killed at least 28 civilians, a large banner went up in downtown Beirut depicting Rice with sharp fangs and blood flowing from her mouth. "The massacre of children in Qana is a gift from Rice," it said.

The overreliance on force and violence is a hallmark of the authoritarian personality. And when violence seeps into a person's heart and inflames his mind, one can start to believe that any action is okay. This is the true sickness that is creating such a dangerous world. But just as individuals can increase their mindfulness so as to truly choose what action to take, countries and their leaders must learn to tap into the wisdom born of mindfulness which can allow them to step back from the brink. Or we must insist on leaders who understand that.

Update: Rami Khouri has an incredibly thoughtful piece about the Lebanon war that addresses some of the same points I've made here. He ends with the following words of wisdom from Moses:

Moses had it right, perhaps because he accumulated much wisdom during his 120 years of life. Meet the legitimate demands of both parties to a dispute, he said, and a fair, lasting resolution will emerge. Ignore the centrality of justice and equal rights for both parties, and you will be smitten by divine fire - or fated to fight your adversaries forever, as Israel seems to have opted to do.

We cannot afford to operate like only our concerns matter. The winner-take-all strategy will leave us all ready to face that same bleak fate.

Posted by Mary at August 13, 2006 08:22 PM | War on Terrorism | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

Diplomacy seems the last option, not the first; and war the first choice, not the last.

Posted by: The Heretik at August 13, 2006 08:36 PM