Over the weekend, it was raining and between house work, seeing a movie, helping Coco celebrate a friend’s birthday, and testing out our new satellite dish and its reception ability I found a few different perspectives on the Israel-Lebanon mess. If you read the John Horvath’s article “Who’s to Blame for the Middle East Crisis?” and the Andrew Sullivan’s London Times article “Neocons caught in their very own civil war” you can see how this Middle East coverage is viewed from outside our perspective. As the old saying goes, you can’t see the forest for the trees, it helps to step back and take a fresh look at things from time to time. I found the Times article a little more relevant mainly due to my political alignment. I grew up learning the difference between Democrats and Republicans from the administrations and speeches of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. The first George Bush continued some of the Reagan era policies but with a slightly different twist (Foreign policy and world trade) and radically different on other fronts (domestic spending and issues). Bill Clinton was the one person who pushed me over the edge, while serving in the military it only confirmed my distaste for Democratic leadership by witnessing how partisan things in my world had become and we were all merely just pawns in a much larger political landscape. I am a Reagan /Sr. Bush era conservative; less government involvement, strong foreign policy, socially responsible domestic policies, and heavy reliance on law and order to keep it all together. So what does this have to do with this article or anything in particular?
Both Horvath’s and Sullivan’s articles reveal the accumulation of polarization in our political system. If you can remember, the presidential election of 2000 was defined on the principals of uniting the nation, getting away from radical party lines and steering everything toward moderate lines in order to appease the vast majority. Then came September and the landscape changed, to everyone. The policies of pitting radicals against our enemies in various parts of the world bore a very bitter and venomous fruit. We funded Iraq in its war against Iran and its religious state, which got us Saddam Hussein and an Iraq we eventually had to attack, twice. Funding the rebels of Afghanistan against the Soviet Union’s occupation of that region begot the Taliban and its rule we had to eventually get rid of. Pitting banana republics against militants begot Semolina, invaded 2 times and is currently in a state of upheaval again, South American factions, causing Cuba, Columbia, Panama, Honduras, Venezuela, etc to be what they are today. We all know hindsight is 20/20 but if we continue to go down the same path the destination is becoming much clearer as to where that will eventually lead.
We can not pull back from the current stage of events and just hope it will all sort itself out nicely. As the lone super power left we have the responsibility and duty to step in and intervene when necessary (preventing another Holocaust, Bosnia, Sudan, Khmer Rouge, Taliban etc. etc. We have to stay engaged, if we leave now the power vacuum will be too large for any of the current leading powers to fill, China, the EU, NATO, the UN, etc. We must stay engaged, despite our reputation, our view on the world or its view of us, the number of crisises or problems facing the world. As I stated before we have to stop Israel from its current line of action. Israel will not stop simply because we tell them to, they do feel threatened and do have legitimate security concerns, but they will get the message they went too far if we join the rest of the international community to call them to halt their actions. This will also cause some of the radicals in the area to re-thing their tactics, rhetoric, and propaganda against the U.S. It isn’t that we need to accept or condone Hezbollah’s actions or tactics, but we need to show the way to resolving a conflict in a positive and productive manner. Military operations haven’t solved this issue in over 40 years of fighting over the exact same thing; whose land is it and who has the right to live where, and whom controls what in the region.
Its funny how much attention is paid to the Middle East and the Asian Pacific and how little is paid to Africa and the Caribbean. Being the world’s sole remaining super power, and economic leader, we can pick and chose our policy battles, but we can not just leave the rest to sort them selves out on their own, current affairs show the result of this. I do feel allowing groups like the African Union, the UN, the EU, NATO, the SCO, the Arab League, are valuable and offer local control of local issues to a degree much more effective then ours could be for normal disputes or local regional issues, but they need and deserve our input and guidance. Of course Monday morning quarterbacking something as large as foreign policy and world order is very easy to do and impossible to implement, we do live on Earth and not nirvana, paradise, or fantasy planet… Currently we are not doing things to a degree of making anyone in the world better off or safer. One of the major campaign slogans left over from my youth was “Are you better off then you were 4 years ago?” Well, this goes way beyond personal economics now days. Are we safer, more secure, wealthier, happier, healthier, less stressed, more proud of our country, leaders, ideals, selves then 4, 8, 12, 16, 20 years ago? Remember those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.
Israel will continue the cycle of violence mainly because they have little choice. Hezbollah will do the same in kind for the same reasons. These peoples are too close to see the forests because they are surrounded by too many trees. Syria, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia are all too close to these trees to see much more then a small grove, and we do not understand the nature of the forest to really be effective. So what is the solution? The road map to peace stalled, it was not Arafat or Sharon who stood in the way but the radicals on both sides. We are observing what happens, for the 5th time in recent history, when radicals dictate policy in a complexly aligned and hostile region. Our own country is crystallizing along radical fault lines. Any doubts on the reasons these lines are called fault lines? Left wing and right wing ultraists are gaining too much power and clout and are beginning to cloud our visions. The world is a large complex place full of many different views and theories on what is right and wrong. Ours works for us, but no one else… and vice versa. Only once the Arabs can acknowledge, accept, and understand an Israeli state and accept it being in their back yard will there be progress made. Only once American can be seen as an impartial and fair third party can we expect others in the region, and other regions, to listen to what we have to say with open minds and ears. This is not to say we have to sacrifice our interests or alliances, but rather we take a leadership role instead of a decisive wedge roll.
World politics is hard, complex, and nearly impossible to imagine all the facets of, but it isn’t rocket science. We are dealing with people and issues that affect their lives. Anyone with any empathy ability at all can perform this. How would we feel if the world put a communistic regime in the Dominican Republic and China funded them with weapons, technology, and advisors? Well, this is how the Arabs feel about the Jews and Israel. The British used ceased lands to carve out Israel and ideologically opposed peoples moved into that land and the old resident’s of this land are left looking at their old homes from across a heavily fortified border. No one else wanted the Jews after World War Two, and they wanted a land of their own, from their origins and religious beginnings. We gave them that, but forgot to consult wit all the neighbors first. Now we have a block war that could draw in more then just the neighborhood into all out war as a result. How do you get to mortal enemies who are sworn to hate each other to live next to each other in peace? Well who ever can do this will get the Nobel Peace Prize from sure, but until that day we have to do our best to ensure such an environment can allow this to happen.
All the experts, pundits, and political annalists have weighed in their 2 cents worth, but no one is getting off their asses to do it. The first one to do it will steer the rest of the region to its new direction. That will be us, a new emerging powerful Arab state, or another foreign power with its own agenda… any ideas as to who that may be??? We need to commit to this mission of getting these this region stable and workable. Ever since I can remember, and longer mind you, there has been trouble in the Middle East. We all know oil is a finite resource and will one day run out, in the Middle East for sure as this is where all the production is being done now, and then what will be left in place? We need to demonstrate we care about more then oil and democracy in this region. We back 3 countries that do not practice democracy in the region at all, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. They all have stable and politically advantageous regimes in place… to the U.S. and our interests, at least until the next coup d’état. We need to either lead the way or accept what happens when the dust settles or what another will come up with if we sit back and stay out of the problem. We have thrown our weight around in South East Asia and that ended badly, so we need to learn for our mistakes, and more importantly for others, and take a course of action that will not lead to the same outcomes we have all seen before.
We all know everyone in the region hates each other, they all feel they are right and everyone else is wrong. They all fight religious and ideology wars in a dedicated and fanatic way any general would admire and wish they could duplicate. Their nature is hostility because that is all they have known. They will respond in kind to any aggression they see, and the more that die creates 10 times as more to take the fallen’s place. Peace and cooperation are foreign to them, just as dying in a violent display and taking as many civilian innocents is foreign to us. It is important to remember that perspective depends on who, where, and when you are. Bringing peace to the region is definitely not impossible, but it will not come easy for anyone.
Condoleezza Rice is now in the region and speaking to the Lebanese officials to pressure them to halt Hezbollah. She will go to Israel and offer multi-party talks, a coalition of peace keepers to patrol the region Israel has reduced to ruble the past 14 days now. But this is not enough. Both sides have to be willing to accept compromises and things they do not like. If you will notice I wrote an article about just this some time back, sorry can’t find it in my archives, but I do remember discussing how both sides had to not only take steps to defuse the current issues at hand, but be willing to give up more then they expect. You see life is about compromise. Only kings and criminals can live a selfish existence, and it usually ends out bad for them in the end anyway. The Arabs have to accept the Israeli state will exist and be in their back yard from now on. Israel needs to concede some of its lands and cities to ensure the region stays economically stable and viable.
Giving the Palestinians access to revenue, jobs, ports, air, road, and rail will go a long way to adding stability to the region. Israel needs to concede enough to the Arabs to ensure they will prosper to a point of making terrorists actions against them unattractive. When people have employment, businesses, jobs, good schools, hospitals, police and fire, infrastructure bringing stable electricity, water, bridges, sewage, etc. then people are less likely to feel despair to such a degree they will kill themselves along with others just to make a political statement. Take away the terrorists best recruiting tool, poverty and hopelessness, and people will do what they want to do, live… instead of what fanatics want them to do, die for a cause.
The Arabs need to just leave Israel alone. Yes they are desperate for land, but really who isn’t. In a desert region all habitable land has been claimed since Mesopotamia expanded. Internal population and land control is an internal problem Israel has to figure out on their own. Arabs needs to not be greedy and at the same time allow Israel to have a country that is capable of a comfortable degree of expansion in the future, to avoid land clams and conflicts in the future. Everyone needs to forget the past and see how to develop a realistic and sustainable future together. Compromise may not make anyone happy, but it is better then the current state of affairs. As a friend of mine from India stated, people there do not want charity, money, schools, or hospitals… because with out jobs they can not maintain them or use them.
People all want to make a living, and if good opportunities are available it always will win out over strapping C-4 to your waist and blowing up a bus stop. Oil will not last forever, and when it goes the region will fall into chaos and war, unless the few countries without oil can begin to create opportunities for their citizens. At this point security is the largest issue in the region, with out security foreign companies will not move in to utilize the human work force a country has. With out jobs you will never have security because people will have too much time to sit around and think about how miserable they are and how their governments have failed them. Lebanon has to be rebuilt and jobs created to stop the terrorists hold on the local community. Only then will the prosperity of the region begin to spread and offer hope and a real future people can look forward to. Lets all hope this round of talks ends in more then think headed, unresponsive, unwillingness to concede one point for another, and something can actually be done before it goes to the opposite side, of a war everyone is afraid of and no one really wants.