Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The smell of cedar in the morning

The war in Lebanon has provoked much hand-wringing over Israel's failed outcome in the endeavor, to say nothing of all the dismay that drove nearly the whole planet to demand an immediate cease-fire. There has been little in the way of Baconian, or to put it perhaps more malevolently, Machiavellian clarity over what was really desired. If the Bush Administration truely wanted to take the fight to Hezbollah, then they should have done much more to retard the movement towards a UN ceasefire. Would the US suffer such haste in getting out of its own quagmires without wrangling around in search of some advantage, or at least an advantageously-placed excuse for withdrawal? I fear however that once more, in spite of all the cowboy rhetoric and the apparently unhypocritical (however false) protestations that they are always "taking the fight" to the "terrorists" wherever they may be, the Bush boys have demonstrated that they only understand incrementalism. Did they really believe that "degrading Hezbollah's capabilities" would be enough? Do they still believe that "degrading" would deal with Iran or any other threat?
Of course, the Israelis must ultimately be to blame for not pursuing a more decisive (and less reckless!) campaign. Does the IDF, of all militaries, now lack the capability or the willingness to rush a crack division into the offense? After some soul-searching, I've come to the nasty conclusion that I'm Augustinian enough to assert that in this war the Lebanese civilian casualties, though disproportionate, are not unjustified in light of Hezbollah's obvious willingness to operate out of civilian facilities and neighborhoods, the fact that Hezbollah is the aggressor against a state with the means, and obviously the right, to defend its population, and finally-- and here's the "Augustinian" element--the likely complicity of many Lebanese civilians in their recruitment as human shields and fellow-travelers for an anti-Semitic terrorist militia. Responsibility for the deaths of civilians cannot be shunned, but a people that puts itself on a war-footing against a neighbor cannot expect to be deemed positive moral equals. Life for life, the German civilian casualties of WWII should be as sacrosanct as the lives of the civilians of Coventry and Rotterdam, but the German people empowered and embraced the leadership of Hitler and his military and so, as a collective, cannot be excused for having brought unjust death upon their neighbors. Put baldly, the citizens of Warsaw and London didn't ask for it; if the citizens of Berlin and Dresden didn't "ask for it" (and, finally, they didn't), nevertheless, they are complicit in the devastation that was wrought upon them by the Allies in pursuit of the just conclusion of an unjust war begun by Germany and its people. Et tu, Lebanon.
Needless to say, Bush can take his "Cedar Revolution" and shove it, along with the rest of the Rainbow Revolutions that frittered away like another 1848. Let the Marines of "Notre Musique" guard the Paradise of Democracy instead of embarking on a crusade into the Inferno of the Middle East! But too late, too late. I take some comfort in contemplating the moment when the oil dries up-- or rather, the oil-based economy here dries up so that alternative means are finally produced and (here's really what remains to be done) implemented. When that blessed day finally appears, the earth can breathe a sigh of relief, and not only ecologically! What a geopolitical refresher it shall be, when the angry young men of the Islamic world find there are no more petrodollars to finance their designs of hate. Who will they blame then? Who cares. Frankly, the world little troubles itself with the dangerous designs of sub-Saharan Africa, lamentably perhaps. But there will remain only humanitarian reasons for intervention in the Middle East, not strategic ones. With undiversified economies and no more terrorist political-party largesse to provide for the "education" of the boys and other such acts of "charity", these Angry Young Men will find rants against Israel and the West will do little to soothe their starving stomachs. Then again, the British citizens who prepared to dunk thousands of victims into the Atlantic enjoyed all the amenities of Western democracy, some (National Health Care!) that we don't enjoy in the US. And yet-- and yet-- they were willing to throw away life and limb, their own and everbody else's, and for what? A fantasy map of a pan-Islamic empire? To retake Cordoba for the caliphs? To finish the work of Auschwitz? To tell Britney Spears to cover up her midriff? Or do they suspect already that a mere contemplative life of sanctified hatred will not suffice to win them laurels and houris in the Heaven of the Martyrs? Neither Aristotle nor Enlightenment has begun to work on these fractured souls, and it is to be suspected that neither psychotherapy nor elections will readily extirpate this madness. In such circumstances, a really kickass ground offensive sounds like good medicine, but in this present round Israel has failed to deliver the shot.

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