Monday, November 26, 2012

 

Israel is Paying the Price for Two Decades of Strategic Blunders

Proponents of Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip used to call their plan "Gaza First," meaning that this would be a test of Arab willingness to live in peace with Israel: in theory, Israel would withdraw from Gaza and all would be well in the world, while if the Arabs continued to attack Israel then no one in the international community would criticize Israel for fighting back against unprovoked aggression. Critics of this strategic concept retorted "Gaza First--and then what?" It seemed patently obvious to anyone who has a shred of common sense--or the slightest acquaintance with Middle East history--that an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza would neither lead to peace nor grant Israel any credit from the international community. Caroline Glick points out that the critics of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza have been completely vindicated:

Israel is in a strategic trap. And it is one of its own making. Starting with the Rabin-Peres government’s decision to embrace the PLO terrorist organization as a peace partner in 1993, Israel has been in strategic retreat. Each incremental retreat by Israel has empowered its worst enemies both militarily and diplomatically and weakened the Jewish state militarily and diplomatically.

Glick argues that Israel does not have any good choices now:

Israel has only two options for dealing with the ever-escalating threat from Gaza. It can try to coexist with Hamas. This option is doomed to failure since Hamas seeks the annihilation of the Jewish people and the eradication of Israel. Recognizing this state of affairs, in a public opinion survey taken on Wednesday for Channel 2, 88% of Israelis said that a cease-fire with Hamas will either not hold at all or hold for only a short time.

74% of Israelis opposed accepting a cease-fire.

The other choice is to destroy Hamas. To accomplish this Israel will need to invade Gaza and remain in place. It will have to kill or imprison thousands of terrorists, send thousands more packing for Sinai, and then spend years patrolling the streets of Gaza and arresting terrorists just as it does today in Judea and Samaria.

Whereas the first option is impossible, the latter option is not currently viable. It isn’t viable because not enough people making the argument have the opportunity to publish their thoughts in leading publications. Most of those who might have the courage to voice this view fear that if they do, they will be denied an audience, or discredited as warmongers or extremists.


Glick notes that writers who criticized Israel's appeasement strategy were shunned by both left wing and right wing publications:

All commentators who warned of the strategic calamity that would befall Israel in the aftermath of a withdrawal from Gaza were marginalized and demonized as extremists.

Glick concludes:

The millions of Israelis who opposed the withdrawal from Gaza do not seek personal vindication for being right. They didn’t warn against the withdrawal to advance their careers or make their lives easier. Indeed, their careers were uniformly harmed. 

They did it because they were patriots. They felt it was their duty to warn their countrymen of the danger, hoping to avert the disaster we now face. They should be listened to now. And their voices should be empowered by those who shunned them, because only by listening to them will we develop the arguments and the legitimacy to do what needs to be done and stop fighting to lose, again and again and again.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

 

Cloud Atlas Explores Our Interconnected Lives and Destinies

"All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be."--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Cloud Atlas explores a theme stated by the character Sonmi-451, who declares, "Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future." This is an alluring, attractive and yet frightening concept: it is tempting and comforting to believe that every soul is inextricably bound together, that we are not alone and that a better future can be created by each act of kindness--but it is distressing and frightening to think that perhaps individual free will is constrained by a larger plan and that this larger plan permits (or even specifically includes) evil actions that cause much suffering.

The film tells six parallel narratives set in six different locales/time frames:

1) South Pacific Ocean, 1849
2) England/Scotland, 1936
3) San Francisco, 1973
4) United Kingdom, 2012
5) Neo Seoul, Korea, 2141
6) Hawaiian Islands, 2321 (post-apocalyptic Earth)

Cloud Atlas' journey from a primitive (by 2012 standards) 1849 setting to an advanced (by 2012 standards) 2141 setting culminating in a very primitive (by any standard) post-apocalyptic setting where a horde of cannibals terrorizes a peaceful settlement brings to mind an Albert Einstein quote: "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Cloud Atlas never explicitly examines this point but strongly implies that the degenerate nature of the 2141 society resulted in a war, revolution or some other kind of general social upheaval that quite literally brought the world back into the Stone Age.

The quest for freedom--on both an individual level and on a larger level in terms of freedom from mass suffering/oppression--is the driving force in each Cloud Atlas storyline. In the 1849 setting, one character scoffs at the notion of freeing a slave, saying that the would-be emancipator is taking an action that is the equivalent of removing one drop from an ocean and that this action could have dire consequences (ranging from social ostracism to death by lynching) while not making any real difference. The skeptic received the unhesitating reply that the ocean consists of nothing more than drops of water. Similarly, in the 2141 setting, Sonmi-451 is interrogated shortly before being executed. The interrogator asks her what difference her ideas about freedom could possibly make if no one ever hears them or believes them. She calmly replies that at least one person has already heard her (meaning the interrogator).
 
Is it really true that if you remove (or add) enough drops of water that you can reshape society, that one person can significantly change the world? Or is the cynic right that anyone who tries to do so will meet a horrible fate without making a meaningful difference? There have always been brave, visionary leaders willing to risk their lives for the sake of that "one drop" but those leaders frequently suffer immensely--and often make the ultimate sacrifice. Have their sacrifices made the world better or are the trappings of our "civilization" just a thin veneer draped over our true barbaric nature? I fear that Einstein was right and that we are just one war away from heading right back to the Stone Age; our technological capabilities are increasing much faster than our capacity to function on a high moral/ethical level: as Martin Amis put it in Time's Arrow, "[The Holocaust] was unique, not in its cruelty, nor in its cowardice, but in its style--in its combination of the atavistic and the modern. It was, at once, reptilian and 'logistical.' And although the offence was not definingly German, its style was. The National Socialists found the core of the reptile brain, and built an autobahn that went there."

Whether or not reincarnation literally exists as depicted in Cloud Atlas, Dr. King is right that all of humanity is intimately connected--but it is far from clear if we will collectively understand that concept and act accordingly or if we will soon be fighting World War IV with sticks and stones.

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