Well and truly fucked, aren’t we?: a pointless ramble on the Middle East situation

It’s more than a little fascinating to see somebody come out and say something like “Israel was a mistake.” But that’s exactly what WashPost op-edder Richard Cohen does in today’s column.

The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is history itself. (Full column.)

I suppose there’s a good argument to be made that where geo-politics is concerned, Israel might well be the single grandest mistake of the 20th Century. It’s nearly impossible to argue that a people as persecuted as Europe’s Jews didn’t deserve a safe haven, of course. But the decision to create that state where it currently resides… Well, what Cohen says.

My bitch is and always has been that governments need to stay the hell out of religious matters. Sure, you govern a culture in which many, if not most, of your citizens are religious, and that is a reality of your society. But the decision to locate the Jewish homeland where it is now – that was an overt privileging of a millennia-old religious claim, wasn’t it? (I’m not a history expert, and I realize that things are always more complex than I know, but seriously – isn’t Israel where it is because of our sympathy to their Biblical claim to certain sacred ground in the Holy Land?)

You watch TV like I do, so I’m sure I have not much to tell you about the ever-worsening upshot of the decision to create the modern Israel on real estate surrounded by those who hate them and resent their very existence. The morality of that hatred isn’t the issue, and I abhor the idea of making policy that caters to the worst instincts on the planet, too. But damn, I can’t help wondering what 2006 would be like if Israel had been established someplace less volatile. Where, I don’t know, but I can’t help thinking that anywhere except the Middle East is a better answer than the one we arrived at.

I mean, the ultimate goal was supposed to be about safe haven, right?

At any rate, we’re stuck with that decision, and whether or not things get better eventually, they’re certainly getting worse in the near term. Being the type of person I am, I can’t help trying to imagine solutions. But right now, short of a magic wand I can use to make us all love each other unconditionally, I honestly have no clues.

  • We can’t move them, obviously.
  • Given where we are now with respect to Islamic extremism in the world, we can’t well take any action that might be interpreted as surrender or capitulation. That would only embolden those who blame the US for their plight.
  • Diplomacy is a wonderful idea, do any of us really believe we can negotiate our way around the insensate hatreds in the region?
  • Spreading democracy? Gods, we Americans love to hear those words, but I assure, the last thing in hell we want to see across the Middle East right now is an outbreak of majority rule. (Hint: how does the phrase “Saudi President bin Laden” strike you?)
  • We can certainly provide our fullest support to moderating elements in the region, but our presence in the region and support for those elements makes it harder for them to grow, not easier.
  • Withdrawing our support for Israel (a nation that fairly regularly does things we ought to have problems supporting) would do nothing but insure an all-out regional fracas (at least – all that oil involved…hard to imagine outside stakeholders not taking a keen interest). The outcome of which would be a pissed off Israel winning, a jubilant Islamic extremist victory (and now they know we can be intimidated), or a giant smoldering hole in the ground so deep that the planet wobbles in its orbit. I mean, Israel has nukes, right? There’s a decent chance they’d use them to insure their own survival. Besides, even if we could see our way clear to some odd realpolitik scenario whereby this benefitted us, the immorality of such a move would be unfathomable.

I keep thinking the only solutions are education and economic opportunity, and even if I did have the aforementioned magic wand, which I’d need to make this one happen (hell, we can’t even get education and legitimate opportunity right here at home), it would be 20 years before we saw the payoff.

I’m stumped. I can’t even dream for the region at this point. If anyone has some hope for me, I’m all ears.



5 thoughts on “Well and truly fucked, aren’t we?: a pointless ramble on the Middle East situation

  1. I know an Pakistani girl about 17 years old. She lives in a gated community and her family has lots of cash. Her father’s an MD, and she’s a good student. She also has more hate towards Jews and Indians than anyone I’ve ever come across. She goes around preaching holy war, and despite her Abercrombie clothes, is still living in the 17th century. Another Arab kid that we know who lives under similar circumstances, had a poster of Bin Laden in his room. He told my son that he wanted to bring Jihad to this country. I called the FBI on that one. Kids really do listen to their folks at the dinner table.

  2. A kid like that in the neighborhood I grew up in would have been LUCKY to have the FBI called on him. The FBI might have gotten there in time to save his life.

  3. Well……..this is upper middle class Sarasota. When I lived in Chicago as a teen, we would have whacked the kid. I gues as one gets older, they become more sensible. Incidently, the father somehow figured out it was I who called the FBI on his kid and got in my face. I pride myself on being a reasonable person, but ended up getting very redneck, much to his discomfort.
    On another note, my wife worked with a Muslim girl right around 9/11. They were sitting around having lunch the week after, and my wife nonchalantly asked the girl her opinion. She would not condemn the action of the hijackers, instead saying,”You just don’t understand.” When pressed further, the girl refused to condemn them, saying that it was their way of acting against the repression of the infidel. They couldn’t believe this was actually being said in the good old USA. When this incident was reported to the manager, after discussion with the girl, he fired her on the spot. The girl never had the balls to sue, even though she would have had an open and shut case. Emotions can surely run high….I can only imagine how the Israelies feel after 56 years of being targets, it’s a wonder that they haven’t just ended Islam….they certainly have the military means to turn those countries into glass parking lots. I read an article in Foreign Affairs that estimates of the Israeli nuclear capabilities number from 250-600 bombs. They would use them if threatened. In 1947, David Ben-Gurion said, “Never Again!”

  4. So, I listen to either WNYC or Pacifica at work (it’s a noisy place, and I can tune in both stations on my MP3/FM gadget). Was listening this morning when I heard the reporter quote remarks that a U.S. Senator made to a group called, “Christians United for Israel.”
    Now, tell me again, who is the pro-Israel lobby?
    That, in turn, reminded me of what someone on my friends list posted to his LJ the other day.
    Take several million pissed-off Jews, who’ve been pissed-off for 60+ years now, add 100+ million fundamentalist Amerikans, and stir. Result? No peace in the Middle East. Ever.

  5. Well, the end-times loons aren’t going to have much interest in solving the problem, that’s for sure. Jesus will solve the problem when he returns, which could be any minute now, and things have to be pretty bad to fulfill the prophecy.

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