Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Second Time as Tragedy, Too

History is repeating itself in Israel with its military assaults on Lebanon and Gaza. Billmon provides a thoughtful analysis of the situation, as usual, summing up this way:

Is there a way out for the Israelis? None that I can see. Humpty Dumpty can’t be put back together again. Fatah and Abbas can’t be restored to their pre-election positions – not without looking like complete Israeli stooges. Hamas (or at least its moderate wing) can’t be brought back in from the cold, not without a loss of Israeli face and credibility so enormous it would probably cause the Omert government to fall and bring the Likud back to power. The Israelis can’t afford to negotiate for the return of their captured soldiers and they can’t afford to forsake them. They can’t stay in Gaza and they can’t leave Gaza. They can’t invade Lebanon and they can’t not invade Lebanon.

In the past, no matter how bad things got in territories, Israeli governments always have had the option of backing off and leaving bad enough alone – relying on the Army or, post-Oslo, the PA to keep a lid on the situation. That was fine as long as the objective was to grow the settlements and quietly tighten Israel’s control over the land and all its resources. But now that the goal is essentially a second partition, Israeli politicians are finding out the hard way that they no longer have the luxury of malign neglect. After six years of pretending they don’t need a Palestinian negotiating partner, they’ve suddenly discovered, much to their horror, that they need one desperately – but have managed to eliminate all the possible candidates.

No tragedy/farce dichotomy here, as there is (in the most bleak way) with BushWar I and BushWarII. The Israelis and the Cheneyites both forget the biggest rule of international diplomacy - ya gotta have someone to talk to, who is strong enough on their side to do some local enforcing. The lack of a center leads to the Palestinian Authority or Iraq because there is no power who can lay down the law internally, the structures of authority having been fractured through war and sanctions. The presence of a hostile center gives you North Korea, Iran and (to a lesser extent) Syria, where there is someone in charge, but they see no advantage to dealing with the US (or Israel), and so will sit out negotiations. (For some excellent comaprison/contrast between successful and self-destructive relations, check out Kevin Drum on Clinton vs. Bush II on North Korea)

The neocon opportunists are all leaping on the recent aggression against Israel to beat the war drum against Syria and Iran. Kevin has more here. It is as if they think reducing the middle east to the condition of the PA is a good thing. I'm sure some of them think just that.

You can't win by butchering people. There is no end to it.


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