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Israel, Lebanon, and the Palestinians [Jul. 31st, 2006|03:29 pm]
Okrzyki, przyjaciel!
I am a pacifist, but I feel like pacifism is a process, not an absolute. As a friend of mine pointed out, true pacifism only works when everyone is a pacifist. In game-theoretical terms, in a world of mostly pacifists, the warlike run rampant.

I'm also, I like to think, realistic, and realistically, war is just diplomacy by other means. Wars happen because someone with the power to go to war decides there's more to gain from the war than the price of the war.

The world has been tantalizingly close to a peaceful Middle East many times, and there's always one party or another who shits all over it. The only way I can see peace between Israel, the Palestinians, and Israel's Arab neighbors is for enough of the parties to the conflicts to see more to gain from peace than from war.

I think Hizbullah* made a cynical, calculated decision to provoke Israel, and they saw things turning out the way they have in advance. I have no sympathies for Hizbullah, but you have to admire their cunning. With a tiny effort, they have provoked a huge response that is very unpopular, both in the Arab and Western nations.

Hizbullah yanked Israel's chain, and the Israelis did what they did without a second thought. But Israel was played. They could have put their citizens in shelters, or moved them out of the North, and put on a full court diplomatic press to get their soldiers back by peaceful means. I doubt that Hizbullah would have kept up the level of rocket attacks on Israel if they weren't being attacked; they would have no grounds to claim moral equivalency. And, incidentally, Lebanon's civilian infrastructure would be intact, and hundreds of Lebanese civilians would not have died.

This is, after all, still a world where there is a powerful plurality of nations of the world who will attempt to solve problems without bloodshed, for whom the moral high ground matters. Diplomacy would have work eventually, because even Hizbullah fighters need clean socks and bread. Without public support and the argument of moral equivalence, Hizbullah stands naked as a bunch of thugs, and reasonable people everywhere won't be sucked into support their actions.

A commonly quoted story about Quaker pacifism is this one: William Penn, as a English noble, was expected to wear a sword at all times. He asked George Fox about being a Quaker and wearing a sword, and Fox didn't tell him to take it off. Rather, he said "Wear it as long as thou canst." The point being, that even in an imperfect, often violent world, if you accept the view that war solves nothing, you eventually must let go of the weapons of war, and find other ways to defend yourself or avoid violent conflicts in the first place.

Israel, eventually, will have to see past an eye for an eye violence, because there's never an end to it. They might not immediately or totally quell the violence against them. But their current tactics of assassination, bulldozing people's houses and all out war only engenders more support for Hizbullah and Hamas, and starts a new cycle of violence and revenge. Giving up violent retaliation as their weapon of choice robs Hamas and Hizbullah of their most valuable property -- a brutal bogeyman of an enemy.

*I use Hizbullah because that's what they use on their own English Language Websites. It is, after all, an arabic word/phrase, and any transliteration into roman letters is necessarily imprecise and arbitrary.

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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2006-08-01 03:14 am (UTC)
"I take issue with respecting Hizbollah's "cunning" and then characterizing the Israel response as impulsive."

You're putting words in my mouth. Israel, with full consultation with the Bush Administration planned on reacting the way they have to Hizbullah provocations. They'd already been fortifying the north in preparation.

I'm not being idealistic, I'm advocating a different way for Israel to behave in the face of their hostile neighbors. No cycle of violence ends until one party decides to stop playing that game and commits to a better way. And yes, I expect better of the Israelis than the Islamist factions. If they're the good guys, they should act like the good guys.

It's a horrible thing to work out a calculus of lives lost, but I think they'd end up ahead of the game if they concentrated on defending their borders and going to the international community when things like the Hizbullah rocket attacks take place, to bring the forces of order into the dialog.

Israel has, to a large extent, made Hizbullah who they are today. Hizbullah's tactics only seem arguable when they can point to Israeli atrocities of the past, including Sharon's dirty little massacre in the refugee camp.

And yet, even Sharon made a stunning about face in withdrawing from the Gaza Strip. It seems like any time a strong leader in Israel gets behind peace, they end up dying, or in Sharon's case, becoming incapacitated.

And yes I'm idealistic. I'm not a fool, but I still am idealistic. And the reason I advocate for peace is that no one has really taken it seriously as an idea. The upside could be fantastic, and the downside is certainly no worse than the situation we have now.
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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2006-08-03 02:37 pm (UTC)

peace versus war

In a situation like this there is 'bad,' and there is 'less bad.'

Bad: Continued saturation rocket attacks by Hizbullah
Israeli Civilian Casualties
Lebanese Civilian Casualties
Hizbullah Combatants Casualties
Massive damage to Lebanon's civil infrastructure
Continued existence of Hizbullah military capability

Less Bad:
Israeli Civilian Casualties
Clear-cut condemnation of Hizbullah
Diplomatic pressure and incentives to Lebanon, Syria, Iran.
Israeli restraint is spun as wanting to avoid civilian
casualties, out of respect for human life.

And this is completely leaving out the financial costs of the war.
At this point the Israelis _know_ which parts of Israel are under threat and can pull back civilian populations from those areas. It's a hardship but at least the Israeli road system isn't full of bomb craters.

If the message to Hizbullah is "the rest of the world, and your own government, wants you to cut that shit out." With international help, Lebanese civil control is restored in the south of Lebanon.

Negotiating with Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah is difficult, but at the end of the day, the few thousand people actually involved in violence against Israel can be bought off. They might be religious fanatics, but a lot of that is rhetoric for their more gullible followers. Most people in Lebanon are like people in the US, in that they're not true believers, they just want to get on with their lives in a secure environment. Fanatic movements never survive unless they're propped up externally, or have an enemy to engage.

Things are awful now. Things will be less awful if Israel makes a commitment to peace in action and principle. In the end, this is a human problem -- everybody wants something, and everyone can't have everything they want. The only way to reach an accomodation is to negotiate.

No one but a sociopath views the death of innocents as the cost of doing business.
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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2006-08-01 03:16 am (UTC)
and yes, in my reply I said that I was both idealistic and not idealistic. I mean, I guess, that I think you can be both realistic and idealistic at the same time. If you can't, we might as well give up and just nuke everyone who bothers us.
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