I subscribe to a lot of blogs, but rarely have time to read most of the posts that come across my reader. Walter Russell Mead’s stuff, however, usually make the cut if I have any time at all to spare. A couple days ago, he posted this piece about the current war between Israel and Hamas and the stark differences between America’s reaction and, well, the rest of the world’s reaction. He nails it. Anyone that looks at America’s response and is just flabbergasted that we’re not up in arms about the invasion needs to read this. You may disagree with the result of these attitudes, but this describes a large swath of Americans attitude on the subject. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the people whose reaction is “What took Israel so long?)
The Belmont Club had an interesting post a couple days ago highlighting, graphically, the West’s lack of perspective. The original post was done by Augean Stables. One of the Secretary of State’s first visits since being sworn in was visiting Israel, and attempting to kick start the (in it’s current state) hopeless peace process. This is seen from within and without the Obama Administration as one of their most pressing foreign relations issue. Yet, if you measure the conflicts by the sheer number dead or wounded, it’s ridiculously small.
Why the difference in how we approach the problem? I’m betting there’s lots of reasons. I remember when one of the Left’s problems with the Iraq War was that there were bigger, badder, more dangerous regimes elsewhere. What about Iran? What about North Korea? And yet, here we are with an extremely leftist President, and what’s front and center? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mr. Fernandez goes on to poke fun at the West’s insistence of looking at the world through some rather distorted lenses. I post it here directly with the hopes that Mr. Fernandez won’t mind. It’s pretty funny, but, well, kind of true.
I saw this headline pop up on Google News, and had to click through and read it. It’s from the English Al Jazeera:
Shaky truce holds in Gaza
So, from the headline, what can I infer?
- There’s a truce, likely between Hamas and Israel, in Gaza.
- That truce is holding, meaning that it’s not being broken.
- While the truce is holding and not being broken, it might break at any time.
Sound reasonable? Paragraph five, though, reads this:
The Israeli military said three rockets were launched into southern Israel since the Hamas-led truce announcement.
Huh. That would sure indicate to met that the truce is not holding. I don’t see how three rockets being fired into Israel could mean anything but the truce is not holding. Rockets are not like bullets from an AK-47 or some rocks: they always involve groups like Hamas, and/or countries like Syria or Iran. In other words, they count.
This is the stuff that just annoys me and confuses me to no end. I’m honestly mystified: why would the media say the truce is holding at the beginning, and then say it’s not — in so many words — paragraphs later? How am I supposed to interpret this in anything but cynical ways?
Thank you for the head’s up, Michael. This is a bit tough to watch. Anyone that thinks that Israel is the main problem with the creation of the Palestinian state should watch this. Then explain how these people are ready to run their own affairs. They’re not. I’m not sure if the Palestinian story is the saddest in the world (I’m thinking certain places in Africa are right up there), but this is awfully close to the top.
I don’t think there’s any nice, easy solution to this whole problem, but people need to look at it with open eyes. The Palestinians are a tool used by the Arab states as a safer version of the wars they lost three times in the past. Human proxies for bullets.
Every time Israel gets involved in an armed conflict, the inevitable voices are raised complaining about “war crimes” they commit, and rarely do the same voices mention any problem with their enemies war making decisions. First of all, before attempting to speak authoritatively on the issue, at least skim the actual Geneva Conventions. If by “war crimes”, you mean “I wish people weren’t dying at all”, then you’re not actually talking about war crimes, OK?
The second point I wanted to make is this: there’s a reason why these conventions were agreed upon in the first place. It was to add a modicum of civilization to a very uncivilized part of the human experience. It comes down to this: if the actors in a war do not play by the rules (wear uniforms, make an effort not to put civilians in harm’s way, etc.), then those actors get certain rights, like being treated as an official POW, and not shot in due course. This is the important part of this: if you give all actors the same rights, regardless of their behavior, they will have less reason to play by the rules.
This is something that’s always bothered me. I really do not understand those commentators that believe that bad actors (most of Hamas, al Qaeda, etc.) should get full POW rights. They should not — they ignore pretty much every rule of war. By giving them these rights, you are making future wars more and more barbaric. I’ve have never heard a good explanation for these commentator’s stance on this issue. Again, “I don’t like war” does not count, and is not nuanced.
By the way, speaking of Israel, Michael Totten is breaking away from his normal programming on his blog and covering the Israel incursion into Gaza on a daily basis. Read it: it’s good stuff.
I don’t have tons of free time, but I have a large appetite for information. Sound familiar? Yeah, I’m not alone on this one. So, there’s a high premium on good sources of both raw news and analysis. For foreign policy relating to the War on Terror, The Long War Journal is an especially good blog to read. Here’s their last update on Israel’s current battle in Gaza against Hamas. A little analysis, but mostly just the hard facts. The bias there is is the opposite of what you’d find in the AP or Reuters, which is a good thing.
Trusted sources of information are going to be more and more important as the old guards of mass media shatter, splinter, and are eclipsed by new media. This is happening now, and will continue in the future. While managing the consumption of those sources of information and analysis is awfully important, the first thing thing to worry about is finding the sources in the first place.
I’ve written about this before, but I have to speak up again about this. Terrorists in Gaza lob thousands of rockets into civilian Israeli areas, hoping to kill any Jew they can hit. Israel attacks back at the terrorists, using their actual military instead of indiscriminately lobbing explosives. Diplomats in the international community complain that Israel is using a “disproportionate response”.
Now, both Michael Totten and Donald Sensing have both gone into fairly detailed take downs of this view point. What I’ve said in the past still holds as my biggest problem with it, though: most wars end because one side wins. One side usually wins by using more force (or more effective force) than the opponent. Equal responses would usually end up with a war with no end. In the long run, this would — usually — result in a lot more pain and suffering.