Middle East Primer, Part I: Introduction
93, all!"People operate on their likes and dislikes, not on logic." -- Soseki Natsume, ca. 1906 EV (Botchan, trans. Joel Cohn)
I should stop right there, of course: our epigram makes a mockery of my ongoing attempts to handle such issues "logically." But old habits die hard. ;) So, while I haven't enough time for the promised Middle East Primer [hah!, so I thought!]
-- and more particularly for the wide-ranging discussion it could prompt* -- I think it might be worthwhile to make at least a few passing remarks here on the current Israel-Lebanon situation. (Feel free to dive in with comments on this one; the narrower-issue discussion I expect to have time to handle. :) )CAVEAT: I confess upfront to overwhelming personal biases in favor of the welfare of (1) the United States, and after that (2) Israel** -- and specifically loathe the Iranian mullahs to whom we are rapidly handling ownership of the middle east -- but shall still endeavor to be as even-handed as possible in this post
...and, as always, feel free to take a smack at whatever prejudices you find here. AJ's mama didn't raise no wussies what can't take a punch!
Oh, and basic initiatory point:
In pretty much all of life's controversial issues, if you find you can't make a persuasive argument for a side you vehemently disagree with, you're just not getting the picture
. Issues are controversial when there are compelling arguments on several competing sides. This is, in fact, the biggest reason I bother with political posts here: my purpose is primarily initiatory, not political. If the human race doesn't grow the ability to thoroughly understand issues from multiple sides, in one hell of a hurry, I'm not so sure human life will persist on the planet.
This is (after the better part of two hours of composition, no less!) turning into a post of preliminary remarks -- and worse yet, is also turning into that Middle East Primer after all. Darn it! Some final preliminaries for now, then:
1. As nearly always in political matters, discussions of the current Israel-Lebanon crisis routinely incorporate vast amounts of total horsepuckey, most all of which I shall endeavor to sidestep here. There's actually an unusually good reason for the high level of horsepuckey in this instance: in middle-eastern issues, three giant factions (hereafter "players") have oxen being gored: supporters of Israel, of the non-Israeli middle east***, and of the United States. For all three of these players, these are in fact existential
issues: they literally involve continued existence
: life and death, at both the cultural and individual levels. Hence the general craziness seen on all sides.
Let's take all three in turn.
2. No policy of Israel can be understood without reference to the Holocaust: WWII German dictator (1933-1945 EV) Adolf Hitler's "Final Solution to the Jewish Problem," his plan to exterminate every Jew on the planet. Think about it: after many centuries of enduring hatred and frequently-murderous persecution in the lands of others, the Jews were very nearly completely wiped out while the rest of the world either looked idly on, or worse. Ask yourself: if that had been your
people nearly exterminated, what would you be willing to do to get a well-armed state of your own, to make certain it would never happen again? How fiercely would you defend it? The issue is badly complicated, of course, by the fact that Jewishness involves a religion as well as an ethnic group...hence the nation of Israel incorporates a persistent theocratic element, with dangers familiar from crazy states like, say, Iran under the mullahs -- or the U.S., if some folks get their way. You guys know how well that tends to work out. :/
3. These days, and for the past several decades, the non-Israeli middle east has also been involved in a existential struggle: for the survival of its personal dignity, cultures, and (increasingly) religions. Part of this is largely the fault of the U.S. and other western nations, like so: We wanted to defeat communism. Like all utopian ideals, communism appealed strongly to smart guys. We had therefore to get rid of the smart guys. Presto! -- we funded the hell out of the craziest elements of local religious belief. You guys know how well that's worked out, too, right? Okey-doke. :/
4. Finally, the struggle is existential for the U.S. as well -- because our power is entirely dependent on oil, and it's largely under middle eastern sands, and running out.
So there you have it, for what turns out to be Part I, alas:
5. Israel has ABSOLUTELY GOT to prevail, no matter what; DITTO for the varied cultures of the non-Israeli middle east; AND for the United States. And all three (or, rather, all fifteen or something, since the non-Israeli middle east is really a bunch of disparate ethnic, cultural, and political groups) involve DIRECTLY COMPETING INTERESTS.
Begin to see, now, why things get crazy?
More to come, I hope.
93 93/93 -- AJ
* I have a settled prejudice against political posts that disallow comments; to my mind, it always looks like a way of saying "This post is probably inaccurate, so I'll make absolutely certain it can't be corrected." Feh. :P Anyway, I always post everything publicly, and always allow comments. (Prolly just a glutton for punishment. ;) )
** As distinct from the policies of specific governments of either country, of course. Like nearly everyone on earth, my biases have everything to do with my background: e.g., as (1) a patriotic American, and (2) a native of Los Angeles, California, who has spent most of his life on the west side of L.A. (Not that it should matter, but my ethnic background is WASP. Talk aboutcher full disclosure! ;) )
*** The phrase is clumsy, but neither "Arab middle east" (Iranians, e.g., aren't Arabs) nor "Islamic middle east" (many Arabs aren't Muslims) will do.