The Lebanese-Israeli war is horrific, and its horror is glaringly present via media. Or at least pieces of it. Anderson Cooper probably wouldn't care what I think, but it was foolish of my previous post to be snarky about his work. He and much of the media on the ground, whether on television, print or radio, are capturing the human suffering on both sides.
If nobody is capable of framing particularly piercing questions or finding people who can answer them, perhaps it's because we're all stunned. This may show my own confusion but right now, my chief hope is that Israel can strike a deep blow to Hezbollah's military forces.
The former represent a state that, however imperfect, at times bigoted, or just short sighted, elects a government that is ultimately accountable. The latter are proving themselves to be as strategic as they are tough, but they answer to no one but their own leaders. A leadership whose goals are poison to me.
More, for Hezbollah to survive militarily means for Lebanon to fall, as well as Israel. It means those that fan the flames of war on either side will prevail for years and years. It will mean the victory of suicide bombers, the "just say no" crowd on all sides, and worse, evolve a process that has already started. A process that has nothing to do with the Middle East. That process might be termed the entrance of the networked warrior.
We are moving into an era where stateless but well financed actors can cripple nations. And that means a period where a globally connected world can be easily crippled. More, individual nations will increasingly be in control-mode political mindsets, looking to exploit technology to maintain more and more control even as their technological constraints simultaneously weaken.
I'm not sure Israel can have any big military success here. But without it, they probably lack any chance of geo-political success. Right now they seem lost. Over-reliant on their Air Force, which however well-equipped with "precision guided bombs," seem to lack precision to do much more than destroy an awful lot of innocent people while their enemies move unscathed to the side.
Like Rumsfield with his miserly reluctance to commit troops, the end result an Iraqi fiasco, Israel is led by an Air Force general. Such a situation feeds the danger of a certain bureaucratic momentum. Where the war is led less by national strategy and more by provincial interests out to prove their value.
Then again, I have never been in an army or a war. I'm thousands of miles away in safety. But my hope is that Israel's military and its leadership prove itself smarter than it looks right now, which from my vantage point makes it look reckless but also confused. A caged but enraged elephant trying to smash a flea . Dangerous for the elephant and anything in its way.
Pundits have been remarking about the absence of broader Arab outrage. The limits of the so-called "Arab street." I don't know how long that will last. Especially since today Al Quaida shows it's getting jealous of the distracted attention and wants to get involved (an instinct that some Palestinians think led to Hezbollah's initial entry). What strikes me as more interesting is the absence of mass anger towards Israel around the rest of the world. It's as if beneath it all, everyone is holding their breath. Stunned in not knowing what to think, say, hope for.
Since I have nothing insightful to say about the war, itself, here are some questions I can ask about the future of the region.
To those who, in their hearts, think Israel has no right to exist as formulated: What do you realistically wish for... and how do you want to see it happen? If it's for a bi-national state, what genuine consideration have you given to the current citizens of that country who don't want that?
To those who want to see Israel simply build a giant fence and forget its neighbors, what makes your vision of this nation any different from the anti-Semites who say the Jews should simply move somewhere else?
To the Israelis who say "we've done enough for the Palestinians," besides leaving occupied territories, what tools have you ever offered to build an economy that's reliant on anything but you?
To the Arabs who talk about Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, besides violent rallying cries "on the street," on Al-Jazeera, or in the schools, what have you given to this "nation" to actually build a sustainable nation?
To those in Lebanon who are understandably furious about Israeli bombs, what would you suggest Israel do about a well equipped guerrilla force supported by outside nations who are openly calling for its destructions... and deeply entrenched in your political as well as physical infrastructure? Beyond capitulate?
For the Israelis who say that when it comes to war, your nation could do much worse. Or give legalistic arguments proving that your nation is not acting with disproportionate force. How unconnected do you think your nation is to the rest of the world? And if you only are worried about America, how much stomach do you really have for an America which is going to be increasingly isolationist?
Before this violence, Lebanon reportedly was looking forward to a tourist season of record success. I'm not religious. But that country has my thoughts. I hope very much that one day soon it finally is embraced with pleasure and love, rather than blind rage. And so far as Israel, there are those that I care for greatly with family there, as well as Israelis who I once spent time with and inspire nothing but fondness. I hope you will be safe. That you too can some day prosper. In spirit, mind, and body, Jew or Arab.
July 27, 2006