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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Thoughts on the latest Mid-East war

Well, we have a proper 1980s revival: Israel bombing the hell out of Lebanon with implicit US backing. With the Gaza/West Bank situation, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, sabre rattling over Iran and India basically blaming Pakistan for the recent Mumbai bombings, we have, to use a phrase of Zbigniew Brzezinski's from the equally groovy 1970s, an "Arc of Crisis" in the Near East.

I have mixed feelings about the whole Israel/Lebanon situation. I refuse to see it as a battle between Democracy V Terrorism. Nor do I see it purely as Western Imperialism V Islamic Resistance. The only two things I do know is (1) there should be an immediate ceasefire & (2) it has nothing to do with us (classic Little Englander worldview there). In the media here, among both the columnists and the letter writers, both the Israelis and Hezbollah have their cheerleaders. My attitude towards these armchair generals is: if the fighting over there is such an important matter for you, why won't don't you go over there and fight? However, as George Orwell wrote in Homage to Catalonia (back in the 1930s writers did put their rifles where their pens were and physically took part in fighting for causes they professed to believe in): "The people who write that kind of stuff never fight: possibly they believe that to write it is a substitute for fighting. It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets near a front-line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda-tours" ["embedded reporting", as it is known these days](Penguin, 2000 edition, page 209).

I don't like the way a lot of people over here seem to automatically line up behind Israel or however is fighting them. Some people think that because they are Jewish or Muslim, they should cheer on or condone whatever actions, including quite sickening atrocities, "their side" takes, because to use that old lie, "the ends justifies the means". I think that because you are Jewish or Muslim you should be supporting uncritically Israel or Hezbollah is total cobblers. It's like saying that because you have Irish blood (like my good self) you should have supported everything the IRA and other Irish Republican groups did during "The Troubles". It's an utterly cretinous line to take.

Moreover, no-one seems to take heed one of the great lessons of Twentieth Century warfare: if you want to win the hearts and minds of your opponent's civilian populations, don't try and bomb them into submission. Whenever civilians are the targets of bombing (whether from the air or in bars/trains/buses/the street etc) they rally around their national leadership. Every Israeli civilian killed justifies the IDF going further into Lebanon, most Israelis believe; every Lebanese civilian killed hardens Lebanese support for Hezbollah.

I just hope the killing and wounding stops, and that includes, Israelis, Lebanese and everybody. It would also help if those who get a guilty pleasure from seeing Israelis/Arabs being killed by "their" side in the war would shut up. If you must, have your Two Minute Hate in private!


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