Thursday, May 9, 2013

Peace and Paranoia

Empress Trudy

There is no such thing as peace. It is an anomaly and what we in the west call peace and hope for is at best, at very best, ephemeral, temporal and local. What we have are periods of varying degrees of anxiety about the next inescapable atrocity. When we say peace we allude to a mythical state of beauty and grace where not only will the lamb and the lion lay together but all our problems, all our contentions wash away in a cost free low impact utopia under a proscenium arch to the sound of pastoral homilies. All we need do is achieve this magical state and there will be no more poverty, child abuse, want, inequality, bigotry. It is aspirational, more of a zeitgeist really, a statement about a desire FOR peace than any actual non combat. 

 This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t better ourselves and our communities and our people, but if our goal is this aspirational state, this utopia, this worker’ paradise then it’s a paranoid world view that is inevitably tragic and failed. It ends where all utopias end, in mass graves, nuclear meltdowns, empty grocery stores, child soldiers, ruin and of course endless bitter savage war. Why do I say peace is paranoid? Because it’s founded on a delusion a patent narcissism that we can stop the world, halt all movement and settle all scores once and for all at the world, will quietly bend to our will. Dictators dream of peace. The peace of absolute domination.

It’s probably not entirely fair to say, but more people have died on the UN’s watch than the sum total of all human conflict up to WW2. No global wars, more or less since, but peace? If peace is the precursor to progress, then no. Not even close, not even better than before. We could tally the millions and millions of murdered, starved, enslaved, exterminated, the millions corralled in camps, the millions killed fleeing their homes where the survivors wind up as refugees who believe they got the worse of the deal for surviving. A world where self immolation is seen as not a desperate act but a heroic one and we throw another few Tibetans and Tunisians on the pyre while the streets boil over into carnage we call the “Spring”. A grim Hobbesian slog all the way to the knackers. But a ‘peace’ all the same, as long as you live in Western Europe (not the Balkans), The Russian core of the CCCP, South America (but not Central America or the Caribbean), the US, Canada, Japan and that I’m afraid is about it.

Once you look beyond the peace of this week or that small country this year then one must accommodate one’s self to it and disabuse one’s self of the notion that some perfect state of peaceful wonder exists somewhere. This is the great tragedy of it all, more than the violence, it’s the refusal of all these ‘peace partners’ to admit that what is true is true and they’re playing nothing more than a cynical game of out-waiting their opponents fear and temerity. When Sharon evacuated Gaza it wasn’t with the notion that through some magical effect, peace would break out. He was a military man, he knew it wouldn’t. What would happen is that over time, it would reset the water level of acceptable atrocities. He moved the war from the buses of Jerusalem to the kindergartens of Sderot. But you can build bomb shelter against a rocket where you can’t build a shelter from a suicide bomber. Is it ideal? No, of course not. It’s a new water level for the amount of conflict and pain Israelis are willing to politically tolerate. Over time the water level goes up and it also goes down or it changes precisely where we look. Will the need for eternal vigilance ever recede? Only if you’ve adopted an insane death wish.  In that way, endless dreaming of utopian perfect peace and thinking you can make objective progress is little different than the ethos of the maniac bastards trying to kill you.  They too believe in a twisted kind of peace, even if it takes global war, megadeath and 500 years to get there.

But driving toward that utopia leads one down some dark alleys. To what extent would you or the Israeli government have to go to essentially create peace, to force it? If Stephen Ambrose’s biography of Eisenhower is any guide, you have to materially dismember their capability to wage war at all. You have to physically render them unable to fight. For instance when WW2 ended, Ike flew in a small plane from Berlin to Moscow. He (Ike) noted there was not a single standing structure of any kind the entire 1,000 miles air distance. Not a house, an outhouse, a doghouse, a shack, anywhere. And that is clearly not going to happen. We’re I hope better than that. This is why modern states have civilians run the armed forces but the armed forces are professional soldiers. Just so Maximum Leader or some renegade general doesn’t launch a massive attack.

The goal of conflict in Israel’s case should not be peace. It should be management. What is management? Management is the fairly precise and constantly monitored level of what is acceptable. Last week Israel bombed a weapons store in Syria and 8 other targets comprised of Iranian weapons destined for Hezbollah either in Southern Syria or Lebanon….And the West went nuts. Cable channels and newspapers screaming that Israel is dragging us (I don’t know who us is, but it’s someone important) into a regional war. The Syrians proclaimed that Israel is on the side of al Qaeda. In the US Colin Powell’s ex chief of staff told us that the chemical attacks in Syria were….you guessed it, a Zionist false flag to force Obama to get involved (Funny, I have not seen Obama head in that direction?).

But if one were to stop acting crazy one would conclude two things: 1) under UNSC-1701 “UNIFIL”, Israel is actually chartered with the specific responsibility to do exactly what they did – keep advanced weapons out of the hands of Hezbollah. The real point to be made here is that Israel simply refused to do that job BEFORE for political reasons among them, no desire to stick Assad with a sharp stick, and 2) these weapons likely had more to do with Israel than Syria since they are large, long range, high precision weapons. Not something Hezbollah could use against poorly located moving targets in Syria. They are designed for use against stationary targets like military bases, ports, factories, staging depots, etc.  What we see here is Israel acting on Israel’s behalf in a very narrow sphere in order to moderate the potential for future atrocities below the level they are willing to tolerate. It’s not to wage war on Syria or even Hezbollah. In fact not crushing Hezbollah and instead tying them down in a mini Viet Nam slugfest in Syria is a good outcome. Not toppling Assad for as long as possible is a good thing. A war that ‘drags in’ everyone else is precisely what they don’t want or need. Dragging in Iran, which has spent about $12 billion dollars backstopping Assad and Hezbollah is enough.

In Asharq al-Awsat, Abdul Rahman al-Rashed gets it right when he asks aloud “Are you with Syria or Israel?”  Israel isn’t ‘for’ anyone here but themselves. Israel neither needs nor seeks any sort of false peace which serves up more Jews. Israel needn’t concern itself with any particular outcome here since all of them are terrible. And since they are terrible there’s nothing resembling any sort of actual peace that pops out the other side of it. Viewing this as a condition where peace erupts serves no one but the Arabs. No one.  Why does hoping for peace make any sense? It doesn’t, it obscures and obfuscates. Utopianism is a fine sentiment but it means literally ‘nowhere’ in Latin.  And where are nation states headed but nowhere when they pursue it.

Peace did not exist before 1967 so any attempt to go back to the way things were before 1967 won’t attain peace. Peace did not exist in 1965, or 1960 or 1956 or 1949, 1948, 1947 or before. And somehow through grit courage and tenacity Israel has managed to grow from a state of 600,000 to 8 million to an economy of nearly $243 billion dollars and a place where Warren Buffet buys high tech companies that make things nowhere else on the planet. Not too shabby for no peace.

But once we assume that Manichean thinking of big-P Peace, western liberal modern free weed electric car whole food LGBT multiculti Jew and Arab dancing together under a gluten free sky or NOTHING, then nothing is what we get. That’s what ideology gets you. Well that or the Gulags, your choice. Peace implies a return to the 2,000 years of politically powerless Jews, tolerated guests in their own nation.

So Israel stops Hezbollah from getting advanced long range missiles, and shore to ship cruise missiles. Israel stops Hamas from effectively using BM-21 Grad artillery rockets. Israel operates no more than 27 checkpoints in Yesha (read that again, 27 in total, 15 of which are on the Greenline as cross points into Israel and the other 12 are in Yesha but only partially manned and often not used at all) and Israel has declared a matter of national law, enforced by the police that more than 80% of Yesha is off limits to Israelis and cannot enter any of Area A. These and a hundred other things are narrow, specific and employ as little overt forces as manageable. Occasionally, for reasons that are generally more political than strategic, Israel unleashes the dogs and partially dismembers the people trying to kill them. Twice in Gaza, recently, once in a while an air strike in southern Lebanon, the odd Syrian Nuclear Reactor here and there. This is why I tend not to side with the emotive response of ‘well what do you think any other country would do..” because 1) I don’t care it’s not relevant and no one notices, 2) many nations respond even more harshly and no one cares about that either, and 3) they sit and suffer and take it anyhow. Remember there is no peace – this goes on all over the world every day; in Nigeria, in Congo, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Burma, all of the Caucuses, central Asia, Mali, Sudan, Somalia, Western Sahara and such.

I believe there never was, is not and never will be a negotiated settlement. The Arabs have made their demands plain: No Israel. Period. No two state, no Jews, no nothing. Were Israel to unwind the clock tomorrow and retreat to the 1949 lines nothing would change. The Arabs would demand the rest of Israel, all the “Palestinians” in the world to be let into Israel  and the hate speech and lawfare would escalate. There would still be terrorist attacks. The UN wouldn’t shut down the 80% of what it exists for – to murder Jews. There will never be this ineffable ‘peace’. And it is monomaniacally paranoid to chop off one limb after another while trying. Maybe if we give them Jerusalem, maybe if we let 100,000 ‘Palestinians’ in, maybe if we tear down all the fences with Gaza, maybe if we give them all of Golan, maybe if we pay the Turks a billion dollars, maybe maybe maybe maybe. This is absurd. This is how a people without a country behave. This is how the Jews of Europe survived as an oppressed minority – haggling and bargaining for another day. There’s an old joke where some king declares that henceforth all Jews must leave the kingdom. The Jews panic and they send their wisest Rabbi to the king. He tells the king, let us stay for one year – at the end of that one year I will have taught your dog to speak. The king agrees because he’s fascinated by the prospect. The Rabbi returns home and the Jews go nuts crying how could you do that, no one can teach a dog to speak and we’ll suffer even more. The Rabbi stated, don’t worry, in a year either the king will be dead or the dog will be. We get at least that long.

But this is a joke about a powerless people, Jews who have to do this. The implication is of course that things might not turn out ok and could get a lot worse. This is what peace is, it’s the fear that things could and might get worse. Peace is the worry that peace will end. I’m reminded of Viktor Frankl, the psychotherapist who survived 5 different concentration camps in the Shoah. He notes in his book about that that in some ways the worst part of his life was when he was on the run from the Nazis. But when he was finally captured and sent to the camps, he thought ‘before I lived in fear, now I lived in hope.’

1 comment:

  1. So, this is how Dan Greenfield gets his jollies, huh? The guy is so prolific that he even pretends to be bloggers like "Empress Trudy" for the purpose of publishing even more material on-line.

    The goal of conflict in Israel’s case should not be peace. It should be management.

    Well, that's a very sad thing, but I suspect that it's true. I was someone who, for a long time, held out considerable hope for the Oslo process, but there has to come a point where you learn from the past.

    The fact of the matter is that the Arab majority in the Middle East, including Arab residents of Israel, have absolutely no intention whatsoever of ending the long war against the Jews.

    They have us outnumbered by a factor of about 70 to 1 in that part of the world so it only takes a very small percentage of their numbers to keep the violence against Jews going.

    btw, the Muslim Brotherhood just held an anti-Jewish / anti-Zionist rally in Cairo, yet this is the organization that Obama helped usher into power and who is now sending Abrams tanks and F-16 fighter jets.