Tom Segev: Conflict Management not Peace in The Middle East

Tom Segev, Israeli jouranlist (and author of the actually good book on the 67 War) with an insightful if nearly totally depressing op-ed in the Washington Post.

Segev:

I belong to a generation of Israelis who grew up believing in peace. At the end of the Six-Day War of 1967, I was 23, and I had no doubt that 40 years later, the Israeli-Arab war would be over. Today, my son, who is 28, no longer believes in peace. Most Israelis don’t. They know that Israel may not survive without peace, but from war to war, they have lost their optimism. So have I.

Because:

Apart from the conflict’s cruelty — particularly toward civilians, including numerous children — the present eruption is most likely to be remembered as yet another step in a long march of folly that began in 1967.

Following the Six-Day War, the Israeli government contemplated moving hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza and resettling them in the West Bank. That could have made the present situation infinitely less convoluted. But the plans remained on paper because some of the most powerful members of the Israeli government, including the right-wing leader Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, believed that the West Bank should be reserved exclusively for Jewish settlement.

This was probably the worst mistake in Israel’s history. With nearly 300,000 Israelis living in the West Bank today and an additional 200,000 living in the formerly Arab part of Jerusalem, it is almost impossible to draw sensible borders and achieve peace.

Undoubtedly the post 67 euphoria (partly nationalist, partly religious, which are always mixed in Israeli-Zionist history…even the secular there has a kind of religious fervor), the decision to settle into the West Bank (which as Gorenberg pointed out was really accidental and certainly not thought through) has sealed the region into a forever stalemate.  There is no Palestinian state I’m sad to say anywhere on the horizon.  I think frankly one should just be created on paper, since it is never going to happen otherwise in real life, and then possibly the fact that it exists will make it come to exist.

But this sadly seems to me to the truth all around:

This conflict is not merely about land and water and mutual recognition. It is about national identity. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians define themselves by the Holy Land — all of it. Any territorial compromise would compel both sides to relinquish part of their identity.

Segev says Israel should return to what it was created for, being a Jewish democracy (not as in Gorenberg an Accidental Empire).  It would require a complete withdraw from The West Bank but I just can’t see that happening.  They are too enmeshed, too embedded, the occupation as a cancer on the Israeli political body strikes me as too deep.  Such a radical operation and political chemotheraphy seems beyond any politician in a fractured electoral environment.

The result of which:

I no longer believe in solving the conflict. What I do believe in is better conflict management — including talks with Hamas, which is a taboo that must be broken. The need for U.S. engagement has led me, along with many other Israelis, to harbor high hopes for the administration of Barack Obama. The Bush administration was mainly concerned with keeping alive a diplomatic fiction called “The Peace Process.” But there really was no such “process.” Instead, the oppression of the Palestinians continued and intensified, even after Israel had evacuated several thousand settlers from Gaza in 2005. More settlements were put up in the West Bank.

Agreed.  Again either declare the state or don’t and manage the conflict (or maybe do both).  Don’t have a process towards a Palestinian state because that is all it will ever be–a process towards some unachievable goal.  To change Lennon:  Don’t Give Peace a Chance.  Here Yoda holds true: Do or Do not, there is no try.

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Published in: on January 11, 2009 at 5:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Article on Hamas for C11

I have an article up at Culture11 on the “rationality” (means-end rationality not the rationality of their goals/ends in mind) of Hamas. The link is here. Big ups to political editor extraordinaire James Poulos.

A sneak peak:

There is a method to the madness of Hamas that comports with this reality. Hamas seeks to fight in the only way it can win, given the military, economic, and political disparity between the two countries. Whatever else one thinks, Hamas is rational enough — in its means, if not its goals — to fight in the way that maximizes both its advantages and Israel’s disadvantages simultaneously. So the more Hamas militants and/or Gaza civilians are killed (up to an extreme point, of course), the more Hamas achieves tactical, asymmetric success against Israel — leading to a victory for Hamas that further delegitimizes Fatah and moderate Arab regimes like Egypt’s.

The reality in question being irregular insurgent warfare against a conventionally armed nation-state.

The implication (left implied) for Israel is a counter-intuitive one. The argument is that Hamas should be brought into the political process as a way to neutralize them and shift the “Low-Intensity Conflict” in the long run to their favor. Because Israel wins fights against nation-states.

Take Hezbollah who either won or fought to a draw (depending on your pov) their short war with Israel in 2006. After that conflict, Hezbollah was brought formally into The Lebanese State. Hezbollah has not (so far as I know) changed their official position on seeking the total destruction of the state of Israel. But has Hezbollah joined in this round of conflict? Not yet and I don’t think they will. They have a stake now in the (admittedly ramshackle) Lebanese state. They are now in a coalition government and their actions as they realized in 2006 could and did cause Lebanese not of their ethnic background/political persuasion to get killed. That’s bad for their legitimacy.

The same I think could be done with Hamas. They won’t change their rhetoric on destroying Israel but the logic of statecraft begins to takeover at some point. The Peace Process to date has been under the assumption that the Palestinians get a state when they act right (accept Israel, stop attacks, etc.).  What if that is backwards?  What if the state has to be built first in order that (from Israel’s pov) the long term strategy will play to their advantage and leave the Palestinians having to take up state buildup?

Just a reminder that I blog fairly frequently at Culture 11’s Faith Blog, Credo. Here is a piece up today on Anglo-Catholicism.

Published in: on January 7, 2009 at 1:12 am  Comments (2)  
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J. Enriquez: Understanding The Economic Crisis

Everyone should must watch this short 30 minute clip on the Financial Crisis and the necessity for absolutely radical change.  The talk is a PopTech gtalk given by Juan Enriquez, whose spent most of his life studying similar crises around the world (particularly in Latin America).

His 5 Stages of Meltdown are:

1. Denial (Greenspan, W. Bush)
2. Borrow, Spend, Borrow More (Stimulus Packages)
3. Go Broke
4. Brutal Readjustment
5. Rebuild

The US and much of the world is at step 2. Question: When the whole industrialized world goes broke simultaneously who foots the bill? Who does the restructuring? Where does that money come from?

Without a massive change–i.e. massive cuts in defense and entitlement spending, caps in health care spending, raised taxes–the US appears headed to become Mexico (or perhaps Brazil) in about t-minus 6-10 years.  If the dollar loses its value (with 70% of debt owned by foreign entities) then there will be a global run on shorting the dollar and that’s all she wrote folks.

The Democrats are increasingly beholden to Keynesian economics, which assumes the problem is on the demand side.  Whatever is left of the Republican party thinks its Fannie Mae and some temporary credit crisis and a nice chance to apply some shock-therapy disaster capitalism (say to the Auto Unions).  I’m less than a true believer in the Obama stimulus (or the Krugman retort that it is too tax cut heavy and not enough infrastructure buildup).  Both are just variations on how best to do the Keynesian thing.  [Friedman monetary policy has failed and I think Keynesian will as well].

The right-after-the-immediacy of the credit/demand problem-is-over horizon is a solvency crisis.  It is a debt crisis–a crisis of the fundamental way of doing economic business.  That we have to be more like our grandparents (my grandparents I should say), who actually built things and saved money.  No get rich quick schemes.  As Enriquez says the stimulus at best is a torniquet, but with all torniquets if it is applied beyond the moment of aboslute need, then it will cut off the circulation, causing amputation or worse death. I’m not lauding or romaniticizing some austerity program and the good old days when everyone helped one another.  This is going to brutal.  It’s surgery–invasive, multi-organ, painful surgery–in Enriquez’s words.

It’s that or enjoying living in a post-imperial decline state.

Another related clip here from the film IOUSA

For an alternative view, see Krugman here.

meta on meta calculus: quick first reax

As a quick first blush reaction to the process of writing in this new format of integral calculus (need better term for it….hmmm), a couple of points.

1. It helps if I write them straight through in one sitting with little to no breaks.  The second post I think suffered a bit from a number of delays that came upon me in writing it, forcing me to compose over a few days.  There is a kind of zone that I felt take over when I began that I don’t (at least yet) automatically fall back into upon taking back up the keyboard.

2. I should have thought of this, but didn’t, but the biggest learning so far has been that the process is itself is unending (just like the arising of the Kosmos it is supposed to be pointing to).  That is, whatever the length of any post I take as soon as I step in the stream at one point (the stop operator Wilber calls it, signified by the / symbol) and work on some perspective/dimension then that immediately puts me in touch with all kinds of other perspectives and dimensions.  (Other holons in Wilber’s language).

3. Which means the writing begins and ends whenever I choose–both times.  Beginning / and Ending /.  The stream is purely cascading as Wilber says and I’ve more and more began to experience that arising in my own consciousness as I write in this manner.  Elliot Bejamin, whose domain is Integral Mathematics, once told me that he would wake up and do a math problem as a means of meditation.  He found deep symmetry, beauty, and aestheticism to the process. That’s something what the experience of doing these posts is for me.

Published in: on January 4, 2009 at 9:58 pm  Comments (2)  
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integral calculus: avery dulles and the death penalty

For the introduction to this series, here. For the first post like this one, here.

Article in Weekly Standard on Cardinal Avery Dulles and his somewhat nuanced reiteration of traditional Catholic teaching on the Death Penalty. The author Mark Tooley pretty accurately in my mind represents Dulles’ views. When I was a Jesuit I spent my last year in studies at Fordham where then Cardinal Dulles was still teaching (that was in 2003-2004). Dulles died recently (RIP and pray for us). He was flat and dry as a a piece of wood in class but he was a really kind and gracious person. And a brilliant scholar. The basic gist of the position re: death penalty is that the Catholic Church grants the state the right to have the death penalty but particularly in countries with modern penal systems probably doesn’t ever actually need to use it. And should proceed if ever with extreme caution. Certainly issues in the US system like the number of cases of DNA exonerating people either after death or while on death row, the execution of the mentally challenged or disturbed, and the massively disproportionate number of poor people (poor white, black, and Latino) as those executed all suggest a mass moratorium across the country on the practice. For anyone interested here is a really well done sorta fan page of Dulles with video, articles he’s written, and the like.

Anyway off to the perspectives…  (Warning: Dense-ness  ahead). (more…)