So the Israelis and the Palestinian Arabs are at it again, doing what they do best; battering the snot out of each other. Mind you, it's not exactly the Battle of the Bulge, or Soviets against Nazis at Kursk. This is more like a couple of big-ass Castro Street drag queens squaring off.
Lots of slapping and hair-pulling and screeching. A couple of busted press-on nails. Scratches and even a bite or three.
But both combatants will walk - or strut - or swish - away. In fact, both sides are getting exactly what they want out of this. Hamas gets cred for being the baddest Koran-wallopers in the southeastern Levant, cocking a snook at the Big Evil Jewish Entity and knee-walking away. Israel's government, suffering from a bad case of Little Man's Disease, gets to hang some Arab skins on the kibbutz barn and look all badass, too.
Of course, a couple of hundred women, kids, cripples, old people, house pets and the odd combatant have been rendered into bloody rags, but, hell, you can't make a religious state omlette without breaking some infidel eggs, right? And besides, if they didn't want to be killed, why were they born there?No, as far as this old soldier is concerned, getting worked up about Jews and Arabs fighting over the craptacular Palestinian desert is like staying up nights worrying about whether your kid is masturbating. So what? There's clean sheets in the cupboard, they pretty much do it because they enjoy it, and it's gonna happen whether you stress about it or not.
What DOES bug me is the degree to which my country is all bollixed up by our connections to this moronic catfight. First, the required disclaimer: I find Hamas as loathesome as any of these "built with bloody hands" former guerilla-group governments. They rank right up there with Sinn Fein, with the Tamil Tigers, as a bunch of people I wouldn't invite to my daughter's quinceanera party. But, then again, my country doesn't fund or otherwise support them.Israel is a different plate of matzo altogether. The U.S. foreign policy is fucked up like a football bat where Israel is concerned, and I can't help but get exasperated enough at times like these to point it out.Specifically:
1. Israel is a geopolitically and strategically useless "ally" for the U.S. to get all sweaty about*. Maybe not as useless as Andorra or the Grenadines, but more useless than Panama or South Africa. All the U.S. needs out of the southeastern Mediterranean is:
a. Passage through Suez choke-point. That's an Egypt deal - Israel can't do anything but bugger it up, and
b. A relative lack of conflict, or some semblance of stability in the region. Between Israel and their Arab neighbors we haven't had that for sixty years.
Israel is a nice little Western-like democracy in a place where democracy and Westernism are rare. That in itself makes Israel pleasant, like a fluffy pussycat. But when you add in all the fights, the prickly disposition and the tendency to urinate all over to mark it's territory...this kitty bites. How about a nice goldfish instead?2. As detailed above, the U.S. doesn't "need" Israel for anything. Their appeal and the reason we consider them an "ally" is purely sentimental. We "like" them because they're American-looking, they're modern and Western. We think they look like "us" (instead of the Arabs, who look like "them"). Well. Sentiment is a bad master for policy, or most of anything else outside of love and marriage, for that matter.3. Our reflexive support of Israel, on the other hand, invariably costs us with the Arab states and stateless organizations in the Middle East. Costs us militarily, costs us polically, costs us economically. There is no real reason that the U.S. needs to be an active enemy of the Arab states. We need petroleum, which is fungible and will be sold to the highest bidder - us, if that's the case. And we need passage through several geostrategic choke points dominated by Islamic nations: the Strait of Tiran, and the Sunda Strait, and the Red Sea.That's all.
Beyond that, we should be able to let the Arab nations go their own way. If they want alliance we can ally with them, if it's in our interests. If they harm or otherwise attack us, as the Afghans did (or let happen) in 2001, or the Libyans did in 1805, then we can fight them. But there is no real fundamental reason we need to be in a state of permanent low-level war with them.
And that's it. We have no reason to subsidize, arm or otherwise bankroll the Israelis. And by doing so it makes them our cat in this idiotic catfight.
*(And I don't even want to go into the whole issue of Israel's "right" to exist, who "owns" the land between the Jordan and the Med, and why Israel is even there to begin with. I'm reading something called "A Peace To End All Peace" and the take-away lesson is the appalling combination of ignorance, hubris, racism, greed, bad faith, and stupiditythat it took between the Brits, French, Ottomans, Jews and Arabs to arrive at a Jewish state in the Levant in 1948. Israel, IMO, has exactly the same "right" that the Palestinian Arabs have: the right to whatever they can claw out with their hands and brains. We and the Brits were idiots to encourage the early Zionists to continue to filibuster Palestine. If we wanted to give the Jews a state we already had one bunker for religious nuts in Utah, so, what, Nevada was too good for them? And the Brits had no business giving Palestine to anyone; it wasn't theirs to begin with. But once on the ground, the Jews fought and fought well.A little too well. Now they're stuck with a bunch of territory they can't digest and won't spit out. If we and they were honest the alternatives would be simple. They can genocide the Arabs and take the land, daring all comers to compare them with the great monsters of the past - become the Mongols of the 21st Century. Or they can retreat to the 1967 Green Line borders, fort up and wait for the Arabs to get bored. Or fight each other. Or find a Saladin who will unite them and drive the Jews into the sea. Or reach a modus vivendi with them.And yet, here we are, again, watching the two screaming nancies battle it out to be Queen Bitch of the Arid Dunghill of the Levant. And cringe at the bloodyhanded insanity. And turn our heads and pretend we didn't see, or that once again we end up looking like the hulking brother of the little bully with all that implies for our standing in the wider world opinion. And wonder, again, what bad cess we will receive as a result of it.
Whatever. That's their - and SHOULD be their - problem. In my studied opinion, the U.S. should have no more intimate association with Israel than we have with any other geopolitically useless state, than we do with Paraguay or Tonga or Sikkim.)
Update 1/3: Here's Glenn Greenwald pointing out the freakish effect this stuff has on American politics:
"Ultimately, what is most notable about the "debate" in the U.S. over Israel-Gaza is that virtually all of it occurs from the perspective of Israeli interests but almost none of it is conducted from the perspective of American interests. American opinion-making elites march forward to opine on the historical rights and wrongs of the endless Israeli-Palestinian territorial conflict with such fervor and fixation that it's often easy to forget that the U.S. is not actually a direct party to this dispute." (emphasis mine)This is bad - bad for Israel, bad for the Arab states, and especially bad for the U.S. It is very probable that there is no solution for Israel's troubles with its neighbors other than the Roman, Norman or Mongol one - to exterminate the brutes. But this is NOT a requirement for the U.S., and to be a party to it will make us a byword and a hissing in the non-Jewish parts of southwest Asia for generations. We should really be thinking about this, and the way the U.S. government works we are not.
And that's not a good thing.
Update 1/5: Here's a good example of the "debate" regarding the U.S./Israel relationship over at National Journal. It's worth looking at all five essayists' responses. Note that, of the five, the one who has actual experience dealing with Israel, COL Patrick Lang (of the blog Sic Semper Tyrannis), is the most scathing. No, he says, Israel is an essentially worthless, sentimental choice by the U.S. And the most hypertrophic Israel partisan? The usual Heritage foundation hack (in this case, Jim Carafano). Of the remaining three, Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown pens an utterly useless capriole of nonsense about how Israel is so cool and democratic and its intelligence service is SO awesome (this, mind you, right below Lang's essay - and Lang worked in military intel - where Lang says that Israeli intel ain't all that) and gosh, the Israelis are SO like us. Dov Zakheim shows why the Bush Defense Department was such a fucking disaster by making his point that U.S. support for Israel shows our "commitment", and besides, Iran! Booga! Booga! Scary! And Mike Scheuer tells the Israelis to go piss up a rope.
Honestly. It'd make you cry if it didn't make you weep...
Update 1/7: In the comments section Lisa asked about John Bolton's "Three State Solution". I made some offhand comments about how this canard gets thrown up by the usual wingnuts every time the Jews and Arabs start bashing each other and some of the reasons it doesn't work. Well, here's Marc Lynch doing a MUCH better job of explaining why John Bolton is, fundamentally, a tool. Oh, and while we're on the subject: here's Lynch reporting a disturbing meeting with Israel's U.S. Ambassador where Meridor comes as close to actually admitting that Israel has no clue what the long-term plan for Gaza is as he can without actually saying so. Ezra Klein chimes in with an assessment that either a) Meridor is talking fact and the Israelis HAVE no actual strategy, or b) Meridor is talking smack because their strategy is so nasty (killing Arabs until the Arabs give up in horror) or so skeevy (killing Arabs to boost Kadima at the ballot box, or to make Israelis feel better about themselves after the Lebanon debacle in 2006) that, in the words of Jack Nicholson, "we can't handle the truth!"
Either way, this is starting to look ever more lame.