Sunday, July 30, 2006

Kill the Gibson

Nah, sorry, the title is just a geek in-joke. But in response to William Gibson's blog entry and as a general point:

I can understand and probably even agree that the solution to the Middle East crisis is not military. Not even the mighty IDF can win a guerilla war on foreign soil, and so far they seem to have the sense not to try, at least not to commit massive forces to a ground assault.

That, however, does not mean Israel could have reacted differently. It is in a fundamentally inferior position. For the Arabs, a defeat in Lebanon will be no more than a mild annoyance; they have suffered all-out military defeats before and have shrugged them off. The agenda opposing Israel is not the agenda of Nasrallah or Ahmadinejad or Hamas - it is the agenda of an ideology with a stranglehold on hundreds of millions of people. Unlike its enemies, Israel cannot afford even a single defeat, as this will mean the destruction of the country. (Europeans and particularly Americans seem mostly incapable of comprehending this. To them the idea that a country could cease to exist is preposterous in the context of the 21st century.) I've called Israel a generally Western place, but the Middle East is still quite medieval in its outlook; strength is the ultimate virtue, and Israel's existence is secured by the assurance of defeat for any challenger. This assurance must be maintained.

The paradigm in which Israel exists is less different from the paradigm of Hezbollah and Hamas than it is from the paradigm of someone living in Vancouver. I only have the capacity to appreciate this nuance because I come from a country that has fought fiercely for its independence against an incomprehensibly superior force, and had been betrayed by its supposed allies on several occasions.

So while I have the utmost respect for Gibson - he has the sort of ability to see into the heart of things that I admire even more than his mastery of language; basically I want to be him when I grow up - in this case any criticism or lament of the situation is academic unless accompanied by an effort to present a plausible exit strategy.

A total victory of Israel over Hezbollah and an establishment of a democratic, peaceful, moderate, lasting regime in Lebanon - the absolute best-case scenario - will not solve Israel's problem once and for all, and certainly neither will any likely outcome. But that doesn't mean Israel could choose not to fight this war. Whatever its generation.

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