I've avoided spending a lot of time on the border skirmish between Israel and Lebanon. No one has a good enough argument here to get my support. It's difficult to separate Hizbollah from Lebanon on the one hand, on the other, Israel seems to be practicing collective punishment.
So let's just talk about war. We've seen this play out before. First the shooting, then the diplomacy. Why not skip the preliminaries and go straight to the inevitable outcome? I've said it before someplace, but every war is a struggle for peace. Why not skip the struggle part?
Israel isn't in so much of a cold war with its neighbors, as it is a simmer. And that simmering pot is carefully tended.
This is part of the problem. Two girls brought into a struggle they can't possibly understand to create a photo-op. The symbolism is hamhanded - like all propaganda - the munitions bear their names because they will be fired in their name.
But what are these children being taught? That war is just, that some people deserve to be blown all to shit, that violence is positive. And you could probably find similar photos from farther north, with arabic writing on shells, signed with arabic names.
Everything we teach children is tossed out the window in war. What's wrong when individuals do it is right when nations do it. Law only applies to people who's faces you can see - once you leave your nation's borders, you enter into a lawless region where the only law is the law of might. In the nationalist mind, only the citizens of your nation are fully human. Others are to be tolerated only so far, beyond that they are brutes who only understand punishment and death. As Caligula said, "Let them hate us, so long as they fear us."
Speaking of hating us, Bush gave nations a good reason to do that yesterday, with his off the cuff (and, unintentionally, on the mic) comments to Tony Blair.
BUSH: "See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over."
BLAIR: "Who, Syria?"
BUSH: "Right . . . What about Kofi? That seems odd. I don't like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically ceasefire and everything else happens."
BLAIR: "I think the thing that is really difficult is you can't stop this unless you get this international presence agreed." . . .
BUSH: "I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen. We're not blaming Israel. We're not blaming the Lebanese government."
The media has been reporting the trivial fact that Bush - *gasp* - said 'shit'. I'm surprised no one's pointed out that the President was chewing with his mouth open, like a cow - it's just as unimportant. But according to middle east expert Juan Cole, Bush's comment showed an amazingly simplistic view of the situation and that's the story - which isn't being reported.
So, the whole blow-up is Syria's fault, for putting Hizbullah up to making mischief. No reference to Israeli actions in Gaza. No reference to, like, the wholesale destruction of Lebanon by the Israeli air force. And no blame for the Lebanese government of Fouad Siniora. And Bush thinks that Nasrullah of Hizbullah takes direct orders from Damascus. And he thinks that if Bashar al-Asad orders Hizbullah to stop firing its little katyushas and give back the two Israeli soldiers, everything will suddenly settle down.
It is an astonishingly simple-minded view of the situation, painted in black and white and making assumptions about who is who's puppet and what the Israeli motivations are. Israel doesn't appear as a protagonist. It is purely reactive. Stop provoking it, and it suddenly stops its war.
Since Israel is just being provoked and has no ambitions of its own, in this reading, it is useless to begin with a ceasefire. That treats the two sides as both provoking one another. Here, only Hizbullah matters, so you lean on Syria to lean on it, and, presto, peace breaks out.
It is a little window into the superficial, one-sided mind of the man, who has for six years been way out of his depth.
I come away from it shaken and trembling.
Apparently, Bush really does believe that the solution to a complex international problem can be written on a slip of paper and put into a fortune cookie. No wonder invading Iraq seemed like a good idea.
(Photos courtesy of Associated Press)