Thursday, July 13, 2006

Wisdom from Juan

Although I have tried to take a break from war-watching, recent events in Middle East cannot be ignored. The sectarian killings and cycle of reprisals continue in Iraq and now the Israel-Palestinian conflict is beginning to spill over into what could become a regional war. ya rab! ya rabi! What is happening here? Just when you think things cannot possibly get worse, new unimaginable events take matters into an even deeper downward spiral. Here's what Professor Juan Cole has to say today.

All hell broke loose on Wednesday in the Mideast, with a Hizbullah attack on the Israeli army and Israeli reprisals, and the Israeli dropping of a 500 pound bomb on Gaza. I roundly condemn Hizbullah's criminal and stupid attack on Israel and escalation of a crisis that is already harming ordinary Palestinians on a massive scale.

Likewise, the Beirut airport is not in south Lebanon and for the Israelis to bomb it and neighborhoods in south Beirut is a disproportionate use of force. The Israelis are actually talking about causing "pain to the Lebanese." That is despicable.

One thing is clear. This crisis will not leave the fabric of Lebanese politics untouched, and the danger of an unraveling is acute. And, it is clear that the withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon has given an opening to Israeli hawks to invade Lebanese territory again. It will not be good for Israelis if Lebanon collapses into a failed state again.

Rejectionists on both sides are to blame. The Oslo Peace Process could have forestalled all this violence, as Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin understood. But on the Israeli side, the then Likud Party of Bibi Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert derailed it. On the Palestinian side, Hamas rejected it. Had there been a peace process, prisoners would have been released in return for a cessation of hostilities, and there would have been no motivation to capture Israeli soldiers.

The lesson is that if you refuse to negotiate a peace, then you are likely to have to go on fighting a war.

And war means death, and modern warfare seems to involve mainly the death of civilians, children, parents, and other non-combatants. Helena Cobbana over at Just World Newsnotes,
If Haaretz's often well informed Amos Harel is to be believed, then his sources in at least the Israeli military (but let's hope not their political commanders?) are talking about inflicting damage on Lebanon that will force the country's "civilian infrastructures [to] regress 20, or even 50 years."

Well, at one level, we could say to that: no big deal. The Lebanese people in general-- and Hizbullah's associated "jihad al-bina'" construction companies in particular-- are really quite good at rebuilding civilian infrastructures. The Israeli military gave them plenty of practice doing that in the decades before 2000. At anothert level, though, we all know well today that when roads and bridges are cut, power generating plants and water and sewage plants incapacitated, then real people suffer and die-- and usually the sick, the old, the disabled, and the weak.

I have few words of wisdom of my own, just pray for peace.

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