Monday, July 17, 2006
the lack of ideas
If you look at the jihadists, they had a victory in '79 by pushing the Soviets out of Afghanistan. They pushed the U.S. out of Lebanon. The pushed the Israelis out of Gaza and out of Lebanon. They're probably pushing the U.S. out of Iraq. They are on the march.
Iraq is part of that, but it's not the whole story. They are on the march, and they're sidelining the reasonable people in the Middle East, who may be the majority, but right now what's happening in the Middle East is the Israeli public opinion has gone to the center, for withdrawal, but Arab decision makers have gone to the extremes, to Hamas and Hezbollah.
And that's just not something -- we can't call them up and have a summit. We can't have shuttle diplomacy. We can't invite them to Camp David because they're so extreme, so we are constrained. I agree with Mark; it's gloomy, but it's a long historical trend of which Iraq is an important part.
looking past the shameless and transparent incitation to fear -- that we should all flee for the hills with the approach of a murderous army, something that could not be further from the imminent reality and is indeed a sort of perverse projection -- which is something that accompanies and perhaps underlies virtually every single public political initiative in the united states as a wild-eyed democracy without moral guidance; and further looking past the cooption of a half-considered "historical" viewpoint as propaganda in the service of a far more frantic and desperate frenzy for immediate temporal political power under the aegis of anglophone empire, which is in the end all that brooks' masters know or understand; note the basic question interposed by brooks:
how do we confront and defeat these 'enemies'?
there is a sharp point to be made here -- the western political elite of any facet feel they have no means by which to interact reasonably with the parties of islamic civilization which oppose our empire on their shores. there is no understanding and there are no ideas.
they are confused by the lack of a state apparatus -- so much so that they, in completely mad folly, go about attacking governments without any real control over or responsibility for these wounds in the side of the west. such blind lashing about allows them the technical convenience of utilizing the monstrous and debilitating apparatus of violence that is the arm of the nation-state, the army. this, one imagines, may make rulers in white houses feel more psychologically comfortable about the vast debts they incur in accumulating the weapons of mass destruction -- they are of some use after all, they nervously tell themselves, and are not archaic and futile after all.
but it fails to recognize that no basic problems are being solved. what if, say, iraq is quelled by american murder and technique, and israel further slaughters its way through lebanon all the way to aleppo and damascus. what then? and what if then further these armies of crusading western empire turn their bloody swords on iran and egypt, making nothing more of persian and arab political determination than another province of american administration?
would al qaeda then go away? hamas? hezbollah?
of course not -- the very concept, once stated, reveals its idiocy. and this because these organizations are dependent neither on friendly governments nor safe havens. what they are solely dependent on is western antagonism, for they feed and thrive on the incursions of the decaying west -- which like a dying star swells in its death throes into a fiery giant, uncontrollably destroying all it contacts as its hollowly inflates itself just before, finally, collpasing and imploding in upon itself -- onto the mohammedan culture of the east. hamas, hezbollah and al-qaeda do not decrease in attraction and magnetism as the west rampages through arab plains littered with the bodies of the innocent; they increase, and profoundly in scope and integrity, giving rise to a new conception of islamic chivalry that is as perfectly suited to the post-ottoman east under the onslaught of a macabre postchristian west as the medieval chivalry of christian knights was suited to the nascent west under the onslaught of the armies of the saracens.
the power men seek upon this earth is nothing but the pursuit of evil in the christian conception, and evil is its own fleeting reward. the west, having now long ago lost any semblance of morality and existing as it does in an incredible ruddy rococo of diversion and emptiness, has had nothing left to it but to have become the embodiment of this evil -- and pervasively, for is there any western man who does not value his possessions over all else? and what are possessions and wealth if not merely the misguided measure of one's status, of one's power? it is not merely the elite of this plebiscitarian society that have embraced decadence. consider that money is not the root of evil; instead, that money is but the yardstick by which the petty illusion of temporal power is measured. in its boggling and encyclopedic search for wealth and power, the west has become what it long ago beheld -- powerful and evil beyond all proportion. we in the west have become a hell unto the earth.
and we are not the first. rome persuaded the barbarians over its frontiers in much the same way as we have persuaded ours. and it should not be unnoticed that, for all his fear-mongering, brooks is right -- the west, invested deeply in technical capacity but without an iota of morality, is too weak to defeat these aliens in far-flung empire. soon enough by the count of centuries, as was seen in rome and babylon and all the world's civilizations prior, the confrontation between the decadent and evil perversion of civility and the thoroughly antagonized and militarized barbarians over the frontiers will define the ages hence and end in the deserved destruction of the west.
it was beyond the ability of a spartan and ossified hellenic empire to see that their obsession with technique and power was not a vehicle by which the enemies they had made in the pursuit of those obsessions could be surmounted by -- that their only path toward peace lay in the moral and creative light that would only be fully revealed with the collapse of roman administration in the primacy of a christian philosophy that was completely adopted by the tribal kings who laid waste to the evil of rome in spite of their admiration for the civilization rome had been capable of.
so it will be for our spartan and ossified western empire in the fullness of time, and the weakness and desperation in the face of a lack of moral solution is on display now in the mideast and asia -- in iraq, in lebanon, in afghanistan, and soon in syria and iran.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
israel moves on lebanon
Israel said it was seeking to end once and for all Hezbollah's presence on Lebanon's southern border, while the guerrillas insisted they would only release the soldiers in exchange for Israel freeing Arab prisoners.
In a stark warning, the Israeli army chief said Thursday that Israel's air force is prepared to strike anywhere in Lebanon, including the capital of Beirut, if the Lebanese government fails to rein in Hezbollah guerrillas.
"We are not at war, but we are in a very high volume crisis, and we have an intention to put an end to the situation here along the northern border," Brig. Gen. Dan Halutz said in Jerusalem.
this is a fool's errand, of course. neither the lebanese government nor the syrian has the ability to effectively rein in hezbollah, whose popularity transcends both of theirs -- indeed, the lebanese government has been forced to maintain its own credibility by giving hezbollah a seat at the table. neither can israel root out hezbollah, which is a popular grassroots movement which has broad sympathy throughout much of lebanon and syria. if it could not root out hezbollah in 1982, and if it can not restrain hamas in lands they militarily occupy -- indeed, have watched on only to see their amoral brutality rewarded by the elevation of hamas to the status of most popular political group in palestine -- why they should think they can rein in hezbollah in this fashion begs questions regarding the sanity of the israeli political elite, as do the grossly defective and lasciviously violent comments of many of its representatives.
"The Lebanese government is responsible. Lebanon will pay the price," [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert warned. "This morning's events are not a terror attack but the action of a sovereign state which attacked Israel without any reason."
"We will take Lebanon 20 years back," Israel's army chief Dan Halutz was quoted as saying by the private Channel 10 television.
"We must stop the restraint and the diplomatic dialogue and move to a serious military move against anyone who is linked and sends these people," said Avigdor Yitzhaki, the leader of Israel's coalition bloc in parliament.
it should be noted that general halutz's savage reference is to the israeli military occupation of lebanon in 1982. juan cole well notes the "despicable" nature of israeli political emotionalism in this affair, and the possibility of politically-fragile lebanon, in the absence of syrian forces recently withdrawn, accelerating toward a collapse again into disarray. this has been a concern since before the assassination of rafiq hariri and the subsequent sabre-rattling of the united states against syria which ultimately forced syrian withdrawal. in this context, the current debacle begins to look like either israeli exploitation of that withdrawal or, more conspiratorially, the continuation of a plan for israeli militarist expansion according to previously drawn plans to consolidate the "greater israel" that has long been an ideological objective of the militant-nationalist israeli right.
this sort of explosive, murderous and totally unwarranted response to the loss of a few soldiers -- compounded by the slow strangulation of one and a half million palestinians in gaza, whose situation is growing dire -- makes the abduction itself out quite clearly to be merely a trigger to unleash other currents welling up in israeli politics. this is deeply troubling. beyond the designs of the advocates of an israeli empire in the middle east, it seems clearer and clearer that the kadima government of former likudnik ehud olmert, insecure and nervous in the aftermath of the demise of ariel sharon, is lashing out at the expense of morality and decency in an effort to quell its own fears of its own political weakness. the israeli left has been neutered by the open militarization of israeli political and cultural life, and so kadima sees the only threat to its power on its right in the form of neofascist beni netanyahu as leader of likud. in an effort to affirm before a paranoid and bloodthirsty political base -- see the poll on this page at haaretz.com that has 61% of respondents agreeing that the abduction of soldiers justifies invading lebanon, while just 13% believe that the government should talk to hezbollah, a path that has been successful in the past and that hezbollah is publicly requesting -- that he is not weak, olmert is demonstrating his willingness, nay, eagerness to use force of arms.
in so doing, olmert is laying bare the wanton and indulgent evil that lies close to the heart of the western populist political right in a manner very similar to that of the american invasion of iraq -- interestingly, also part and parcel to the plan for a greater israel -- conjured by the bush administration. indeed, some measure of white house complicity with these events is unquestionable and demonstrates the ideological confluence that makes the bush administration close philosophical allies with olmert, kadima and likud.
so lebanese and palestinian civilians pay the price. such is the worthlessness of the corrupted, petulant, wildly paranoid and lawless political leadership of western civilization in its decadence. is it any wonder that the west is hated so deeply by so many, both without and indeed within? indeed, as this page has said:
at some point, these [western] parties in deep ideological delusion and denial will have to ... come to grips with the reality of an elected hamas in palestine [and, by extension, the real power of disenfranchised populist and sometimes militant groups on many fronts] -- and with their unintentional role in assuring its place there by their own belligerence and indifference. issuing self-righteous proclamations about moral clarity regarding terrorism is decidedly unconvincing coming from states whose utter amorality is both obvious and widely known. beyond the plain fact that hamas [and hezbollah and others] is more than a terrorist organization -- for it also feeds the hungry and provides succor in a chaotic occupied land, more than either the israeli or american governments ever tried to do -- there is the fact that terrorism is and will continue to be as effective a path to political power as any, all being equally debased in their avarice of temporal power. what the united states hopes to achieve by dropping laser-guided bombs into city blocks or israel hopes to achieve by firing helicopter missiles into west bank towns, hamas hopes to achieve by suicide bombers. one can certainly understand the logic of not wishing to legitimize violence by rewarding it -- in either direction -- but the more complex counterpoint to that ideological simplification of the actual world must be also to understand when it has been legitimized despite whatever one thought to be best and the time has come to get on with the aftermath, regardless of how your ideology might comport with the empirical truth of events.
clearly, this is a basic truth of power politics which israel remains in a full-blown ideologically-based denial of now -- despite the key role which terrorism played in the concession of a state of israel. many in israel have never been able to accept that the land they cherish as theirs was not theirs except in a zionist interpretation of scripture -- and to manifest scripture as zionism read it, they took the land in 1948 under the auspices of western imperial power and summarily exiled hundreds of thousands of palestinians from lands they had lived on for generations in a fit of ethnic cleansing.
the deep denial of the abdication of morality which accompanied the formation of the state of israel -- in combination with the horrifying experience of the holocaust, which touched many an israeli family -- has left israeli society with a deeply disturbed pathology, characterized by a profound insecurity which finds expression in aggressive militancy and fanatical nationalism. the opposition of arab peoples and governments in place in palestine prior to israel's formation aggravates this insecurity, and the wars of israel against its arab neighbors dating back to 1947 are frequently recast in israel's preferred history to ennoble a national struggle for existence that often overlooks the periodic existence and insidious nature of israeli overreaction and indeed open aggression and despotism. even now, most israelis seem sincerely enough to believe, though delusionally, that invading lebanon is somehow a justifiable defensive move despite the lack of any material threat along its northern border. and yet more believe that the wall now being built through -- not around, but through -- palestine is a vehicle to their well-being and not yet another step of mismanagement which is sure to perpetuate their problems.
meanwhile, palestinians ask for a real and negotiated resolution of their statehood and an end to the amoral inhumanity of their persecution.
to be sure, not all israelis agree with what israel is doing. some see the overreaction. some understand that war is no avenue to peace when the disagreement is not between rival governing elites but between a government and an external popular movement.
but it beggars this writer to try to find a way to have these more sensible voices the ones that lead israel away from the brink of spartan militarist suicide. it seems that, for the time being and with american imperial encouragement, israel will walk further down this dark path to a place where they have been before -- but as the victim of evil, not its embodiment.
UPDATE: for what it's worth, bush apparently believes that syria can control this situation. syria can, but israel and the united states can't. the delusion of this view makes clear just how horrifying the potential path the world is on here really is, the implication being that syria is at fault. this incident -- encouraged by hezbollah, but entirely provoked and prosecuted by israel alone, will become a building block in a case for war against syria.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
nightmare in gaza
this page has before said that what has become of the state of israel is an example of the horror of the west in decline -- a well-intentioned but ill-considered managerial "solution" now gone terrifyingly wrong, begetting a thousand more intractible problems. the new government of kadima, here hoped to hold much promise toward breaking the spell of fear and vengefulness in israel, has only just begun but has already demonstrated its inability to grasp a valid solution to what ails the state, having invaded gaza and arrested the legitimately-elected government of the palestinians, indulging in open punitive warfare upon common palestinian civilians in response to a raid in which one israeli soldier was captured. clearly, the state has come to place a value on one israeli solider -- or rather, on the unassailability of the symbols and implements of their dictatorial authority over life and death in palestine -- greater than the value of the entire palestinian people.
what has become of western political ideals? they seem nowhere in evidence now in palestine and israel, which is demonstrating just how great a danger frightened democracies present to a moral and lawful world -- a danger far greater than that presented by any brigand organization of terrorists.
but these words gain the force of meaning and the evilness -- yes, evilness -- of what the israeli state now is in its struggle to dominate the palestinians as a means of assuaging its own paranoia can only really become apparent by watching the fruits of their labors in gaza. this 10-year-old is the only survivor of her family, whom you see laying about, dead and dying, having been shelled by israeli gunboats as they tried to have a family outing at the beach.
that this unspeakable footage has not seen western televisions -- nor even the event effectively reported in mainstream american media, even as the israeli military attempts to whitewash it out of existence -- says everything about the total amorality of american complicity in it, with american government seeing only imperial interest in a western beachhead in its misguided war against terrorism and de facto the islamic society it equates with a threat.
i say again, there is within israel a beleaguered left, with decent and moral people who have not been driven mad with fear and bloodlust. and a great many people of jewish descent within the state if israel and around the world understand how catastrophically wrong these evils are (quite possibly including the father of this unfortunate soldier). but their existence does not make the israel of 2006 any less of a horrible thing in and of itself. a place where the government and military have made routine this sort of unconscionable abdictation of responsibility to mankind with widespread popular support can not be far from responding to the eventuality of a jewish minority in israel with apartheid or worse, for it clearly has no moral compass anywhere near power.
indeed, i say nothing here that is not true of the united states and many other nations as well. does not the united states now murderously occupy iraq? have not every european state power engaged in exactly this sort of horror?
the moral penury of israel and america -- so vividly on display now in the middle east, which has become a sort of grand theater in which the collapse of western moral life is being played out in scenes like these -- are but symptoms of a western civilization that is completely bankrupt and whose dissolution should be eagerly anticipated by most of the world, including a great many within the walls.
the best days of the west are gone, and it has become in many very important ways shameful to be a westerner.
those are the thoughts that occupied this writer as he sat under a suburban fireworks display this last tuesday, ostensibly celebrating the dead virtue of this corrupted nation of hubris -- considering that, had i been by accident of birth born outside the walls, the cacophany of fireworks might well have been something far more sinister in the vain pursuit of western imperial glory.