April 08, 2002



Before it disappears off their front page, I just want to commend Samizdata and Perry for his nuanced, pensive search for middle ground on the Israel question. Perry proves once again that if you work at it, you can still find a logical position to criticize Israel from without lapsing into this pervasive anti-Semitism we're seeing in the old media... or the knee-jerk anti-Arabism that is cropping up more and more in Blogworld.

While I'm on the topic (and you may have guessed I've been trying to avoid it), I'll just say this. I do not accept the blog-consensus that an attack on Iraq is coming, or even likely. I think there's a great deal of wishful thinking out there now (thinking of Den Beste's expectation that Arafat would be killed, then exiled... I frankly doubt it will be either... or Reynolds' hope that Jordan will return to the West Bank... fat chance) about how Bush (and to a lesser extent, Sharon) are going to finally cut the Gordian knot on this one, and we'll all get back to this Iraq business.

They're not... at least not that I can see it. Face it... the West has been outfoxed on this one. Saddam Hussein threw hundreds of thousands of dollars in oil money, on top of that already coming from elsewhere in the Arab world, or stolen out of the European aid to the PA, and fuelled a distractive wave of suicide bombings when he needed one. Because of the West's lack of will, or lack of bombs, or whatever after Afghanistan, the forces of despotism in the Arab world got inside the West's decision loop, and have effectively prevented the West for doing anything more disruptive to their own countries in future. They have the initiative now. Sharon's inevitable response is purely reactionary... he will, sooner or later, have to pull back, and the bombings will start again. This Friday, or next, or the next... it makes no matter.

Stryker and Shultz asked people for their thoughts on how this one wargames out. I'll tell you how... it's insoluble. One look at a map of the West Bank shows how inextricably tied the two populations therein are. You cannot create a border between them without moving tens of thousands of Israeli voters to safer locations (who, as Yitzhak Rabin's widow can attest, don't really feel like going right now), and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The idea of having a contiguous viable Palestinian state on the West Bank (ie, with a border to the outside world) and Israel having a security over its own borders better than it had in 1966 are mutually incompatible: the map will not take the line. Nor will the Israelis, remembering their own history, ever do what seems to be the logically sensible thing and expel those who threaten them. A Jew can no more commit diaspora, even if needed for their utter existence, than an American could support the abolition of the Bill of Rights.

The force is irresistable. The object is not immovable. At some time in the future, sooner, or later, Israel will withdraw its settlements from the majority of the West Bank, and behind some kind of security wall, maybe on the green line, maybe a kilometre or two to the east of it. When that happens, many Arabs will see this as a victory, and immediately start planning Israel's final destruction... no doubt. But it will still happen. All that Israel can do is choose the manner and time of their leaving. This has nothing to do with world pressure... just the conditions on the ground. The majority of the settlements are unsustainable. The majority of the West Bank will be surrendered to a hostile enemy. And Israel will be 8 miles away from destruction again. Such are the injustices of ground and demographics.

One suspects Sharon cannot do this. Nor can his likely successor, Netanyahu. They owe the settlers too much, and fear the results. It could be 20 years before the circumstances are right for the evacuation and Israel can finally withdraw behind its last defence line... in the meantime the killing will continue, maybe more at times, maybe less. For all his efforts, Richard the Lionhearted only postponed the inevitable... bought the Crusader kingdoms a few more years. He had to have seen the writing was on the wall, as did all his knights, just as easily as Sharon can.

What happens after that, I may not live to see. I hope I won't, actually, for I fear the worst for the Israelis. But that's a long way off. As to the immediate concern, Bush's war on terrorism... hey, it ended in Afghanistan. If there was any likelihood of a second round, it's been utterly scotched now. Arafat will die peacefully, in bed. So, more than likely, will Saddam Hussein. The Americans will continue to hunt down Al Qaeda members wherever they hole up for a year or more, and help rebuild a somewhat better life for the Afghans. But the moral clarity we all thought we had six months ago is gone: we're all getting increasingly shrill as we realize it. Another terrorist strike will lead to forceful Western reprisals, of course. But there will be no pre-emptive wars fought against those who harbour terrorists: democracies have never been very good at pre-emptive attacks anyway, as anyone who remembers the Suez or October Crises well knows: we've been kidding ourselves to think we were different. The "war against terrorism" will never be declared to be won (that would lead to the release of all those extrajudicially-held Cuban prisoners, among other things), or over... it will just drag on, like the British wars of Empire or the Cold War did. That's the world I shall grow old in: I'm fairly certain of it now. Hopefully my children will live to see one better.

All this to say that I fear in the end, Perry is right. It is the 30 year-old policy of settlements, shortsighted, ham-fisted, discriminatory and unsustainable, that has limited Israel's options now, and the West's too. In a way, they are the smallest empire in the world: but like Imperial Rome, or Spain, or Britain, they are so overextended now they face collapse, both from within and without. That's not to excuse anything any Muslim has ever done against them, or to agree with anything any European ever said on this issue. And maybe the other alternatives were even worse. But anyone who thinks that imprisoning millions of Muslims in a prison state, run by the likes of Arafat, indefinitely, without any plans for their eventual release or integration or elevation into the broader world, was or is a strategy that could ever make the killing stop is smoking pipe-weed.

So what should be done? I personally agree with the "realistic hawkism" proposal outlined by Beinart below... dismantling of the Palestinian Authority, full revocation of Oslo, long-term reoccupation of the territories, and a longer-term Israeli strategy aimed at making the inevitable disengagement as peaceful as possible. I don't realistically think the West will ever go for that, though. What will likely happen is Powell will come and go, Arafat will be released in yet another personal triumph, the PA will rebuild, and in a few months the killing will start again. Nobody except the Americans -- not the Arabs, not Sharon, not Arafat -- wants the fundamental conditions to change any time soon. So likely, they won't.

Posted by BruceR at 11:29 PM



In a classic attack of the "tall poppy" syndrome (I'm not convinced it's a Saudi plot yet), Reynolds has another semi-literate anti-fan trying to make his bones as a writer by stalking him online:

What motivated me to start up Warblogger Watch was not jelousy, (sic) web hits, or whatever. It was Reynold's (sic) invade Saudi Arabia plan. To see him beat the drums of war like that made me snap. That was such a terrible, arrogant, inhumane, and ignorant thing to blog I decided to say something about it. That's it. I don't want to see a new generation of mutant babies.

Hey, but I do! Teenage Mutant Ninja Babies, preferably.

It seems absurd for laptop warriors who probably piss their knickers in fear everytime a homeless person asks them for a quarter to cheer for more blood, brutality, massacres, and mass graves. None of you would last a second in bar fight let alone leading a killing squad.

I can't speak for everyone, but I think Stryker and I have been quite upfront about our military credentials. (But if you really want to lose a barfight, go up against Joanne Jacobs.... I hear she fights mean.) What are his, again?

There's a promotional ad for Blogger in all this... so easy to use, even illiterate Cro-magnons have no problem posting! Okay, that's it. The Internet is officially too popular. All the rest of you go away now. (Teenage... mutant... ninja... babies... teenage... mutant... ninja... babies...)

Posted by BruceR at 10:31 PM



Word to the stupid: you cannot successfully refute accusations of writing the "dumbest blog article yet" if your attempted refutation includes the dumbest blog sentence yet:

So let's disseminate (sic) Reynolds (sic) response bit by bit.

Yes, let's do that! Let's spread word of Reynolds everywhere, but only in very small pieces!

Idiot. Game, set and match to the Professor on this one.

Posted by BruceR at 10:11 PM

NICE PROSE I'm not sure


I'm not sure the advertising world needs real critical commentary (what's the point?), but if they do I want it all to read like Rob Walker's stuff. Describing the subliminal subtext of the new Cindy Crawford Diet Pepsi video is, he writes:

Cindy Crawford has it all. She looked better than you in 1991, she looks better than you now, and she will always look better than you. You are a bug. The years may exact a terrible toll on your body, but Cindy Crawford laughs in the face of time itself. Go ahead and stare, go ahead and dream, go ahead and buy a Diet Pepsi if you really think it will help. It will not help.

Yep, that was pretty much the message I got, too. Her mole's gotten bigger, though, don't you think?

Posted by BruceR at 05:17 PM



A must read in TNR today.

Posted by BruceR at 11:50 AM