Monday, August 21, 2006

The Israeli left takes a hard right

I've quoted William Lloyd Garrison before, and I'm going to do it again:

With reasonable men I will reason; with humane men I will plea; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost.

A while back I wrote about a group of Israeli peace activists whom the recent war in Lebanon has changed into hardliners convinced that Israel is now in an existential war against an implacable enemy dedicated to its destruction.

Well, it's not just an isolated peace activist here and there; it seems to be a trend. Allison Kaplan Sommer offers a piece that appeared in the British Daily Express by Michael Diamond, telling of the shift to the right on the part of a great many Israelis who had previously considered themselves members of the "sane left."

Diamond speaks for many who once considered the Palestinian position to be a case of a reasonable grievance against an injustice. Believing that "with reasonable men I shall reason," these Israelis therefore advocated the return of the territories and the 2000 pullback from southern Lebanon, strategies they predicted would be met with a softening on the part of Israel's enemies.

But it didn't work out that way, although it seemed to the left as though it should have. Instead, the pullout from Lebanon six years ago, and the more recent withdrawal from Gaza, led to a moment of clarity that crystallized as the Katushas rained down on Israel and the press of the world mourned the plight of the Lebanese and ignored the context of what was actually happening there.

The intent of the enemy was exposed, and it turns out it was not the end of the "occupation;" it was the end of Israel. The two-state solution that had been pursued so vigorously was a sham, because the "reasonable men" were not in charge on the other side.

Where were those reasonable men? Perhaps they'd all been killed off a while back by the tag team of Yassir Arafat and the mullahs of Iran, as well as a few decades of civil war in Lebanon. Perhaps they were terrified and silent. Perhaps they'd emigrated. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

So Diamond and others on the Israeli left found to their surprise and shock that they were dealing with tyrants, after all. And in dealing with tyrants, as Garrison said, there's only one way to deal, and that's to give them no quarter. But the Olmert government was neither willing nor able to do that.

"Give no quarter?" Aye, there's the rub. When the Jacksonian impulse to wage all-out war is unleashed against aggressive enemies--a resolve that drove the Allies to wreak carnage on the Axis powers in order to utterly defeat them in World War II--it can lead to results that are hideous to contemplate, especially in the age of nuclear weapons.

Take a look at the comments in response to Sommer's post. Most of them are from people wrestling with the consequences of their newfound knowledge that the current Mideast situation is not going to be solved by diplomacy, by half-measures, by wishful thinking, by restraint--or, in Garrison's words, by reason or by pleading. But oh, how much we (and they) would like it to be!

Here is an example of the questions being asked:

...people continue to talk about "We have to win this war" without really explaining HOW. Ok, so appeasement doesn't work. Let's concede that point. Now what? Nuke the crap out of the arab and muslim worlds? All 2 billion of them? Will that solve the problem? (I'm thinking not) I think it's hard time to stop pointing out the obvious, and start offering some realistic, pragmatic and constructive solutions.

But no one can come up with them; the cupboard appears bare at the moment. So the following is the reluctant response. It's a description of the terrible choices faced by those who find they are dealing with tyrants rather than humane or reasonable men. These choices were faced, and made--first for appeasement, and then, reluctantly, for war--many years earlier by the members of "The Greatest Generation":

The Allies fought, not because they wanted a fight or were sure they could win one, but because it had become understood that the consequences of not fighting were impossible to accept. To an apparently increasing number of us, there is a sickening feeling that we are now in a situation analogous to the 1930's. Our side has not yet reached the conclusion that another great upheaval is inevitable, and we are casting around in increasing despair for the alternatives—which is why there is so much division amongst us. But war it may be, whatever we all want.

How to defeat an ideology? First, by presenting a compelling one of your own and second, by showing would-be supporters of your enemy the hollowness and evil of the one they are now tempted by...the rotten fact is that an ideology that places triumph of arms at its center will probably have to experience at least several shattering military defeats. I'm afraid I don't see much chance of anything less transforming it into something that can live with the rest of the world.

Try as I might, I don't see it either.

[NOTE: It seems that the stock of the Likud Party has risen.]

[ADDENDUM: Ralph Peters says, "You can't win if you won't fight." Get ready for Round Two.]

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