Tuesday, August 15, 2006


The fighting in the Middle East stopped this week, if only for a little while. Both Israel and the Hezbollah guerillas agreed to the conditions of a UN-brokered cease fire, which basically means you can get up and go to the bathroom because the second half won’t start for another 15 minutes.

If you watch cable news, you’re likely aware that both sides are using this break in the action to claim victory. Hezbollah is passing out candy to children in the streets of Lebanon bragging about how they repelled the evil Israelis. Israel, meanwhile, is reporting that it has destroyed most of Hezbollah’s operational infrastructure. The only thing that appears certain in the wake of this PR war is that hostilities will resume, and likely sooner than later. Hezbollah's infrastructure may have been weakened, but thanks to the Israeli military campaign in Lebanon, its numbers have certainly grown. And because it's been receiving a steady supply of arms from Syria and Iran, the odds of Hezbollah going away are somewhere in near the odds of Rob Schnieder starring in a box office smash.

Certainly, Israel has done much damage to Hezbollah. You can't drop that many bombs on so small a country and not hit a few bad guys here and there. But Hezbollah has achieved a more important victory here in resisting the Israelis long enough to warrant a ceasefire. Indeed, these mischievous Muslim crusaders are proving harder to get rid of than Joe Liebermann.

Another problem for Israel now is the mess they made in Lebanon, which is eerily reminiscent of the mess the U.S. made in Iraq. A more advanced nation rolls in with tanks and planes to battle terrorists and ends up completely destroying the homes and infrastructure of an innocent civilian population. This is not in the handbook on how to win people over and make friends. It's termed collateral damage, incidental death and destruction we accept as a necessary byproduct of ensuring our own safety and protection. I guess the logic there is, "Better their innocent civilians than ours." And as I sip my warm coffee in my air conditioned office here, thousands of miles away from the perils in the Middle East, I find it really hard to argue with that logic - even if something deep down inside doesn't feel right. Maybe I should have stopped after that second cup.

This is the frustration of fighting an enemy that hides among the innocent. They exploit the rules of engagement to their advantage and end up winning the favor of the very people they are endangering because of the perception that the larger “aggressor” is indiscriminately blanket bombing everything in sight. We, as civilians on the other side, assume that Israel and the U.S. have exercised restraint in their respective anti-terror campaigns, but it’s hard to believe sometimes when you see tens of thousands of people returning to rubble they used to call “home.” I keep wondering what we need to do to get those people on OUR side - because that's the key. Bombing them doesn't seem to be working. They're not all terrorists - but they end up sympathizing with the terrorists. Especially when hegemonist world powers demonstrate more interest in their nation's resources than their people.

Maybe a couple million free free iPODs would help.

I didn't think so.

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