Saturday, January 3, 2009

What Is It Good For?

As was all but inevitable once Israeli planes began the wanton destruction of Gaza, Israel has launched a ground assault; it has made the transition from Clinton (kill only from the air) to Bush (kill from everywhere). It is certain that, as in Lebanon, the Israelis will indeed kill a lot of people, maim even more, and destroy much of what is left of critical infrastructure. It is very nearly as certain that the Israeli “Defense” Force will, again as in Lebanon, suffer significant casualties and accomplish none of its declared aims. This is good news in a way: Israel will again be humiliated. It would be even better news if the Israeli political class – left, right and center -- had the capacity to learn from its mistakes.

Meanwhile, there is nothing from the Bush government except support for the aggressor, while the Mubarak regime in Egypt continues to collaborate with Israel and the United States. It will probably not remain able to resist public opinion for long. Paradoxically, the Americans and Israelis had better hope it does not. If Mubarak continues to be America’s and Israel’s stooge, his government is likely to fall. Then Israel could be facing a far graver threat than a few homemade rockets lobbed at its southern cities. This plain truth is probably beyond the capacity of anybody in the Bush administration to understand. It is therefore not surprising that they are uninterested in stopping the killing. But what were the Israelis thinking? They know what’s what. Don’t they care that, even before they started this war, Mubarak was holding on by the skin of his teeth, sustained only by a brutal apparatus of police repression and American aid? Or does that worry pale before the electoral machinations of Tzipi Livni and Benjamin Netanyahu, her rival on the (yet farther) right?

More than most, this is a war good for, as the song says, absolutely nothing. But there may be lessons we can draw from it – about the post-Bush era. Everyone knows that the Bush government, from the Commander-in-Chief on up, lacks vision, strategic understanding and competence, and that it has no moral depth whatsoever. But the world is full of people who hope that Obama will be better. That he remains wedded to his “one President at a time” mantra in the face of such atrocities does not bode well. Obamamaniacs would do well to inquire of their idol whether he too is so much in the thrall of shortsighted, political exigencies that he will give a free pass to almost anything Israel does, no matter how monstrous.

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