Thursday, August 17, 2006

Middle of the Middle East

To my mind, the mess that we have seen recently -- and is ever ongoing -- reflects what we've seen in mid-Atlantic collegial culture suddenly going uncritically pro-Palestinian and in some individuals unnervingly so. The truth lies not in one extreme position or the other. And whatever one's views of the state of Israel and what's been occurred in Syria, Lebanon, or for that matter Jordan, it is rather ominous that we are given a binary view -- support or criticize -- as if there are no other options, as if the situation and history provides such a simplistic and stark choice.

This is especially tricky when we consider that this thinking continues despite more than fifty years of counterinsurgency in Israel. Until recently, we seemed to be locked into a kind of perpetuating anti-Palestinian sentiment in North America as one does not hear from those living in Israel including career military who might shed some context on the war (not that Iraq war, the newer one).

Regional pacificism would be nice but as Gandhi pointed out, it relies on clear and accountable civil institutions led by laws/courts. Hmmm... that is clearly missing. And Gitmo-crazed American leaders (so-called) have no leg to stand on here. Clearly.

The majority of Islamic leaders and Muslims abroad have certainly condemned terrorism. It is less clear as to whether our so-called international "community" has condemned actions taken that have aggravated relations with legitimate and peaceful Islamic states and organizations. Think it through: How many Islamic heads of state favor radical groups engaged in terrorism? How does one eradicate such movements without creating martyrs to assorted extremist causes?

The bobble-heads on the right want Islamic leaders to do what they say rather than work behind the scenes in difficult cultural times. How do you tear down extremists without bringing them more sympathy and support? This is especially true in many countries where support of extremist religious and social groups have helped aristocratic families or politicains maintain their control (read: Egypt and Saudi Arabia as two examples).

Added to this is the Right-Wingers in the United States and England screaming about suicide bombers... like it or not, they are a reflection of the intelligence and surveillance build up in Israel, technologies and techniques much marketed abroad. Sri Lanka, a purchaser of this expertise has had almost 300 incidents involving suicide bombers. Expertise, alas, was sold to the Sri Lankan state as well as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Suddenly, the spectre of suicide bombers, as the only remaining means to bring a dispute to the doorstep of politicians or otherwise make one's point plainly. I wish this had been more discussion and less support of state sponsored violence in Sri Lanka from the late 1980s. Then maybe the situation there would not be written with so much blood.

Terrorist organisations of the lunatic fringe are indeed USING religion, their adherents are not Muslims. They are picking and choosing from the Koran and the Sunnah. They do however (and unfortunately) prey upon situations marked by despair, a perceived lack of alternatives, low opportuntiies and the pathology of waiting that never seems agreeable to human beings.

If one examines one historical sitaution or another, and the balm of streamlined ideologies, anti-American statements become clearer. What is an Afghan having suffered under the Taliban, then blasted anew by the present campaign, meant to think of their situation? When we remember that the individual has earlier toughed out the Soviet campaign and quite probably lost every scrap of property built up over generations.

I suppose we are all trying to figure out the future of the Middle East. But we have to be far more careful than the 'wingers, faux newsies, and one-book (ghost written, of course) experts and contemplate just what impression should leaders in Islamic countries or anyone else gain from foreign policy decisions of the last few years? As for the narrow, anti-Western minority, just what should such persons make of what appears in the global media depicting the glorious and powerful West? What to do, as in Sudan of yesteryear, when US corporations overstayed their leases? Even after they were asked to leave.

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