Saturday, January 10, 2004

A Sense of History

Recently, I have been reading books written in the 1950's and 1960's about the Middle East and have been continually amazed by the language used by the Arabists in their denunciation of the "Zionist Entity." Specifically, it is identical to the language used today. The same arguments, the same rationale, the same anti-colonialist bent, and the same racial hatred. And the funny thing is, this language was of course used before the '67 war....before Israel took the West Bank and Gaza. So when people say if only the occupation ends, there will be peace, I know that what they really mean (even if they don't know it), that the 'occupation' means the existance of the state of Israel. The recorded history tell us that that is what it means.

Today, I was reading on line with a friend of mine the latest Victor Davis Hanson article. My friend is also a Hanson fan, but as he was reading it, he remarked "Wow, Hanson really likes Israel." I didn't like what that implied....that Hanson is just another biased participant, that he had chosen a side and simply advocates it. I replied that Hanson actually is a historian, one who knows what the conflict between democracies and fascism is about, and therefore recognizes both the patterns and the hypocracies of those who would sooner equate Bush and Sharon to Hitler than believe Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are our enemies. Hanson knows his history.

And that was on unparalleled display today in his article appropriately titled, The Same Old Thing. Bemoaning the growing mytholody of a United States "alienating the world, losing the friendship of the Europeans, needlessly offending the Arabs, and generally embarking on a radically new foreign policy of preemption and hegemony", Hanson remembered that:
"Thirty years ago, during the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, most of the Europeans of the NATO alliance refused over-flight rights to the United States. We had only hours in which to aid Israel from a multifaceted surprise attack and were desperately ferrying tons of supplies to save it from literal extinction. In contrast, many of these same allies allowed the Soviet Union — the supposed common enemy from which thousands of Americans were based in Europe to protect Europeans — to fly over NATO airspace to ensure the Syrians sufficient material to launch and sustain their surprise attack on the Golan.

American "unilateralism" in those days meant acting alone not to let Israel perish. Had we gone "multilateral" and listened to our NATO allies — Germany, France, Greece, and Turkey all prohibited American planes from flying supplies in their space in transit to Tel-Aviv — there would be no Israel today at all. How odd that nations who asked for our protection from the Soviets would allow them to fly in supplies to the Syrian dictatorship, but not extend the same privilege of airspace to their protectors to save a democracy.

In exasperation at such a bad state of transatlantic relations, a furious — who else? — Ted Kennedy attacked Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, blaming us, not the Europeans' peculiar taste for fascism over Israeli democracy, for "heedlessly creating a crisis in the Atlantic alliance." Again, this was 30 years before his most recent outburst about a fraudulent war being cooked up in Texas. The New York Times, of course, then as now, echoed his concern."

I didn't know that happened then. I doubt few people do or remember that. But Hanson does. And he notices the same pattern I stumbled upon when he writes that "the political system of the Middle East — hereditary autocracy — is unchanged from thirty years ago. Thus an array of third-generation calcified ideologues cling to the old ace-in-the-hole hatred: "The Jews did it"; "Jihad will save us yet from the Zionist entity and the Great Satan"; "Palestine will stretch to the Mediterranean"; and so on. "

Hereditary autocracy...that is a great term, isn't it?!

But Hanson sees promise and possibilities. Notably, he likes the "wall." So do I, but talks about it in a far more eloquent way:
"As the Europeans talk, the Palestinians explode, and the Arab dictatorships threaten, the fence creeps on in Israel — the most radical old idea in a half-century. It is not a perfect solution, but a forced solution of sorts nonetheless, prompting hysterical reactions from the terrorists, but strange silence from most capitals of the Arab world. Many outside of Ramallah secretly won't be unhappy to see the situation gradually quiet down into a de facto settlement — along the lines of readjusted borders in a present-day postwar Germany or Japan, whose citizens are not blowing up Poles or Russians a half century later for occupying home soil lost after failed wars of aggression.

The Palestinians, who get their state and will see lots of settlers leave, hate the barrier not because it slices off some security slivers from the West Bank, but rather because it simply promises an end to their entire parasitic relationship with Israel. Suicide bombing was predicated on weakening Israeli will, ruining the economy, discouraging immigration to Israel, encouraging Jewish flight, tapping into latent anti-Semitism in Europe, and thus hoping that terror and demography would one day win what arms never could. In contrast, early indicators suggest the fence will make it very hard for suicide bombers to continue to traffic in death — apparently the sole bargaining chip left to a corrupt Palestinian Authority.

Arafat's thousands of hangers-on will now be free to take their billions in European, American, and Arab bribe money and either build a successful society on their own side, or continue the squalor that results from their robbing and stashing millions in foreign banks as they claim perpetual victim status. And the whole world can watch the verdict on a Palestinian state that shares open borders with several Arab nations without blaming Israelis — a quandary for liberal Europeans, since for decades their inexplicable support for Palestinian autocracy has served as a convenient and useful vehicle for entrenched anti-Semitism adroitly masked by concern for supposed refugees and an oppressed "other."

I think he sees things quite clearly. And I like that language, don't you. Very clear, and holding no punches. I am not used to hearing language like that. It really started with Bush, and his "Axis of Evil" speech. Many of my friends thought it was horrible but I liked it....finally someone actually saying things the way they are. The world is not used to hearing things like that, and so it shouldn't be much of a surprise when it was so, and continues to be so, quick to denounce it. But it is necessary, and Hanson talks the same way.

He also has a solution with respect to our friends and 'allies', the Europeans:
"We can do still more — remembering that the problem can only be slightly ameliorated, but not altered by sugarcoating what we say to the Europeans, inasmuch as the tension is deep-seated and arises from our own insistence on subsidizing much of their defense, when their land is larger, their people more numerous, and their enemies fewer than America's. Despite the risks involved — the continent is still the graveyard of thousands of American soldiers who died to stop its perpetual internecine killing — only by allowing Europe to take care of its own security will we ever have a real friend and partner rather than a perpetually dependent adolescent in his forties, whining that he can take out "his" car whenever he wants, as long as his parents make sure that it is paid for, insured, gassed, and runs."

History tells us that Hanson is right on that point as well. But please don't take it from me...rather, take it from him.

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