The Failed Politics of Collective Punishment  

rm_Luv_PPPL 59M
58 posts
7/16/2006 12:52 pm

Last Read:
7/23/2007 11:40 pm

The Failed Politics of Collective Punishment

Now the Israelies are bombing the daylights out of Lebanon. Damage is estimated to be in the billions. That's a pretty tall order for a tiny country with less than 4 million people.

Think about that - a billion divided by 4 million is 250 bucks per capita, or around a thousand for every family of four! And we are talking billions. Worse, so far about 100 people have been killed, mostly civillians. (Including seven Canadians, by the way. Were they terrorists?) A comparable death toll in the States would be over seven thousand: more than twice that of 9/11.

The US media is full of reports about the rockets that Hezbollah has been launching into Israel. Fair enough, but is everyone in Lebanon responsible for that? This is not comparable to the situation in Bosnia or Kosovo, where Serbia was engaged in ethnic cleansing, with the support of most of its citizens. The government of Lebanon is weak, and doing its best to put a nation back together: one which was an international poster child for a civil-war-ravaged disaster area less than two short decades ago. Even today, people sometimes say "like Beirut" to denote a city that is prone to all sorts of militia-related horrors.

And if the Israeli military couldn't clear out Hezbollah after 18 years of occupation ('82 - '00), what makes P.M. Olmert think that destruction of Lebanon's ports, bridges, airports, etc. is going to help the Lebanonese government get the job done in a few weeks or months? The real culprits in the most recent provocations are the governments of Iran and Syria, not the Lebanese people, who are not only not at fault - but disproportionately Christian and pro-Western to boot!

Historically, "collective punishment" has turned out badly for those who impose it. Didn't we all learn in school that the burdens imposed by the Treaty of Versailles paved the way for the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany? Have decades of collective punishment imposed on the Palestinians brought safety and security for Israel, or have they helped to bring Hamas into power? Are Mumbai (formerly Bombay) commuters any more secure as a result of the Indian gov'ts human rights violations in Kashmir? (These have been thoroughly documented by Amnesty Int'l and other organizations.) Did "making the rubble bounce" in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, do anything for the safety of Moscovites or Beslan school children?

Collective punishment imposed by a government as a reponse to terrorism is no more effective than terrorism itself.

Are they the same things? (One often hears the prase "state terrorism" used.) We can debate that until the cows come home, but I really don't think it matters. What's important is that they both satisfy a desire for revenge, and pander to a basic bloodthirstiness that simply engenders even more horrors for innocent civillians - by exacerbating the cycle of senseless violence.

You'd think we'd have learned by now.

rm_Luv_PPPL 59M
57 posts
7/19/2006 7:04 am

If you've been following the news, you know that a hundred thousand refugees have streamed across the border into Syria - many are Syrians who were working in Lebanon, but others are Lebanese who are doing whatever they can to escape the carnage. 25 thousand Americans are also on their way out (of course our news media here in the States focuses on them disproportionately).

Approximately 3-400 civilians have been killed in Lebanon as a result of wayward ordnance, along with about 25 Israelies who've died due to Hezbollah's stepped-up rocket attacks. Israeli special forces have entered Lebanon, albeit only temporarily (these incursions have been described as trivial).

In the meantime, Israeli bombs have destroyed hospitals, schools, roads, ports, and of course rendered Beirut airport unusable. Lebanese officials estimate that it will take decades to rebuild. (Not an unreasonable estimate, given Lebanon's tiny population and the extent of the destruction.)

This is an ill wind that will blow no one the slightest bit of good. Israel will not be able to "root out" Hezbollah with these attacks: she will only further radicalize moderate Muslims throughout the region, as the "Paris of the Middle East" comes to resemble post-war Berlin. Surely Lebanon is the one nation in the region which should have stood out as a poster child for the Bush administration's policy of advancing democracy, free markets, and multiethnic states.

Over the long run, Israel itself will suffer internally, because the building of the West Bank Wall is going to eventually require it to deal with millions of its own Arab citizens, who are demographically destined to become a force to be reckoned with. The same is true of many western European nations, as well as Canada and Australia.

Worldwide, moderate Muslims in nations such as Indonesia (the world's largest Muslim country) and India (the world's second-largest Muslim population) will become further radicalized. Anyone who thinks that "Islamo-fascism" couldn't get any worse will be sorely disappointed if that occurs - those two nations alone contain close to half of the world's billion Muslims. Moreover, it's rather doubtful that Musharraf's hand has been strengthened. (If we think we have problems now in the West, imagine what would happen if there was an Islamic fundamentalist revolution in Pakistan?)

Sadly, it seems that the policy of provocation is working. It took bin Laden several tries to attack the West in a manner which would receive a useful response (from bin Laden's perspective). Sadly, President Bush eventually obliged by invading Iraq. Now it seems that the Israelies have chosen to take "two steps back" after their unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.

When the crisis began several weeks ago as a result of Hamas' kidnapping of an IDF soldier, Prime Minister Olmert was heard to wonder aloud "What would Sharon have done?" at a July 4th celebration at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv.

My guess is that Sharon would not have overreacted, if only because he was a veteran of Israel's counterproductive occupation of Lebanon. Yet Olmert in this case has chosen to follow in the footsteps of Bush - putting ideological objectives and political considerations ahead of a genuinely enlightened understanding of history and geopolitics. Can you imagine what would've happened if either had stood in JFK's shoes during October, 1962?

And by responding excessively and intemperantly to provocation, both have played directly into the hands of the world's worst enemies. This is short-sighted foolishness of the most dangerous variety. Israel must stop now, and if necessary, the U.S. must put pressure on her to cease and desist. The first rule of holes is to stop digging.

redrobin012057 61F

7/25/2006 12:26 am

I feel for the people of Lebanon, the Israeli's are too heavy handed with the bombing,bomb this bomb that....stop the world, I want to get off.

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