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Making Sense Out of Dangerous Nonsense

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I try to make sense of politics -- it's what my doctorate implies I'm qualified to do -- but often I am defeated. Reality is just too damn weird. And satire these days is almost superfluous. Here are three examples.

History tells us that longterm military occupations don't work, but countries continue to invade and occupy lands belonging to others. Then the occupiers seem shocked -- shocked! -- that the natives don't want them there.

Israel, for example, has a love-hate thing going with its occupation of Palestinian land. On the one hand, it knows that military occupations are self-defeating sappers of Israel's moral, economic and military strength, and so it makes moves to pull back within its borders, as it did in Gaza (but not yet in the West Bank). But then it permits itself to re-occupy, or at least re-invade, land that it left.

Two thirds of Americans know that the occupation of Iraq three years after Bush declared "mission accomplished" is reckless and nonsensical, and want the U.S. military to start exiting Iraq. Iraqis overwhelmingly have indicated that they'd prefer the U.S. start leaving as well or, at the very least, present a rough timetable for when that might start to happen.

But for both Israel and America, their occupations continue and appear to grow even worse. The very presence of these foreign troops on the ground, in Palestine and Iraq, is a large share of the problem, running sore that creates a deepening infection in the local body politic, engendering a nationalistic resistance to throw the occupiers out. But the two military giants, each possessing overwhelming firepower, are caught in a quagmire of their own devising in trying to deal with shadowy, lightly-armed guerrillas who simply won't give up.


In both Iraq and Palestine, the issue of humiliation is a constant. Israel continually, day after day, grinds the Palestinians' collective nose in their powerlessness; America uses its mighty arsenal to remind Iraqis who really controls their lives (and their deaths), and tries to impose a "democracy" from the outside.

If the U.S. is really interested in stabilizing the Middle East region, and diminishing the power of terrorist organizations that use that conflict as a rallying cry and recruiting tool, the logical first step would be to solve the Israel/Palestine conflict as quickly as possible. Instead, the Bush Administration does nothing, in effect serving an an enabler of the spiraling violence.
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Both sides know roughly what needs to happen in order to effect a stablizing peace: Israel withdraws from its settlements to its pre-1967 borders and is guaranteed security; a geographically and economically viable Palestinian state is created in West Bank/Gaza; treaties are worked out on right-of-return, jobs and water and so on; neither side permits the occasional terrorist act to
deter its dedication to maintaining the peace; and Jerusalem is
administered by an international body that shows no favoritism to any

That's the clear way to peace, but both sides make sure not to go there. The only logical conclusion is that they are not ready yet to travel that path; each believes that just one more military push will bring it what it wants. And, basically, what it wants is for the other side to vanish. Ain't gonna happen, but desire knows no logic.

When both sides are ready to accept that the Other is not going to
disappear but has genuine needs and desires that need to be satisfied,
which realization will require some very real and painful compromises, then and only then can the road to peace be taken. Either it happens now -- and, even amidst the current bloodshed, there are hopeful signs -- or the slaughter continues for another generation or two, until both sides realize enough is enough.


With regard to Iraq, the U.S. (finally!) has to learn the lesson of Vietnam: When occupying a foreign nation, with no outlook other than endless stalemate, you either leave on your own, with as much dignity and face-saving gestures as possible, or you get drawn further into an endless quagmire (death by a thousand cuts) and eventually have to leave anyway looking like a musclebound superpower defeated by a ragtag guerrilla army.
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Even Bush's generals know all this, but the policy has been otherwise
decided by arrogant, ideologically-driven civilians, in this case mainly by Cheney and Rumsfeld. They will "stay the course" and the U.S. will have to leave ignominiously later. Why? Because they want those permanent military bases in that area of the world, they want that oil and gas, they want to try to impose their will and idea of the future on that volatile region of the world, and because Bush and his bunker crew are psychologically incapable of admitting they were wrong from the very beginning.

If the war results in tens of thousands more killed and wounded, and bankrupts the nation, so be it, according to Bush&Co. In any event, Bush has told us, winding up the Iraq war will happen on his successor's watch, so the Bush Administration doesn't have to accept any responsibility for the debacle and the deaths.


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Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked for two decades as a writer-editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (more...)

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