In past US Administrations we had an adult in charge, with other adult members of the team (family) as surrogates at critical moments. Unfortunately, we now have another adolescent at the helm. The oldest sibling, the one who is most competitive and manipulative, never having gotten over the lost attention that the inevitable arrival of siblings brought, is in charge of his younger siblings while the parents are on extended vacation. The eldest is happy to collect the money sent by the absent parents, use it for himself, bully the kids and tell the parents not to worry, everything is fine, no need to rush home. As the parents' time away is extended and the parental rules are pushed to the background, the Lord of the Flies mentality takes over. And that is what we are now seeing in the Middle East. A free for all, alliances spun for short-term gain, manipulation to gain power. It almost doesn't matter who the power is, the result will be the same unless they simply kill the last man standing.
Bush has stood his ground bullying from his bully-pulpit. The response has been predictable: bullies engender fear, but when they form alliances, they can confront the common enemy. The Bush behavior and policies have served to make allies out of former enemies. As the bully loses power, the followers lose interest and other powers come in to take his place. Who and what will fill the vacuum remain to be seen.
There are many issues on both sides; it's complicated and it's certainly not black and white. The question is how to stop the fighting. We need a parent/adult figure to take the reins and be in charge. A delayed call to sister Condi is window dressing and the Bush faux call for Kofi to "just fix it" rings as hollow as the old Nike ad. It's like the adolescent in charge calling on a young babysitter so he can take the night off, hoping that she can fix it while he's out partying.
Most of our other elected officials are too intimidated to take much of a stand. In the mainstream press and in the public mind, it's a black and white issue - Bush & Co. have framed terrorism with "You're either with us or against us." There is no middle in the Middle East. Anyone who questions Israeli tactics is automatically labeled anti-Semitic; anyone who defends Palestinian rights is anti-Israel and wants to see its demise; anyone who perceives the expanded attacks on Lebanon and Syria in terms other than a response to terror is a pacifist. This construct prevents the possibility of change. Western non-US response so far has been weak and measured not to offend, an effort to balance not angering either the Arabs or the Jews. It's a tightrope walk, all right. But there's no safety net in place.
©2006, Lynne Glasner