Friday, September 23, 2005

On Military Victory and Political Compromise

The Isreali concession of giving Gaza to the Palestinians is certainly a step towards full statehood for Palestine. The preponderance of world opinion seems to hope that once the Palestinians achieve statehood that political compromise and peace can be reached. Once they are a nation state they will have what they claim they want. They will have land, they will have independence. They will be accepted as a soveriegn nation. Then perhaps they will be allowed to succeed or fall on their own terms. Obtaining Gaza is one step in this direction.

Once Palestinians are given a state of their own, will they turn inward and seek to build a productive and viable society or will they continue to look outward and seek the destruction of Isreal? Unfortunately I fear I know the answer.

Careful observors of Palestinian rhetoric, commitments, and actions over the years know that statehood will not be a conclusion of the political or violent conflict, but a beginning of a new stage of agression against Isreal. Isreal knows this as well, but they must do something to alter the status quo. Isreal has decided to let the Palestinians have their land in Gaza and then seek to seal the border and wait for the inevitable Palestinian renewal of attacks. Will the continually aggressive posture by the Palestinians, no matter what concessions Isreal makes, even after limited statehood, cause world opinion to turn against Palestine? I wouldn't count on it...but we can hope for the best. Unfortunately, it is likely just a matter of time before Isreal will be called upon to defend its very existence yet again, and at that point, Isreal will likely defeat any agression by any state of Palestine (likely with an unduly high cost to its very professional military).

If or when Isreal does defeat the duly organized state of Palestine will the Palestinians then be willing to accept political compromise? Will the world then accept Isreal's right to impose a "just peace" upon the state of Palestine? Or will the larger world finally step in and support efforts to outlaw and eliminate, by force, the radical ideologies and organizations of Hamas? Who knows how a potential war between two nation states would play out. No one knows if such a conflict would alter the preponderance of world opinion regarding this longstanding conflict.
Unfortunately History only gives us a limited glimpse of the potential results. However, one lesson of history is that...

Often there can be no political compromise without decisive military victory.

Unfortunately human nature is fallen and fixed. Often, human, aggression will not end until some nations are brought to a place of humilty and utter dispair. Some people, some nations, will simply not accept compromise until their very survival as a people is in doubt. This crucial breaking of national will unfortunately only comes after large scale devastation, destruction, and massive loss of civilian and military lives. But in this fallen world too often such is the only path to a just peace.

German Fascists would not accept political compromise, or a just peace, until their country was devastated by fire bombings, war, civilian deaths, and ultimately occupation. Japanese imperialism would not yeild until put under the threat of total nuclear annihilation. Southern slaveholding secessionists in America would not accept a just peace until Atlanta lay in ashes and their people were left destitute and in fear for their lives.

Perhaps the unique geo-ethnic-religious dimensions of the Isreali-Palestinian conflict make it deeper and more complex than the above examples and thus not a good model for comparison. Perhaps the defeat of a duly formed Palestinian state will not provide the path to a just peace. Perhaps world opinion will never accept an Isreali-Palestinian war as a battle of equals, thus Isreal will never be vindicated through such a confrontation. How deep does the world's well of ambivilance and hatred of Isreal run? We may never know.

Furthermore, one might argue that Isreal has already achieved military victory on several occasions, but such victories have not achieved any lasting peace with the Palestinians. This is true, but through such decisive defensive strength they have achieved limited detente with the other nation states they did engage, such as Egypt and Jordan. Conversely, Palestinians have never had their national will embodied in the form of a nation state that is recognized by the international community. As a result any conflicts with Isreal have been seen as drastically asymmetrical. The morally reprehensable attacks on Isreali civilians have never been seen by the world as acts of war by a nation state, but merely desparate lunges by a desparate people. By hiding in the shadows of Palestine's nebulous political existance, Hamas and others have been able to refine and spread their the cancerous ideology without accountability. They have never been required to live up to accepted standards of international behavior and their culture of death has been allowed to spread unabated. The World's condescending paternalism that does not expect better of Palestinians is simultaneously demeaning to Palestinians, enables Palestinian terror and is destructive to Isreal's ability to defend itself. In the end, Hamas and the like have never had occassion to be faced directly "mano y mano" and thus ultimately to be brought fully to their knees. Isreal has never had a nation-state of Palestine to confront and subdue...for better or worse, now at least in Gaza, the Palestenians are forming something of the sort.

Do not misunderstand me. I wish and ache for peace in that region. I hope and pray that some semblance of order can be imposed in the new Palestinian territories and that reasonable leadership will somehow rise amongst the Palestinian people. I know there are good decent moderate Palestinians. But I also know decent Palestinians are weak, powerless, and in fear of the ruthless violence and dark hatred of those with power like Hamas. Somehow those hateful ideologies must be cut out of Palestinian culture like a cancer, but that is not easily done. I do not wish a war between Isreal and Palestine, I do not wish to see more bloodshed. I wish Hamas and the like would lay down their arms and abandon their desire to drive the "Jews" into the sea. But while I hope for the best, I also realize that we must ultimately learn at the feet of History, and through most of human history such deep seeded conflicts are only resolved when one nation is ultimately subdued and humbled by the sword. I wish things worked differently, I wish human nature were not so corruptable, but alas it is...

Will a true, military victory by one nation state over another finally open the door for a political solution? It has before, but as we all know this conflict is like no other and speculation about any future solutions is likely to be errant and firm conclusions elusive. But in the end we must seek to understand our world and we must hope that progress will be made, hopefully without more bloodshed and misery...unfortunately while History is our teacher, she is brutally honest, and she can often be a very stern schoolmaster...