Monday, January 05, 2009

The toll rises

The Times contains a news analysis suggesting that the Israeli attack on Gaza was timed because of the imminent (not imminent enough) departure of President Bush, a very, very staunch ally. While President-elect Obama has said good things about Israel and many of his advisers have solid records on Middle East issues, the Israelis were, according to Scott Shane, not willing to wait for the reaction of the new administration.

I can well understand such reasoning. What I fear is that political considerations arising from next month's Israeli elections may also be at work. More specifically, I worry that the need to be tough (Polls have had the Likud party of Benyamin Natanyahu--Israel's answer to George W. Bush--leading) will lead the current government to prolong military action beyond the point where it is worthwhile. If a political leader has any sensitivity, the calculation of when the benefits of war justify the human cost is always hellish, but when politics puts the thumb of self-interest on the scale, the computation becomes even more grotesque and, in most cases, less humane.

A final thought, generated by the protests against Israel's actions: "War is war and not popularity seeking." Thus William Tecumseh Sherman, who had reason to know. Sherman, widely accounted the greatest general of a war known for superb commanders, was right. Hamas and other intransigent enemies of Israel wanted war. Now they have it. As the Bible tells us, "For they sow the wind And they reap the whirlwind."

What is the answer? Peace. Not an armed truce, except as a bridge to a permanent arrangement. And until Hamas and its allies accept that they need to work toward a true peace, they will bring forth upon themselves and those whom they control all the evils of which Sherman spoke when he said, "War is all hell."

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