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Welcome to the New Middle East Paradigm

Posted on Jul 30, 2006

If you’re feeling confused about the significance, roots and ramifications of the violence now racking the Middle East, read this brief, piercing essay by NYU professor Noah Feldman.

Noah Feldman in the N.Y. Times:

... The catch for Israel is that, taken too far, the strategy of making all Palestinians and all Lebanese pay for the actions of Hamas and Hezbollah may well backfire. Destroying the economic prosperity that had begun to return to Lebanon is likely to generate fresh hatred of Israel, and Palestinians under the gun have in recent years tended to become more radicalized, not less. Provided that democratic institutions in Palestine and Lebanon remain intact, the long-term success of Israel’s campaign will probably depend on how the Palestinian and Lebanese electorates evaluate all that has happened. They will be doing so against the backdrop of deeply conflicted feelings: Hamas and Hezbollah may have sparked this round of fighting, but the bombs raining down on their cities and the soldiers in their bases still come from Israel, and no one likes to be bombed.

Democracy means that you cannot blame someone else for troubles caused by your own government. That is a comparatively new lesson in the region, and whether it is learned or not will determine the prospects for democracy itself there. But dodging missiles and running from tanks is not the ideal circumstance for rational reflection on the nature of self-rule. As in Iraq, what is especially risky and worrisome about democratization through destabilization is that it comes accompanied not by peace but by the sword. In this dangerous environment, the costs of democracy ? the weakness of government, the uncertainty, the violence ? can be felt everywhere. The benefits of democracy, though, are barely palpable.


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By Geronimo, July 31, 2006 at 9:34 pm Link to this comment
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If democracy means that you cannot blame someone else for troubles caused by your own government,  then the good old USA sure as hell ain’t a democracy.  Not as long as we blame Iraq for 911 when the root cause of that catastrophe was our government’s unwavering support for the settler-state Israel over the native peoples of the Middle East. 

We’ll be a democracy only when we impeach our president and his cronies and ship them to the Hague so that they can be put on trial for their crimes against humanity.  And if at the same time we support a just peace plan with and for the people in the Middle East, we’ll not only be a democracy, we’ll have changed the world.  Nice going in advance.

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By Gary, July 31, 2006 at 9:58 am Link to this comment
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I have trouble with this “piercing essay.” Infused throughout the paper are suggestions that the Bush Administration, after having altered the playing field - supposedly pushing for true democracy throughout the Middle East - is now taking a “hands off approach” and is choosing “to stand aside and let destabilization and the democratic spirit do their slow work.” Hold the phone… isn’t it the U.S. that is currently sending Israel, on an expedited basis, hi-tech weapons for use on the Lebanese. And, isn’t it the U.S. which continues to formally state that Israel is only defending itself and not using a set of brutal, disproportionate tactics? The Bush Administration’s approach is neither benign, nor is it “hands off.”

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By Hilding Lindquist, July 30, 2006 at 5:20 pm Link to this comment
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There is more to democracy than voting.

There was an OpEd column in the NY Times, July 29, regarding the ideas Baruch Spinoza introduced in the 17th Century:

We—I mean, us ... the good old vaunted USA—have abandoned reason in our pursuit of what we ought to be, and with it our posture of a rational broker of the world’s future. We can only hope that somehow, someway we will escape from under the grinding power of concentrated wealth imprisoning us.

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By I Totah, July 30, 2006 at 2:20 pm Link to this comment
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The “strategy” of punishing a civilian population with death and destruction in an attempt to turn them on Hamas or Hezbollah is arrogant, unethical, and will never work in a billion years.  People are innately self-determined.  No one likes being told what to do, especially under a gun. 

Forcing someone to be free is an oxymoron.  The attempt to force democracies in the Middle East will not work.  To show you how much they appreciate being forced into voting, they will promptly vote for the party you don’t like, because the act of forcing them immediatly violates the priciple of self-determinism.  Allowing someone to have the oppotunites to make these self-determined choices is a different matter, not within the range of comprehension of current world leaders.

What’s happening is Israel, Lebanon and Palestine could be chalked away into more stupidty in among governments with big guns, if these games didn’t have such a potentially catastrophic end game.

It’s too late to tolerate stupidy and arrogance.  We must get our leaders sorted out.  We need visionaries with strength and compassion and a resonable high IQ.  The conequences are too high otherwise.

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By C Quil, July 30, 2006 at 9:34 am Link to this comment
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All this also conveniently takes the world’s eyes away from the new “strategy” in Iraq. More than three and a half thousand new soldiers will be deployed there, several thousand who were supposed to return home have had their tours unilaterally extended (I thought they called that conscription) and several more units (two infantry in Texas and one Marine) have been told to prepare to leave for Iraq.

If I were cynical (who me?) I’d say the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon was a deliberate tactic to cover activities elsewhere.

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By John U., July 30, 2006 at 7:25 am Link to this comment
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Israel simply took advantage of the kidnapping of 2 soldiers to accomplish its real goal of weakening its enemies by its barbaric ‘collective punishment’ strategy it has used in Palestine. What we’re talking about is war crimes, with the US providing cover under the guise of promoting ‘peace talks’, while Bush and Co. spin it to rev up their Christian Conservative followers with talk of ‘end times’ and ‘WWIII’. It’s all so convienient. While Americans keep the wool pulled over their eyes with the help of corporate media taking Isreal’s side, the rest of the world is well aware of this ruse. The Israeli-American axis and their frauds are well known throughout the rest of the world…..and their reputations are already in the toilet. I don’t see how the author of the article can claim that Lebanese and Palestinian’s are going to evaluate the situation….they have already. It’s sickening to see Israeli officials claim they don’t target civilians, they didn’t target those two UN outposts and that they believe in peace. They believe is bullying and pushing everyone around until they retaliate, and then calling those fighting back ‘terrorists’. The US looks impotent as usual (where’s the roadmap to peace?) These events simply confirm and verify the paper from last spring which which showed the Israeli lobby has the US Congress terrorized to do what the pro war, militaristic Likud types want to the detriment of US strategic interests. Now I will wait for the coward’s cover/obsfuscation default response of ‘anti-semitism’

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By harald hardrada, July 30, 2006 at 7:01 am Link to this comment
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bush & condi have been encouraging israel to bomb lebanon to smithereens—it’s their idea of a negotiating card

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By Kevo, July 30, 2006 at 6:32 am Link to this comment
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There is nothing democratic in any effort to destroy otherness.  When members of our great three religions quit demonizing the others, we will then and only then begin walking the path of peace among Christians, Muslims and Jews. 

Hamas and Hezbollah are effective political parties largely because they work to take care of their political base.  If these two radical political parties want to be accepted among the democratic nations of the world they will have to unconditionally repudiate violence as a vehicle of change. Can they do it?

On the other side of the coin of destruction, Israel must not continue its foray into Lebanon or it risks looking as if it is waging aggressive war on an innocent population. Not good! 

Also, Mr. Bush has no credibility in the region largely because he seems never to be able to offer any type of policy that does not speak to his political base.  What the world needs is someone to step up and offer substantive redress to all parties in this international quagmire, not dillydally with legislative polemics involving flag burning and gay marriage.  Get a clue neocons!

Finally, even if Condi plays a serious number on her piano because of the violent events in the Middle East, I can’t quite get that image of Nero with glee fiddling on the hillside while the seat of “civilization” burned.

My best to the bums who have brought us the fine mess their policies have wrought.  I cannot but hope their political viability will, on the other hand, rot.

Vote the Rascals out in ‘06 and ‘08! -Kevo

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