Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Educated Discussions about War

This morning a lone Kassam rocket wounded 67 Israeli soldiers. The New York Times reported that this drew "calls for a major military operation". (The Guardian predictably captioned the story with "Call for major Gaza incursion", but I tire of them sometimes).

It's striking how far these reports are from reality. Not that they're outright lies - they aren't, and indeed such calls have been called today. Not even that surprising, given that the Palestinians in Gaza are shooting into Israeli territory, sometimes killing civilians and sometimes wounding soldiers. But what these reports totally and completely miss is the degree to which Israeli public discourse of military matters is carried on by an experienced and highly educated public - moreover, a public that remembers things, and learns from them. We all know perfectly well that a "major incursion to Gaza" isn't in the cards, because it wouldn't be able to achieve its putative goal. Not to say such a thing will never happen, but not now, and when it happens it will be because we've decided, as a society, that the very bad military options are better than the even worse alternatives. And we'll know that the most that can be gained is a temporary lull in a very long war. Remember: many of us know about guns; almost all of us know about what can and cannot be achieved with them, as well as the dangers of using them. We speak from intimate and very long experience.

How different than the discussions I'm following on American websites this 6th anniversary of 9/11, the day after General Petreus gave his report. The Americans, as befitting a society well versed in free speech and free thought, deliberate seriously - but not particularly well informed. Most of the voices I'm reading don't sound like they understand much about war, guns, and similar things that are essential to the discussion.

The Europeans - well, don't even get me started.

PS. Lest I be misunderstood: for all our experience, we sometimes make dramatic mistakes. And then we add them to our aggregate experience.

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