Thursday, May 15, 2008

Playing the Bad Guys Against One Another

Most of the time there isn't all that much difference between the politics of the Guardian and those of the New York Review of Books. A pox on both their houses, as the Bard concisely put it. Sometimes, however, there are differences, and this week has given me the opportunity to play the one off the other on two related yet separate issues.

First, what makes the Islamists tick, or perhaps, why don't we get rid of the Israel problem so we'll have world peace.

The insufferable Seamus Milne, of the Guardian of course, dedicates his column this time to how bad Israel is for the world. Seamus is so ideological and predictable, along with being consistently easy with his facts, that you really needn't read him. He's a waste of your time. His main theme in life is that Colonialism is the greatest crime ever, more or less, and he dedicates much of this column to reminding us that Israel is a creation of British colonialism and is itself colonial. The introductory paragraph ot the column, however, as well as it's final shot, explain how Israel is so especially bad:
The commitment to Palestinian rights should first of all be a question of justice. But, given the toxicity this conflict brings to the entire relationship with the Muslim world, it is also a matter of obvious western self-interest.
Israel is the reason for the ill-will between Islamists and humanity.

Well, no, says Malise Ruthven at the NYRB, who has just taken the time to read nine (9) new books about Islamism, and has come to report. There is the obligatory dig or two at Bush and even one at Kissinger, but all in all, it appears that Islamist terror is a complex thing, building on a variety of impulses, some of them centuries old.
Conventional wisdom generally holds that a resolution of the problems of Palestine and Jerusalem is the sine qua non for addressing wider geopolitical issues afflicting relations between the Islamic and Western worlds. By removing images of Palestinian persecution from Muslim television screens, a peace settlement would take the sting out of an issue that carries a formidable symbolic charge. But the Israeli occupation, though a constant source of pain and humiliation, is only one of many issues the global jihadists have in their sights.
(In an aside, and for the record, allow me to state unequivocally that "Conventional Wisdom" is a fool.)

Seamus is not worth reading; Ruthven actually is, if you have the time.

The second theme where the NYRB beats the Guardian this week, is the possibility of an Obama presidency ending the war in Iraq. Both of the following articles agree that an Obama presidency is what we all want (tho the NYRB one pretends Hillary is still in the running). They also both agree on the bottom line. It's their different lines of reasoning that make the comparison interesting.

Jonathan Steele (Guardian) really likes Obama, first and foremost because as a six year old in Indonesia, young Barack came to understand how evil an imperial power the United States really is. (I assure you, this is the essence of what he says. It doesn't seem to occur to him that if this was an accurate description, no American electorate would ever send him to the White House). On the other hand, Steele is already bracing himself for disappointments, because - you guessed - Obama is already failing on Israel. In a fine demonstration of how obsessed people like him are with Israel, Steel dedicates about a third of his article to how awful we are. Bottom line: Since Obama has failed on the "Israel test", he will probably also fail on the "Iraq test".

Thomas Powers at the NYRB agrees that the US won't leave Iraq anytime soon, but his article is at least interesting. He read ten (10!) books, and parts of what he tells isn't even so well known. The degree to which a mind-set from on-high seems to have blinded American decision-makers on all levels, comes as a mild surprise. Not a total surprise, mind you. There really is something disconcerting about the way the present administration decides what reality is and acts accordingly no matter what: in the belief that Islam is a Religion of Peace, for example, or in the inability to see how awful the Saudis are. And I don't think any reasonable person can commend the Americans for the events in Iraq those first years after the invasion, no matter which side of the divide you started out on.

At the end of his review, however, Powers describes what he expects will happen after January 2009 - ad it's not what Conventional Wisdom says.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I read somewhere that Obama's chances are about the same as Dukakis' ... Or McGovern's. McGovern, in 1972, won one single state. Out of 50. Dukakis did "better," garnering the "egghead and Black votes," against the Elder Bush, Dukakis won 10 States.

No, I can't imagine Obama as America's Commander In Chief. Not that I can foretell the future.

But Olmert's had to deal with Israeli politicians, over a 50 year period of time, and ALL complained about whoever it was who was elected President.

On the other hand? No president wanted to become responsible for Israel's demise. They do keep walking away from the "brink" on "that" one.

Up ahead? I suspect that putting soldiers "in" either in gazoo or Lebanon, is a very bad idea. When you land on these spaces what would you do with them? Oh, yes. Abbas and Riyadh are waiting for the "gifts" after the IDF would sacrifice, itself.

Instead? You're following a soap opera. Heck, just look at what's happening in Lebanon.

If Lebanon wasn't the producer of the best hashish in the world, then ... there ya go. Out would go Assad's fortunes. Because, believe it or not, that's the cash crop (or crap), that keeps both syria and whatever excuse you want to call "lebanon," afloat.

Changing horses, now?

I think we're due to have elections, first.

Oh, "if" Obama were to win? I think the strings would loosen around Israeli hands. Because? What could Obama do? Jump up and down? He's not exactly backed by America's military.

And, pelosi isn't that popular, either.

We may have even been watching the clash of the factions, with the democraps. What with the feminists at one end, and the blacks at the other; it's not as if it's anything more than dogmatic in-fighting.

By the way, after Bush spoke in the Knesset, Obama ran out and complained about Bush's 'appeasement remark.' You think that's sound politics? Or just his thin skin.

Thin skin is not your friend, when you're a politician.

What a soap opera! Stay tuned.