Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Efficacy of Violence

Matthew Yglesias, from a series of posts on the efficacy of violence:
"During the Anglo-Irish war, for example, one thing the Irish side needed to do successfully was convince the English that the price of staying in Ireland was going to be too high. They also needed, however, to convince the English that the price of leaving wouldn't be too high. Nobody wants to leave an occupied territory only to see that territory turn into a lethal security threat. Under the circumstances, it helps if your violence seems clearly related to the political objectives of independence (killing soldiers, police, and officials) rather than indicative of deep-seated bloodlust or hatred. The Palestinians keep failing to win independence in large part because the unrestrained nature of the violence they unleash makes Israelis extremely fearful of what an independent Palestine would mean for them."

One aspect of the Gaza withdrawal was supposed to be a test of what would happen when Israel left a territory. Had Palestinian militants simply taken credit for driving Israel away and then declared a ceasefire while negotiating over West Bank withdrawals, the Middle East today would be a happier place. Instead, violence out of the Gaza Strip reduced Israeli support for further withdrawals, and ultimately led to the current war in Lebanon. By the same token, Hizbullah's behavior convinces people that the Shebaa Farms is just an excuse to remain armed, and if Israel were to leave them, they'd just find another one.

The same thing, however, applies to Israel, which has the ultimate goal of living in peace with its neighbors. Some claim that all Arabs simply want to wipe Israel off the map, but that is simply not true, and many now accept, if grudgingly, the Jewish state's right to exist. However, when Arabs who are on the fence about what their ultimate goal should be see the huge onslaught against Lebanon, one which goes beyond Hizbullah military targets, and tie it to the unrelenting support of the Bush administration, many undoubtedly see its existence as a long-term threat to Arabdom, something like a Western client state which uses terrorism as an excuse to pursue an agenda for regional dominance. This is something which should factor into Israel's calculations when they decide which potentially Hizbullah-related targets are worth pursuing. A few months ago, I would have said Lebanon might be the next Arab state to recognize Israel. Now, that is inconceivable.


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