Thursday, August 10, 2006

War in the Holy Lands

The month-long crisis in the Middle East has brought into sharp relief the central problems of contemporary international politics. In my mind, fault lies on both sides of the Israeli-Lebanon border. Lebanon's democratically-elected government has done too little militarily to quash a rising militia in its midst; it seems evident that public disavowals of Hizbullah's practices and tactics clash with an unwillingness to stop the militia's ability to strike Israel.

On the other side, I wonder whether Israel has too easily resorted to military might. If there is such a thing as a "war on terrorism," then victory is not measured by the count of bodybags but by the far more subtle influence of ideological persuasion. Especially in this case, violence perpetuates violence; many of the Israeli military strikes are only fostering the very movement they are trying to quell. The so-called "war on terrorism" is a struggle of ideas, not a battle of steel, gunpowder, and military technologies.

I am hesitant even to utilize the terminology of "war on terrorism" because recently it has simply become shorthand for any struggle we have with a perceived enemy. The term only obfuscates the reasons for battle and the players involved. What have Hizbullah, Hamas, Iraqi insurgents, and Taliban irredentists have in common save their loathing of the western world? Their tactics, ideologies, and grievances are not one and the same.

Let me be clear; I am not an apologist for those who would use crude, random violence in the public square. I am not a supporter of IEDs and suicide bombings; each of these are clear violations of our common humanity. Then again, I am unwilling simply to sweep away human deaths as mere "collateral damage."

These are conflicts which require introspection as well as a clear voice of justice. We cannot cower in an isolationist pose and bemoan a relativist dystopia in which all opinions and ideologies are mere constructions unassailable by critique. There are those who are wrong, dead wrong in these conflicts. I hope, however, that we are not so quick to indict only those who oppose our political will.