Sunday, September 17, 2006

Israelis and war

There's a fascinating interview here. Michael J. Totten, in an effort to get outside the Israeli "left-wing bubble", talks to Yaacov Lozowick, author of Right to Exist: A Moral Defense of Israel's Wars. But he ends up hearing a critique of the recent Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah war very similar to what he heard from the leftist Peace Now people he interviewed earlier:

MJT: Why was it stupid?

Lozowick: It was stupid because we stumbled into what…it wasn’t a full-fledged war, but it was pretty close to it. From the perspective of the people living up north it was a full-fledged war. So we stumbled into what was an almost full-fledged war with absolutely no prior strategy.
(HT: Sullivan) What fascinates me is how differently Israel and the United States react to their failed wars. Israel seems to have no problem figuring out pretty quickly that the whole venture was completely FUBAR. Furthermore, it seems that there isn't a whole lot of left/right division on this. There may be disagreement about what should have been done differently but no one in the Israeli political mainstream seems to be claiming much of a victory. They seem united in their disappointment and anger.

Contrast that with the United States in Iraq: You have the Left saying (correctly) that it's a fucked up civil war with no good options and that we need to figure out how to get out, and the Right living in a "stay the course" fantasy, insisting that corners are being turned and that pulling out will shrink our nation's moral penis in an intolerable fashion. And a similar left/right division has existed in the United States for over three years. Yeah, the specifics have changed, and there's been a general souring on the Iraq occupation recently, but the left-right divide is still clear as day.

I guess the conclusion that I draw is that both Israel and the United States have militaristic, right-wing elements, and that the American ones have the additional property of being either dumb as rocks or psychologically incapable of admitting failure. If the Israelis can do it, why can't we?


Blogger grishnash said...

I would argue that in some ways the form of government is what allows or disallows this kind of thinking to persist. Israel has a proportionally-elected parliament, with a proliferation of different parties in a coalition government. Were one party to take the head-in-the-sand reality-ignoring "everything is peachy keen" approach, they would quickly lose votes to ideologically similar, but more realistic competitors. Here in the U.S., people who are Republicans for life but yet still think Bush & Friends are total morons (and there seem to be a sizeable number of these) still can't bring themselves to vote Democrat, and don't see a realistic third option. Hence those who want to pretend that Iraq is working out beautifully can do so without being called on it by people who still share some of their core beliefs such as low taxation, because those core believers don't have anywhere else that they can turn to.

9:50 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Zachary Drake said...

Thank you Grishnash. I guess our two party system does reinforce a great deal of "groupthink". I wish some of these Republicans who think Bush is a moron would make their presence felt in their party more. But they appear to have lost that battle.

Maybe if Bloomberg makes a run in 2008 these folks will have somewhere to go, just like Ross Perot provided an outlet back in the 90's.

10:49 AM, September 17, 2006  
Anonymous Mad Latinist said...

Grishnash did hit the nail on the head.

But another factor is that the consequences of our fighting seem so distant and imaginary to the average American. Of course we can trust Bush, if we don't see with our own eyes what's going on in Iraq. And even if he screws it up, well, it's not THAT big a deal, is it? How often do Bad Things happen to us? I have some vague memory of something that happened half a decade ago, but even that doesn't seem so real anymore (other than as a wonderful reason for why we have to vote Republican, and start wars of questionable relevance).

Israelis, if I may wax apologistic, have everything to lose, so they are well aware that they sure as hell better get it done right, and if they don't, they'd damned well better fix it. Furthermore, even when most of the actual combat is taking place in another country, it's right next door, within cellphone range. Most amazingly soldiers often get to visit home for a day or two even in times of war. As a result, the populace tends to be much better informed about what's really going on. In other words, wars are "close to home" in every sense of the phrase.

12:33 PM, September 18, 2006  

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