A Question of "Strategy"

Some friends of mine were debating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict recently. One suggested that perhaps different tactics - he cited what he called "bridge-burning" and attributed to W. Churchill and A. Lincoln, a strategem which commits populations to struggling for victory and abrogates the possibility of compromise - might bring a solution. The notion shocked and pained me.

I question whether, in the world of the 21st Century any "war" anywhere, on any basis, is in fact "winnable." As the planet continues to shrink and previously discrete populations to blend into a single world-wide mass called - for the sake of argument - "humanity," it becomes more and more difficult to identify the "enemies" or separate them from the general population, and much less practical to "destroy" them.

And the survivors, much like multi-national companies, can simply re-locate their activities from a hostile environment to a less-hostile one. It may take them a few months, a few years, or a generation to regroup - but unless the underlying causes of friction are addressed and all parties brought to an agreement, the simple expedient of war doesn't solve anything (any more, really than it ever has). The aftermath of the "decisive" Israeli victories in 1963 and 1967 should be all the proof any rational analyst needs.

It's not about "strategies," none of which will do more than postpone - at best - the eventual consequences of endlessly "retaliatory" violence. It is about addressing the issues, about insisting on compromise all around, on opening a continuing dialogue around the subject of how we are all going to share the earth and its resources in a way that is fair to all.

The colonial era is finally coming to an end - but the colonialist powers are not giving up easily - in fact they may be willing to destroy whole populations and even the world itself in their struggle to maintain their advantages. It is up to those of us who see through the rhetoric of "us and them" and "good and evil" to insist on extending the principals we have claimed for ourselves (under the argument that it is "self-evident" that they are the birthright of "all men")- equality, freedom, security - throughout the world.

Just as our Founding Fathers really meant "white, property-owning men," when they said "all men," and just as their ideals have outstripped their intent, so our own lip-service to those principals now needs to expand beyond our national borders. We need to become responsible to and for those principals at home and throughout the world. As we have expanded the original intent to embrace the African American population and women, so we need now to go the next step and work to see it expanded to include the world population.

So, I think it is short-sighted and ultimately pointless to talk about the "best way" to pursue a course which so clearly leads only to dead (and I mean "dead" on a massive scale) ends. The lesson our "global" perspective is teaching us - whether we are listening or not - is that the violence we commit comes back to us - much more quickly than it used to.

We (and I mean all societies and governments, not just the US) pay - in one way or another - for the dissatisfactions we create throughout the world. Whether it is Sadaam's ongoing battles with the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs, the US's ongoing struggles with racial inequity at home or its colonial treatment of Puerto Rico, Russia's ongoing contention with it's former Soviet Republics, or even Italy's guilt over its treatment of the Ethiopians - it all comes home to roost, faster, more clearly and in more deadly forms than could have been imagined a few decades ago.

The handwriting is right there on the wall for all of us to read, and has been since the 1960s at least. It says, in big letters, "Make Love, Not War." We can ignore and dismiss it, but we do so at our own peril. Those who have ignored it - and Israel and the Palestinians offer an exemplary case in point - condemn themselves to the fate we observe every time we turn on the TV news. I can't believe that is the future we want - the best future to which we can aspire.