God, for something positive and constructive to rise up out of these ashes. We can’t lose sight of hope, can we?
Gregg Mitchell highlighted some wonderful music for Middle East peace in his Nation column. I wanted to focus in particular on Steve Earle’s fine, fine song, Jerusalem (here‘s an early 2003 acoustic version). Though it deals with the Holy City, the lyrics are broad enough to take in the whole of this vicious, crazy conflict and to refract some rays of hope and light despite all that nastiness.
I woke up this mornin’ and none of the news was good
And death machines were rumblin’ ‘cross the ground where Jesus stood
And the man on my TV told me that it had always been that way
And there was nothin’ anyone could do or say
And I almost listened to him
Yeah, I almost lost my mind
Then I regained my senses again
And looked into my heart to find
That I believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem
Well maybe I’m only dreamin’ and maybe I’m just a fool
But I don’t remember learnin’ how to hate in Sunday school
But somewhere along the way I strayed and I never looked back again
But I still find some comfort now and then
Then the storm comes rumblin’ in
And I can’t lay me down
And the drums are drummin’ again
And I can’t stand the sound
But I believe there’ll come a day when the lion and the lamb
Will lie down in peace together in Jerusalem
And there’ll be no barricades then
There’ll be no wire or walls
And we can wash all this blood from our hands
And all this hatred from our souls
And I believe that on that day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem
God bless Steve Earle for being the conscience and moral troubadour of this nation. There isn’t an issue he addresses where he doesn’t have something truly eloquent and musically powerful to say.
Believe it or not, amidst all the crap published in the past few days by Ethan Bronner, who the Times has brought back to Israel to spout Israeli government talking points, the op-ed section published two sterling eyewitness accounts of the Israel-Gaza conflict from an Israeli mother who’s given up hope on her country and leaders; and a young Palestinian girl who recounts her fears at being imprisoned in her home during the Israeli onslaught. It’s a rare example of sure-footed, clear-sighted writing on the conflict in the pages of the Times.
Four Israeli peace groups published an ad in Haaretz denouncing the war. The ad copy says:
No to the Election War!
We refuse this war and the spilling of blood.
We refuse the wave of hatred and incitement against the inhabitants of Gaza.
We refuse the abandonment of the south [of Israel] for the benefit of political spin.
Contrarily, those liberal souls of J Street have joined with the Israel lobby and that Great Black Hope of American liberalism, Deval Patrick, for a “Rally to Support Israel.” They may not exactly be applauding Israel’s assault on the babies of Gaza, but they might as well be.
Some very brave Arab leaders are visiting Gaza including the Egyptian president, Tunisian foreign minister, and today a delegation from the Arab League. Contrarily, France’s foreign minister announced a “peacemaking” trip to the region where he would visit Israel and the West Bank. I guess he’s allergic to the sound of F-16s firing missiles, so he won’t be visiting Gaza. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Want to end a war? Visit everyone but the victims suffering most (there certainly are Israeli victims too, but overall the preponderance of suffering is on the Gazan side).
On a slightly different subject, David Sanger writes about Obama’s Middle East policy, which the president has apparently called leaving a “light footprint.” You’ll pardon me for hearing echoes of Daniel Moynihan’s old “benign neglect” meme concerning the way Richard Nixon should address issues of race during his presidency.
Here’s one of the more ironic passages (unintended perhaps):
The eruptions in the Middle East have posed perhaps the severest, most direct test yet of the limits of President Obama’s signature foreign policy innovation during his first term, what the White House hails as the “light footprint” strategy.
Sensitive to public sentiment that a decade of war had debilitated America, and eager to focus on economic problems at home, President Obama quickly embraced a mix of remote-control technology and at-a-distance diplomacy to contain the most explosive problems in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. Strikes by unmanned drone aircraft increased sixfold, secret cyberweapons were aimed at Iran, and special forces killed the world’s most-wanted terrorist and made night raids the currency of American force.
For a while it worked. As Mr. Obama’s newly fallen director of central intelligence, David H. Petraeus, asked so succinctly a year ago, “Who wouldn’t want a light-footprint strategy?”
It worked? The truth of the matter is that this policy was designed to keep the carnage of the Middle East at arm’s length from the U.S. It was meant to allow American’s to say “out of sight, out of mind.” But if you mean by “it worked” that it addressed any of the issues in a substantive way; or that it meant these issues won’t come back to bite us in the ass in the future–just look at the rockets and shells killing babies and civilians in Gaza right now.
Tell me how six years of refusal to engage with Hamas and support for an illegal siege has advanced U.S. interests? Isn’t “light footprint” code for sweep this mess under the rug. Or to use Mitt Romney’s apt phrase: “kick the football farther down the field.”
No, a light footprint is a recipe for inaction, paralysis, moral temporizing and disaster. It’s what Bill Clinton tried in Rwanda. He woke himself out of that stupor and at least intervened to end Slobodan Milosevic’s megalomaniacal reign over the Balkans. But will Obama ever rouse himself to stop this Gaza madness? Or will he send Hillary Clinton to welcome the “birth pangs of a new Middle East,” as Condi Rice did during the Lebanon war?
No chance of Hillary engaging with this issue since she’s in Singapore today. Who’d want to dodge bullets and smoke in Gaza to try to end the madness, when they could be thousands of miles away touring the Asian economic miracle?
Further examples of the administration’s delusional thinking on the issue:
Since 2009, Mr. Obama has tried to avoid getting sucked into the vortex of Middle Eastern conflict and dysfunction that drained so many of his predecessors. It was a deliberate choice from the start, his aides say. Fresh to the presidency, he asked his national security staff to reassess where America was overinvested and underinvested around the world.
The answer, his national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, recalled last week, came back quickly: “We were overweighted in some regions, such as our military commitments in the Middle East…”
That must be why we have three carrier groups in the Persian Gulf region poised to begin a war with Iran, right? If you remove the reference to U.S. military commmitments in the region, you’ll find that the policy review really found that there was no political benefit for the president in engaging in the Israeli-Arab conflict. So he didn’t and he won’t.
The most he might do if photos of too many Gazan’s babies grace the front pages of too many newspapers is to tighten the choke-hold on his Rottweiler named Bibi and take down the devastation a few notches. Maybe a ceasefire in a week or so. Only to have another war break out in a year or two either in the same place or in Lebanon. That’s what a light footprint brings you.
Comforting, as well, to know that Pres. Obama didn’t even blink when asked if he should cancel his trip to Burma:
“We never considered scrapping the trip,” one of Mr. Obama’s top aides said on Friday. “It’s the difference between keeping focused on what’s important in the long term and the urgent crisis du jour, which will always be there.”
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict reduced to a bland menu item on U.S. policy lists. Tell that to the fathers cradling their dead babies in Shifa Hospital or the Israelis crying at funerals in Kiryat Malachi.
Turning to the Syrian civil war, this is what passes for wisdom on the GOP side of the aisle and I have little confidence it won’t inspire some very bad interventionist policymaking in Syria in the future:
Senator John McCain of Arizona, who ran against Mr. Obama in 2008 and has been among the most vocal advocates of greater intervention, argues that “every bad thing that we predicted would happen if we intervened — instability in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey — is already happening anyway.”
In other words, because the current approach has led to turmoil we should intervene because it couldn’t make things worse. Where have we heard this sort of “logic” before? And where did it lead? Straight to hell.