Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I try not to bother you all with my emotional state. But how can you look at the news today and not be terribly depressed and pessimistic? The dilemma is this: there is only one story (layered and complex as it is) right now. The rest, except ok maybe the impending environmental disaster that could threaten the well-being of Earth's entire population (don't get me started...), are decidedly trivial. So I can either write about other things--politics, the weather, stem cells and gay marriage--and we can pretend it's not going on, or tackle it head on and realize there's really not much I can say.

Even if a cease-fire could be achieved in the next week, which seems highly unlikely, we are left with Arab-Israeli relations (and by extension Arab-US relations) as strained, contemptuous and prepared for violence as they have been in a long time. Iran is emboldened and empowered; Hamas won a Palestinian election and is coordinating with Hezbollah; and Iraq is a bloody mess of civil war. In terms of a hoped-for peace, it's like we've turned the clock back to 1979. Only now the militant Arab world--in the streets anyway, if not the governments--sounds more determined, stronger, and with better weapons in its violent hatred for the West. And Israel no doubt feels stung by recent withdrawals/concessions and looks determined now to persuade through military might.

This doesn't seem to me a small chapter in this conflict. This outburst won't be overcome for many years. I hope I'm wrong, but legitimate peace in that region feels as far away as it has in my memory. Maybe it's impossible?

I'm not saying what could or should be done to avert relapses in conflict when, essentially, a thousand-year war is going on. I sure don't know how to solve or avoid it. But, remember when Clinton was President and we seemed on the precipice of a new sweeping Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement? Remember when the world seemed to actually believe in diplomacy--I'm talking about as recently as the 1990s? Remember when we were capable of at least trying to utter the phrase "honest broker" in reference to ourselves? Now 6 years later, we have a confrontational, combative and planless President, on a mission from God he seems to think, and with 3 years of a needless, provocative war under his belt. I can't help but believe that the masterminds of September 11, 2001 like what they see today, and consider all to be going according to plan.

It's depressing to watch.

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