Saturday, July 15, 2006

Hell in a handbasket

I’m not sure what to say about the recent events in Israel and Lebanon. I try not to be one of those web-pundits who feels they have to weigh in on every current event, regardless of whether or not I have any particular insight into it. I follow the stories in the news, of course, but that doesn’t mean I’m competent to pass judgement on these happenings. That’s what experts are for. My field is English literature, my expertise is modern fiction, and my thoughts on Middle Eastern politics are strictly amateur hour.

That being said, I wish people over there would stop killing each other. That’s pie-in-the-sky stuff, of course. It is an especially flamboyant fantasy since so many parties retain a vested interest in keeping the region as fucked up as possible. Oil companies, arms dealers, religious fundamentalists, brutal dictators, impoverished masses and avaricious demagogues–this not a recipe for a peaceful region. The Middle East is, to make an obscene understatement, a challenge. There might have been a time when the United States had the power and the will and the authorityto help solve such thorny problems, but—alas—we don’t live in 1946 anymore. Now we just muddle around over there, buying oil from one autocratic regime, overthrowing another, and rattling our sabers at a third. At times, it seems all we have to offer the Middle East is money, bad advice and bigger explosions.

I’m speaking about the United States, of course, because I have no idea what Israel should do to ensure its security, nor do I know what the Palestinians can do to get a workable country of their own. Kidnapping and killing each other doesn’t seem to be accomplishing anything other than making the impasse more vicious. I won’t get into that whole “who started it/ who’s the victim/ who oughta blink first?” issue, though. You’ll be disappointed if you look for heroes among the leaders of any side in this struggle. The heroes don’t get on the news over here—they’re the thousands and thousands of ordinary Israelis and Arabs who risk their lives just by living and still don’t hate each other, and still haven’t given up the dream of peace.

UPDATE: If you'd like to read commentary more informed than mine, please go here and here and here.