Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Allies, Friends, And Other Nonsense

Starting somewhere around the beginning, nations sometimes find they have over-lapping interests. Because it is not in our interest to engage in another land war in Europe that looks like WWII we have made agreements with various nations that attacks on them are attacks on us. Separately we make agreements regarding trade and intellectual property. We do this because our interests are served by doing so and they enter into these agreements because their interests are served. This is a formalized recognition of congruence of interests and called alliance. These alliances are not entered into lightly nor are the agreements simple.

Each nation on earth has its own interests and its constituency is not the world, it is its own citizenry. Any nation that entirely disregards the world is making a mistake, but it will take measurement of the world and its own interests. There is nothing whatever unusual or Machiavellian in this. It is also a cold blooded measurement based on very real considerations.

There is a concept of friendship between nations that gets frequent play. This is something other than alliance, it is some amorphous connection between nations based on an emotion. The truly odd thing is that people have no problem with this idea and it is as reasonable as saying a rock is your friend. A government is an artificial construct that is built to allow its citizenry to function. A government is a thing. Whatever emotional connection the citizenry may have with another nation, it is not something a government can do.

The idea of friendship is not held by other nations. Israel is the most frequently evoked friendship lately so a simple question must be answered, "Do friends spy on each other?" No. (not unless something very sick is going on) Israeli agents have been convicted of spying on this nation. I am not in the least offended that Israel would try it, it is the norm in international relations. I am quite sure we do it to them. Governments are quite aware that other governments have their own interests and may not be quite forthcoming about them. Governments are quite aware that other governments may have knowledge they won't share that they'd like to have. They will spy because they are not friends.

Governments will pursue policies that are not in the interest of their allies because they are not friends. The populace of that nation would have every right to be extraordinarily upset if their government acted contrary to their interests in the interest of another nation. Whatever cultural or social connection I may have with another nation is entirely my business. It is not in the interest of my nation for my emotional connection to carry into national policy unless aspects of it are congruent with this nation's interests. There are some really deep connections between myself and England, my language, culture, law, history, ancestry, and... None of that trumps what is good for the USA. There are a whole lot of economic and geopolitical reasons for the US to want a strong and healthy England and those reasons need to be accounted for, but my emotional connection is meaningless.

It is not in the interest of the United States of America for the festering sore in Israel and Palestine to continue and to ratchet up. This is an unstable area that is economically important. It is dangerous to the interests of the US to have conflict in this area. The citizens of the US have demonstrable interest in the welfare of the Middle East. Neither side in the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians have shown an ability to rectify their dispute which means an honest broker is needed. It is quite reasonable for an honest broker to have a stake in peace being established. There is nothing in honest brokership that includes friendship with one side in a conflict. That position precludes any level of trust by one side. Governments understand international agreements based on congruent interests, they do not understand friendship. It is currently impossible for the US to act as a peace broker between Gaza and Israel because the US has espoused friendship for Israel and behaved as though it exists.

I have noticed a very common thread running through discussion of Israel and Palestine, one is that Israel is our friend and the other is that there is some reason to pick a side based on a multitude of reasons, primarily fault. Each side brings forward the faults of the other and denies or minimizes their own. The history of the area is what it is and there is plenty of fault and bad dealing on both sides and a lot of blood on all hands. None of that will look forward to a solution. Civilians are going to get hurt in armed conflict, that is just a fact and both sides hit the targets they can and civilians get it in the neck. Calling out blame for this is an exercise in futility, it needs to stop is the point. Getting it stopped requires getting both sides to agree, not to accept blame.

Israel is not going to just go away and neither are the Palestinians. Negotiating demands are just that, negotiating demands that are where a side starts out. Negotiation means losing something so people start high, they do not start where they think they have to end. What Israel or Hamas says today may well not be what they will accept, it is obvious that Israel not only is not going to pack up and leave they also have the military power to not be forced out of the Middle East and it is just as obvious that short of extermination the Palestinians are in Gaza and the West Bank to stay. There is a whole range of approaches in between those two excesses and what should be obvious is that the end point is a sustainable and prosperous society for each. Greed being what it is, that will probably be the largest sticking point and having the biggest hammer is not a negotiating tool.

Feel free to call me anti-Israel and I'll feel free to call you an asshole. I am anti-stupidity and I find a whole bunch on both sides. Whether either side deserves to bleed is a pointless determination, this is dangerous for large sections of the world and very bad for the populous of the region. This business of calling a government our friend and of picking sides only serves to continue the problem. It is stupidity to fall into the Bush government trap of calling a tactic a philosophy. This trap puts one in the morally and ethically indefensible position of justifying a 500 pound air dropped bomb versus a 15 pound vest bomb as blood and flesh fly. Fifty people killed in a restaurant in Tel Aviv is bad, 50 people killed in Gaza is bad. Talking about trying to kill soldiers versus civilians in a populated area is stupid, what ratio of killed soldiers versus civilians in either case makes it good? If 5 reservists in the restaurant were killed and 5 Hamas fighters in Gaza are they equivalent? If not why not? Because of a side? Is it the delivery vehicle that makes a difference? It is a losing argument because it does not address the reality of the situation, it is simply a blame mechanism which does not answer the end goal.

I will indulge in the blame game to this extent, the choosing of sides between two malefactors begs for a continuation of the issue that creates the sides. The Israelis and the Palestinians 'have skin in this game' and if you think there is a side, pack up and put your family and blood on the line with them. Otherwise sit the hell down and be a part of solving it.

Short of radical stupidity this blog is done with this topic, people being bound and determined to be assholes is a feature of life I'm incapable of changing. It is stupid on my part to think that speaking reason to the unreasoning will make a difference and on this issue many intelligent and reasonable people ignore their capabilities.

No comments: