The Power Of Arrogance

July 19th, 2006 - by admin

Niranjan Ramakrishnan / – 2006-07-19 08:41:54

(July 18, 2006) — Notwithstanding cries of outrage and shock over the events in the Middle East, is there really any difference between the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the Israeli attacks on Lebanon? A parody of the Cartesian mindset of recent vintage is in play once more — I (think I) can get away with it, therefore I do.

The United States destroyed huge parts of Afghanistan after 9-11. Thousands were rendered homeless, large numbers were killed and maimed. In the end, Bin Laden, the ostensible quarry being pursued following the WTC and Pentagon strikes, was never found.

Then came Iraq, where there was not even the fig leaf of hot pursuit. A warmed over dish of fear, concocted from the embers of 9-11, old UN resolutions (proving in the process that some UN resolutions are more important than others), fake intelligence reports and journalistic fabrications, was enough to get a craven nod from a petrified Congress.

As a result, thousands perished, and, along with the usual toll of usual infrastructure, a deliberate American negligence caused priceless museum artifacts belonging to all mankind to be lost forever.

The engagement in either Afghanistan or Iraq is far from over yet. Already, here comes the third volume in the series, Lebanon. Watch out, JK Rowling.

Hezbollah is holed up in Southern Lebanon, shooting missiles on Israeli border towns. Hezbollah guerrillas have kidnapped Israeli soldiers. The stated objective is to remove the threat of missiles and recover the captives.

OK. But why bomb Beirut, 100 miles to the north, and Tripoli, another hundred miles farther? Why destroy dozens of bridges, airports and seaports, oil depots and power plants? Why punish the people of all Lebanon?

Because the terrorists are hiding everywhere, comes the answer. The United States is on record supporting this logic. Quite naturally, too, for it applies an identical reasoning to justify its own actions.

If this rationale is accepted, an impartial observer might ask, could one justify the bombing of the World Trade Center? Did not the CIA have offices in one of the collapsed buildings, and was it not well known that the CIA had orchestrated coups, assassinations, riots, military takeovers, etc. in several parts of the world?

If the Israelis could bomb Lebanese army bases without any provocation from the Lebanese army, and the US could defend such an act, on what basis could the oppose someone crashing a plane into the Pentagon, by every account a military target?

A fair question, perhaps, but such introspection is persona non grata in our times. We like to keep it simple: I (think I) can get away with it, therefore I do. The same powers that chided Russia for its actions in Chechnya, and bombed Serbia into submission for its moves against Kosovar drug runners, today make the all-purpose claim that “Israel has a right to defend itself”, ranking right up there on the inanity scale with such gems as, “We are a nation of immigrants”.

Of course every country has a right to defend itself. But by bombing power plants and bridges all across a non-combatant state? By demolishing residences and roads? All for the actions of one group? Israel, of all countries, should know that that mass punishment of populations is a war crime.

Both Democratic and Republican worthies dutifully thronged the microphones this weekend, many to aver that bombing civilian targets is justified; for the terrorists are holed up among civilians. An even more amusing (if sad) variant of their plaint was “But Hezbollah does it”. Is the standard for a modern, democratic, state the same as it is for terrorists and warlords? Who would ask that question? They never raised it when Bush rammed through the Patriot Act, not when it became known that their government was spying on its citizens and prying into their financial transactions, not when Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo surfaced. Why would they raise it now?

Clearly, Israel’s actions were not spur-of-the-moment, far from it. Several commentators have said the Israelis had planned for precisely such an opportunity for years. That’s merely a tactical element.

As a strategic backdrop, it was America that provided the enabling logic (Lebanon’s prime minister this week called Israel a major perpetrator of terror, saying Israel had set his country decades back in time), with its two singular examples of attacking non-combatant countries with not a whimper from the world.

Now another country has employed the same logic and tactic. More world silence. Wasn’t the UN created for just such occasions? Deconstructionists may ponder the significance of the term “United Nations” sounding so much like “Eunuch Nations”. It is further a hallmark of our times that the worst presidency of US history coincides with the tenure of the most spineless UN Secretary General in the organization’s life. That line about the age bringing forth the man takes on a whole new meaning.

Much has been made of how the Israeli public is solidly behind Olmert. It might help to recall how solid American public support once was for going into Iraq, and how high Bush’s approval was as he first bombed Afghanistan. It was said of the intrepid scooter wallah (the driver of the three wheeler, a wholly Indian contraption) of New Delhi that if the front wheel could make it, he would proceed boldly into the narrow lane, forgetting the vehicle’s wider rear section. That’s public opinion.

If the US has demonstrated anything during the past three years, it is that today, after spending a half-trillion dollars (eleven million dollars an hour, to quote Rep. John Murtha), it is unable to prevail in a contest with a ragtag band of insurgents with no overt support from any major power (unlike its opponents in the Vietnam or Korean wars, who were backed by China and the USSR).

An honest reflection might have led to a sober view of the current crisis. Instead, Bush is busy rattling his sabers against Syria and Iran, trying to widen the conflict. Rather than calling for an immediate cease fire (a reasonable step even while condemning Hezbollah), he has justified the destruction of Lebanon, a friendly country whose government was installed at his own behest.

It is tempting to hang the well-worn phrase, “The Arrogance of Power” on Israel’s attitude and on America’s. But realistically, it is rather more a case of the Power of Arrogance. Consider this spectacle: The biggest debtor in the world tacitly encourages the destruction of an entire nation, by another nation whose defense budget is largely underwritten by itself.

Guess who is going to pay for the reconstruction aid to Lebanon that must inevitably ensue? The American Taxpayer, it would seem, is the world’s perennial fool. In a brilliant article in 2004, Michael Neumann captured this paradox, “America’s weakness is not a problem; the problem is that it acts as if it were strong….”

Arrogance has the power to sideline reality and embark on ever more ambitious projects. Let’s not forget the words of a White House official quoted in Ron Susskind’s book, saying the White House created its own reality.

The consequence of the silent acquiescence in aggression three times in five years will take the whole world, not just Lebanon, back into the dark ages. The clearest lesson is that the collective deterrent of world opinion has collapsed. A very real proliferation has resulted — that of the idea that powerful nations can attack others without fear of consequence — unless…

Welcome to the Nu(clear) World Order.

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