October 24, 2003

Myopia Aftermath

Following the "Myopia" post below, a comment thread ensued in which myself and a few commenters (Joshua, D, and Sarge). For those who don't want to read through a sea of commenting text, the gist of it pretty much boiled down to a historical argument about the nation of Israel, whether it has a right to exist, whether the Palestinians were shafted, and with some editorializing as two why the Islamic world hates us today.

It was capped, at least the last time I checked, with a Joshua comment: "Nice concession Ryan. Now. What does it actually MEAN? Change of opinion about U.S. policy? No? Hm. Shocking."

The concession to which he was referring was that the Israelis and Palestinians both share culpability in the current situation in the Middle East. Not exactly a groundbreaking concession.

The problem I have with such a historical dissection of a current situation is that it's basically fruitless beyond being an academic exercise. So many of the critics of current U.S. foreign policy hold up past U.S. foreign policy as a bloody carcass of failure that we should humbly acknowledge and lay prostrate to the condemnation of world opinion.

But, well, see, I don't buy that. It's easy to look back at the numbers and say, well, the Jews had no legal claim to Palestine, and they certainly didn't have a right to 56 percent of the land since they only represented 10 percent of the population. If you look at the numbers alone, you're missing 2/3 of the issue. But, if you look at the political climate at that time, with U.S. and U.K. compassion for the displaced and persecuted European Jews, and with the U.S.S.R. being perceived as backing the Palestinians fresh from their lowering of the Iron Curtain over much of Europe, the picture changes dramatically.

Today, it's almost impossible to understand the political climate of the post war world. But, at the time, the fear of the U.S.S.R. and its ambitions were no doubt palpable. The Cold War, though over now, was responsible for more paranoia on both sides and subsequent hot wars the world over to warp foreign policy for years on end. Are we supposed to feel culpability and shame for actions taken during a tense political arena in which two sides sat poised to annihilate one another with the push of a button? No.

To take it further, should we now look at Israel and say, well, in retrospect, and since the political climate has changed, we've decided you have no real right to occupy the Holy Land, so we're going to relocate you to Idaho? Of course not. Do I understand that such a stance is going to irk the Palestinians? Sure. Does it change my view on U.S. policy? No.

Why? Because it's not about the past. It's not about pointing at past U.S. policy to decipher where we may have gone wrong. The political landscape has shifted too dramatically since then and now. Now, it's about the CURRENT landscape. It's about the CURRENT state of Israeli/Palestinian relations, and it's about the CURRENT state of the Islamic world in general, which has grown stagnant, indignant and suspicious of the West. Are they justified in that? Sure. Are we supposed to apologize? No.

I was born in 1975. In 1993, I graduated from high school. In 1998, following a five year college plan, I graduated with a journalism major and a history minor. On Sept. 11, 2001, I witnessed the result of rabid hatred and resentment towards the United States. It came as kind of a shock to me, and I didn't much care to deconstruct past U.S. policy to understand why zealots were flying planes into buildings. It just, you know, seemed like a pretty useless exercise at the time. "Oh, they're flying planes into buildings! I should really hit the books to try and find out why." Um, no.

You could conduct all the research you want to discover why we're so hated in the Islamic world. You could trace it back, not just to U.S. involvement in their affairs, but also the British, and French, and Germany and on, and on, and on. You could trace much of it to a rapidly evolving modern world where Democratic nations, with their newfangled concepts of human rights, gender equality and embracing thought, ideas and discovery just perpetually goes againsts the dictates of strict Wahabbi interpretation of Islamic scripture. You could understand, right down to the deepest part of your soul, how Western beliefs are perceived as a threat to Islamic fundamentalists.

You could learn and understand all of that, and they'd still want to fly planes into buidings.

On another note, Joshua did say something at a different site that had me nodding in agreement. He pointed out that, in a lot of discussions and comment threads, people have been blurring the lines between Islamic radicals and those who don't subscribe to their fundamentalist beliefs and hatred. It's becoming a bit disconcerting to read comment threads that simply lump all Arabs into THEM. That's not good. Our enemy here are terrorists, and while it is true that most terrorists are Arabs, we have to remember that not all Arabs are terrorists. If we start making that dangerous transition, then we'll find ourselves in a particularly nasty situation.

Posted by Ryan at October 24, 2003 10:21 AM
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