Thursday, February 22, 2007

Vegetarian and Pro-Choice?

Is there a conflict between vegetarianism and being pro-choice?

It sounds like a stupid question, but many people--particularly women--are both. They take a hard stand for the right to abort fetuses, and a hard stand against killing animals. If the logic for vegetarianism is that animals deserve to live even though they aren't as smart or developed as humans, then it is hard to tell where they draw the line on abortion.

Choice can't be the difference because neither animals nor fetuses choose to die, and, in fact, we choose to kill them.

The difference could be intent. I know my wife doesn't like the idea of raising animals just to kill them. That is, we purposely birth animals to slaughter and eat them. Abortions are not premeditated acts in this way. Women typically get pregnant "by mistake," never intending to "kill" a fetus, and then abort.

If the logic of intent is to prevail, however, then what about the intent implicit in engaging in sex? Or what about hunting? Shouldn't it be ok with pro-choicers to hunt? After all, we are killing for food and out of necessity in that case. Further, hunted animals were not raised to be hunted, they simply were shot by a hick one day.

Perhaps, however, the question has been phrased wrongly. Rather than asking why vegetarians aren't against abortions, perhaps I should be asking why meat eaters are against abortions. Or better, why those who are against abortions in humans are not against animal abortions?

I think that the point is this: most people draw a stark distinction between humans and animals. But, vegetarians seek to break down this distinction by rightfully saying that animals deserve to live just as much as any human. Then, why would they then also say that fetuses don't deserve to live under certain circumstances? Perhaps they believe that all fetuses--animal or human--should be treated as not alive, but all beings that have been born are alive. That would make some sense, though animals don't exactly choose when their young are aborted.

Under Jewish law, the life of the mother is held in higher regard than the life of the fetus, thus abortion is legal in Israel because a newborn should never enter the world after having taken his mother's life. Life has been extended to livelihood. After all, if having a baby destroys the mother's life by having her lose her job, friends, etc., then that newborn comes at too high a cost.

In America, abortion rights are not based on religion--in fact, the issue is framed in such a way as to make it a secular vs. religious issue. Abortion rights are based on individual rights. You have the right as a woman to choose to terminate your pregnancy. The state cannot force you to have a baby--at least in the first trimester or so of your pregnancy.

So how does vegetarianism jibe with this issue? People choose to be vegetarian, but they don't ask others to not eat meat. In a way, they are pro-food choice. They, however, would like to live in a world where meat was not an option and where animals were not raised for food. You could say this is an extreme position, but why else would you not eat meat on moral grounds? These people could also want to live in a world where abortions were unnecessary and view abortions as a necessary evil. That would be morally consistent.

But they may also view abortions as a right and view meat-eating as an unnecessary privilege. Raising an animal to maturity then murdering it and eating it is different than terminating its life before it is even born. If they are for animal abortions, then that is also morally consistent. An animal abortion is better than an animal murder, even though animals don't have choice in the matter.

The key is that vegetarians view people and animals as one category: animals. Since we can decipher what human animals tell us, we can tell what they choose to do and allow them to terminate pregnancies at certain intervals. However, we cannot decipher animal animals desires with the same precision and can't tell what an animal would choose to do with a pregnancy or whether or not they want their baby. After all, we force them to be pregnant to put a baby into the world that we intend on killing and eating. If the animal were given the choice, I would imagine that the mother would rather abort the fetus than have her young raised for slaughter. She probably would not want to be forced into pregnancy in the first place.

So we see that vegetarianism and pro-choice can be morally inconsistent if one believes that fetuses and animals are on par with one another. However, fetuses (and I speak strictly of first trimester fetuses) are the same whether animal or human to vegetarians. They are in a state where they are not fully formed or viable and can be killed to prevent harm to life (broadly defined) here on Earth. So, pro-choice vegetarians should believe that animals are all the same and fetuses all the same and that mothers of all species should have a choice to terminate pregnancies at certain intervals.

In my estimation, late-term abortions, then, should be in most cases looked down upon by vegetarians because in the late-term of pregnancy the fetus reaches a species-distinct state and viability here on Earth. Only in the case of the mother's life being in danger or in the case of medical problems with the fetus that would render their life overly difficult, should the choice be made to then terminate.

In conclusion, I take the Jewish approach. I keep kosher: thus respecting animal's rights to be treated in a "humane" manner and be killed painlessly, but I do not maintain vegetarianism. I believe that abortion should be legal but limited, basically agreeing with Jewish law and Roe v. Wade. Late-term abortions should be strictly limited (and they are), but abortions in the early term are not wrong and save a lot of grief for the already born.

The purpose of this blog was to see whether vegetarianism and abortion rights contradict. In my estimation, they could if and only if the vegetarian is vegetarian because she believes that all living things are equal regardless of their level of development. However, if she believes that animals simply should not be raised to be slaughtered (indeed, she could also believe that humans should not be raised to be slaughtered) or that abortions are ok in animals and humans, but not murders or that animals should be treated humanely and that since we cannot get at their "choices," we must assume that they don't want to be killed and we cannot abort their young--then the two values are not inconsistent.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

China: Land of Opportunity

Ariel and I returned from China on Saturday. The trip was interesting. Not your typical lying on the beach trip to Greece, though China definitely made me appreciate the beauty of Greece more. No, this was a trip to a place that will soon be rubbing elbows with the US as the next great superpower.

My opinion of China before I left was, "Yeah, but it's Communist!" And, then, you go to Beijing and Shanghai and see that all they do is sell stuff to you, that there are 4,000 skyscrapers (by NYC's definition) twice the number of skyscrapers in New York City, and that if you didn't know the Communist Party controlled the government you would not be able to guess it. The only thing that, upon reflection, made me think that a repressive government was in control was the way that the Chinese acted like children in their aggressiveness. When they'd beg or sell wares, they'd swarm you sometimes and many times even get right up near your face and spit requests at you. I bought some tiny little fuzzy necklaces with the Beijing 2008 mascots on them from an old woman for a dollar, she then proceeded--for much longer than I could ever imagine anyone doing--to follow me and then stand right up on me, with her head right above my elbow and spouted, "3 for 2 dollars, 4 for 3 dollars, 5 for 2 dollars, 4 for 4 dollars ..." She just kept yelling and standing right there and I kept saying no. It must have been for at least 10 minutes. But there was a buffer to her aggression. The Chinese would annoy you to the point of exasperation but I never saw an incident of violence--violence seemed out of the equation.

After a few days, though I still checked on my wallet like a paranoid American, I knew that no one would pickpocket me and no one would attack me. People might stand right under me and stare or even snap a picture, or stand in my way or beg for money over and over and over or even practically follow me into my cab, but they would not harm me. Maybe they feared me, maybe it's cultural, but I can't help but think that it's the Communist Party on some level keeping crime down through harsh penalties.

My first impression upon landing in Beijing was, "I'm on the moon." I felt like it. The smog was so thick that I couldn't tell that we had landed. There was a visible military presence. The land was concrete, empty, dark, and cloudy. But I learned to like the people of Beijing. They are very friendly and kind. They have a facade of seriousness or formality that recedes almost immediately. They love to joke around. Unlike the Japanese who are staid and formal to the point of soullessness. We visiting the Summer Palace which was beautiful and absolutely humongous, the Forbidden City which was under renovation, and Beijing University which was nice. The kids at Beijing U. could've been Europeans--except for they had a hard work ethic--but they were fun and had bad teeth and acted like all students everywhere do. I mentioned to a girl there that I was Jewish and she said, "Jews are very smart, like the people in the South: Guangdong Province." She then said that it was amazing that Jews had survived for millenia. And then her and a male student asked me about how Jews survive in America, since they were surprised to be informed that we make up only 2 percent of the US population. I told them that Jews tend to marry Jews, but that, yes, assimilation and intermarriage is a reality. The male student said, "You live with them you start to become like them." I said, "I guess," since that's half the story. We become like them, but we also retain our culture and traditions--at least half of us do.

The Great Wall was the highlight of the Beijing portion of the trip. As was discovering a marshmallow treat from Japan the size of the circle you make by touching your index finger to your thumb. These marshmallows were filled with a sweet, candy jam filling: pineapple, peach, blueberry, chocolate. They were orgasmic.

The Great Wall was a huge, sprawling expanse--and we just saw a small portion of it. I was dressed for skiing and it was freezing cold. The wind whipped around. We were told that if we walked far enough up the wall there would be a ski lift to take us down. At some point in the hike, I realized, "I ain't takin' no ski lift with winds whipping around like this, I'll blow off the damn thing." Anyway, we never saw a lift. We hiked up steep stairs--really steep, three bricks tall. They were like hurdles. We trudged up in freezing cold and wind and I was amazed that they built this fucking huge wall to protect themselves from Jenghis Khan. One man. The biggest wall in the world. This huge, timeless, ancient structure built out of fear. That guy must have been some crazy scary muthafucka. On my way down the wall, the wind literally blew me on my butt. I got up and exclaimed, "Wow. That's never happened before." We were greeted at the near bottom by a group of merchants (merechants were EVERYWHERE in China) who had us take pictures on yak-looking camel. Ariel took one that looks hilarious. At the bottom were more merchants who were so cold, they were practically giving goods away. We bought two "I Climbed the Great Wall" shirts for $2.50 though I will admit I also bought two crappy dragon figurines and a mini-Great Wall for $4. I would've bargained longer, but I was just too cold and the woman looked like she was gonna die out there. Another interesting tidbit was that Chinese people were climbing the wall in dress shoes and leather jackets. Crazy.

I'll veer off here for a second to talk about the Tokyo airport. It is weird. Japan is super-weird. First of all, everyone is a germophobe. Everyone is wearing facemasks like Michael Jackson and cleanliness is paramount. Second of all, when you go through security the security officials look like they just got out of private school for the day. Men and women wear burgundy blazers, women in shorts, men in slacks. The women are wearing stylish berets and black, 4-inch high heels. They take your coat and fold it like you're at the Gap and place it in a small, green mesh holder and put it through the metal detector. I felt like I was at a university and at the Gap. They also hand you back everything with both hands, or in a tray (like change). I think that's the germophobe part. The Japanese guy on our trip was impenetrable. He was more formal than anyone I'd ever met. He had no emotion. His laughter was scripted as if he had observed human behavior and calculated when to giggle or smile. It was offputting to say the least.

Between Beijing and Shanghai we took a 12-hour sleeper train. We got the top of the line for about $65. Four to a room in bunk beds. The rooms were small, but we got a mildly edible dinner and slept. It was very strange to sleep on a fast-moving train, but I told my body, "What the fuck else you got to do?" And it replied, "Gotcha." The train was definitely a cool experience.

In Shanghai, we saw the sky. In Beijing, you couldn't see that the sky was blue and your nose and mouth felt burny and yucky all day. We literally drove up in a bus to the Beijing Opera house and had to have the professor on the trip describe it to us b/c the smog was so thick you couldn't tell that a structure was there. Your snot was black in both S and B though. Shanghai was a beautiful, booming metropolis. Beijing was more a cultural and government center, though with 4-lane highways and an older look. Shanghai had the Bund: a big European banking center that was beautiful and on the water. The architecture around the Bund was gorgeous. The rest of Shanghai was 40-storey building after 40-storey building, circular or square, ACs on the outsides of the windows. Building after building. You could drive an hour in any direction and they were there. One day we passed some white villas with Spanish rooftops. About a thousand of them. Most looked the same. The buildings looked like they'd been ordered out of a catalogue. Literally, it was like, I'll take 200 of these 40-storey skyscrapers, 200 of those, 200 of those. And they'd be right next to each other. And the city houses 20 million people and is growing. It's definitely got more foreigners than Beijing. In Beijing people took pictures of me, in Shanghai they only took pictures of the black students on the trip.

The people in Shanghai were a bit more aggressive and cityish than in Beijing. I missed the people of Beijing, but not the horrid environment. The people in Shanghai--well, we mainly interacted with merchants--were more reserved or more aggressive and all better at separating foreigners from their money. In Shanghai, we were bussed and cabbed to various corporate visits. Some were cool, many were duds. The Shanghai stock exchange was an empty room--all the trading goes on online elsewhere. Lenovo, Intel and Microsoft had computers--Microsoft an elaborate rec room. But we didn't get to see much cool stuff at those places. We went to a Japanese steel drum factory called Kisco; that was awesome. We saw how the drums for oil and hazmats are made. They gave us steel ashtrays and hats. Everywhere we went there was bottled water and most places there was tea. We ate a lot of on the go and cafeteria Chinese food, which was subpar.

Our hotel in Shanghai was fucking awesome. A full, huge mo tub with a separate shower. Two TVs. A very exquisite Asian look. I watched CNN Asia and realized: Israel doesn't exist on the news if you're not in America--though Palestine does big time, the Iraq War is panned by most of the world, David Beckham is the most important person ever. Ehud Olmert was actually visiting China when we were in Shanghai, which was definitely cool and strange. We saw him with Hu Jintao on the cover of the Shanghai Times.

I learned a lot about the differences between Asians. Chinese, relative to the others, are developing. So they're poor, but up and coming. Taiwan and Hong Kong are there already, Japan and Singapore are ahead of the curve. Thailand--where some from the trip sojourned before joining us--is a land of beauty and prostitutes. Hearing about the old white men with teen--or younger--Thai girls sounded revolting to the point that it made seeing the beauty and cuisine of the country not worthwhile. Seeing the difference between how Chinese (normal, like Americans and aspiring to be Americans) and Japanese acted (formal, strange, rigid) made Japan seem less appealing.

Being in China you see what a developing country is--and developing is the perfect word. Something like 1/5 of the cranes in the world are in China right now. They produce everything, but they copy most things. Not much cutting edge innovation going on. People still make about $2,000 a year on average. There are some Mercedes on the road, but most cars of the small, Euro type. There is a lane on all roads--a wide one--for motorbikes and bicycles. It is always throbbing and is sometimes very difficult to cross on foot. We saw a head-on bicycle collision in Beijing that was brutal. A man hit a woman and she lay on the ground for a few minutes, we tried to help her but we couldn't communicate and didn't know what to do. Eventually an official looking person came to help.

China has elements of poor and elements of rich. But all the rich looks brand new--new developments. Twenty years ago, the place was a slum, which is absolutely insane if you see Shanghai today. The rural people that come in come for labor and some are homeless beggars who are dirty--a staggering number of them are one-footed and on crutches and a disturbing number are clutching their young children as a means for squeezing yuan out of you. If you give to one, a throng surrounds you and everyone bothers you like crazy very aggressively. If this weren't the case, I would've given a lot more than I did.

The sellers are very aggressive in some places and purchasing goods in China is a trip unto itself. They start you at 10 times the product's price sometimes to skew your reference point, and you really have to know what others got it for to find out what the bottom is. "Last price" does not mean anything there. The first time we shopped guys got knockoff North Face coats for everything from 180-400 yuan (7.8 yuan equals 1 dollar). They quickly got that 200 was the baseline price. You have to use the walk away frequently and be firm with the sellers. Volume deals also work. Ariel very much enjoyed the haggling. I could have done without it. Sure, you got the tie for $1.50, but you spent 20 minutes bargaining the price down which to me was kinda dumb. Plus much of the stuff was not of the highest quality, though not complete crap either--we'll see how it stands the test of time. Women like shopping for long, men don't, maybe that's the difference. The guys didn't mind getting a shitty deal (though still a great deal in the US, though for crappy goods) to save time, the girls were in a huge-mo competition to show who could get goods for the least money. Ariel loved the arguing, haggling, walking away, cajoling. I don't think I did much of it at all.

My concerns about China in the end did not revolve around the government, the government seemed to have everyone on a very long leash. Rather, I was concerned that this was an economy based on knockoffs, that everything was negotiable and corruptible, and mostly that the unprecedented growth that China is experiencing could not be sustained. We were told time and again that China could keep growing and growing b/c of its excess populace. But what happens when America doesn't need more crap? (I know, hard to believe). Or when Mexico or Burma start being cheaper? Or when the middle class in China demands more benefits? I think there could be a revolution if the growth even slows. Why? Well, because there are 4 million migrant laborers in Shanghai alone that are placated by the constant government works projects: buildings, tunnels, bridges. There's a lot of work now and probably will be in the short-term. But double-digit GDP growth won't be sustainable forever, and eventually people will be out of jobs and looking for the government to pay up. Everything's cool now b/c China's "winning," but there are problems on the horizon I think. No one in China thinks so, which is the scary part--everyone we heard was super-bullish on China. To me, that's dangerous.

Upon return to the US--and after 3 freakin' flights which significantly dried me out--I found America to be full of people who are selfish. This is my normal observation after returning from abroad. Americans are too individualistic and selfish. Chinese are quiet and they care about their families. It is common to see a middle-aged man holding an old man or woman on his arm. In the US, we let our grandparents wither in old age home's and leave supporting them to the government. In China, you support your kids and your parents--though, usually it's only one kid. Chinese also care foremost about "harmony," a concept that I hadn't thought much about until I went to China. Everything should be in balance in your life and relations. This concept lends itself to roles--something that America's cringe at--but it also provides a window into why roles can be beneficial and rewarding to people.

Then, there's the story of the foot massage that briefly went awry, but I'll leave that for another time .....


Saturday, November 04, 2006

What a Week!

So I came back from Boston last Friday a bit under the weather. Spent some time getting back into the groove, sleeping, taking it slow, etc. My wife was sick too. Then, on Wednesday I feel better, I get the news that I'll be presenting at the midwest polisci conference in April, and I'm excited. So what happens? My tooth starts hurting. I go to the dentist on Thursday and find out I got a problem with my root canal. So now I've gotta go home for a root canal retreatment on Monday. Crazy. It's like I'm sitting here and shit just keeps happening to me out of the blue. Sickness, health, luck, bad luck, pain, pleasure. No choices, just shit being brought down on me.

When I'm done with the dental work on Monday, I'm gonna start taking control. It's been too many days of sitting around and shitting around. Letting mild to moderate pain reduce me to doing nothing. Gotta get some work done, love Ariel and keep rockin'.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Call it what it is: A War

I think that the world is stuck in 1991 in its view of the whole Israel-Palestine thing. Look, I'm not an Israel nutso that thinks that one day the Palestinians will all wake up and realize that they love Golda Meir and long sideburns. But, it's about time to dump the tired, old frame that Israel is a big steel tank shooting ammo in every direction and that its Arab enemies are poor, defenseless children.

Yes, children have died in Palestine and Lebanon. The world has paid them due and so have I. If they were my children, I'd wanna kill whoever killed them. That I understand. But, this is not a war--as the world press is framing it--of Israel bombing children for no good reason and just destroying Lebanon because it sees fit. So, without further ado, here are some popular myths I'd like to squelch:

1) Israel is a nation of war that loves killing children. Yes, I have spoken with one former IDF soldier who sounded a lot like a sadist. But, I've talked to a hundred soldiers who are normal, caring individuals. Let's recount: ISRAEL LEFT LEBANON IN 2000. It left. Period. What did Hezbollah do? Oh, I don't know, arm itself for a war. But, why would it do that? Either: a) to serve Iran; or b) because it will always hate Israel. So, why would a country that loves war so much leave Lebanon and Gaza? You could say it got too hot in the kitchen for them, which is true. But, you could also say that it wanted to calm things down. It did things the right way with Lebanon, and, lo and behold, now its been provoked into another war. Sure, Israel "took the bait," but, after all, there were supposed to be no more issues on the table! Which leads me to ...

2) The whole Shebaa Farms and prisoners thing is bullshit. Shebaa Farms has been decided by the UN to be part of occupied Syria. There are 3 Lebanese/Hezbollah prisoners in Israeli jail--or at least there were on July 11. Those 3 guys are, let's say, not cool.

3) Israel loves killing civilians. I'm sure that some gung-ho soldiers love to kill Arabs. I don't doubt that. But, let's recount some of the arguments from the Iraq war. For one, why would Israel equip their bombs with computers if they were just planning on dropping them on kids? It just makes no sense. Two, why would Israel leaflet and bullhorn towns to get them to evacuate if they just want to kill innocents? It doesn't make sense. Now, sure, you might not immediately leave home if asked by an occupier, but Israel does normally give fair warning which is a lot better than what Hezbollah does. Finally, Israel wants to kill Hezbollah not the Lebanese. By killing Lebanese accidentally, it turns them toward Hezbollah. So, why the hell would they want to turn a local population that could be for them to the other side? The answer is: they don't. Civilians die by mistake. Doesn't mean that it isn't a tragedy.

4) Here's the kicker: Israel is simply massacring the Arabs. The Arabs are poor, defenseless goats being slaughtered. They're doing nothing. They're innocent. First of all, 100-200 rockets are being shot into Israel every day. Not Israel's fault that they don't kill tens of people. That's their intention, however. Second, a suicide bomber has been thwarted every four days or so in Israel. Not Israel's fault that they don't kill scores of innocents, but that's their intention. So, let's review: if Hezbollah and Hamas had better weapons they would be killing more Israelis. The intent is there. If you try to kill your wife but dont' succeed, you can still be tried for attempted murder. The terror groups want to murder Israeli civilians,. The fucked up thing is that the world and Arab press view things completely opposite. To them, Israel is the one that purposely kills, and the Arabs are poor and defenseless and being massacred. It's not like that.

In conclusion, I think that when the smoke clears it will be obvious to all that this conflcit was a war between Israel and southern Lebanon/Hezbollah. Just like the "Jenin Massacre," people now are crowing about all the senseless deaths and forcing this conflict into the frame of one-sided state-driven massacres. The Arabs, however, have progressed since 1991. They have better weapons now and, I would argue, deadlier intentions. In a generation, they will have even better weapons if peace is not forged--maybe even if peace is forged.

In Jenin, Israel lost many soldiers in a real battle with Hamas. Israel is really fighting real terrorists in southern Lebanon. Sure, we can talk about the mixed-up tactics and the atrocities of the day. But, let me be clear: Israel is not the only one commiting atrocities (yes, I'll admit "atrocities" have been commited). To all the Muslims who make a huge deal about Israel: where were you when the Bosnian Muslims were being led to slaughter? Didn't care, huh? How about when the Chechens were being leveled? No comment? Where are you when Mubarak makes a crack down? Or when the janjaweed flat-out murder and rape entire villages in the Sudan? Or when Shi'a and Sunni mass murder one another in Iraq? No rage? No protests? Huh. But those are real massacres, killing tens of thousands. I guess that Muslim life is only important when showing the bodies makes Israel or America look bad. That's a cynical statement, but I hate to tell you there are bigger fish to fry than Israel-Palestine or Israel-Lebanon. As I mentioned: Chechnya, Iraq, Bosnia, Sudan.

Sadly, the world has a fetish for the Jews. It is enamored by them and everything they do. It loves to hate them. They are vaunted as superhuman and derided as subhuman. But, we can never win. In Iraq, scores of children are killed every day by red-blooded Arabs. In Sudan, the same happens. And guess what: it's on purpose. Israel mistakenly kills civilians, which I admit is still bad and deserving of censure, and the Arab World rises to condemn and spit on Israel. Europe wakes from its slumber and shoots Israel a dirty glance: after all, Europe deals with Muslims with perfect equanimity. The fact that Israel has an air force is derided. How are they allowed to bombard the Lebanese when the Lebanese don't have the same capabilities? It's not fair! And Hezbollah and Hamas are lionized. They are fighting the great beast! Let's get over this whole David-Goliath syndrome and get to what this is really about Israel vs. the Arabs in a new form. Plain and simple. A war. You fight with the team you got. And, I'll admit, Hezbollah has a good team.

So, please, stop telling me that this shit is one-sided, that Israel likes civilian deaths, and that Hezbollah are a bunch of saintly martyrs. Israelis are dying too--not as much, but if you want more Israelis dead you know where to sign up. Israel is working hard to get rid of a deeply rooted and powerful terror group: stronger and more vetted than al-Qaeda. This is a war. Stop calling it a massacre or a tragedy. I promise that when the smoke clears the world will have wished it didn't make Israel fight with one arm behind its back.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Dick Vitale’s Preseason Guide to the Middle East 2006-07

Hey everybody!!! It’s ME, DICKIE V., BABBYYY!!!! Here to run down my Top Ten choices for next year’s MIDDLE EAST!!! Now, I think this could be the BEST SEASON EVER, BABY!!! WE’RE TALKIN’ 1967, ISRAEL CUTTIN’ DOWN THE NETS, BABBYY!!! OR 1978 CAMP DAVID ACCORDS!!! I’M TALKIN’ ANWAR SADAT AND MENACHEM BEGIN BABBEEEEE!!!!

1) Israel/Duke—These guys have been powerhouses in the Middle East forever, baby!!! I mean, since 1948. Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Elton Brand, David Ben-Gurion!!!! THESE ARE HOUSEHOLD NAMES, BABYY!!!! Now, they’ve got some major contenders for the first time in a long time!!! I’m not talkin’ 1990s Palestinian militant groups, we’re talkin’ IRAN, HEZBOLLAH, HAMAS, AL-QAEDA!!! IT’S GONNA BE EXCITING, BABY!!!! But, don’t count out the top dogs in the Middle East. The Blue Devils. They’ve got the best force in the Middle East: disciplined, advanced, technologically sound, and honed by years of practice. I’M TALKIN’ THE IDF, BABY!!!! But they also got some questions, some real diaper dandies they’re gonna have to lean on. I’m talkin’ Josh “Ehud Olmert” McRoberts and Defense Minister Amir “The Microwave” Peretz! They got all the TOOLS TO DOMINATE, BUT WILL THEY DO IT!!! WILL THEY FULFILL THEIR POTENTIAL??!!! AND WILL THEY BE ABLE TO MAKE UP FOR THE LOSS OF THEIR LEADER, JJ “ARIEL SHARON” REDDICK??!!! I mean, that guy could ball. He could crush A HOUSE AS EASILY AS HE COULD WRECK A CITY BLOCK. Terrorists had nothing on this guy, BABY!!!! He was a HORSE!!! But, let’s not forget they’re still coached by the best in the biz: I’m talkin’ Mike Kryzewski/THE JEWISH PEOPLE BABY!!! SMART, STRONG, SEASONED. THESE GUYS HAVE IT ALL AND THEY DOMINATE YEAR AFTER YEAR!!! BUT WE’LL JUST HAVE TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS ‘CAUSE THERE ARE SOME NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK….
3) Hezbollah/LSU—These guys have some major length, great guerilla athleticism, and have you seen their blowupability?! It’s EXPLOSIVE, BABY!!!! These guys are anchored by Glenn “Big Baby” Hassan Nasrallah underneath. And I mean UNDERNEATH!!! These guys have more down-low players than the Florida Gators, BABY!!! WE’RE TALKIN’ A NETWORK OF TUNNELS BABY!!! But, don’t believe that they’re just some athletic knuckleheads that can only dunk some bombs into Kiryat Shmona. THESE GUYS GOT SOME MAJOR RANGE, BABY!!! I’M TALKIN’ ROCKETS TO HAIFA, BABY!!!! Can they take down the Big Middle East powerhouses? I don’t think so. But, these DIAPER DANDIES are gonna MAKE SOME NO-OISSSEEE!!! BACK TO THE GLORY DAYS OF SHAQ O’NEAL AND BOMBIN’ THE MARINE BARRACKS FOR THESE LSU/HEZBOLLAH MILITANTS, BABY!!!!
4) Al-Qaeda/Villanova—Now, first, a bit of sorrow. You know, college basketball/the Middle East isn’t all about knockin’ up chicks and hittin’ bricks. There’s also some REAL LIFE DRAMA. I’M TALKIN’ THE DEATH OF ABU MUSAB ZARQAWI, BABY!!! AS THE SONG GOES, “YYYYY-ONNNNLLLEEE THE GOOD DIE YOUNG!” That’s a real shot to these up-and-comers. I mean, Zarqawi was a real PTPer. AND SO EXPLOSIVE!!! He could blow up a UN HQ in Baghdad as easily and whimsically as he could DEVASTATE A WEDDING IN JORDAN!!! I mean, range, explosiveness, we’re talkin’ THE TOTAL PACKAGE, BABY!!!! But, these guys still have some major IDEOLOGICAL HEADS, BABY!!! We’re talkin’ OSAMA BIN-LADEN: PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER 1. And some major SENIOR MUSCLE DOWN LOW WITH AYMAN ZAWAHIRI. Let’s not forget what they did to MADRID, LONDON, AND NEW YORK, NEW YORK, BABY!!! THESE GUYS ARE SOME MAJOR PTPERS!!! DON’T COUNT THEM OUT.
5) Iraq/Michigan—The US/UConn came in here and they were like, WE’RE GONNA TAKE ANN ARBOR!!! AND NOT ONLY THAT, THEY’RE GONNA LIKE IT!!!!!! GUESS WHAT?! They got TOOK!!!! I mean, they’re still stuck in al/ann-ANBAR PROVINCE, BABY!!!! For all intents and purposes, THEY’RE OUT OF THE RUNNING!!!! NOW, THIS ISN’T THE IRAQ OF JALEN “TARIQ AZIZ” ROSE AND CHRIS “SADDAM” WEBBER. Not close. BUT, WE STILL GOT SOME MAJOR TERRORISTS HERE!!!! I’M TALKIN’ A 3-YEAR INSURGENCY VS. THE US AND STILL GOING STRONG!!!! Problem is, the country’s pretty unstable. Too many ILLEGAL OUTSIDE DONATIONS WRECKING THE PROGRAM. PLUS, HOW ABOUT THIS CRAZY SUNNI-SHI’ITE DIVIDE??? You can’t field a team that’s always AT EACH OTHER’S THROATS. Now, they could be a force, or they could just be enough TO NEUTRALIZE US/UCONN, WHICH IS MORE THAN ENOUGH!!!
6) Egypt/Texas—This ain’t your father’s Egypt, BABY!!! BUT, THEY STILL HAVE THE BIGGEST POPULATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND CAN DEFINITELY MAKE SOME NOISE!!! BUT, they’re not gonna sponsor terror or fight Israel. We’re talkin’ GOOD OLE’ FASHIONED DIPLOMACY, BABY!!! Problem is, these guys have some major problems. MUBARAK IS GETTIN’ OLD AND THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IS STILL AROUND DESTABILIZING!!! Egypt could do some good for itself by using its connections, its veteran savvy to quell some Mideast tension, but they’re not gonna knock off Israel or Iran. AS I SAID, THE SHI’ITES ARE ASCENDANT BABBBBYYYY!!!!
7) Hamas/Gonzaga—THESE UP AND COMING DIAPER DANDIES HAVE THEIR OWN PARLIAMENT NOW, BABBYYY!!! I’M TALKIN’ DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED ISLAMIST GOODNESS. But, they’re not gonna be sneakin’ up on anyone anymore. The days of Turiaf, Morrison, and Yahya Ayyash are over, BABY!!!! SAD TO SAY!!! BUT, THIS HAS GONE FROM A MID-MAJOR IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE TO A REAL PROGRAM, BABY!!!! AND IT ALL STARTED WITH THE SWEET SIXTEEN!!! We’re talkin’ AL-AQSA INTIFADA, BABY!!! Problem is, with so many other players in the region, these guys are old news. BETTER LUCK NEXT YEAR, ZAGS!!!
8) Saudi Arabia/Syracuse—The days of ‘Melo, DC, and even Hakim Warrick are long gone. THE SAUDI DYNASTY IS WANING. BUT!!!! THEY STILL CAN MAKE A LOT OF NOISE WITH PETE CARRILL’S WAHHABI ISLAM SYSTEM. You see, these guys don’t have the athleticism, the length, or the hops of some of the other big programs. But, they’ve got the savvy. We saw Pete Carrill’s system work with Princeton to perfection, AND NOW IT’S WORKIN’ FOR THE SACRAMENTO/SAUDI KINGS!!! These guys have ideology/game plan up the wazoo. Problem is, they gotta use a lot of DIPLOMACY these days to beef up their tarnished image. They still got the money, and the system that fuels craziness EVERYWHERE, AND, OF COURSE, ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN. BUTT!!!! I DON’T SEE IT HAPPENING FOR THE SAUDIS THIS YEAR.
9) Syria/Indiana—The days of Bob Knight/Hafez al-Assad are over. SAD TO SEE HIM GO!!! LIKE LEN BIAS AND HANK GATHERS BEFORE HIM, HE DIED TOO YOUNG!!! HAFEZ, COME BACK!!! Now, we got Bashar Asad. He’s OK. A real 7-footer. BUT, HE’S ONE OF THESE SOFTIES THAT LIKES TO SHOOT FROM THE OUTSIDE!!! I’M TALKIN’ PROXY WAR WITH ISRAEL, BABY!!!! But, this could bite him in the ass. The folks in Bloomington may be in for a BIG SURPRISE IF THE DUKIES/ISRAELIS DECIDE TO BRING THE SMACKDOWN!!! I think Indy would be better off building back its program with solid (economic) fundamentals, rather than messin’ with the big boys quite yet!!!
10) Lebanon/Georgia Tech—THESE ARE SOME REAL DIAPER DANDIES: WE’RE TALKIN’ FLEDGLING DEMOCRACY, BABYYYY!!!! But, the Siniora government is in big trouble. This isn’t the Tech/Lebanon of Kenny Anderson, this is a much weaker but potentially hot team. Problem is, they let Hezbollah DESTABILIZE THEIR ENTIRE TEAM!!! Bad idea. Now, they have the Blue Devils to deal with. WILL THESE GUYS TURN OUT TO BE A BEACON TO A NEW DEMOCRATIC MIDDLE EAST???!!! OR WILL THEY FALL APART AGAIN??? AND WHAT ABOUT BEIRUT???!!!! IT’S THE NEW INDIANAPOLIS, WHERE THE FINAL FOUR WILL BE HELD!!!! OH, MAN, I’M TOO EXCITED!!! THIS YEAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST IS GONNA BE FAN-TASTIC, BABBYYY!!!

America .... Fuck Yeah!!!

Being in Europe made me appreciate America a hell of a lot more. First of all, we have a huge and beautiful country with high-class amenities, the greatest universities in the world and fucking reasonable people (yes, compared to Euro-nationalists, we're generally reasonable). Americans are more open-minded than Europeans. And, further, all Euros do is bitch and complain about how we give ourselves the "license" to bomB (a hard "b" there) places. It made me mutter, "Amerrrrrrickkkkaaa ... fuck yeah" a lot under my breath.

First of all, if they weren't such righteous douchebags who went around mass-murdering each other and then crying to the press about it, we wouldn't have to bomB their sorry countries. Second, America is a convenient enemy. We're not around. We have The Power. We're the Evil Ones. Convenient beliefs considering that Europe has given us a few healthy spasms that could all be dubbed "holocaust." It, finally, came to my attention that America has it bad both ways. Either we stay out (Sudan, Rwanda, etc.) and people hate us for not intruding in their affairs. Or we intrude (Bosnia, Kosovo, etc.), and people hate us for being imperial invaders. One note: I think its hard to see the subtleties of realpolitik when you're being bombed and easy to say "can't you see the strategy here people!" when you're sitting in your living room watching Jets-Giants and eating a whole goddammed bag of Lay's BBQ chips.

But, I don't intend on this Blog being political only because America has two great things that Eastern Europe apparently doesn't.

1. Toilet paper
2. Fruit

And, you can easily see how the two go hand-in-hand or mouth-to-ass to be more correct. First of all, I don't know 'bout London or Berlin or Paris, but Athens and Greece in general has the most god-awful toilet paper this side of Zanzibar. In sum: they use paper towels as toilet paper. No joke. Literally, it's just a mini-sized roll of paper towel. You'd have to go to a San Francisco S&M party on Halloween to do as much damage to your ass as this shit does. I mean, seriously, it's fucking horrible. It made my number one reason why I don't wanna go to prison far more immediate and visceral.

Secondly, the fruit thing. My Serbian roommate related to me that when he gets sick he just "eats a lot of lemons." I was like, "whuh?" He was like, "you know, for the Vitamin C." I didn't have the heart to tell him about oranges. Even in Germany, real fruit juice is rare. I know that we Americans are used to drinking Snapple and Minute Maid and calling it juice, but we also have actual juice. Tropicana, for one, is a staple of every household. In Greece, I saw people pouring powdered Vitamin C into water. In Germany, I bought a 12 oz. of OJ that advertised its Vitamin C content like a whore advertises her wares. I think the closest thing to juice I drank in Greece was, and I'm not kidding, Fanta. No joke. Seriously.

Yes, they had watermelon there and shitty little apricots. And, sure, they had fresh veggies aplenty and nice olive oil. But the lack of oranges and apples really made me miss the good ole' US of A. People can fucking eat good, healthy fruit in America. In Greece, its bottled water and watermelon: basically the same shit.

This further speaks to the food choices there. There was a good Italian meal eaten on my last night, but generally Greece is not a place that I would tout for its great food. I had a decent Greek salad there, some very good but repetitive veggie gyros, and some decent fish and tzatziki sauce. But, I'm used to eating Chinese for lunch, Italian for dinner, and American staples throughout the day. The variety wasn't there. And the exorbitant prices (everything cost at least the same price as in America, only in euros), kinda put a damper on gorging your face with dry cheese pies, subpar pizza, and $2 11oz. Cokes.

In conclusion, if Euros want to diss on America, I don't mind. After all, their countries are lacking in a few creature comforts that Americans will never let go of: toilet paper, fruit, and, oh yeah, jobs.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Things I Learned About (Eastern) Europeans

1. They don't find Communism funny. They find it very strange that Americans think Communism is hip and cool, after Communists destroyed their countries and killed so many of their people.

2. They all fucking hate each other. They all have an enemy country/archrival that they explicitly or implicitly hate.

3. They're all very nationalistic, and all have their own nationalistic narratives of history. To this end, you can't dis their countries at all.

4. They see Jews as Americans see Native Americans: never there, always stereotyped, sometimes romanticized. I was the only Jew on the program. Generally, people treated me with respect, but I was called "Jew" and Jew jokes were made with frequency. Nothing blatantly anti-Semitic, but I could tell some people had their, let's say, predispositions.

5. They generally dislike/hate America, but love American corporations (which is the opposite of how Americans feel about America). Their love of and veneration for McDonald's must be seen to be believed. They even lauded Arby's. My only explanation: the only time I felt full in Greece was after eating a Filet-o-Fish.

6. They don't understand marriage or commitment. This could have to do with the young age of my program's participants. But, in general, they don't understand marriage or breeding as Americans do. They see life as one endless party wherein they crave the day when they'll get to throw their granny panties on stage at a Bon Jovi concert at age 65. They don't realize that life is about being a corporate drone, working hard, raising at least 3 kids, and making some sort of meaningful contribution to society. I think they're in a post-responsibility, hyper-individualistic phase. They don't see the point of dedicating your life to raising a family and being a respectable, monied individual. Then again, their arcane tax systems take being monied out of the equation at birth. Life is more about having fun, then making a difference. What they don't realize is that Americans give lip service to making a difference, have a little bit of fun, watch A LOT of TV, then derive their pleasure from naming their kids with weird names like JaRon and Dakota. I think the pleasures of maturity/responsibility outweigh the fleeting joys of youth, but that may just be what we have to keep telling ourselves. Either way, it's a wonder that these people breed at all. In 20 years, their populations will be so small that Baskin Robbins could conquer their lands with a few well-placed ice cream trucks. Who am I kidding? They already have.

Who are we fighting and why?

The "war on terror" is increasingly being linked to Sam Huntington's Clash of Civilizations. This was the case right after 9/11, and now the book isn't mentioned but a certain Islam vs. the West, or as Daniel Benjamin put it, Jihad vs. McWorld, dynamic is increasingly being touted. The calls today are that World War III is upon us. A war fought between Western powers and terror groups. Trouble is, that though most of the Western world has suffered terrorist attacks (most recently Mumbai, India), the West is not united in its fight.

The fact is that though the bin-Ladens, Ahmadinejads, and Nasrallahs of the world may see this as an apocalyptic battle between good and evil few on the other side--outside of the US and Israel--agree with that assessment. Europe and the rest of the world still are operating under the perspective that terrorism is a regional phenomena rooted in occupation.

Now that wrath of the occupied narrative is a hard one to shake. It's been around for so long that it's part of my common sense framework for looking at these phenomena. For a long time too it was understood that suicide terror emanating from Palestine was the outcome of individuals being fed up with their daily conditions and deciding to kill in response. It wasn't until Arafat's archives were confiscated by the IDF that Israel's left learned what the right had been telling them all along: terrorism was simply a means of the PA fighting Israel. The pop-psychology explanations ceased once the documents authorizing terror with Arafat's signature were found. But, the narrative of occupied peoples struggle persists. It does so b/c it makes a lot of sense: most terrorist groups claim lands and inhabit "occupied" (whatever that means) lands.

Yet, now Israel has left Gaza and Lebanon--well, they're back now--and yet the fighting persists. The general explanation from the Israeli side is that this is an existential conflict. That is one of the new explanations that came out of the second intifada. It holds that this isn't just about territory or occupation or what have you, it's about an us-versus-them struggle wherein only one people can inhabit this land (meaning Israel and Palestine). The conflict won't end until either the Arabs recognize Israel, the Jews leave or are killed, the Arabs leave or are killed, or the Arabs or Jews are able to conquer and hold all the land.

This existential narrative--just like the Islam v. the West one--explains broad sweeps of activity and is intellectually attractive for that reason, but it doesn't explain day-to-day activity. Hamas and Hezbollah may claim that they want to destroy the West, but for now they aren't capable and, like the Arab socialists before them, market themselves with over-inflated rhetoric (see Ajami's The Arab Predicament).

The strategy may be an existential one, but what is happening strategically looks more like the Cold War than anything else. Replace Vietnam with Iraq and then look at all the proxy wars in the Phillipines, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Palestine and you see that the war on terror is a war between great powers. The powers that the US are fighting are North Korea, Iran, and the Islamists. But, since these powers are far less powerful than the USSR, they use guerilla and terrorist tactics: tactics which have proven incredibly effective against large armies.

A few broad theories are now on the table: 1) it's all about occupation; 2) it's Islam vs. the West; 3) a variant of 2: it's a Cold War; 4) there's the US part of the fight, then there's the existential battle between Arabs and Jews.

I don't think it's all about occupation. Ending the occupation of Palestine would help assuage some of the issues, but groups interested in destabilizing the region and harming Israel would still remain. These groups may or may not have been formed due to occupation, but like the military-industrial complex in the West, they remain on the scene looking for fights well after their initial goals have been achieved.

Further, occupation may simply be an excuse. After all, when Israel left Lebanon and Gaza (or when US left Lebanon for that matter), Hamas and Hezbollah didn't say, "good, now time for peace." They said, "See, violence works against these oppressors. Let's keep committing violence against them and see where that goes. With violence, we can control an ever-increasing amount of land." Israel and the US were slow to realize this logic. It took them a while to understand that they couldn't cave in the face of terrorism. But, you either cave (negotiate) or you commit atrocities (fight). The terrorists know how to spin it to their advantage either way.

A sidebar: that's what I love about terrorists. When you fight them, they cry about proportionality and fighting fair. When it's peace time, they kill your people and label you Occupiers so it's all legit. I think if people wanna have a more fair fight in the Mideast, they should donate some F16s to Hezbollah and Hamas, and let's throw in an A-bomb for Iran and some biological weapons for bin-Laden. I think that's the fair, proportional thing to do, and I'm confident that they'll all use their weapons responsibly--ie, destroy Israel.

So, is that what it's all about? Destroying Israel. Arab rhetoric seems to say so. A pan-Arab utopia will be ushered in once the Jews are all dead. I was just in Europe and, let me tell you, the Jews are dead and no Utopia. They found new people to hate: each other. Oh yeah, they hated each other all along.

Occupation describes a lot of the story especially if you add the fact that the mercenary/revolutionary/terrorist/militia forces that formed to fight occupation stick around and require military goals to justify their existence after the fight. That said, al-Qaeda's "lands" are not occupied, unless you're willing to grant that Islam deserves all the land from Indonesia to Spain. The extremists may want it to become an existential conflict, but that doesn't ring 100% true to me. Islam vs. the West works only to a certain level too. After all, the terrorists are fighting to destabilize Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia and all for different reasons ranging from religious fanaticism to fighting dictatorship to regime support of the West to nationalist independence.

Terrorist tactics unite all of these groups, but not all of the groups are united. Nor is it correct to bag all of Islam into one sack--whatever that means. I think that there are two phenomena.

1) Israel vs. Arabs/Palestine. That issue is one mainly of occupation, though you have more extremist forces (Jihad Islami, Hamas) that desire it to be an existential conflict.

2) Islamists v. the West. Hezbollah and al-Qaeda with support from Taliban and Iran and Syria fighting for power in the region, to destabilize regimes, and to knock down the US.

This distinction explains why Hamas is fucking terrified of being grouped with Hezbollah. It also explains why Hezbollah isn't afraid to make it a regional/global conflict, but Hamas wants to keep it quaint and nationalist. Now, these two conflicts intersect over Israel and, thus, you have two fronts. Of course, Israel and the West will want to link them, but there's actually two different fights--one nationalist, one religious--going on. These fights overlap.

So, who are "we" fighting? A messy group of people in Palestine and a more organized group in Lebanon. A messy group of people in Iraq and a more organized group in Afghanistan. The Taliban/al-Qaeda fighters are both religious and nationalist, but mainly the former. The Iraqi groups are all over the map, just as the Palestinian groups are. And, Hezbollah is a religious group seeking to rid the Mideast of Israel, its a proxy army of Iran and Syria (witness their Asad posters during the "Cedar Revolution"), it has roots in anti-occupation fighting, and it may have some pan-Arab elements.

I'll leave with one other aspect of this fight that is extremely interesting. The Shi'a v. Sunni conflict. This conflict played out in previous decades as Iraq v. Iran, now the main stage is within Iraq. But, with Iran now pulling the strings in Iraq and southern Lebanon, the Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians actually came out against an anti-Israel terror group (Hezbollah) even in the face of Israel's most drastic reaction in decades. The Shi'a v. Sunni aspect of this conflict could become a pro-Western v. anti-Western dynamic, wherein Jordan and Egypt team with Israel and Turkey v. Syria, Iran, and the terror groups. I don't think a war could play out along those lines, but it is along these axes that power is being jockeyed for.

Now, if this is a Cold War, can the US win? I think so. We saw in the first Cold War that the US had the economic might to both fight a war and still innovate and be strong at home. I don't think that Iran or Palestine or Hezbollah have that fall back. All they can do is fight. Further, Iran and Palestine have a strong chance of being deterred through waiting it out--ie, there govts could change through democratic processes. The only big problem is that, unlike the USSR, terror groups have no population to answer to, nothing to live for other than fighting.

I think, however, that the Cold War dynamic is one that is either nascent or only present at this time due to Iran's power play in Lebanon. Either Iran is playing all its cards before it starts getting its balls twisted on the nuclear issue, or Iran and North Korea and Syria have major destabilization goals for the region/world. I think that it's more likely that the Iranian govt is playing a game of brinksmanship. The possibility of a US-Syria and/or US-Iran war is getting higher by the second. It will happen in the next decade if all trends continue in their current direction. I say the next decade b/c domestically, the US cannot get into another conflict now and probably not in the foreseeable future due to Iraq.

So, who are we fighting?

1) Nationalist fighters who see us as Occupiers.
2) Religious fanatics who desire a new Islamic caliphate, or at least an Islamist Middle East.
3) Iran, North Korea, and Syria. That's the IR/realpolitik dimension here, and it could mean that a Cold War is in the offing.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Disproportionate Use of Force?

Today Israel is bombing Lebanon for I believe the eighth straight day. Let me be clear at the outset, civilian deaths are not my thing. I don't hand out candies or play loud music or wave my flag when I hear that Lebanese innocents are killed. It pains me deeply that such things are happening.

That said, let me touch on the issue that the Arab side keeps bandying: disproportionate use of force. To put it bluntly, when you tickle a doberman's balls, you shouldn't be surprised when you get your arm bit off. The terrorist groups are basically saying, "fight us on our terms with our weapons, tit-for-tat like we're used to." That's not how it has to happen. When you fuck with the big dog, don't be surprised if you get bit.

Further, I love how the Arabs preach peace in times of war and war in times of peace. They spend peace time gathering weapons and inciting hatred against Israel. Then when, lo and behold, the evil Israel attacks them, they start crying to their mommies about how they are peace-loving people that just want coexistence. People should be smart enough to see this rouse for what it is.

These terrorists are the worst cowards on the planet. They will only fight when its civilians that die. They, in fact, celebrate the deaths of Israelis. Then, when Israel uses its might against them, they cry about how poor and destitute they are. If they're so poor and destitute, why don't they do what other poor people do around the world: refrain from shooting at countries with large standing armies.

Hezbollah may claim that there are tons of prisoners that Israel is holding. But, according to Time magazine the grand total of Lebanese prisoners that Israel holds is 3. Yes, 3. Sure, it holds 9,000 Palestinian prisoners, but that's Hamas' problem.

Now, the question remains: was bombing all of the Lebanese infrastructure necessary? From an Israeli military standpoint, it made attacking Hezbollah fighters easier. However, from a humanitarian and long-term perspective it was a bad idea. This could lead to deeper ties with Iran. Still, the Lebanese govt has done nothing--even in the face of destruction--to help bring an honest solution to this conflict. That is, no pressure on Hezbollah from them.

In conclusion, I asked a Lebanese friend that had participated in the "Cedar Revolution" about whether Hezbollah could derail Lebanon's sovereignty. He giddily said, "Hezbollah will not be an issue." I think in the post-occupation euphoria, the Lebanese truly believed that a terrorist group controlling the south wouldn't be too big a deal. It's a sad irony what's happening today, after so many Lebanese fought and prayed for a sovereign, peaceful Lebanon.