Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"History's Waste Bin"

A Sullivan reader disagrees with what Christopher Hitchens writes about the death of Osama bin Laden:

Has there ever been a more contemptible leader from behind, or a commander who authorized more blanket death sentences on bystanders?

Well, yes, writes the reader, how about Josef Stalin?

Leaving that question alone, the reader brings up another very good point:

In the end, what is true about Bin Laden is not the vastness of his vision nor the horror of his occasional strategic successes, it is the smallness of the man. He lit fires in small minds. He inhabited a small world. His global vision was to propagate that small world and impose it on all. Rather than a grandiose visionary, he was a small man with a small plan. He was relentless but, ultimately, the smallness of his vision relegates him to history's waste bin.

Exactly right, which immediately brings to my mind this short clip from Season 3 of The West Wing, where Sam, Toby and Josh are in a high school cafeteria discussing terrorism with a group of students.

I bring up this clip not to spotlight Israel (more on that in a moment), but to highlight the idea that the smallness of vision that inflicts terrorism is what results in a "100% failure rate" which only strengthens the resolve of the people it targets to combat it. In that way, Osama bin Laden was a complete failure, a small man who, unfortunately, had enough money and influence and resources to spread his smallness of vision around the world. Emblematic of bin Laden's smallness were the facts that 1) his Abbottabad compound had neither telephone nor internet; and 2) the technological muscle of the US military, with highly trained commandos, night vision gear, Blackhawk helicopters that could elude radar, and communication equipment that could transmit their operation into the White House Situation Room in real time, took him down.

On a tangent about Israel, blogger Freddie deBoer has a choice tidbit about Egypt's impending relaxation of its border with Gaza:

Israel has been, for over forty years, perpetuating one of the great humanitarian and democratic crises in the world; amid all of this talk of the democratization of the Arab world, precious little has pointed out that the United States is the major (and moving towards sole) underwriter of an Israeli regime that keeps millions of Palestinian Arabs in a state of permanent dispossession. If the greater Middle East is indeed being swept up in a new spirit of freedom, Israel will find its position more and more uncomfortable. I pray that this new geopolitical situation in the Middle East never results in military action against Israel. But if they are truly surrounded by a newly empowered and engaged Arab people, Israel will come to find their position untenable, as well they should. Because the status quo for the Palestinian people is indefensible.
Agreed. With the recent wave of Arab revolution spreading across the Middle East, promising, at least, the possibility that dictatorships will be replaced by faith-based Islamic democracies, time is not on Israel's side. At some point, the UN will want to pass a resolution recognizing the Palestinian state, and the US will veto it, but if Obama and/or the US wants to have real alliances with the Arab/Muslim world, the US will not be able to veto such resolutions ad infinitum. Perhaps Obama's long game is to reduce our dependency on Arab oil in order to avoid such a Sophie's Choice dilemma in the UN. Given our country's inner conflict about the costs and/or benefits of a greener America, I think that's a risky gamble. But if oil and gas prices don't soften anytime soon, Obama might find us more willing to go along, in which case he can approach Arab states, leverage a strong relationship on the heels of his actions in Abbottabad, while warning them to make nice with Israel. Now, if only Israel's government and people would stop hating Obama long enough to see that truly he has their back, because the alternative is simply more isolation and violence.

1 comment:

George said...

Take 2....

Here is the West Wing clip which immediately came to my mind on Sunday night. I wonder if some such conversation is taking place with Pakistan right now.