I’ve recently read two books relating to World War II. The first was Ike: An American Hero, a biography of Dwight D. Eisenhower by Michael Korda, which is a near idolizing tale of Ike, in which the man can seemingly do no wrong. The other is saga of Winston Churchill’s life, starting from the day he becomes Prime Minister in 1940. This is the third of The Last Lion trilogy by William Manchester. These are two very different perspectives on how WWII was won.
In the case of Churchill, Manchester describes his Mediterranean strategy as somewhere between nibbling around the edges, a war of opportunity, or an attempt to coax Turkey into the melée, while at the same time placing blame on Americans for delaying the end of the war, first by not entering it earlier, and second by not being more aggressive in the taking of Italy.
On the other side, Korda points out that Eisenhower took his strategy directly from Grant, which was to destroy the enemy’s ability to make war. That necessitated the destruction of all German armies the hard way, under the belief that so long as they had armies that could fight, they would fight.
What is stunning about the difference in points of view is that neither seems to acknowledge the others at all. As an American I found Manchester’s book helpful to understand the British perceptions of history, while at the same time having some understanding of the history of the Americans involved.
Egyptian President Morsi is the one man that Hamas is looking toward to start a war with Israel, and that is why there are rockets flying back and forth.
While there has been very little news of formal progress between the Israelis and the Palestinians, until this week there had been modest informal improvements day to day in the West Bank, at least. Why now, then, did Hamas decide to escalate in southern Israel? The answer can be found in the protests occurring in Egypt, and the new government of President Mohamed Morsi, who is aligned through the Muslim Brotherhood with Hamas.
By escalating the violence, Hamas hopes to elicit a reaction from Israel that would stoke people in Egypt to press Mr. Morsi to abrogate Egypt’s treaty with Israel. Mr. Morsi previously signaled that the treaty is not inviolate, by stating that the Camp David Accords had envisioned a permanent solution long ago.
This fits a pattern that the Palestinians have been attempting for the last year: rather than come back to the table, they would prefer to see international pressure exerted on Israel, and the more the better. Firing rockets toward Jerusalem has therefore pushed the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into a corner: the Israeli response against such attacks has always been robust, if not aggressive. If the the rocket attacks into Gaza that demonstrate this point have caused as many Egyptians to protest, imagine what the result of a ground offensive would be.
In the meantime, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has had to cut short his world tour, where he has pushed the countries to elevate the status of Palestine to observer state. This has many implications in both political terms and International legal terms, and would represent an attempt at an end run around a bilateral solution. It would provide Palestinians legal claims to sovereignty of their territory. Those claims would do the Palestinians little good in the short term, as Israeli tanks roll across Gaza, and all for the veiled hope that they will somehow come out better (and Israelis worse) thanks to Egypt coming into a war on their side, perhaps bringing others with them.
It all hinges on how President Morsi responds to this crisis, and there is reason to be concerned that he will not respond well. Either the Palestinians have grossly misread his support, or he has failed to communicate his position clearly to them, or he is willing to go to war for them in the right conditions. The first two possibilities would seem naïve. If Israel is perceived by enough people to have not responded proportionally, the matter will escalate beyond its borders. This is what Hamas is hoping for. It is a very high stakes game, that involves live ammo and the deaths of both Palestinians and Israelis. Americans who think this won’t involve our military are being equally naïve.
Benjamin Netanyahu now joins the ranks of prime ministers of Israel who have advocated strength and ended up seeing Israelis attacked. Good one, Bibi.
I don’t blog often these days, in part because of my role. However, I am taking a moment to do so to pay tribute to U.S. Ambassador Chris Stephens and Career Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, who were killed this week at their posts in Libya, alongside two other Americans. All four served their country for the purpose of furthering not only the interests of the United States, but also those of Libya.
Members of the U.S. foreign service do not get paid well, in comparison to those of us in industry. They do the job out of a sense of duty and service to humankind, with the idea that dialog between peoples is the best way to avoid conflict, that all of our interests are served when differences are resolved peacefully. These people prevent wars, saving not only American lives, but the lives of those who would be lost or irrevocably harmed through conflicts.
Many people in the Middle East are upset over an “anti-Muslim” film. I have not seem this film. While words matter (whatever they are), they are no excuse for violence, especially violence against people who have probably not even seen or heard of the movie! But many outside the U.S., and perhaps even many inside the U.S., don’t understand the meaning of the freedom. It’s is easy listen when one isn’t saying something controversial. Nobody cares about a freedom when we’re all saying nice things.
Freedom of speech is needed by those who speak that which everyone else might find repugnant, outrageous, or simply rude. It’s the only way to insure in a free society that nobody has the right to judge, in an effort to control a political outcome, what should be spoken and what shouldn’t.
This freedom is not universally agreed to nor is it absolute. In the United States, you cannot yell “Fire!” in a movie theater, and in Germany you can’t go around espousing the views of Hitler. But even when people do espouse such views, you have the right to tell them where to go – but peacefully. You also have the right to ignore kooks and wingnuts, and sometimes that is the best response.