Bush/Blair Press Conference: Piled Higher and Deeper
Bush Sees a Chance for Change to Sweep Mideast - New York Times:
President Bush, vowing to turn conflict in the Middle East into a %u201Cmoment of opportunity%u201D for broader change, said today that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would be dispatched to the region on Saturday with a plan for a multinational force that would help Lebanon%u2019s army take over from Hezbollah in the southern part of the country.
War brings out the worst in me, and probably everyone else. I've been following the events in the Middle East and in my gut I hope that Israel beats the crap out of Hezbollah, destroys Hamas and levels the surrounding territory. This is the Clash of Civilizations--not a war of Jewish Zionist and Christian Crusaders against Muslims, but the war of Modernity against Barbarism.
Religion isn't the issue even if Islam fuels the conflict. Other barbarians recognize that their cultures are inferior and quest after Modernity. They just want in. But for some (not all, and probably not most) Muslims, Islam provides an ideology that promotes cultural pride and provides justification for those who, because they cannot join us, want to beat us.
But we brought this on ourselves because we locked them out. Palestinians, living in stinking mud brick refugee camps could look over the border and see the settlers who forced them out living in American-style suburbs. Israelis congratulated themselves for creating passageways in the Wall they were building so that Arab peasants could haul their olives on donkey-back along dirt roads--while they commuted on paved highways. Even the Palestinians and other Third World people who couldn't look over the border could see the life we lived on TV--and recognize that they were locked out.
No one knows what to say about 'those counterfactuals.' If they could get in, and not merely as colonized people or as second-class citizens, but enter our culture wholly, as equals and full members--would they? Or would they prefer to preserve their tribal, misogynist, barbaric cultures, live in hovels, haggle in bazaars and haul their produce to market on pack animals? I can make an educated guess.
It's a moral dilemma. This isn't a war against terrorism or, as Bush asserted over and over, a war for "freedom" and "democracy.' It isn't at bottom a war about ideology--not for the masses, who don't know anything beyond plowing the fields, herding goats and cooking cous cous, and simply see it as our tribe beating up their tribe because that's what tribes do. It's about a way of life. And the West must win--to send the message that traditional cultures will inevitably be crushed and modernity will prevail.
But the damage is horrific and the sheer injustice of it is intolerable. We locked them out, by commission and omission. A fraction of the money going into this war, and an approaching infinitesimal fraction of what has gone into all these wars, could have provided the education, medical care and basic social services Islamicist groups provide for their constituencies. If we weren't intent on shoring up the regimes corrupt dictators and pashas who kept their people ignorant and poor to stay in power and enrich themselves, we could have rebuilt the entire place.
There was a feature on TV last night about rebuilding New Orleans, where some of the worst slums and old-style housing projects were leveled by Katrina showing pictures of some of the beautifully designed mixed-income housing that was being built to replace them, to house the people who lived in those slums affordably. Compared to the price of war, the cost of such urban renewal projects is negligible. Bush talked about rebuilding Lebanon, but will he? Will we do anything comparable to what's being started in New Orleans? I'd like to see that happen, but I'm deeply skeptical about whether it will. Even if we've got the idea that poor Americans would prefer living in pretty townhouses, with central air conditioning, modern appliances and manicured lawns to human storage facilities, we resist the idea that poor Arabs would rather not live in mud-brick hovels with their goats and chickens.