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Killing Time

Last week, I heard a commentator talking about the latest (I think we're up to 5 digits here) peace proposal for the Middle East. In it, there would be a Palestinian state established six months after a peace conference next month.

This suddenly crystallized something I have been thinking about for some time now (no pun intended). The idea of measuring progress by a calendar is one of the most short-sighted and, potentially, destructive ideas around.

The idea here seems to be that once the conference is concluded, that's that -- six months later, the Palestinian state happens. There is no requirement beyond the simple passage of time. The Palestinian Authority does not have to do a damned thing in the meantime towards earning international respect and recognition, merely not collapse into utter chaos and ruin. And while that is a distinct possibility, I wonder if even that would slow things down -- we could end up with a heightened version of what we have today, with Hamas and Fatah both claiming to be the "legitimate" ruling body. (Personally, I find it amusing to see two groups of such unreconstructed bastards arguing about legitimacy.)

It reminds me of some of the dumber proposals on Iraq. Various and sundry deadlines have been proposed (and, thank heavens, rejected) for "victory or retreat." OK, they call it "withdrawal" and not "retreat," but in this context they are synonymous.

And, oddly enough, it also reminds me of one of the more incredibly stupid ideas from the liberals who run our public education system: "social promotion." You might recall that one -- students ought to be passed on from grade to grade to maintain their peer groupings, regardless of academic achievement.

The unifying thread of all these is that progress should not be measured by events and achievements and actions, but by the turning of the calendar pages. In some cases this sort of thing is unavoidable -- there is no ready metric for maturity, so we put age limitations on things such as sexual consent, marriage, contracts, employment, military service, voting, tobacco consumption, alcohol consumption, and the like -- but when it runs into resistance, it is almost always doomed to failure.

When progression is resisted, it is natural for the resisting party to find a way to fight against the progress. In school, students are told that they must progress through the grades or repeat them. When "social promotion" came along, the incentive for students to actually learn was destroyed -- they would move up through the grades and, eventually, receive their diploma whether or not they put any effort into learning. It cheapened the diplomas of those who actually did learn to the point where "high school graduate" became an utterly worthless standard.

Likewise, in Iraq, I recall quite a few people pushing deadlines and schedules -- "victory by such-and-such a date, or withdrawal." This introduced a whole new path to winning by our enemies. Instead of having to defeat us, they merely had to hang on and remain semi-active until the deadline passed. No longer did they have to defeat us on the battlefield, or simply keep killing our troops and Iraqi civilians -- all they had to do to win was "not die."

And here with the Palestinians, we see the exact same thing. Once the "conference" is over, they don't have to do a damned thing but sit back and get what they've always wanted.

Ironically, there was a sign that someone understands the concept of "earning" peace -- but, naturally, it was ass-backwards. Another Palestinian official called for Israel to release all the Palestinians it is currently holding in prison as a "good faith gesture."

I have lost count of how many "good faith gestures" Israel has been called upon to make -- and has done so -- in the peace process. On the other hand, Monty Python's Black Knight can count on all his fingers and toes the number of Palestinian "good faith gestures" that have been made.

The late Golda Meir, Israel's prime minister, once famously said that "we will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us." Likewise, the Palestinians ought not to have their own nation until they want it created more than they want Israel destroyed.

Unless, of course, the world decides that they don't need to do anything but wait it out.


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Comments (4)

I still find it hard to exp... (Below threshold)

I still find it hard to explain how seemingly intelligent and reasonable people supported (and some still do) a timetable for Iraq. "I'm going to get the troops out by X date," simply isn't a serious policy. It's a feel-good fluff policy designed to appease without offending.

Either tell me you're going to insist on withdrawal as soon as is humanly possible (like Bill Richardson) or tell me that you're going to stay until the situation on the ground allows for a draw-down. Richardson is wrong, but at least he's serious.

Giacomo, why are you so dul... (Below threshold)

Giacomo, why are you so dull? It worked just fine in Vietnam.

"It's a feel-good flu... (Below threshold)

"It's a feel-good fluff policy designed to appease without offending."

Yes - but isn't it much more important to feel good and not offend anyone than actually spend time, effort and people to solve the problems in Iraq and the ME? The problems have been there for decades if not centuries - who are WE to think we might be able to actually solve them! It's simply the height of idiotic pride to think we can do something constructive there - it's MUCH better for us to simply declare victory, run away, and pay more attention to American Idol than to the troubles there which MIGHT be solved if we intervene.

After all - it's not like they're going to vote Democratic or anything... even if we DO manage to get things straightened out! The only way we could have managed to get the Dems on board would be to promise Iraq full state status, then they'd be falling all over themselves to protect the potential voter base there.

But like the author says - with a timetable, there's no incentive to actually 'win'. I can't see why war is seen as a game by some with strictly defined rules, legions of legalistic umpires that repeadely penalize the US for normal actions while giving free-throws to the enemy whenever they foul, scoring criteria that are near impossible to meet for the US but very low for the enemy, and time limits on offensive and defensive plays and the length of the game, but it's a damn shame that some in Congress seem to be reliving their glory days in college where after the game supporters of both teams could peacefully coexist in the bars. After all, there'd be another game next week!

War isn't a game. I'm getting damn tired of watching folks in Congress treating it like one.

JLawson, I hit the plus but... (Below threshold)

JLawson, I hit the plus button. Would have hit it a hundred times if I could. That was pretty damn good.






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