Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Gaza and unlearned lessons from history

Reading the news from Israel is terribly upsetting. It is upsetting because I feel for the parents and families of the soldiers who fell in battle, the soldiers who were wounded and possibly permanently maimed. I also feel sorry for the victims in Gaza, but the priorities of my sympathy are with the Israeli victims. These also included the people who have to live with frequent air raid sirens, the children who are terrified, the mothers who can't shelter their children from anxiety. But I am also worried about the lessons from history that had not been learned. Israel got bogged down in a war in Lebanon that they could not win and which didn't achieve its aims, only strengthened, not destroyed the PLO. The Americans were defeated in Vietnam, despite vastly superior arms by a highly motivated and well marshalled peasant army. The Americans also got involved in a war in Iraq which only destroyed Iraq as a functioning state at a cost of thousands of American lives. They are still bogged down in an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. Similarly the Russians fought unwinnable wars at great cost in lives in Chechen, in Afghanistan. Perhaps bombing rocket sites and tunnels is a sound military objective, but it is not a satisfactory end game and a long term resolution of the underlying issues. For the last seven years the Israeli policy was not to talk to Hamas, not to negotiate with the enemy. Yet if you want a peaceful resolution you can only talk to your enemy and negotiate with them. You have to learn to understand them. They may not be the nicest people, but not talking to them only fuels bitterness. I, of course don't know if Hamas is prepared to talk to Israelis. I don't know whether there is any possible common ground for negotiation. But a policy of not talking to you is not helpful. The war between Hamas and Israel flared up in 2009, 2012, and yet again in 2014. This must not be repeated in another two years.