Thoughts for the New Year.

I don’t know anything. So, here are my thoughts on a couple of issues.

Climate change is a grave reality. However, I doubt that people can entirely hold back (let alone turn back) global warming. Carbon-burning is central to the industrialization of developing-economies. There aren’t a lot of cheap and ready-to-use alternatives. Instead, there is going to be a long period of adaptation to worsened conditions. It is going to make environmentalists, intellectuals, and other “progressive” people very angry that there will turn out to be market-driven profit opportunities when statist restrictions might have provided more desirable outcomes.

In terms of foreign policy, Vladimir Putin is considerably more of an adult than are American leaders. Balance-of-power politics and spheres of influence are realities in world politics. Power and influence are not the single and permanent prerogative of the United States. For one thing, Ukraine is to Russia as Mexico is to the United States. (“Pity poor Mexico. So far from God, so near the United States.”) For another thing, Putin has tried to help the US out of a couple of ditches into which American leaders have driven it. Syrian chemical weapons and a possible solution to the Iranian nuclear problem are the key examples. All the while he has been vilified because he isn’t a democrat at home and he’s resisting the onward march of Western power around the borders of Russia.

In the Middle East we are witnessing a re-writing the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Iraq is fragmenting into Shi’ite, Sunni, and Kurdish enclaves. This fragmentation is being papered-over during the current emergency. The Shi’ites will never be able to repair their behavior during the Maliki period. Syria is going to fragment into Alawite, Sunni, and Kurdish enclaves. A Kurdish state will emerge. This new country will have trouble with both Turkey and Iran. Will Jordan or Saudi Arabia absorb the unstable and impoverished new Sunni micro-state in western Iraq?

The “two-state solution” to the Israel-Palestine conflict isn’t. Israel cannot afford to have a Palestinian state created. That state would be implacably revanchist, regardless of whatever professions its spokesmen might make in order to obtain sovereignty. Over the centuries, many people have felt that the problems of the world could be resolved if only the Jews would die and stop bothering people. Well, the Israelis aren’t buying this line.

The United States gets much less from the US-Israel alliance than does Israel.

ISIS isn’t a serious problem. The enthusiasm for “jihad” among many Muslims is a serious problem. It is likely to be around for a long time. I’m not sure that it can be de-legitimized by Western propaganda. I’m not sure that playing military whack-a-mole with every new outbreak will solve the problem.

Much as I agree with the objectives being pursued by President Obama on some key issues, I don’t believe that he has the authority for some of his actions. The Supreme Court is likely to overturn the authority-grab carried out by the EPA. The immigration problem wasn’t/isn’t a crisis. It’s just a stick with which to beat the Republicans and an effort to keep Hispanic-American voters on the side of the Democrats. American liberals are going to rue the day that they celebrated his unilateral actions on coal-burning energy generation and immigration. One day, a Republican president will invoke the Obama example.

Palestine.

Back in the very many days ago, there were a couple of runty little Jewish kingdoms in what is today Palestine (between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean).  Then came the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks under that psycho Alexander, and the Romans.  No more Jewish kingdoms.  Jews ended up spread all over the Middle East and Europe.

Flash forward to the end of the 19th Century.  Everybody else gets a country (Germany, Italy, Rumania for crying out loud), why shouldn’t the Jews have a country too?  This idea is called Zionism.  Trouble is that the place where Zionists wanted to have that country, Palestine, was now full of Muslims and belonged to the Ottoman Empire.            Then, jump to the First World War.  The Ottoman Empire fought on the same side as Germany (which lost) and against Britain (which won).  The Ottoman Empire got broken up, with the British in temporary charge of Palestine.  Also, during the war the British had supported the creation of a “Jewish national home” in Palestine.

Next, along came the Nazis, who tried to wipe out the Jews of Europe.  After the war many of the survivors of the Holocaust didn’t want to remain in Europe.  One bright idea: let them go to Palestine.  Zionists liked the sound of this.  Arabs didn’t like the idea because they were starting to set up their own countries and didn’t see why they should take in a bunch of European colonists just because some other Europeans had done some bad stuff.  Brits weren’t too crazy about this idea because it would make the Arabs mad.  Nevertheless, the Zionist managed to ship the Jews to Palestine, then fought a war (1948-1949) with the Arab countries in order to create the state of Israel.

Lots of Palestinian Arab Muslims got driven off their land during the war.  They ended up living in refugee camps in Egypt (Gaza Strip), Jordan (on the West Bank), and Syria.  Arab countries weren’t too good about taking in their fellow Arabs, although they were pretty good at chasing out all the Jews from their own countries and stealing their property.  Instead, the Arab countries kept talking about wiping Israel off the map and letting all the Palestinian refugees go home.

However, the post-Holocaust Jews of Israel weren’t the pre-Holocaust Jews of Europe.  After the Holocaust the Israelis always took people seriously when they said that they wanted to wipe out the Jews, then spent a lot of time figuring out how to beat up on people who talked that way.  They beat up on Egypt in 1956; then Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in 1967; then Egypt and Syria in 1973; then they bombed a nuclear reactor under construction in Iraq in 1981.

Outcomes of the war of 1967. First, Israel took the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which were full of Palestinian Arab Muslims.  So they have this huge population of captives who hate their guts.  Second, the Palestinians got fed up with Mickey Mouse Arab countries talking about wiping Israel off the map, only to get beat up on by Israel, always making the situation of the Palestinians worse than it was before the Arab countries tried to “help.”  Palestinians decided that they were going to have to fight on their own to create a country.  It had worked for Israel, so be like Israel.  They didn’t have an army or an air force, so they turned to terrorism.  Israel doesn’t want to turn loose of the West Bank and Gaza if it is just going to turn into a safe-haven for extremists who will try to wipe out Israel, but the longer Israel holds these people captive the more anti-Israel the Palestinians become.  If that’s possible.

The GWOT If Israel was in Charge.

What if Israel ran the Global War on Terror (GWOT)?

On the wall of his office Meir Dagan had an old black-and-white photograph of his grandfather about to be shot by a German in Russia during the Second World War.  Must be some German soldier’s snap-shot, something he could keep as a trophy or send home to his girlfriend.  I don’t know where Dagan got it.  Probably did a lot of looking through the picture collection at Yad Vashem.  This may not be psychologically healthy.  Perhaps he should consider grief counseling.  On the other hand, Dagan was the head of the Israeli foreign intelligence service, the Mossad.  He can look at it anytime he wants during the day while he tries to figure out how to deal with Israel’s enemies.

One of the units under Dagan’s command is called “Kidon.”  That’s the Hebrew word for bayonet.  (Actually, it probably means “dagger” or “six inches of honed bronze” because Hebrew is a language from the many days ago before Bayonne even existed.)  You go to Barnes and Noble, you’ll find a bunch of books about American snipers with 500 “kills” or sumshit like that.  Kind of FPSy if you ask me.  I don’t think I’ve run across books about sticking a blade in somebody, feeling it grate on a rib, inhaling the coppery smell of blood, hearing the guy gasping for breath like it’s sex.  Nothing FPS about that.  Kidon typifies Israel’s response to terrorism.

After the 1972 Munich Olympics, Kidon launched “Operation Wrath of God.”  (See: “Munich.”)  The Israelis killed eleven PLO terrorists believed to have been involved in the attack.  It took seven years.  Apparently, they’re tenacious and patient.

At least once, in Lillehamer, Norway, they killed a complete innocent.  In front of his pregnant wife.  Apparently, they don’t get thrown off-track by remorse over errors.

After Hamas rose to power in the Gaza Strip in 1993, it sent many suicide bombers into Israel.  The Israelis didn’t take this lying down.  In 1996 they palmed off a “burner” filled with explosives on Yahya Ayyash, the really talented chief bomb maker for Hamas; in 1997 they tried to kill Khaled Meshal, a Hamas leader, by injecting poison into his ear; in 2004 they killed the founder of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, with an Apache gunship; in 2008 they put a bomb in the headrest of a Hamas leader’s car in Damascus.  In January 2010 they suffocated the chief contact between Hamas and Iran in his luxury hotel room in Dubai.  Apparently, they focus on the enemy leadership.

When Hamas took full control of Gaza in 2007, it fired thousands of rockets into Israel.  Israel responded by blockading Gaza: it will not allow in cement, steel, cars, computers, and lots of ordinary food; its navy will not let fishing boats proceed more than three miles from shore; it will not allow any Palestinians out of Gaza.  From December 2008 to January 2009 Israeli forces bombarded the Gaza Strip.  Anything big (police stations, factories, government buildings, schools, hospitals) got blown up; 1,300 people got killed; tens of thousands got “dishoused”—as the RAF used to describe the result of the area bombing of German cities.  Apparently, they don’t care much about making a bad impression on world opinion.

At the same time, Israeli leaders have begun to talk about doing a deal with Syria for the return of the Golan Heights.  Syria is the chief supporter of Hamas.  Probably, the price of the Golan for Syria would include helping eliminate the ability of Hamas to engage in attacks on Israel—before the Syrians get back the Golan. (See: Michael Collins.)  Apparently, they adapt to changing circumstances and will talk to their enemies.

So, tenacity, patience, focus, a thick hide to criticism, and adaptability are keys traits.  The enemy hasn’t gone away, but neither have the Israelis.  They live with a long struggle.