Strong opinions, weakly held

Stability versus transformation

From what I read, the Bush administration really does have a philosophy when it comes to foreign policy. You’d think it was simply, “always make the wrong choice” or “choose violence,” but there’s a method behind the madness (and it is madness). That philosophy is that temporary stability is not nearly as valuable as transformative change. So pushing for an immediate cease fire in Lebanon would be wrong because what’s required is transformative change in the form of removing Hezbollah from the picture. All of the death and destruction going on right now are worth it because they lead toward a better future when things are not just peaceful, but peaceful for the long term.

That was the philosophy with Iraq, too. Saddam Hussein was a brutal autocrat with a track record of human rights violations and war crimes a mile long, but Iraq was basically stable. Sure, he wasn’t a threat to us but he someday could be, and so he had to be removed from the picture. Besides, getting rid of Saddam was the first step toward bringing about transformative change throughout the Middle East. Forget trying to keep things stable in the present, better to turn the whole place over and bring about dramatic, lasting change.

At this point, I find myself in the opposite camp. I’m not in favor of coddling leaders like Saddam Hussein or armed groups of thugs like Hezbollah (or, for that matter, the IDF when it is leveling parts of the occupied territories or bombing Lebanon). What I am in favor of is doing whatever it takes to make the peace today, and if we can make the peace today, then do what we can to make peace tomorrow. An imperfect peace right now is more likely to lead to a lasting peace in the future than war now in hopes of a lasting peace later. I just don’t believe that works.

The people with guns and the willingness to use them thrive on violence. That’s when they’re in their element. When Israel is raining bombs down on Lebanon, who are the Lebanese going to turn to? Probably the people willing to fight back, not the people trying to make peace. We’ve certainly seen that in Iraq. The groups who have gained the most are those that are willing to fight, whether it be against the Americans or against whatever internal faction aggravates them the most. In a climate of violence, the people who just want to get through their day without being shot or blown up are those that suffer the most. You bring long term stability out of short term stability, not out of chaos.

Clearly Israel couldn’t stand by and let Hezbollah lead an armed incursion across their border and kill and capture its troops. Israel couldn’t let militants in the Gaza Strip hold an Israeli hostage either. But perhaps the powers that be should have asked how to accomplish their goals using the least force required rather than the most? Things could have been different.


  1. Making peace today also goes a really long way towards getting the locals on your side.

    Leaving the occupied country in a state of chaos only fuels antipathy for the occupiers — no one wants to live in a lawless land, especially is one might compare the “before being occupied” [ordered and relatively safe] state to the “current occupied” [chaotic and very dangerous] state.

  2. Rafe,

    I wholeheartedly agree with you. You write very clearly and rationally.

    Asking your permission to copy & paste your text (with a link back here) in places where people from the mideast hang out, like here – http://itoot.net/crisis



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