Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What if the Israeli experiment failed?

Glenn Loury and my mom (Ann Althouse) think about it:



Key point, from my mom:

It's terrible to think that [Israel's] opponents, by simply holding out, being completely unreasonable, not bargaining, not negotiating in good faith, not even attempting to achieve any sort of military victory, but just accepting attacks and looking miserable doing it ... that that can cause the experiment to fail. And then, if they just do that long enough, and they seem as if they ... just accept being killed by the Israelis -- I think that's all the Hamas leaders are saying, "You can kill us" -- then the experiment fails. And at some point, they will actually win by this technique. Even though Israel has all of this power, they can, by exercising no power at all ... being willing to just go on forever, till the death -- that they can then cause the experiment to have failed, so that at some point, we Westerners will say, "Oh, actually, the experiment failed -- Israel can't exist anymore." ... Notice that they have this hope that it will work. And you're making it sound like: actually, it's a reasonable hope.
A commenter responds:
Very well said, Ann. I do think it's wrong to say, though, that Hamas just sits back and "accepts attacks and looks miserable doing it." That's shown by the fact that it will be virtually impossible for Israel to destroy Hamas militarily, that operating on the ground in Gaza is extraordinarily dangerous and treacherous for the IDF, that Hamas has fired thousands of rockets at Israeli towns and cities, abducted soldiers, and then there's all that suicide bombing stuff Hamas did before Israel erected that despicable and morally outrageous wall. If Hamas has got you thinking they're not fighting (with the help of the international media), that just another indication of how formidable an enemy they are. As Hamas leader Fathi Hammad said a few days ago (nothing new, mind you), "We will not rest until we destroy the Zionist entity."
I am bothered by the fact that this line of reasoning is a very convenient way to justify any attacks by Israel regardless of their tangible consequences. If you set up an extremely unappealing scenario -- Israel surrenders to terrorism and gives up on its experiment -- as "the alternative" to the status quo, then you can always rationalize the status quo by saying, "But the alternative is even worse." But since so many people's lives and well-being are at stake, doesn't there need to be some point where you would conclude that it's no longer rational to continue trying to defend the experiment?

Also, isn't it a bit paradoxical to say you need to keep defending something at all costs to show that it's a successful experiment? If it really is an experiment,  then by definition, you don't know in advance whether it's going to succeed.

3 comments:

reader_iam said...

But since so many people's lives and well-being are at stake, doesn't there need to be some point where you would conclude that it's no longer rational to continue trying to defend the experiment?

Call me crazy, contrarian or whatever, John, but I think one can argue that BOTH sides have been conducting an experiment. (as have others tangential yet involved in the situation, for so very years). In that light:

But since so many people's lives and well-being are at stake, doesn't there need to be some point where you would conclude that it's no longer rational to continue trying to defend the experiment?

Does that question work both ways? If yes, why? If not, why not?

John Althouse Cohen said...

Of course it should be asked both ways.

Outis said...

But since so many people's lives and well-being are at stake, doesn't there need to be some point where you would conclude that it's no longer rational to continue trying to defend the experiment?

Is it really an experiment? I don't think so. It is an exercise in Jewish self-determination based on centuries & millennia of unsatisfying results living as the OTHER in far away places.

That said Israel's continued existence requires two things: an outside provider of assistance and the will of Jewish Israelis to endure.

Israel can't be certain that they will always have an outside provider, but they probably will for the foreseeable future. Israel's existence creates more tension in the Mid-East, and outside powers will always look to exploit such tensions. I can imagine scenarios in which the US stops providing support, but Russia, China or India step in to take up the slack. (I’m not saying they’re probable, but that it could happen.)

But how long can Jewish Israelis endure? I used to think that once the memory of the Holocaust faded from living memory Israeli fortitude would falter. But given that Hamas, Hezbollah, et cetera continue to make destruction of the ‘Zionist entity’ their main rallying cry I find it improbable that Israeli Jews will forget why they started a Zionist movement in the first place. If I’m correct on this last point then Hamas and the others work against their own long-term interests by constantly antagonizing Israel. Short intense bursts of violence separated by significant intervals of peace might make for better strategy.