Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Andrew Sullivan and what's wrong with the west

I rarely read Andrew Sullivan's page over at the Atlantic magazine. However, I ran across his latest screed and it just seemed to scream out what is wrong with the West right now.

Boiled down it is this: If it is messy and hard, its better to give in.

What brought this about? In his column today, Mr. Sullivan wrote:

I too am sick of the Israelis for their contempt for the interests of their most important ally, their continuation of brutalizing colonization of the West Bank, their shameless ethnic engineering in East Jerusalem, their pulverization of Gaza, the direct manipulation of domestic American politics by their ambassador, and on and on. And, yes, I'm also sick of the war crimes and theocratic insanity of Hamas, and the lame passive-aggression of the PA, and the inability of the Palestinian leadership to prepare for actual governance as opposed to the victimized preening and theatrics and violence they prefer to the difficult compromises required if we are to move forward.
This is apparently in response to a story that originated, as near as I can tell in Haaretz (an Israeli newspaper) where Rahm Emmanuel threatened the Israeli ambassador with pulling the U.S. out of the Arab-Israeli peace process.

However, when I read Mr. Sullivan's drivel, what I see something that happens far too much. The problem is messy. Its hard. The two sides are pretty far apart. And Mr. Sullivan wants to destroy the sovereignty of one nation in order to rewards people, who in my opinion, are terrorists.

The thinking is, if only the Jews (meaning Israel) would just compromise, this would all be so easy. Newsflash Mr. Sullivan, the situation in Israel is not that simple. To date, Israel has continually compromised. Israel has pulled out of the territories, except for the settlements. It has recognized a two state solution on numerous occasions. It has attempted to fully withdraw from the Arab-controlled territories of the West Bank and Gaza. The other half of the compromise was supposed to be recognition of the State of Israel, an end to violence by the Arabs in the territories as a means of achieving their political goals.

To date, the Arabs have continually refused to honor their commitments, demanding over and over that Israel compromise further. A civil war within the Arab ranks (pitting Fatah against Hamas) has split the Arab-controlled territories. In the West Bank, Fatah has control and is generally less violent towards Israel (though there are still actions carried out by Fatah's military wing). From the West Bank, there has been a rain of mortar and rocket attacks against Israeli towns. It took a full scale invasion to slow the attacks Israeli civillians.

Mr. Sullivan, sitting somewhere comfortably where I doubt he has ever had to worry about his personal security, would just impose a solution on both people, irrespective of what they have done. He would treat the aggressor (the Arabs) the same as the Israelis. Its simple. Just commit troops to Israel and force a solution.

Except its not that simple.

And it just demonstrates the problem with some people on the fringes. They want it neat. They want it without a fuss. They want it so that the most important issue becomes ... anything else that does not involve hard choices where people will most certainly live or die.

The world does not work that way.

Its also interesting how Mr. Sullivan is willing to toss the only long-term functional democracy in the Middle East on the dustbin of history. He would see a thugocracy (or perhaps theocracy, the jury is still out on what Hamas is) over the region. He would violate Israel's sovereignty.

But here's the truth that Mr. Sullivan is not willing to face up to. Even if Israel were to disappear today, the problems which we have with Arabs in particular and Islam in general would not go away. All it would do is erase one of the most vibrant political, economic, and artistic entities in the region and the world.

Yes, I am a supporter of Israel. No I do not like everything Israel does. Do I think Israel is perfect? No more so than I think the U.S. is. However, the alternatives are far worse than a society which, while not always living up to its ideals, still strives to be better.

People today in the West don't like to do hard things. They are becoming less concerned with doing right, than in doing what is comfortable. In this country, its not just one party that is at fault. Both parties do it. The Democrats and the left of the political spectrum do it when they want the government to determine morality and creating mandates that people must do, mandates that were never meant to be imposed or contemplated by the framers of the Constitution. The Republicans and the right of the political spectrum when they try to pass laws that shield certain entites in the name of economic efficiency, rather than making them stand up to take responsibility for the wrongs they do, in the name of "saving the economy". Somewhere in the middle is where we should be. But that requires work, and compromise, and creative thought.

But like Mr. Sullivan's solution (force it on them when they don't dance to your tune), it is as though we are unwilling to muster the will to make hard choice. To undertake hard operations. To have the will to finish something, as costly as it may be. To stand up to tyrants, and help those who aspire to do better, rather than to do what is politically correct and expedient.

Our ancestors may have been made of stuff sterner than sugar candy, but now I wonder about our leaders and those whom we have given the charge to make decisions of national importance. Instead of Mr. Sullivan's ilk, we should have people saying things like:

There shall be no halting, or half measures, there shall be no compromise, or parley. These gangs of bandits have sought to darken the light of the world; have sought to stand between the common people of all the lands and their march forward into their inheritance. They shall themselves be cast into the pit of death and shame, and only when the earth has been cleansed and purged of their crimes and their villainy shall we turn from the task which they have forced upon us, a task which we were reluctant to undertake, but which we shall now most faithfully and punctiliously discharge. According to my sense of proportion, this is no time to speak of the hopes of the future, or the broader world which lies beyond our struggles and our victory. We have to win that world for our children. We have to win it by our sacrifices. We have not won it yet. The crisis is upon us. The power of the enemy is immense. If we were in any way to underrate the strength, the resources or the ruthless savagery of that enemy, we should jeopardize, not only our lives, for they will be offered freely, but the cause of human freedom and progress to which we have vowed ourselves and all we have. We cannot for a moment afford to relax. On the contrary we must drive ourselves forward with unrelenting zeal. In this strange, terrible world war there is a place for everyone, man and woman, old and young, hale and halt; service in a thousand forms is open. There is no room now for the dilettante, the weakling, for the shirker, or the sluggard. The mine, the factory, the dockyard, the salt sea waves, the fields to till, the home, the hospital, the chair of the scientist, the pulpit of the preacher - from the highest to the humblest tasks, all are of equal honour; all have their part to play. The enemies ranged against us, coalesced and combined against us, have asked for total war. Let us make sure they get it.

Instead, we get:
We'll have to use diplomacy, because no one nation can meet the challenges of an interconnected world acting alone. I've spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships. And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim world, one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.
And, finally, we must draw on the strength of our values, for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not. That's why we must promote our values by living them at home, which is why I've prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights and tend for the light of freedom and justice and opportunity and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are; that is the source, the moral source of America's authority.
One wants to spread the burden. The other seeks to take it up. I know which I believe we should be doing.

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