Bourgeois Deviant

Friday, September 16, 2005

Who has learned from Menachem Begin?

These guys are a LOT more alike than you think.

Could Osama bin Laden be a covert student of history?

I learned something on Tuesday. Israel, as a country, owes a substantial portion of its independence and statehood to terrorism. Israeli history is not something I am too versed in, but I read an article by Mark Danner in the New York Times Magazine last weekend that had a small portion of it devoted to an historical analysis of the history and origins of terrorism. He sites Menachem Begin, a Prime Minister of Israel:

"History and our observation persuaded us… that if we could succeed in destroying the government's prestige in Eretz Israel, the removal of its rule would follow automatically. Thenceforward, we gave no peace to this weak spot. Throughout all the years of our uprising, we hit at the British government's prestige, deliberately, tirelessly, unceasingly." In its most spectacular act, in July 1946, the Irgun guerrilla forces led by Begin bombed the King David Hotel, killing 91 people, most of them civilians.(NYT)

Before you get all up in a bundle, know that I am not trying to make an anti-Semitic point. Don't care about ethnicity. People are people and I judge by actions. I do have my political bones to pick with Israel’s behavior and the lopsided US alliance with it, but that is for another post. I may have even written about it. I’ll check. But for now, let us stick to what history and Mark Danner are telling us.

Though it has been slowly fading for the last 30 to 40 years or so, the United States has always had this idealized image abroad of being powerful, fertile and golden. We are the land of opportunity and the breadbasket of the world. We toppled Soviet Russia and saved the world from the spread of Communism. (This is actually false. The USSR pretty much did itself in. We just threw a little fuel on that fire to make it happen sooner) Begin alludes to Britain in the 1940’s similarly as Danner equates the US having this image of all-powerfulness. It is this that is an equal target being attacked in addition to our troops and interests. My father said that you are only as good as your word, and if you don’t have that, you don’t have much at all. Well, America’s word value is dropping faster than the dollar.

Have you noticed the regular shafting al Queda gives us and our allies with systematic regularity? (9/11, Spain’s train bombings, London’s sub and bus bombings to mention a few) Danner says, in no uncertain terms, that America is losing the war on terror. I have no reason to doubt him. No amount of disinformation the Federal Government puts out can change this. We are losing the war on the ground and we are losing the PR war all because bin Laden-ism is more effective, more potent than US leaders are capable of giving credit for. The individuals calling the shots for us are, perhaps, doing their best but what they don’t realize is that we really can’t have guns and butter. Winning and losing isn’t about body counts to these people. Its about idealism and territory. You can’t kill an idea with a gun and bullets will disappear into sand without a trace.

Where are our students of history? Is the dumbing down of America so manifest that it has penetrated the highest levels of government? This pattern has happened before! Begin and Israel vs. Great Britain, the US in Vietnam (and the French there too), Russia in Chechnya. Its all just so plain to see when you aren’t in the fog of war. Somebody please turn on a fan in the White House to clear the air.

As long as you have somebody willing to die for a cause, you have the most powerful weapon there is. Osama bin Laden knows this and clearly took the history lesson from Israel. (Does anyone else see the multiple layers of irony in this?) It begs the question: Why haven’t our leaders seen this? Is it arrogance and hubris? Is it the fog of war? Or, is it the sun setting on our nations reputation? Time will tell and history will be our judge.

P.S. Again, I don’t know the full history, but it seems that Israel at least partially attained its sovereignty through terrorist methods. Those very same methods were, in turn, turned against them. What does this tell us about karma? How does Begin’s legacy fit into the relativism of history? Truly, what you reap is what you sow.

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