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Posted by on Aug 2, 2006 in At TMV | 17 comments

Keeping the wider world in mind

Western governments, in particular the US, see the world through narcissistic lenses. Europe had its way in the world for centuries while the US has led since the 1950s. The habit is so ingrained that they often ignore the effect that their actions have on the thinking of other nations. Instead, they repeatedly insist on their view of desired solutions expecting others to follow in a docile manner.

In the past, there was no need for them to show restraint in pursuit of their interests. But times have changed. There are many potentially powerful countries in the world, some with significant wealth and weapons. They are analyzing threats 10-50 years into the future and finding cause for concern in West’s readiness to use military force.

Israel is doing what it thinks best for its people while Washington is doing what it thinks best for its security. Both are at war to change the political order in selected countries. That strikes fear in others of their joint military might, especially as all of Europe underpins US power through NATO.

Perhaps Israel and the US will win their objectives in their wars and install friendly governments to secure the peace. But lessons are being burned in stone among other potentially powerful countries. The first lesson is that military power will remain the most important ingredient of national affirmation for the foreseeable future.

The second is that the only feasible way to face US, Israeli or NATO might is on the ground, asymmetrically, house to house. That might can also be slowed down or deterred by sufficiently numerous missiles and, perhaps, dirty weapons delivered through terrorist proxies as a final resort.

Fear is a dangerous emotion. It will incite others to acquire means of deterrence secretly (probably including “terrorist” contacts) and rely less on the UN’s system of international laws for conflict resolution. A world without trust among nations, many armed with horrific weapons, is a nightmare prospect.

This is the prospect that moderates must confront and defuse. We cannot live together on this fragile planet without accommodation and compromise. These are too important to be left to generals or politicians. Nor can compromise always be on US or Western terms.

Finding solutions to intractable problems requires much wisdom. Perhaps, we lack that for the moment. But we can, as moderates, help to place the Middle East conflict in its wider context. That wider context is today’s world.

When Israel was mandated, the Judeo-Christian World War II victors ruled the UN. There were some 50 members but most were under Western tutelage. That tutelage is long gone but Washington wants its Judeo-Christian worldview to remain dominant.

In this “for us or against us� environment, moderation entails stepping back to temper our outrage at injustices perpetrated on those we support. Rage makes even reasonable persons bay for blood, especially if the “enemies� are of another religion or culture.

Nor can we allow our grief at human tragedies to blind us to the other’s point of view however different. Many at this time hate Israel but it deserves a careful hearing.

Hating either Israel or its opponents can never nourish the middle path of peace. Peace always places human dignity above doctrines and blame.

Nor does killing the “haters� solve the problem. New technologies, the proliferation of which is impossible to stop, are helping to create more effective and brutish haters as demonstrated by the Middle East and Iraq.

It is as easy to cry, “Muslim totalitarians want to annihilate Jews� as it is to cry, “Zionists and crusaders want to annihilate Muslims�. It is also easy to brand as anti-Semitic all those bystanders who watch the physical destruction of multi-religious Lebanon with tearful hearts.

Moderation stipulates cooler counsel and, certainly, less narcissism. There is a big world out there beyond the US, Europe and the Middle East. The world’s majority belongs to cultures to whose hearts the Old Testament, the Bible, Abraham, Jesus, anti-Jewish beliefs, the Koran and Mohammed say little.

Similarly, the Buddha, Confucius, Tao, Krishna, Ram, Mahabharata, Gita and Ramayan say little to the hearts of Judeo-Christians and Muslims. (One commentator at TMV asked, “What the hell is the Veda?� although that vast and most ancient body of knowledge is the life source for over 2 billion Hindus and Buddhists in India, China, Japan, South East Asia and elsewhere.)

Whatever our politics, cultures and beliefs, moderation requires we place “living together� above “living side by side�.