Robert Stacy McCain reveals both an inherent lack of understanding regarding the Israel/Palestine conflict, and an unhealthy degree of bloody, American-made machismo. Really McCain, you think totally subduing the Palestinian people and then “rinsing” your bayonets in the Jordan is the road to peace? You justify this fantasy with the example of Sherman in his Southern campaign?
Good God, are the United States Civil War and the Israel/Palestine conflict even remotely similar not only morally but in pragmatic terms? In geographical terms? Perhaps in terms of unnecessary barbarism, but that’s about all I can think of, and in any case it hardly speaks to strategy.
Then again the vast bulk of the Right in this country is content wishing the Israeli people well on their way to a totally militarized state, as if this sort of faux support will actually accomplish anything beyond eventual political isolation and entrenchment, so this sort of tough talk from McCain is no surprise. It’s disheartening but it’s no suprise.
Note: RSM gets his snark on in the updates to his little post. It is kind of shocking that a guy who writes this:
Swear to God, if they ever want a Gentile prime minister, my first order would be to deploy the IDF in a north-south line, facing east. My second order would be “forward march” and the order to halt would not be given until it was time for the troops to rinse their bayonets in the Jordan. After a brief rest halt, the order “about face” would be given, and the next halt would be at the Mediterranean coast.
…can respond to criticism with this:
Noted Middle East policy scholar E.D. Kain finds me suffering from “both an inherent lack of understanding regarding the Israel/Palestine conflict, and an unhealthy degree of bloody, American-made machismo.” Look, E.D., no need to be so coy. If you want to see the notorious Speedo pic, just say so.
Yeah, stay classy McCain. Nice to know I’m a “noted mid east policy scholar” now, though. I’m sure that wasn’t thinly veiled sarcasm or anything. Then again, I have to hand it to McCain – he’s got a sense of humor. Unfortunately that’s about the only sense he’s got, judging by his little peace proposition….
This is not even to begin to critique that post, but it’s worth pointing out that 1) the Union didn’t, in fact, employ the slash and burn strategy to nearly the degree they could have , and 2) even so, there is a significant body of historical opinion that suggest that they degree to which they did poisoned the South’s ability to move on from the war and cost this country dearly for generations.Report
I’m a firm believer that Sherman’s methods and the general treatment of the South by the North was tragic and unnecessary. A similar treatment of the Palestinians would also be tragic and unnecessary. So yeah, I agree…Report
I would say the Israeli/Palestinian situation is if anything the opposite of the US Civil War, as the goal of the Civil War was to reunite the nation while Israelis want anything BUT having to deal with the Palestinian territories being fully integrated parts of Israel.
Secondly, nothing makes less sense than assuming hitting an occupied population as hard as possible will make them give up. The reason Hamas exists, the reason things ARE so violent is that the Palestinians have concluded – accurately, based on history – that they have nothing left to lose and that no peaceful means will ever get them a just settlement. As by far the weaker partner in any negotiation, they can’t effectively negotiate, can’t enforce any agreement made, and know from history that nobody will enforce it on their behalf. Hitting them harder will only make them angrier and reinforce this realization.
Short of actually wiping out the Palestinians, there is no purely military way Israel can end this conflict.Report
I don’t want to butt in your feud with RS McCain. I’ve never read him before this and have very little interest in his stuff even now—although he’s very sexy in a Speedo. But there are a few points to be cleared up here.
McCain’s reference to the Civil War was clearly to show how a definitive defeat generates a lasting peace. He wasn’t proposing anything like the analogy that you and Katherine critique, so your critique fails entirely.
This principle is shown also in the contrast between WWI and WWII: the Armistice that ended WWI only generated further conflict, which is why the Allied leaders agreed on the policy of unconditional surrender in WWII. It’s evident that this did generate a durable peace. As for the side discussion about the Civil War, one must remark that what cost this country dearly for generations was withdrawing federal troops from the South and rolling back reconstruction because of a fraudulent election. What cost this country dearly for generations was allowing terrorists like the KKK to run governments in the South and impose Jim Crow laws for a hundred years. What cost this country dearly for generations was turning ex slaves into debt peons and thereby expanding the plantation economy of the South, for the benefit of Northern industry. A plantation economy plus apartheid laws plus debt peonage equals stifled development. The massive destruction caused by warfare could have been rebuilt and could have even led to greater development if not for the shameful betrayal of reconstruction policies. In other words, what cost this country dearly was not making the South’s defeat definitive.
McCain has a hyperbolic style. You want to take him literally, which is not fair to his ideas. His point is that the Palestinians must be defeated for there to be peace. He supports this by analogy with the South’s defeat in the Civil War—not a great analogy, but still one can take his point. Before you start calling me a chickenshithawk or whatever, I believe that this defeat does not have to be military at all. It doesn’t have to involve anyone’s rinsing bayonets in the Jordan. It can be accomplished by diplomatic means entirely, if the will is there. The will isn’t there because of the Oil Lobby: Arab states demand antipathy towards Israel as a price for doing business. Saudi money has been financing so-called Islamic studies for a few generations now. The result is people like Katherine, who recite Arab propaganda as if it were revealed truth.
I can’t find anything like an “inherent lack of understanding” in statements such as this one:
Where, specifically, does McCain demonstrate his “inherent lack of understanding?” McCain calls you a “noted Middle East policy scholar.” Where did you come by your expertise?
In fact, sentiments like his are long overdue. The Arab/Islamic world is rife with the most vile and despicable anti Semitic propaganda, wholly comparable to Der Sturmer and possibly even more vile. Arabs and Muslims vow to liquidate Israel every day. It’s past time for this to be repudiated by people, like us, who believe in an open society. They should be made to understand that there is no tolerance for their intolerance. We should stand up for our values instead of bowing down before some half-understood idea of third world liberation.Report
Look both the WWI/WWII analogy and the Civil War analogy ring hopelessly untrue in the Middle East context. Israel is surrounded by hostile nations. This sort of “utter defeat” you’re talking about absolutely will not lead to peace. It will lead to a much, much longer conflict.
Oh, and McCain was being sarcastic. I mean, as far as he knows, he has no idea who I am or what my background is. What he’s right about is I’m no noted Mid-East scholar (that was his little sarcastic take-down moment). That doesn’t mean I have no knowledge or expertise in this area, but yeah, I’m not a “scholar.” I don’t teach this madness.
Look, I do understand this idea that “total” defeat can lead to peace. But in the end, it almost always leads to ruin. The American South was pacified, yes, but broken and poisoned, socially and spiritually by the devastation. World War II found a populace in Germany only too ready to give up after years under Hitler. This is not the same climate as in Palestine. And beyond that, the Americans didn’t try to set up settlements there. The Soviets occupied Germany for decades beyond that point but even that ended up failing.
What would happen in Palestine, assuming the Israelis could actually subdue the population of Palestinians without killing or expelling all of them? I’m not sure. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible. And I don’t think that Israel wants to go to the place it would require going in order to kill or expel every last Palestinian. It’s just not in their nature, or at least I hope it’s not.Report
You put my question in italics at the head of your comment and yet you don’t even try to answer it. I still can’t see where McCain shows an inherent lack of understanding. What he’s saying is not as extreme as you make out by taking his hyperbole literally. Just the simple idea that defeat is followed by a durable peace does not demonstrate “an inherent lack of understanding” unless you want to call anyone who disagrees with you stupid (i.e. “shows an inherent lack of understanding”). It’s an idea that has some value on the face of it.
It’s strange that while you don’t answer the question you put in italics at the head of your comment, you do bear out the idea that defeat leads to a durable peace—after you simply insist that “utter defeat” will not lead to peace without even trying to support it. For one, I showed you that the South is not an example of “total defeat” because they were allowed to oppress ex slaves. The Civil War did not really accomplish the liberation of the slaves. Your idea that the South was “broken and poisoned, socially and spiritually” refers to the white population. Of course they were devastated after taking up arms against the US. I say they had it coming. But they were allowed to crawl back into their poisonous oppression of generations of ex slaves. These people were “broken and poisoned, socially and spiritually” before the war and they were kept in this state deliberately for a hundred more years. Their social and spiritual state cannot be attributed to the Civil War—it can only be attributed to slavery and the debt peonage/apartheid oppression they faced. This was not defeated, even partially. So the treatment of the South by the North was “tragic and unnecessary” but not in the way you think it is. This applies to the black population but not the white population. Here, the whites were rehabilitated and allowed to continue denying blacks their rights by law and by KKK terror. This is truly “tragic and unnecessary.”
Anyone can see the fallacy in here: “World War II found a populace in Germany only too ready to give up after years under Hitler.” They were “only too ready to give up” because they had been defeated. When they thought they were winning, they were pretty gung-ho about the war. It isn’t the same climate as Palestine because Palestine hasn’t been defeated.
With all due respect, peace in Palestine only means that Palestinians and Arab/Muslims accept Israel as a member of the community of nations. Nothing more or less. In other words, defeat would mean that they accept the basic principle of national sovereignty that the world order is founded upon, with its values of pluralism and tolerance. No one has to be killed or expelled for this to happen. Palestinians are fighting a war to exterminate Israel. This cannot happen. Israel is fighting a war for survival as a member of the community of nations, which they have a perfect right to do.
You continue to hold up the settlements as such a grievous fault. According to Dennis Ross—The Missing Peace—Palestinians were presented with a proposal for a Palestinian state on 95% of the West Bank, with and additional 1 to 3% of territorial swaps to the Palestinian state from areas within Israel, while accounting for Israeli security needs in the Jordan Valley. Palestinians refused. In 1978 they could have taken a deal on the West Bank when there were under five thousand settlers. In 1948 they could have taken a deal when there were no settlers at all. The settlements are not the issue. Palestinian/Arab/Muslim rejectionism is. Palestinian/Arab/Muslim goals of destroying Israel is the problem. This is what must be defeated for a durable peace to happen.Report