Monday, August 07, 2006

An Interesting Insight

I was stumbling across the Times' website this morning, when I came across, of all things, a book review. Edward Rothstein writes, in preface to his review of historian Bernard Lewis's new book, The Multiple Identities of the Middle East:
Terror warfare deliberately sacrifices innocents and deliberately confounds innocence. It knows that the enemy has moral principles it will be forced to violate; victims serve a higher cause, befuddling the enemy, inspiring loyal cadres. [...]

Religion is the unifying principle, and nations associate under its banner. As Mr. Lewis points out, it is hard to imagine the leaders of the Buddhist nations of Asia or the Lutheran nations of northern Europe meeting for conclaves, the way leaders of Muslim countries do with little but their religion to bind them.
The deeper I read into this review of a comprehensive study of the regional politics of religion and how it's playing out in the Middle East, the more I realized I was reading a shadow history of Republican party election tactics.

Think about Karl Rove. Or the Swift Boat Veterans. Or the bald-faced lies told on a daily basis by Republicans in office and out: the "death tax" affects middle income Americans, Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11, the war in Iraq has always been about bringing freedom to the Iraqis.

In a way, in a very miniscule fashion, I will admit, politics in America is a shadow of the conflict in the Middle East: rabid religious types on one hand, pragmatists on the other, and in the middle, the future of a nation.

Which raises some interesting ideological observations: The Republicans and Democrats seem to be sympathetic to the wrong teams! For example, the Republicans tend to be staunchly pro-Israel (for reasons that have little to do with Israelis and more to do with Americans), whereas Democrats tend to be softer in their defense of Israeli actions, especially in this most recent dust-up.

Yet, based on political tactics, one would imagine the Republicans would support the terrorism tactics of stealth, underhandedness and putting your opponent into an indefensible position of bucking popular opinion, thus losing the moral high ground, and Democrats should, rightly, be horribly offended by the naked and illegal aggression Hizbollah has demonstrated against Israel.

I have a theory, hardly formulated at this point, but one I'll work on, that says the sides here have been taken based on a fear that this very kind of conflict, perhaps not on the scale it's been seen in the Middle East, could break out here and that we are taking the side we'd least want to take should that kind of conflict break out in full force here (minus the obliteration and genocide of both factions, naturally, but possibly not).

I'll give this more thought in the coming months.