Friday, July 14, 2006

Jonathan Edelstein comments

Edelstein may be the brightest light of all the analysts I have read. Clear-thinking, dispassionate without being deviod of feeling, and forever looking for promising outcomes...but absolutely no fool. One definition of an optimist is someone who thinks the birds in his cherry tree are eating the worms. This is not Jonathan Edelstein. (Nor me, for that matter.) Commenting on the current crisis is not something he is ready to do yet. He feels too close.

For all these reasons, I can't think or write about this crisis with the same dispassion that I could give to elections in Fiji or water privatization in Namibia. There are too many dreams being shattered right now, and they are dreams I share. I can only hope that an unbeliever's prayers will be answered and that this war will be ended before those dreams are wrecked beyond repair.
Nevertheless, his remarks Wednesday are pretty damn sharp...
The escalation along the Lebanese border is obviously in conjunction with the fighting in Gaza, but the two have differences as well as common dimensions. My thoughts on the Gaza crisis have thus far been very mixed, and I find it hard to reflexively condemn either side. Leaving aside the question of who has authority to fight for the Palestinians (about which more later), the raid that resulted in Gilad Shalit's capture was a legitimate military attack, aimed at a beseiging army unit. The objectives of the Israeli response, which was aimed at liberating the captured soldier and suppressing Qassam fire onto Israeli territory, were likewise legitimate. Both parties have committed serious violations of the rule of proportionality, particularly Israel's destruction of the Gaza power plant and its interference with the delivery of humanitarian supplies, but they both have a reason to fight, and it's impossible to put sole blame for the crisis on either side.

I have no such trouble assigning blame for the escalation in Lebanon. Hizbullah, quite simply, committed an unprovoked act of war, and despite Nasrallah's rhetoric about solidarity with the Palestinians and liberation of Lebanese prisoners, the raid was fairly obviously aimed at maintaining political relevance. Hizbullah was once a genuine resistance group that fought Israeli occupation, but that occupation has been over since 2000, and lately it's been more in the business of provoking Israel than resisting it. The identity of the aggressor in Gaza is ambiguous, but on the Lebanese frontier it isn't.

And it gets better.

Why, oh why, can't we have someone with this measure of clear thinking speaking out in high places? Hell, maybe there are some like him in backroom in Foggy Bottom or among the mailroom clerks at major newspapers. But I sure can't think of any bigshots as plain and sensible as Jonathan Edelstein. Read what he wrote over a year ago. And check out what he uncovered almost exactly a year ago. He's good. Really good.

Those with a passion for punishment can take time to study Jonathan's examination of Lebanese politics. Part I, February 23, 2005. Part II, three days later.

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