Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Gentlemen may cry "Peace! Peace!" but there is no peace...

A spirit of war is in the air. I can feel it as sure as the smell of rain on a summer day. Newt Gingrich dared to name it World War Three and by giving it a name he gave it life. I heard a man say last week, "Everyone believes it's coming. My son asked me if he thought he should join the military and I told him, 'With your grades, you are front-line material...'" The recent carnage from the Israeli-Hezbollah encounter has not cooled but even now all sides are declaring victory. Voices calling for peace are muted in a din of righteous indignation sweeping the world like a forest fire during a drought. Joe Lieberman -- good, ole Joe Lieberman, a Democrat with clean credentials -- has sipped the bitter taste of a potion from Hell and found it to be brisk and satisfying. Even after what seemed to be a plebescite on war, he cannot find it in himself to hear the voice of the people. Indeed, the bar is open now and the invitation is being sent to one and all "C'mon in! Drinks are on the house!"

Speaking of political correctness, a sabre-rattling piece appeared in Haaretz that struck a chord with a good many readers. With images very close to "the rockets' red glare" and "the twilight's last gleaming" it invokes images of war in a bracing blend of prose and imagery.

They surprised us. They surprised us in a big way. They surprised us with Katyushas and they surprised us with the Al-Fajr rockets and they surprised us with the Zelzal missiles. They surprised us with anti-tank missiles. And they surprised us with the operational skill of the anti-tank squads. They surprised us with the bunkers and the camouflage. They surprised us with the command and monitoring. They surprised us with strategy, fighting ability and a fighting spirit. They surprised us with the astonishing power that a small death-army with low technology and high religious motivation can have.

However, more than they surprised us in Summer 2006 with the strength of Hezbollah, they surprised us this summer with our own weakness. They surprised us with ourselves. They surprised us with the low level of national leadership. They surprised us with scandalous strategic bumbling. They surprised us with the lack of vision, lack of creativity and lack of determination on the part of the senior military command. They surprised us with faulty intelligence and a delusionary logistical network and improper preparedness for war. They surprised us with the fact that the Israeli war machine is not what it once was. While we were celebrating it became rusty.

Oh, the skin begins to prickle. The chest begins to swell. The necks begin to straighten as the voice calls for everyone to wake up, get ready, come alive and prepare for the next onslaught.

By the end I could hear a voice from American history calling out in the same high, clear tenor strains, that of Patrick Henry, the quintessential hero of the American Revolutionary War, an image of patriotic zeal unstained by the poison pens of revisionist historians eager to chip away at the foundations of our country --

Compare now the following two snips. The first is from Haaretz, the other from Patrick Henry's famous speech to the gentlemen assembled to debate. What to do? What to do?

...now it is wartime. The citizens of the north are still in bomb shelters, the soldiers of the regular and standing armies are risking their lives in a war that was not properly planned or properly defined and is being conducted poorly. Therefore, what is needed now is to operate quickly, to operate while in motion, in order to strengthen the spirit of those participating in the battle. What is needed is to create immediately a new discourse that will suit the new situation. Without a new spirit and without a new language there will be no victory in the fighting. Therefore, while the war is raging we must find the spirit and we must find the language that we lost in the years preceding the war.

Compare and contrast --

"It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!I know not what course others may take but as for me: give me liberty or give me death."

That, dear reader, is not a call for peace. It is precisely its opposite, a call to war. And that kind of talk is what is now in the air. We are not at the end of something. We are at the beginning. Those of us who try to point out that we are using the wrong weapons are not being heard. We are being shouted out by other voices saying in effect We hope to win your hearts and minds. But failing that we are prepared simply to stop your hearts and twist your minds into submission until you get the point.

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