Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Bounds Of The Debate

Supposedly we get both sides of the debate offered in our media with regards to war. On the one hand you have the hawks. They think the war was a good idea, but U.S. policy is to be faulted for handling our enemies with kid gloves. On the other hand you have the doves. It's not that the war was fundamentally wrong and immoral. It's not that preemptively invading another country is a violation of the U.N. Charter. It's not that hundreds of thousands of dead innocent civilians is a problem. It's that it may prove too costly. It may be beyond our means. Our intentions were good, our motives just. It's just too costly.

Biden reflects the supposedly dovish side
. This war was mishandled. Too costly. Forget that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi's are dead. That doesn't really enter the picture. We just bit off a little more than we could chew.

The same was true of Vietnam. A Gallup poll conducting in 1986 showed that for 71% of the American public the Vietnam War was not simply too costly or mishandled. It was fundamentally wrong and immoral. But try to find examples in the major media that reflect that majority opinion. Over and over it's the same thing Biden says of the dead hundreds of thousands in Iraq. The problem with this war is it's just too costly for us.

I notice the same thing with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the one hand are the hawks. Israel is too gentle. If only they'd beat up on the Palestinians more, maybe wipe them out, this problem could be resolved. Then there are the doves. They complain about settlement construction a little, but they'll often counterbalance this with talk of Hamas rockets and terrorism. Andrew Sullivan is a decent example. Supposedly his criticisms of Israel are so harsh he's eliciting charges bordering on anti-Semitism. I read Sullivan all the time. True, he's criticized settlement construction and Netenyahu's right wing extremism. He certainly looks reasonable next to the hawks. But this kind of criticism is often counterbalanced with discussions of Hamas as if the two sides commit crimes of a similar magnitude. He'll offer letters from readers that say "The Palestinians could have a state tomorrow if only they'd accept Israel's right to live."

That's not dovish. And in fact it doesn't even represent mainstream opinion in the world. Mainstream opinion would be reflected in someone like Norman Finkelstein. He's not suggesting that the Palestinians should be granted the right of return. He does believe it was unjust to evict the indigenous people in 1948, but he doesn't think anything can be done about it at this stage. He certainly does not advocate the destruction of the Israeli state. But he joins the world in advocating a peaceful settlement at the 1967 borders. He joins the world in identifying the settlements and separation walls as ipso facto illegal. He joins the world in recognizing that Israeli terrorism surpasses Palestinian terrorism in scale. He joins the world in recognizing that Israel's frequent aggression is a violation of the U.N. Charter.

He's interviewed frequently outside the country but to my knowledge has never been interviewed by any U.S. network or cable television media. This is what a real dove looks like. But in the United States he's almost inaudible. We're to believe Andrew Sullivan represents the dovish position. He doesn't.

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