Monday, July 24, 2006

All over

Kunstler: All over but the keening for our soon-to-be-lost machine world. We’ll have to find new satisfactions now looking inward and reaching out with our limbs to those around us to discover what they are finding inward and outward about themselves. We’ll certainly find music there, and dancing, and perhaps some fighting, and we will still have the means to make bases and balls and sticks for hitting them and gloves for catching them and twilight evenings in the meadow to play in. Amid a great stillness. With the moon rising.

World War III brewing
The implications of the latest hostilities in the Middle East are serious

While the media and the masses continue to be playfully entertained by celebrities and cell phones, pretending everything is normal in the world, the machinations in the Middle East have reached a critical moment.
Yes, at first glance the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah may seem more of the same – more of the stuff we’ve seen in the last decade or so – but in reality the geopolitical battlefield is actually a lot more precarious and desperate now than ever before.

Consider the following:

- Current regional years-long conflict in Iraq (which appears to be escalating, with over 100 civilians dying per day)
- After already spawning a $300 billion price tag, America still feels their presence in Iraq is justified (‘worth it’)
- Serious recent diplomatic confrontations between Iran and the US (and others) over nuclear weapons, as well as overt support for Hezbollah by Iran
- Iran has stated they would like to ‘wipe Israel off the face of the Earth’
- The US has included Iran (as it did with Iraq) in its ‘axis of evil’

If none of these points seem particularly troublesome, consider then that strategically, Israel, a Jewish state, is surrounded (directly and indirectly) by many militant non-Jewish states. These non-Jewish states include states with high levels of fundamentalist groups, especially in Iraq, Iran and Syria. Israel, outnumbered and surrounded, is supported by powerful allies of the West. War is currently being waged in Iraq – based on these same Western powers, principally a US force, attempting to crush waves of (Iran supported) insurgents.

The danger obviously exists (and cannot be overstated) that the stage is set for the Iraq conflict to broaden. While the world might see the conflict as one over ideology (fundamentalist Jews /Christians vs fundamentalist Muslims), the powers that be know it is about something far less amorphous. That being said, the leader of the most powerful state on the planet is a fundamentalist Christian, with a Jewish vice President. Reality (and the plots of industry leaders and businessmen) may become increasingly irrelevant in this setup.

While Israel cannot be faulted for responding to Hezbollah, they certainly can be criticized, even condemned for the overwhelming force (a US tactic) they’ve used to respond to Hezbollah. While Israel has suffered 30-something casualties as a result of Hezbollah’s missile lobbing (mostly into the modern port of Haifa), Israel has incurred over 300 (mostly civilian) deaths in Lebanon. It’s important to make the following distinction: Hezbollah is not Lebanon. Thus Israel’s attacks on Hezbollah, especially the intensity of these attacks, are likely to cause a response from the Lebanese army (from Lebanese forces).

At the moment Israel is massing its forces on its Northern border with Southern Lebanon, and seems to be planning to set up a 25 mile buffer zone. It has already targeted one village and occupied it, and plans to clear other towns in the area. They have made their intentions clear by dropping thousands of leaflets telling local residents to leave so they can wipe out infrastructure in this zone. Although Israel don’t see their actions as an ‘invasion’ how can Lebanon not see it that way? How can Lebanon tolerate a 25 mile band of Israeli produced rubble?

Meanwhile over 700 000 people have been displaced in Lebanon, and 25 000 people (mostly foreign nationals) have already left for Cyprus. President Bush has not being coy about picking sides: he has condemned Hezbollah, and British and American forces are already on the ground, in the area, engaged in assisting the evacuation. Rice has not called for a ceasefire, saying to do so would merely bring about a return to the current status quo. She has also said that American forces are ‘unlikely’ to participate in the on-the-ground battles. Despite this stated lack of involvement, she left for high level meetings in the region on Sunday. So a ceasefire is apparently not on the agenda. Precision guided missiles (able to hit specific targets) have been dispatched from the US to Israel. Meanwhile Israel believes Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal is being provided by Iran.

The Iranian president has called on Muslims worldwide to get involved.

If we look at the local press and television, it’s hard to believe we’re facing anything more than a temporary crisis in the Middle East. I believe the interest of the West in this region has to be more intense than ever (given high global energy prices) and thus the West is prepared, and in fact hoping for any excuse to enter the region and interfere with impunity.

It should be remembered that most of the world’s liquid energy reserves are located in countries unfriendly to the West, and to the USA in particular. Given the world’s addiction to these fuels, and the economic imperative to keep these fuels ‘cheap’, war can be seen as the most likely alternative to achieving this end. It’s possible (especially if you’re a car driver in Kansas or the Karoo) that the idea (of war for cheap fuel) actually makes sense. Unfortunately, the Iraq experiment has proved that the expenses even of a relatively low grade war are much too high, and facilities can simply not be protected, despite the massive presence of occupying forces. Iraq’s oil infrastructure and production remains much lower than prewar levels, and currently they are in fact suffering local fuel shortages at service stations (tanker trucks on the move are favorite targets) and power failures. President Bush, while making his case for war in Iraq, said America would pay the bill (for damaged infrastructure etc) using Iraqi oil. As it stands, America will have to cough up far more than their stated $30 billion investment, and this money will come from American taxpayers, not Iraqi oil..

It’s clear that the tinderbox of the Middle East is set to explode, and in this order:

The Lebanese army assisting Hezbollah (in Lebanon), escalations leading to Syrian involvement, a widening and unified battle theatre that includes land spanning from Israel and Syria to Iraq, and an amalgamation of the forces of both sides currently deployed in Iraq with new fighting forces, then on to Iran, Saudi Arabia and beyond.

In Lebanon locals have been living in bomb shelters for the past 11 days. This is because Israel is conducting round-the-clock air strikes. British foreign minister Kim Howell has criticized Israel for the number of non-surgical strikes. He has visited the region and seen large numbers of dead or wounded children, communication infrastructure and other non-Hezbollah structures destroyed.

Given the long term problems in Iraq, and Israel’s intention for a limited ‘weeks-long’ incursion (if you’re a Muslim this word translates to ‘invasion’), as well as the geopolitical and economic knife point the world is on, we can expect to see a lot more of Cheney’s Infinite War. It’s a war that will not end in our lifetimes.

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