July 24, 2006 Israel says that nothing but the complete destruction of Hezbollah will do for them, but they may have to settle for less. For one thing, it might require the complete destruction of Hezbollah's landlord, Lebanon, which is something that world opinion won't swallow.
But while we're at it, what actually is this world opinion? The nation-players and teams they belong to have various motives for adopting their positions. The Europeans are content to deplore the Israeli response to Hezbollah violence for several reasons. One, they are terrified of their own Muslim immigrant populations and don't want any smash-up riots or subway bombings. Second, they want to appear sympathetic to the oil exporting nations (including Iran) in order to continue enjoying a regular stream of oil imports without paying extra costs, which they are content to shift onto Israel and the United States -- namely, the cost of engaging the aggressive emnity of a restive and belligerent Islam. Third, the Europeans want to capture the geopolitical moral high ground once occupied by US after the collapse of communism.
And while we're at it, why is Islam in such a dark mood? Not just because the Palestinians are agrieved at the Israelis. I think the violent intemperance of Jihad is the expression of an ecological crisis: too many people suddenly occupying a region of the world that could not support them without the artificial nutrient of oil -- plus the fact that this region has reached its point of all-time maximum oil production, with the awful prospect of having less and less oil from now on and absolutely no other resources to support these overgrown populations when that oil is gone.
I think these circumstance have driven Islam, well, nuts. Jihad is carried out almost entirely by young men and the Islamic oil nations have a vast supply of young men with no other job opportunities except service in Jihad. Their despair at the prospects of their societies must be great, and easily converted into aggressive rage. Plus, they are given huge inducements to believe that this employment is a holy mission, and fabulous promises of deferred pay in the form of early retirement to paradise and the consort of lusty virgins. As Peak Oil becomes more of a reality in the Middle East, I think these societies will only act crazier.
Where are Russia and China on this? Well, Russia benefits whenever the glare of Islam is diverted from Russia's vast, fractious southern border with dozens of Islamic states and quasi-states, like Chechnya, poised to make trouble. Since Russia is one of the world's top oil producers (though past peak itself), and is sitting on quite a bit of natural gas, too, it doesn't have to worry about a cut-off of energy supplies from elsewhere. Russia would also like to recapture the geopolitical influence it enjoyed back in the Soviet days, and anything that weakens American authority and power in the Eastern Hemisphere leaves a vacuum that Russia can reoccupy. China benefits from Islamic antipathy to the West because the less oil is available to the West, the more there will be for oil-poor China. The problem for them, of course, is that an energy-strapped, impoverished America would no longer be buying all those Chinese-made salad shooters at the WalMart.
An interesting sidelight to all this is the emergence here in the US of a virulent strain of antisemitism. A lot of it has shown up in the "Comments" section of my mirror site (Kunstler's blog on Typepad). It seems to me, that it's mostly emanating from what remains of the US political left, who have either run out of homegrown downtrodden groups to champion, or been disappointed with the results of their previous efforts. Lately, the frustrating impotence of the left to formulate a coherent opposition to Bush-style conservative Republicanism has led them into a craziness not unlike the craziness of Jihadist Islam. If all the Bush Republicans were suddenly vacuumed out of North America by a righteous cosmic force, the American left would probably start an American Jihad of their own against a host of imagined "class enemies" in the remaining population.
I hasten to add that I am myself an opponent of American culture and polity in many of their current manifestations -- everything from Nascar to US Department of Agriculture subsidies, and plenty in between -- and yet I do not regard any victory of Islamic Jihad, whether in Iraq or Jordon or the subway tunnels of London or the skyscrapers of Manhattan, to be necessarily a good thing for the world.
Nobody knows where the conflict in the Middle East is headed now. My own guess is that in the weeks to come Iran will find new ways to enlarge and aggravate the situation there. A problem at the heart of things not much discussed in the public arena is the fact that a virtually limitless supply of potent small arms and rockets is available from Iran to anyone who wants the stuff. This has implications for any effort to disarm Hezbollah or Hamas or al Qaeda or sixteen guys in a suburb of Dusseldorf. It remains to be seen whether Iran will try to produce more potent weapons.
The West would be foolish to let that happen, but this dirty job, too, may be left to Israel and the US. I suspect that Iran will foment an oil crisis before that happens by shutting down the Straits of Hormuz by some means. When that happens, Mr. Ahmadinejad can put his head between his knees and kiss his ass goodbye.