Pulling up the rudder

I took a career and life planning course while I was in college. One of my least favorite exercises was the “long range plan.” It turns out this exercise ranks as THE most useless project of my college career. Your friendly neighborhood meteorologist has a considerably better chance of predicting the weather 10 years out, than your average naive (and lets face it, pretty stupid) 19 year-old kid has forecasting his or her life. Speaking for myself, the closest I came to pegging my future was May 3rd, 1988, when I said, “I don’t know.”

(My personal favorite was the early ’80s, when I aspired to be a professional soccer player. Imagine my dismay when the old NASL folded.)

Now apply the “I don’t know” philosophy to regional politics… and I give you the Middle East. For thousands of years the world’s finest minds have said, “What a mess.” If you recall, Israel recently abandoned its old “long range plan,” where they occupied southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip – in part to root out Hezbollah and Hamas. It worked out so well these last twenty years that they recently decided to try it again.

Believe it or not, there’s some overlap between me and 43 on this issue. I believe that Israel has the right to defend itself. I also recognize that Israel is in an almost impossible situation, and I have no realistic alternative to their current policy. Actions against your army and rockets dropping on your civilian population are a tough thing to just sit back and take. And yet, from an outsider’s vantage, it does not appear their military solution has produced one bit of internal security, and may make it worse in the long term. If years of occupation couldn’t root the terrorists out, what will these recent strikes in Lebanon do… other than satiate a need for retribution? Lebanon in particular seemed like it may have been on its way to relative stability, having finally rid itself of Syrian occupation. After this one thing stands out: the average Lebanese may be more likely to sympathize with Hezbollah than they were a couple of weeks ago. Is Lebanon now on the fast track for radicalization (or more so than they might have been)?

Then again, I’m not much good for long range forecasts. Does a “get tough” strategy ever work in the Middle East? While you can argue that Israel’s actions in the past haven’t solved their problems, you could probably also argue that their problems might be worse if they didn’t act as they have.

Like nearly everyone else in the world, I just don’t know. What a mess. What a tragic, terrible mess.

Give the gift of words.