Friday, July 21, 2006

Inheriting the Earth

It's still interesting to think about the phrase from Matthew 5: 5, "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth." The war in Lebanon will soon be about whether anyone will be able to inherit the earth in South Lebanon. The Israelis are massing troops at the border and have warned the residents of South Lebanon to leave.

Matthew 5: 5 indirectly condemns such an exercise of power. If those who are meek are "blessed," those who aggressively broadcast their strength must be "condemned or damned." In this case, it would be the population of South Lebanon that is going to qualify as the meek as they flee their homes. To the contrary, the words of Jesus would seem to condemn the Israelis. They might condemn the United States as an even more powerful patron to the Israelis.

Perhaps there's an element in Matthew 5:5 that provides consolation to powerful figures like George Bush and the Israelis as well. In stating that the meek are "blessed," Jesus indicates that God (and himself as a god figure) have the power to bless people with eternal salvation and the complementary power to damn them to eternal punishment. It may be that the powerful identify with Christianity because they find the Christian image of the power in God to be extremely attractive. For the powerful, it is not a matter of doing what Jesus states in his various sermons and conversations; its a matter of giving out rewards and punishments like Jesus' monotheistic god.

Contrary to the words of Jesus, Christianity also seems to provide a powerful motivation for oppressing the meek, the feeling of being like the Christian God. It's not what Jesus says that matters; it's what God does.

But who will inherit the earth? Those who are meek and unwilling or unable to fight for what they have in the same way that Jesus was unwilling to fight for his life? Or the powerful who model their punishment of the weak on the Christian God's capacity for punishment.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Jesus and the Super Assholes

This Jesus quote came to mind while I was thinking about Israel's assault on Lebanon.

Matthew 5: 5, "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth."

In the South and West, people tend to go the other way. Instead of blessing the meek, we tend to admire the loudest, most dominating, most intimidating, most flamboyant men we know. That's MEN because we don't admire the same qualities in women. Walmart is the model business, Tom DeLay the model politician, and Bobby Knight the model coach. The Red States read Jesus as saying "blessed are the super-assholes for they shall inherit the earth." The meek . . . well, they're just seen as losers who deserve all the humiliation they get and only receive Jerry Springer as their consolation.

Is Israel Winning?

Is Israel winning the war? They effectively declared war on Hezbollah when they attacked Lebanon's infrastructure and announced their goal of eliminating Hezbollah as a military force. Are the Israelis accomplishing their military goals. Does it look like Hezbollah is going to go the way of the Beider-Meinhof gang and other terrorist groups? What are the chances that Hezbollah is going to survive? Is there any way that Hezbollah will get stronger as a result of the war?

Of course, accomplishing goals isn't the only way to win. People can fall short and still be perceived as winning if they "beat expectations." If the Israelis are not eliminating Hezbollah, are they at least beating the expectations that people had for their military capacities? What about Hezbollah? Have they proven to be a stronger or weaker force than the global public imagined? Is Hezbollah winning or losing the expectations game?

The answer for the Israelis appears to be "no" on both counts. It doesn't look like the Israelis are going to accomplish their military goals. There are two ways for the Israelis to eliminate Hezbollah as a military force. The most obvious way to eliminate Hezbollah would be to invade Southern Lebanon and occupy the territory. Instead of invading Southern Lebanon, the Israelis seem to be contenting themselves with "pinpoint strikes" to uncover "outposts," "tunnels," and mines. If such tactics are successful, they would certainly make military operations more onerous for Hezbollah in the future, but that's a long way from eliminating Hezbollah as a military force.

The second way to eliminate Hezbollah is to intimidate or terrorize the Lebanese government into getting rid of Hezbollah itself. Given that the Israelis moved so quickly Lebanon's government and civilian infrastructure, this appears to be what they intended. However, this strategy never had much chance of succeeding. If Hezbollah could survive eighteen years of Israeli occupation during the 80's and 90's, there is little chance that the far weaker Lebanese government could defeat Hezbollah militarily. Of course, the chances of the Lebanese themselves eliminating Hezbollah are decreasing everyday as Israeli attacks further cripple the Lebanese government. The transportation system in Lebanon has been so degraded that the Lebanese people are having trouble getting food and medical supplies. Conducting a civil war against Hezbollah and the Shiite population seems out of the question.

The Israelis also have very little in the way of tactical "wins" over Hezbollah. The Israelis claim to have destroyed 10,000 Hezbollah rockets, but that claim seems specious. Likewise, the Israelis don't seem to be killing large numbers of Hezbollah fighters, assasinating Hezbollah leaders, or taking over Hezbollah territory. Hezbollah hasn't accomplished its military goals of forcing the Israelis into a prisoner exchange either, but it doesn't seem like the Israelis are winning militarily.

So, are the Israelis "exceeding expectations." The answer here is definitely not. This is because the expectations for Israel are so high. Israel is rightfully seen as having a tremendous military machine and Israel's military capacities have been thoroughly demonstrated in the decimation of Lebanon's civilian infrastructure. Unfortunately, for the Israelis, the expectation was that they would whip Hezbollah as easily as they also whipped the PLO. Because that's not been the case, it's pretty clear that the Israelis are "not meeting expectations" and that their stock is beginning to slip a little.

In fact, it's Hezbollah that's winning the expectation game. Hezbollah went well beyond any reasonable expectations for them when they managed to heavily damage an Israeli ship. Hezbollah has also been able to keep firing their primitive rockets into Israeli towns and cities. They've only killed 30 Israeli civilians (compared to the 300 Lebanese civilians killed by Israel), but every Israeli civilian killed has come as a shock whereas everybody knew that the Israelis could kill as many Lebanese civilians as they wanted.

Hezbollah seems to be gaining in incidental ways as well. Hezbollah's network of social services has performed well in the crisis and has functioned to relieve some of the misery caused by Israeli attacks. Hezbollah spokespeople are starting to appear on global news services like CNN and are sounding confident and smart.

As discussion turns toward ending the crisis, there is some chance that Hezbollah could emerge with a clear victory. If a sizable UN peacekeeping force is placed in Southern Lebanon, it will fulfill a goal of Lebanon to have a UN buffer between themselves and Israel. Given that peacekeepers would be deterring the Israelis much more than they would deter Hezbollah, the establishment of a large peacekeeping operation would mean that the whole conflict was a net win for Hezbollah and a net loss for Israel.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Iraq in Israel's Strategic Vision

There's not much discussion about Iraq in relation to Israel's efforts in Lebanon. Why the silence?

All of the talk among the neo-cons is about taking the war in Lebanon to Syria and Iran. The pretext for further attacks would Syria and Iran's support for Hezbollah, but Israel may have a larger strategic objective, i.e. knocking out all of the other Shiite centers of power before Iraq comes on line.

If Iraq ever stabilizes, the Iraqis will be the keystone of a Shiite crescent that includes Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, the oil rich eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Given that Iraq is becoming such a fervently religious state, the Iraqis will become a danger to Israel as soon as they start pumping oil at full capacity. Like Iran, the Iraqis can build up their own military capacity, finance terror groups, and pump up the anti-Israeli rhetoric enough. In league with Iran, the Iraqis can keep the Israelis under pressure from a variety of angles. None of this would be enough to pose a real threat to Israel, but it would be enough to keep the Israelis from feeling secure.

In this light, it may be that the ultimate goal of the Israelis is start a general Middle East war in the hope of getting the U. S. to overthrow the governments in Tehran and Damascus. It would be a long shot on the part of the Israelis, but there is little doubt that the Bush administration is dumb enough to fall for it.

Banned In Kentucky

A couple of weeks ago, the Republican governor of Kentucky, Ernie Fletcher, caused a minor controversy by blocking web sites that it says were distracting state employees. Of course, it might have had something to do with the New York Times drawing an unfavorable article about Fletcher from the blog of a state employee.

Red State Impressions is proud to announce that this is one of the blogs that was blocked. An authoritative source who prefers to remain anonymous informs me that she was blocked when she tried to look up Red State Impressions on a Kentucky state computer at

Red State Impressions. Good enough to be banned in Kentucky. Good enough to be read everywhere.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Let's Bomb Britain

I just saw Newt Gingrich on MSNBC claiming that there were 20 terrorist groups with 1200 members in Britain. Think about it for a second. That's almost as many jihadis as there are fighting in Iraq; and you can be sure that a large percentage of those terrorists are plotting against the United States right now. I believe those terrorist groups are being countenanced if not downright sanctioned by the British government. The British intelligence services, police, and military are famous all over the world for their efficiency. If the Blair government wanted to remove these terrorists, it could do so easily.

That's why I'm surprised that President Bush hasn't ordered our military to start bombing England yet. Why haven't the highway lines out of London being cut? Why aren't we blockading British shipping. Why haven't we been pummeling British military assets? Why haven't Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square been reduced to rubble. Maybe we could strafe their fishing fleet to make them uncomfortable without their fish and chips?

The Israelis are holding the Lebanese government "accountable" for the 600 hard core Hezbollah fighters in Southern Lebanon. Given that Great Britain is far wealthier and stronger than the Lebanese, Bush should be holding the British government to the same standard.Perhaps we should look at British friends like the Canadians and Australians too.

No appeasement to Britain! Let the bombing begin!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Middle East: Flypaper or Tar Pit

Remember the flypaper theory that the American occupation was drawing Arab jihadis to Iraq and that was a good thing because they could be killed!

Maybe the tar pit theory works better. The reason why there were so many predators in the LaBrea tar pits was because animals like saber-tooth tigers would see other predators stuck in the tar, leap in for the kill, and become stuck themselves. Perhaps Iraq was a tarpit that first attracted mindless American predators, then drew in the jihadis after the Americans got stuck in the tar of occupation.

Hamas and Hezbollah seem to have had flypaper in mind when they kidnapped Israeli soldiers. The idea was that Israel would launch a mindlessly aggressive military operations against civilians and that the terrorist organizations would grow stronger as a result of civilian outrage against Israel.

But Israel may prefer the tar pit. It's obvious from the swiftness, ferociousness, and systematic nature of the Israeli attacks that Israel's was waiting with baited breath for an opportunity to destroy Lebanon's economic infrastructure. The last time, Israel invaded Lebanon they destroyed the PLO's military infrastructure in Lebanon, but were forced to withdraw after years of skirmishing with Hezbollah. Now Israel is leaping into Lebanon once again to destroy Hezbollah. Perhaps they will succeed. But Hezbollah proved to be stronger than their Palestinian predecessors. One can't help but wonder if Hezbollah's possible successors won't be still stronger than Hezbollah and whether Lebanon eventually might prove to be a tarpit for the Israelis like Iraq has proved to be for the U. S.