|...Views from mid-Atlantic|
22 August 2005
I'm going to be helping move the contents of a house over the next week and a bit, and will be unable to post. I'll be back next Tuesday, August 30.
UPDATE - Scratch Tuesday, substitute Thursday, September 1.
21 August 2005
In what seems little more than a straight lift from the LA Times article of a few days ago, the London Times's reporter John Harlow punningly proclaims "Bermuda is dropping its shorts. The island nation is in the grip of a sartorial crisis, as its most famous contribution to global couture looks set to be consigned to the history books. While content to remain a British Overseas Territory, drive on the left and play cricket and bagpipes, Bermudians are growing itchy about sporting the eponymous trousers seen by many as a relic of colonial times."
He does manage to work in a couple of mistakes, however. The one that annoys most is saying that American banks dominate our economy. In fact, we have three banks, two purely Bermudian and HSBC, which I seem to remember was British before it became a global phenomenon. Still, he does spell Bermudian correctly, so it's not all bad.
The Washington Times is approvingly calling attention to political essayist Michael Barone's Almanac of American Politics, whose 2006 edition has just been published.
"Dating to Ronald Reagan's 1980 election to the presidency, political essayist Michael Barone has been writing arguably the most trenchant, thought-provoking analyses of American electoral politics. Appearing in the introductory section of the biennial Almanac of American Politics, which he has compiled for more than three decades, Mr. Barone's essays review the just-concluded elections and offer insight into their likely impact on the nation's future political situation.
"In the widely anticipated 2006 edition of the almanac, which has recently arrived at bookstores, Mr. Barone's analysis has managed to exceed the very high expectations that preceded it. In his introductory essay, American Politics in The Networking Era, Mr. Barone argues that today's America reflects 'a post-industrial, Information Age nation characterized by decentralization and network-connected organizations.' Finally catching up with these trends, the 2004 campaign 'produced a different kind of politics, a politics that reflects the character of the post-industrial, networking age we live in.'"
Nobel Peace Prize winner and concentration camp survivor Elie Wiesel wrote what seems widely accepted as the most powerful passage of the literature of the Holocaust:
"Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.
"Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
"Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never."
The New York Times publishes today a muscular little piece in which Wiesel writes about the evacuation of the settlements in Gaza. It is, for him, an events whose reality is chiefly at the human level - a personal tragedy for the dispossessed. He writes from the standpoint of understanding the necessity of the evacuation, but it is obvious that he harbours a certain resentment. When he asks, rhetorically, what should happen next, he writes "In the tradition I claim, the Jew is ordered by King Solomon 'not to rejoice when the enemy falls.' I don't know whether the Koran suggests the same. I know only that in my opinion, what is missing from the chapter now closing is a collective gesture that ought to be made, but that hasn't been made, by the Palestinians.
"Let's imagine it, if you will. Let's imagine that, faced with the tears and suffering of the evacuees, the Palestinians had chosen to silence their joy and their pride, rather than to organize military parades with masked fighters, machine guns in hand, shooting in the air as though celebrating a great battlefield victory. Yes, imagine that President Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues, in advising their followers, extolled moderation, restraint, respect and a little understanding for the Jews who felt themselves struck by an unhappy fate. They would have won general admiration.
"I will perhaps be told that when the Palestinians cried at the loss of their homes, few Israelis were moved. That's possible. But how many Israelis rejoiced?"
Certainly the evacuation was a tragic human event. What made it worth going through for the Israelis, though, was its political dimension. The Palestinian rejoicing that Elie Wiesel so resents casts the event as a win for the Palestinian side - a sign that the suicide bombings and the rocket attacks and other acts of terrorism succeeded in making the Israelis back down and retreat. That's a natural reaction for them, one that Palestinian leaders perhaps need to use as a kind of war cry. But the fact that so few in the world are echoing and debating that view is an indication that it is a very shallow interpretation.
The evacuation wasn't a tactical response to Palestinian terrorism, it was a strategic move by Ariel Sharon to position himself to deal with a return to the business of working out a Middle East peace - whether through the Road Map or in some other way. Speaking in broad terms, Sharon saw that the world had come to view the Middle East struggle as an affair between two villains, neither of whom had moral ascendancy over the other. It was not a good position to be in at a time of such great opportunity. The death of Yasser Arafat, the arrival of democracy in the Middle East, especially in the Palestinian Authority, the world's horror at the tactics of terrorists in Iraq and elesewhere, the back-footing of the EU and the UN over their tendency towards anti-semitism - these things all add up to a climate in which it is possible for Israel to move decisively and effectively towards peace.
Remember how the Road Map is worded? "A two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only be achieved through an end to violence and terrorism, when the Palestinian people have a leadership acting decisively against terror and willing and able to build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty, and through Israel's readiness to do what is necessary for a democratic Palestinian state to be established, and a clear, unambiguous acceptance by both parties of the goal of a negotiated settlement...as a performance-based plan, progress will require and depend upon the good faith efforts of the parties, and their compliance with each of the obligations outlined below. Should the parties perform their obligations rapidly, progress within and through the phases may come sooner than indicated in the plan. Non-compliance with obligations will impede progress.
"A settlement, negotiated between the parties, will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors. The settlement will resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and end the occupation that began in 1967, based on the foundations of the Madrid Conference, the principle of land for peace, UNSCRs 242, 338 and 1397, agreements previously reached by the parties, and the initiative of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah – endorsed by the Beirut Arab League Summit – calling for acceptance of Israel as a neighbor living in peace and security, in the context of a comprehensive settlement. This initiative is a vital element of international efforts to promote a comprehensive peace on all tracks, including the Syrian-Israeli and Lebanese-Israeli tracks."
Sharon's attempts to tell the world that Israel was willing to follow the Road Map, but that the Palestinians had to demonstrate their good faith by bringing to an end terrorist violence had fallen on deaf ears. In fact, the Palestinians had created such a terrible thicket of independently-operating terrorist groups that it would have been a Herculean task even for Yasser Arafat himself to end the violence - Abu Mazen, a much weaker and less well-trusted leader stood a great deal less chance than Arafat of being able to carry it off. The outside world understood that, and seemed to have no real intention of making the Palestinians do what the Road Map required of them. Sharon faced being forced by the rest of the world into giving away anything he had to bargain with. In order to have a chance at anything but defeat, Sharon had to seize the advantage by some bold stroke.
With the evacuation from Gaza, he has seized the advantage. He gave himself a task that was almost as difficult as getting control of the terrorist groups would be for Abu Mazen, and he pulled it off. He showed that Israel was serious about peace, he showed that when Israel said it would do something, it could deliver. He has regained the moral high ground in the eyes of the world, and seriously backfooted the Palestinians.
What happens next in Gaza is going to be critical for them. If they are able to create an autonomous and lawful state there, they will show that they can be trusted to take the peace process forward. If they simply create a battleground on which Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestine Authority shoot it out, they will show that they cannot be trusted to take the peace process forward. In the short term, that might create a certain amound of schadenfreude among their enemies, but it will be a disaster for the cause of peace in the longer term.
Sharon has an advantage to press, and he can be expected to lose no time doing it. Next month, he will speak at the convening of the UN General Assembly, meeting with a variety of world leaders, probably including President Bush.
He also has a personal advantage to press. There is the matter of an election in Israel in 2006 to deal with. Bibi Netanyahu's frantic attempts to finesse the Gaza pullout failed, and have been shown up as cynical attempts to gain political advantage for himself when he should have been trying to help the country instead. Israeli politics is sometimes a strange business, but I would have said that unless Sharon makes some terrible blunder between now and 2006, or has a run of very bad political luck, he will probably be re-elected, in a stronger position than he was in before.
And if things go right for him, no matter how unlikely it might seem for a man once accused of committing war crimes in Lebanon, Sharon also has a chance at emerging as the architect of peace in the Middle East.
Art in Bermuda
Bermuda's Cuban Connection
Death of the Nation State
Joe Wilson and Michael Moore
Linton Kwesi Johnson's Dub Poetry
Me and Evergreen Review
Michael Howard's Vision
Miss Lou and Jamaican Patois
More Doomsday Nonsense
Mullah Nasrudin's Lessons
New York Dogs
OECD's Unfair to Competition
On Charles Ives
On Colin MacInnes
On Collecting Books
On Collecting Books - Part Two
On Gambling in Bermuda
On Patrick Leigh Fermor
Race and Bermuda's Election
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Gift of Slang
The Limits of Knowledge
The Nature of Intelligence
The Shared European Dream
The US Supreme Court's First Terrorism Decisions
Yukio Mishima's Death
Contact the Pondblogger
About Last Night
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Arts and Letters Daily
Aworks :: "new" american classical music
Cup of Chicha
Day by Day by Chris Muir
Little Green Footballs
Michael J Totten
Reflections in d minor
Roger L Simon
Talking Points Memo
The Volokh Conspiracy
A Bermuda Blog
A Limey in Bermuda
Politics.bm: A Mostly Bermuda Weblog
The Bermuda Sun
The Mid-Ocean News
The Royal Gazette
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