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Thursday, January 14, 2010

You can't have that gun

Today's article is about national ego, or the things states think they are entitled to do, just because...
Egos are like tree branches. They start off small, flexible, vulnerable, they keep growing until somebody cuts off the tip, but when time passes on an overgrown branch, its usually much harder and uglier to shape it back to its right size.
Today's article is about national ego, or the things states think they are entitled to do, just because nobody punished them when they started doing them. From the far east to the Americas, the world has had its share of regimes that had the bigger gun, and got away with less than logical behavior, and often enough, it wasn't the work of an insane government, but more that of a cocky one: The US's historical 'Big Stick Policy' speaks volumes on that.

And so I dedicate this post to all the moronic stances (or heroic, it depends on what side of the fence you are) taken by over-the-top cocky governments in history, that have made or contributed to making people's lives more difficult, but more importantly have made sure that people on both sides of the fence hated each other just a little more.

In that line of business, one of the first states that come to my mind is my favorite example of a world-sponsored bully: Israel.
Granted, this country has a lot to deal with: They have Palestinians both in the east and the west (if circumstances were different, you could almost say they are 'sandwiched'), they have Lebanon in the north with Hizbullah and their rockets, they have Arabs all around them, and to top it all off, now they have Iran who might become a nuclear state and who happens to hate their guts.

Things are difficult for Israel, yes. So you constantly hear the expression "might disturb the regional power balance" in political analysis when talking about Iran acquiring the nuclear bomb, or Hizbullah getting newer rockets, or any other Arab state purchasing weapons. In fact, major weapon manufacturing states make sure to sell just the right kind of weapons to the right kind of people. Here's how this works:
Any country in the region cannot purchase an arsenal that could be superior to Israel's current arsenal. If they happen to get their hands on it somehow, they are a threat to the regional power balance, in which Israel is the bully, and everyone around it is supposed to keep their mouth shut. I could make a point about it being a "regional power imbalance", but you get the picture.

So things are difficult for Israel, and Israel's friends around the world are making sure Israel can ensure its own survival, by legalizing its right to have the bigger gun. And when someone else has their eye on a shiny new gun, even if they have the money to buy it, and no real intention to use it (e.g. Saudi Arabia), they get the usual response: "You can't have that gun".

While that might make sense on an offensive level, the issue on the defensive side of the story is an entirely bedazzling one: Lebanon's army is not allowed to acquire anti-aircraft batteries that could challenge Israel's air force. If you add to that equation the fact that in war Israel inflicts the most damage on Lebanon through its Air Force (the Israeli army rarely even attempts an invasion, their attempts were thwarted repeatedly in the July 2006 war), and that Israeli airplanes fly over the Lebanese territory for "monitoring purposes" every day, in complete violation of international resolutions, it looks more like a legalization of Israel's right to attack its neighboring countries that is at play here. This is no longer a question of survival, or "Israel's right to defend itself", this is a violation of other people's right to defend themselves, it's pretty much an unlimited pass for Israel to do whatever it might please without anyone having the means to hit it back.

So what's the moral of the story here ? How about this:
"Things are difficult for Israel. I wonder why."

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