Time Heals All Wounds.. And Then Kills the Patient
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Sun Dec 9 17:44:05 2007
Israel needs a dictatorship, and other half-true statements

3 bundles of people that are particularly harmful to the world:

At one point, I read about an idea that history, as we know it, is over, because the whole world is becoming democratic and democratic states don't engage each other in war. The idea seemed to make sense at the time, although since then I've come to grossly dislike it - it is a seductive lie that can find root only in people with a naïve understanding of political philosophy that's more tied to formal definitions of systems than to real systems. If the entire world were a liberal monoculture with no nationalism, no tendencies towards racism, and no struggles over critical resources, the idea might make sense, but any or all deviations from that could create (and has often) create wars between (and within) democratic states. Democracy best understood as a complex cloud of systems with smooth gradients, not a yes-no criterion (sort of like Capitalism and Communism). Societies generally have a number of cultural taboos and "mandated perspectives" (that various subcultures within them may struggle over) - without a monoculture, differences in these (and historical realities tied to them) leads to stress between cultures (depending on content) - examples of this involve interpretations of the treatment of Armenians as the Ottoman state dissolved, Greece under the same empire, and perspectives on Taiwan's nationhood/destiny (the pan-Green and pan-Blue alliances, neatly dividing Taiwan's society, make this a particularly interesting matter in Taiwan itself - this is relevant because although China is not democratic, Chinese abroad in democratic societies are still part of that society and tend to act/vote as a bloc). If we accept that Palestine (divided nation that it is, and one that is only "sort of" a country) is on some level democratic, and accept that Israel is (in a much less nuanced way), we can see perspectives and taboos among large factions of each side that are obstacles to peace - none of these are universally accepted but they are present in sufficient numbers and breed enough mistrust and perspectives that cannot be reconciled with reasonable notions (which I shall define as those excluding genocide or mass expulsion based on race or anything sufficiently similar in spirit) of peace to make progress towards it difficult. Fatah, at least in recent times, appears to be willing to negotiate for the Palestinian Authority and the people towards a lasting peace - while issues with corruption allowed Hamas (which has more of the "give not an inch" enshrined perspective in the factions of society it represents) to win the most recent elections, fortunately Abbas effectively annulled the election and expelled them from the PA. This was, like most such choices, a mixed bag - that expulsion helped keep the door open for peace efforts, at the cost of ignoring the issue of corruption which (I believe) primarily lost them the election in the first place (it also damages the democratic institutions within the PA, although this will bother others more than it bothers me). This spent a fair amount of Abbas's credibility (although the governments of surrounding nations spared him some of the brunt of this by isolating Hamas-controlled territories and giving ideological support for Fatah - this partly to avoid strengthening conservative militant groups in their states that would overthrow then and/or establish a new Caliph, partly out of interest in peace). Olmert's efforts to reel in the settlers is politically difficult, partly because of the composition of the current coalition in government (while Kadima is centre-left, it is aligned with several right-wing parties) and partly because of aftermath from the half-hearted battle with Hezbollah in Lebanon (disliked by some for being half-hearted and a failure, and others for happening at all). A stronger leader presumably could survive an unpopular act (say, giving settlers in specified 3 days to leave and then bombing the settlements, repeating as necessary until settlers stop returning) to move peace forward. It is unfortunate when in a politically pluralist system one political difficulty, especially but not only when tied to a particular political issue, discredits a party to the extent that other unrelated ideas/perspectives are also discredited or stifled (in this case, the corruption of Fatah and Kadima/Olmert's handling of the conflict (I wonder if there was any way to "win" this one, politically) with Lebanon being in the first slot).

The main point is that in this case, a strong leader, perhaps a dictator, could force both societies to peace in a way that a looser society would not permit - forcing universal acceptance of realities like: "we will give up on our claims of land in order to establish peace", "racist or manifest destiny views promoted in religious schools will be stomped out", and similar... when a firm hand is not present, sometimes (e.g. post-Tito years in Yugoslavia) disaster happens.

A firm hand that's jingoist, uninterested in peace, or naïve is also no good.