Monday, July 31, 2006

This war is different

It all began on July 12, a day after the Mumbai blasts. Overshadowed by the grief at home, it never hit the headlines here. I have wanted to write on it for some time. But I held back hoping the crisis wouldn’t last long and there would be peace.

Peace and West Asia. They are so disparate as cheese and chalk. Like a square peg in round hole, one just doesn’t fit in the other. A lot of chiselling has been going on for nearly half a century, but the edges have only got more jagged.

On July 12, Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon fired rockets into Israel; kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, demanding release of a prisoner. In return, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert described the capture of the soldiers as "an act of war". Israeli planes bombed Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon and troops crossed into southern Lebanon for the first time since the military withdrawal of 2000.

It’s not the first time Israel is getting involved in the sort of situation that it is right now. A violent birth, a violent existence: its history is full of blood; ironically, though the nation is in the midst of a land that spells peace.

The Jewish state has been, to the region, like a foreign particle that the body is trying to expel. But the numerically inferior group has stayed on with single-minded determination. The stay has been long enough for a minority in the area to accept its presence as a fait accompli. But that’s all about it. Blood spills ceaselessly.

There are a few indicators to the fact that this two-week old trauma is much different from what we have seen in the past.

One, every time in the past, when Israeli pursuit of terrorists has had collateral civilian deaths, it heeded the politically correct suggestion and called off the aggression. This time, post-Qana (where 54 people, including 34 children died yesterday), Israeli PM today said it will not cease fire. Air raids are off for two days, but ground offensive supported by air force is on.

Two, this is the first major conflagration in the area post-9/11. Today the troubles, big and small, are no longer isolated phenomena scattered across the globe confined to national boundaries and politics. Regional catalysts have coalesced into a global uprising. The terrorists are well and truly in the open with their intent and methods. The sheer enormity of the conflict shows this isn’t the sort of battle that was waged before.

Three, this Israel-Hezbollah fight is seen as a proxy war between the US and Iran. During the Cold War era, in the conflicts of Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan etc, the US and the USSR were there by proxy. We never had a direct US-USSR conflict, though the world came perilously close to it many times. Much before this, the Spanish Civil War was seen as a precursor for Germany-Italy and the Soviets to gird up for the World War II.

Today, are we on the threshold of something similar?


  1. That was a fantastic post Pradeep. Your analysis is so logical and methodical in coming to the conclusion that the writing on the wall looks a lot clearer now!!!

  2. Pradip..
    Without taking sides, let me say the following. if u hv lived in the middle east, you will see that the israeli-arab conflict is deeply rooted in everybody's mind & psyche. regarless of mediators -US or others, this conflict will go on since both parties complain of gross injustice to each other. The Palestinians feel that they are homeless due to Israel. Israel feels that their right to existence is being challenged. The fanatics on both sides aid and abet to exacerbate the situation.

    The solution? a trillion dollar question. Unless it is rather expansive, neither party will accept. Even if so, it will take ages of political wrangling.

    And, this will not be the last, many more wars will be fought by these chaps.

    So, dont just look at it as a proxy war or geopolitics at play..That is probably the easiest way out of the situation.On the other hand, the root cause cannot be set right!!!

  3. Thanks Silverine

    Maddy, Thanks for the incisive comment... Were there in that region any time...?

    I agree with you that there'sn't an easily workable solution. I only found this round of war, a little different from the earlier ones; which probably is because of the new geopolitical situation post-9/11.

  4. hi there,
    yes i spent many years in the ME - Saudi and many in Turkey...So I can say that politics has whipped it all somewhat, but hey - hv a looh at this note..pretty interesting.
    Until the holucast, the christians and jews were in conflict.Muslim-jew friendship more or less existed until the 20th century when geopolitics starting from 1917 coupled with the 1947 UN plan made a mess of the whole thing...Pretty much like Kashmir...