Our intellectuals tell us that the conflict in the Mideast originates from great wrongs perpetrated by the West against the historic peoples of the Middle East. The war being waged without mercy against Israel is justified, they tell us, by a loss of territory so great that no compensation is possible. Further, the conflict is of such import that it justifies the full attention of the entire world media and all national and international governments.
I disagree on both points. The graphic above is a composite image created by superimposing a to-scale map of my home county, Brown County, Texas, USA (Pop:37,674) over a Google Earth map of the southern half of Lebanon and northern Israel. 80% of the airstrikes and virtually all the major ground fighting have occurred in the part of Lebanon covered by Brown County.
The implication is clear. This is a piss-ant war with piss-ant causes.
One cannot escape the impression conveyed by the media that the current war in Lebanon is a vast conflict. Yet, when one looks at the actual map we see that it shrinks to insignificance on the global scale. It is as if one heard all the media hoopla about the World Cup, and journeyed across half the world to file into a stadium with 100,000 other people, only to watch two children kick around a tin can in someone’s suburban backyard.
The graphic above provides us with the conflict’s true scale. At its greatest dimensions, Brown County stretches 31 miles(50km) East-West and 42 miles(68km) North-South. As of the 2000 census, it had a population of 37,674. The yellow area labeled (1) is the twin towns of Brownwood (Pop:18,813) and Early(Pop:2,588). The yellow region labeled (2) is the Brownwood Municipal airport. The yellow area to the West is Bangs (Pop:1,620). The yellow area to the East is Blanket(Pop:402). The Brownish orange area to the South is the Camp Bowie Army National Guard Training Range. The bluish area to the Northwest is Lake Brownwood. All town and landmark areas are to scale. Brown County is one of 254 counties in the state of Texas and is of average size in area.
(If you think that “everything is big in Texas” remember that Texas is about 5% larger than France. At 2,478 km^2, Brown county would cover 0.37% of the area of the nation of France. It’s just not that big of a place and neither is southern Lebanon.)
Hezbollah isn’t that much of force. It has an estimated 1,000-3,000 active fighters in Lebanon. By Comparison, Brownwood High School had a student body last year of 1,018 students. (Being rural Americans, they are probably better armed as well.) Hezbollah isn’t an army, it’s a street gang with delusions of grandeur. Everything about this conflict has a toy soldier feel to it. Iran, with a population of 60 million, made a big production of sending 60 fighters to Lebanon. Gosh, I wonder if they can spare them?
I don’t mean to trivialize the very real human suffering of those people directly involved. Individuals do not suffer and die on vast vistas or within events of great moment. They suffer and die on the square meter or two fate alloted them and at the end of their own personal stories. Our compassion for individuals should not depend on the scale of the events which cause their suffering. A violent death is a horrible thing whether it occurred on the Russian Front in WWII or a mugging in an alleyway.
I do, however, seek to reveal as trivial the supposed motivation of those who launched this conflict by attacking Israel. They tell us that they must fight a life-or-death struggle that justifies using the most horrific methods. Bullshit. This conflict occurs in such a small geographical area and involves such a small number of people that, using the resources of the developed world, we could fix any real material problem the region might have. People are not starving. They are not lacking shelter. They are not being herded off to death camps. You could throw a dart at a map of Africa and strike an area where people have more real motive for war without mercy than anyone in Lebanon. There isn’t any material problem in the Middle East that we couldn’t easily write a check to cover.
This is a war driven by shame, honor and the status of anti-Israeli leaders within their own societies. This conflict does not arise from anything that can be bought or traded. It isn’t about land. If you want to understand this conflict, don’t read political scientists, historians or economist. Read Shakespeare instead.
Hezbollah scoffs at Lebanese sovereignty because it knows full well that the international community has no spine. Any European country,even acting alone, could deploy enough troops to control Brown County and they could do the same for southern Lebanon if they were willing to kill people to accomplish it. Belgium could handle the problem. It is simply not that big a task. All that is needed is moral clarity and the willpower that it brings.
Instead, we let the problem fester and we let the media and our political leaders convince us that we face a huge, intractable problem. If that’s true, then God help us all if Brown County ever goes on the warpath. Should Comanche and Mills County join in it’s the apocalypse for sure!