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  • Piss-Ant War

    Posted by Shannon Love on August 9th, 2006 (All posts by )

    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!

     

    15 Responses to “Piss-Ant War”

    1. GFK Says:

      Right Shannon. A Piss-ant war by… piss-ant individuals.

      I can’t help thinking that someday the arabs are going to really regret picking a fight with us.

    2. Jonathan Says:

      Depends on how you frame it. If it’s Israel vs. Hezbollah then the war is indeed small. But if Israel vs. Hez is merely one battle in the West’s struggle against Islamic fascism, then the scope of the war is really very big.

    3. Shannon Love Says:

      Jonathan,

      But if Israel vs. Hez is merely one battle in the West’s struggle against Islamic fascism, then the scope of the war is really very big.

      Well, the stakes are big but the actual physical fighting is not. This conflict is more and more a symbolic one were actual fighting has more to do with artistic media manipulation that it does with physical domination of the enemy.

      My main point is that establishing physical security in Lebanon would be easy if anyone had the will to do so. The fact that many decry Israel’s attacks into Lebanon while at the same time pretending that it is impossible for them to do anything to solve the problem that triggered the war in the first place, indicates to me that the conflict is merely a proxy issue for other matters.

      Those nations and groups that criticize Israel for defending itself should put up or shut up.

    4. Dan from Madison Says:

      If you would allow a slight digression:

      “Any European country,even acting alone, could deploy enough troops to control Brown County…”

      I’m not so sure about this, knowing how well armed most rural Texans are and the fact that there is that Natl. Guard Training Range there. It is, sadly for the euros, actually possible that they could not take that county, imho. If they were able to take it, they would most certainly have to kill everyone to control it as it is simply not fathomable for most honorable people, especially Texans to live under the thumb of anyone.

    5. Ginny Says:

      Sarajavo wasn’t exactly the center of the world. But then survival isn’t ever all that piss-ant.

      Of course, if terrorists were capable of self-consciousness, humility, (and I don’t consider the bizarre bravado of self-sacrifice evidence of humility) or a respect for truth & proportionality the middle east would not be what it is today.

    6. Tyouth Says:

      “But then survival isn’t ever all that piss-ant.”

      OK Ginny, but still, when the focus is changed to the big picture, Lebanon – even when compared to conflicts 300 years ago – is a tiny affair in terms of lives lost, especially.

    7. Jody Says:

      Israel is almost exactly the same size as Yavapai County, Arizona, where I live. We have about 200,000 people here, and compared to how it was when I was a kid, it feels a bit crowded to me, but most folks feel like there’s enough land to go around. Brown County is two times more densely populated, but I expect people don’t feel crowded there, either.

      Lebanon is half the size of Yavapai County, or four times the size of Brown county, and 4,000,000 people live there. Israel has 6,000,000 people plus another third of a million in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan. The West Bank is twice the size of Brown County, and more than 3,000,000 people live there.

      I expect people there have a somewhat different view of whether there is enough land. They do have strong feelings about what belongs to whom.

      Meanwhile, the IDF, the world’s most competent army, is finding it rather tough going against the pissants. Saying that war in the Mideast isn’t about land is like saying that war in the Persian Gulf isn’t about oil.

    8. Jonathan Says:

      Shannon wrote:
      My main point is that establishing physical security in Lebanon would be easy if anyone had the will to do so.

      The problem is that it is difficult for Israel to establish security in Lebanon without occupying substantial territory, and even that probably won’t be enough. If Israel occupies part of Lebanon it becomes difficult to leave (because no one else is likely to fill the power vacuum), and doesn’t prevent Israel’s enemies from firing missiles from farther away. And behind these considerations is the involvement of Syria and Iran, who have no reason to disengage if Israel merely holds Lebanese territory. The situation presents a number of difficult tactical and strategic dilemmas for Israel. It is not simply a matter of will.

    9. Emma Says:

      I see your point-it is a very small area of land, but that still leaves the question of “what should be done to stop it?” Small or not, something has to be done. But, how should America choose which battles to fight? The Congo in Africa has been needing aid for years, and other areas of the world are in constant turmoil. It’s so overwhelming!

    10. Shannon Love Says:

      Jonathan,

      The problem is that it is difficult for Israel to establish security in Lebanon…

      Actually, I wasn’t thinking of Israel but rather “the world community” and especially those European nations routinely critical of Israel. Given the relatively small scale of the problem and the enormous resources available to the developed world, establishing basic security and sovereignty in Lebanon would be trivial if we had the will to do so.

    11. Shannon Love Says:

      Emma,

      It’s so overwhelming!

      Its not. After all, Europe once exerted military control over half the planet and used very little actual force to do. Most of the lands colonized by Europe experienced decades of peace for the first time in their histories. Colonial regimes did not have to use force often because they established a reputation for the unflinching use of force when they needed to. They were willing to both take and to inflict causalities to restore law and order.

      Game theory has shown that the use of force creates a counterintuitive situation: The more willing a player is to use force successfully, the less likely that the player will actually have to use force. If a player’s threats are credible, then threats alone will surface to accomplish the players goals.

      Today, no one believes that the West will fight. They believe that if they are patient, a armed force of any size can defeat a Western power by inflicting a literal handful of causalities on their soldiers and by putting local civilians at risk. In order to prevent violence, we must demonstrate time and time again that we can actually stick out a fight. Every little street gang thinks they can take us on.

      That is why the problems seem so enormous.

    12. Rachel Says:

      “Today, no one believes that the West will fight. They believe that if they are patient, a armed force of any size can defeat a Western power by inflicting a literal handful of causalities on their soldiers and by putting local civilians at risk. In order to prevent violence, we must demonstrate time and time again that we can actually stick out a fight. Every little street gang thinks they can take us on.”

      That’s the problem, isn’t it? We haven’t demonstrated that we can stick it out and we no longer have “a reputation for the unflinching use of force.” Quite the contrary.

    13. Enoch Says:

      You appear at ease calling the conflict, “piss ant.” Plainly speaking, How dare you? It’s all too easy for “intellectuals,” with all their comfort and egoism, to insouciantly label a mighty human struggle as such. Take a good look at Hezbollah’s preparation for the event presently before us. History has lots of twists and turns, be it truth, half-truth, fabrications and outright baloney. There’s no such sandwich meat in the offing on this stuff. This is a furtherance of the fight against the world-wide jihad.

    14. Alex Bensky Says:

      Well, Ethiopia and Somalia are going to war yet again over some of the world’s most worthless real estate and nobody cares. However, as Eric Hoffer once commented, Jews are the only people in the world expected to act like Christians, and it sorely offends the world’s sensibilities when they don’t.

    15. Shannon Love Says:

      Enoch,

      You appear at ease calling the conflict, “piss ant.” Plainly speaking, How dare you?

      Again, the physical scale of the conflict is very small and as a practical matter very controllable. If the developed world had the will to stop it we could. Only Israel looks upon this war as a real fight with real goals.

      For everyone else, the war is theater. We think it is big and uncontrollable because our media doesn’t really provide any sense of scale for the conflict. In the end, however, its just illusion like the way stage players create the impression of great battle occurring just out of the view of the audience.