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And the war came

An appointment in Gaza

This article was published August 1, 2014 at 2:09 a.m.

The innocent American can only read the headlines and shake his head sorrowfully at the continuing carnage in Gaza--a pillar of fire by night and a cloud of smoke by day. How did this happen again? Simple: Hamas renewed its indiscriminate attacks on Israel through overhead rockets, underground tunnels, words and deeds--and Israel finally responded in force.

Not just the innocent but the sophisticated observer has to wonder: Why? What's the sense of it? There seems none from the rational--that is, the conventionally Western--point of view. Which may explain why generations of Western diplomats, denizens of think tanks, and Deep Thinkers in general, have failed to make sense of this ever-renewed conflict, let alone end it.

All these modern Panglosses come off as hopelessly naïve as John Kerry, and as completely ineffectual as Hillary Clinton--the last two secretaries of state to preside over American foreign policy in that always dangerous part of the world. And both succeeded mainly in making it more dangerous.

Despite all the years of negotiations, hopeful beginnings that prove false starts, agreements that no one may agree with after a while, temporary truces that prove all too temporary, the missiles and rockets soon fly again. And we're all back to reading, and maybe even having to write about, Gaza (Cont'd) as the fighting goes on and the bodies pile up. The place has been a trap since the days of Samson and the Philistines, and a trap it remains. Even if this latest 72-hour truce holds, it may not hold for long.

Despite the best intentions of all those observers, naïve and sophisticated alike, who cry Peace, Peace . . . there is no peace. For the violent bear it away time and time again. Violence seems as endemic to Gaza as its heat and flies. And its wars.

Why? Surely it doesn't have to be this way, and yet the war came. Why? At such times the heretical thought occurs that, yes, it does have to be this way, for there are some conflicts that are by their nature irreconcilable, irrepressible and unavoidable, even inevitable.

As unacceptable as such a thought has become in the more nicefied precincts of the West, it keeps recurring. Lest we forget, there was a time when Western civilization, too, was split by holy wars fueled by religious fervor. It was not until 1648 that the treaties of Westphalia put an end to the Thirty Years' War and its slaughter by assigning disputed principalities to the formal faith of their sovereigns. But even after religious wars no longer divided Europe, they became national and ideological in character, and even deadlier.

One such irrepressible conflict finally bubbled to the surface even on these supposedly peaceful shores, and could no longer be put off any longer-- despite the best efforts of statesmen whose talents far exceeded those of the present generation's. Statesmen like Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, and the great compromiser himself, Henry Clay. Yet all failed to put off the Irreconciable Conflict forever. And the war came.

The saddest and most vicious breed of war, civil war, would ravage a no longer United States of America, and neither North nor South would emerge as they were before. The old republic would be forever gone, replaced by one nation indivisible, the old South dead. However much nostalgists miss it, and lovers of freedom hated it, the antebellum South is beyond reviving. War can change things, sometimes definitively. It did the Union, even though it now goes by the same name.

Many and complex reasons are still adduced by historians who, in the way of historians, can be relied on to come up with still another explanation for the Civil War in every generation. For it remains the central tragedy of American history. It was left to one of those earlier statesmen, the only great one to be caught up in what would become known in these latitudes as The War, so singular and definitive a conflict was it, to sum up in a few words the cause of that irrepressible conflict. Abraham Lincoln did it in his second inaugural address. With its concise clarity and Biblical overtones, it still echoes and re-echoes in time because of its eloquence and understanding--and simplicity:

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it--all sought to avert it . . . . Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

Some conflicts are as simple as they are dreadful. In today's continuing, and surely to be continued, war between Hamas and Israel, one party would make war rather than let a nation survive, while the other would accept war rather than let it perish. Which is why so many Israelis seem to recognize that this is all part of one long existential war, that is, a war concerned with their nation's very existence. And that some conflicts will not be settled till they are settled by force.

This is the irreconcilable, the undeniable essence of a war that may make no sense from afar, but whose outcome, in this round or any that follow, makes all too much sense to both sides. To one, nothing but the obliteration of the other would be an acceptable outcome of the whole, long struggle. Hamas' very charter, its constitution, its founding document, says so. The other, Israel, feels its very survival is at stake, and is not about to cooperate in its own extinction. And so the war came.

Editorial on 08/01/2014

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BpLrAr says... August 1, 2014 at 12:43 p.m.

There's an ominous lack of comments today.

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outinthesticks says... August 1, 2014 at 1:11 p.m.

Bp, we need new blood; everyone knows where everyone else stands.

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HotSpringsLawyer says... August 1, 2014 at 2:50 p.m.

You are pathetic to attack Clinton and Kerry for failing to resolve this seemingly insoluble problem, while at the same time praising Lincoln for failing to resolve or prevent a much worse and infinitely more soluble situation.

Who has ever engineered a lasting resolution of an existential conflict in the Middle East?

Oh wait, that was Jimmy Carter, and the Israel-Egypt peace that has survived to this day.

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DontDrinkDatKoolAid says... August 1, 2014 at 3:28 p.m.

"The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel was signed sixteen months after Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat's visit to Israel in 1977 after intense negotiation."
Ole Jimmy had nothing to do with it.

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HotSpringsLawyer says... August 1, 2014 at 3:42 p.m.

htt p://en.m.wikipedia.or g/wiki/Camp_David_Accords

Excuse me? All President Carter did was bring the parties to Camp David; mediate the agreement; and write up the terms.

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nwar says... August 1, 2014 at 3:53 p.m.

Greenburg, who waxes so eloquently about fetuses not brought to term, doesn't seem to be terribly bothered by the extermination of Palestinians in Gaza.

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DontDrinkDatKoolAid says... August 1, 2014 at 4:01 p.m.

Anwar Sada made the move toward peace with out ole Jimmy. Jimmy just happen to be the water boy.

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cliffcarson says... August 1, 2014 at 8:57 p.m.

This war of Today started about 1880. The Anti-Jewish Russian Government of the time brought about the Pogroms that caused death and destruction to the Jewish Community. The Jews had to get out to survive. The people of Palestine set a message to the Pogrom victims. Come to the Holy Land, your ancestral land where you can live in peace forever with us. What a tragic mistake.
Once the migrants got there , they began to be influenced by Zionist indoctrination to take the land from those Palestinian people because God gave it to the Jews and the people there were just interlopers, and in 1907, One Hundred Seven years ago, the Zionist Manifesto was completed and signed by Ben Gurion who was to become looked upon as the Father of Israel. One of the sordid items in that Manifesto was that once in Control of the land of Palestine, they would cleanse the land of the indigenous people. Israel has never agreed to any borders as permanent because the reclaiming according to the Zionist plan was that restored Israel would stretch from the Litaini river in Lebanon to the empy quarter in Arabia, from the Euphrates in today's Iraq, to the Nile. Ben Gurion said they would have to force the long time residents to leave.
They started a terror campaign against the Palestinians in 1920 and it continues thru today. The object today is to force the Palestinians out of the boundaries of their vision of Restored Biblical Israel.
This last flare up was not started by Hamas. The three Israeli boys who were killed in the Palestinian enclave were not killed by Hamas and Israel knows it. But it was a good excuse to start up another killing spree to put pressure on the Palestinians to leave so Israel went for it and started to bomb Gaza while blaming Hamas without any evidence to prove it.
Israeli police even burned a Palestinian boy alive. The Israeli excuse is "the Devil (Hamas) made me do it". And the American Media has propagandized and demonized the Palestinians and Hamas 24/7. Kind of like the need to go to war in Iraq. No need to check it out - we all know those lying Hamas baby killers never tell the truth. Well so says the TV pundits.

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HotSpringsLawyer says... August 1, 2014 at 9:07 p.m.

I don't think that Hamas is honest either, but this slaughter is horrible. I am no expert on rules of war, but I am pretty sure that if someone shoots at you from near a hospital, that does not mean it is ok to shell the hospital. Or UN refugee school.

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