Gwynne Dyer gets it

LI’s recommend of the day is to Gwynne Dyer’s article, “America has to acknowledge its own vulnerability”, in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record (where I found it – Google has a link to it in the Trinidad paper.)

Journalists write way too much to think, which is why one doesn’t go to them for philosophical analysis – one goes to them to see how ‘it’ thinks – the conventional wisdom. ‘It’ actually does most of our thinking – our telephone conversations, jokes, waterfountain talk, is animated mostly by the various, multi-headed it, which has plenty of words and snap together phrases, a lego kit full – which is fine, as long as the world can be represented by legos. But is not when the world is not. However, Dyer’s article actually articulates a distinct thought – one not wrapped up in the usual columnist’s mummery:

“The three most ill-considered (and probably doomed) political enterprises on the international political scene today are the Israeli assault on Lebanon, the American campaign to force Iran to renounce its alleged nuclear weapons program, and the similar campaign that has been mounted against North Korea. What common theme unites these three enterprises? The quest for invulnerability for one side, at the expense of total vulnerability for the other."

Exactly. As Dyer points out, "between 1945 and about 1970," the U.S. had to cope with going from being by far the world's most powerful country to allowing for the fact that the U.S. could never, by way of open warfare, abolish Russia's ability to launch nuclear missiles at it. "By 1970 it was ready to concede nuclear weapons parity to the Soviet Union, an openly hostile totalitarian state, and was negotiating arms-control agreements that limited missile numbers but guaranteed the Soviets the ability to destroy the United States."

This is philosophical analysis in the Husserlian vein – it brackets other considerations that distort the outlines of what really happened – the phenomenon. This is precisely what did happen. The structure of the Cold War was about the U.S. and the U.S.S.R accepting that vulnerability. The structure of the post-War period, or, rather, the Bush end of it, has been a childish attempt to return to American invulnerability.

Dyer applies that model to Israel. I have been thinking that Israel's aggressiveness is the result of being a free rider -- but Dyer is right to point out one of the unexpected results of Israel's success:

“Israel's period of invulnerability began later, after the 1973 war, and has lasted far longer. No combination of Arab armies can defeat Israel in war, or even inflict major casualties on it. And should Israeli generals ever prove so incompetent that Arab armies did make a little headway, Israel still has its regional nuclear weapons monopoly 40 years after developing the things. (America lost its own nuclear monopoly after only four years in its confrontation with the Soviet Union.)”

This is why Israeli actions have been tinged by such arrogance. Menacheim Begin’s election began a new phase in Israel's history, one that seemed to promise power - and Israel has been going down the path, ever since, of expansion and crushing its opponents.

“Israel faces a bigger 'terrorist threat' than the US, but it is still a pretty marginal concern. Hezbollah's activities on Israel's northern borders were an occasional nuisance, but until Israel's quite deliberate overreaction to its hostage-seizure operation on July 12-- bombing targets all across Lebanon -- it had not fired rockets at Israeli towns in years. Hezbollah had the capability to do that, so Israel was theoretically vulnerable (though not very, since the rockets hardly ever hit anyone), but it wasn't actually doing it.”

At last, the acknowledgement of reality! Of course, reality creeps into the newspaper world via rather obscure Caribbean and Canadian papers, but having arrived on this side of the Atlantic, who knows where it will go?

Check it out, people. You can find the full piece here.


Paying sober attention to the world around you is contemptible, LI. It means concessions, which means "appeasement", which means the evildoers have won.

The heirophants of neoconservatism and it's ugly twin, neoliberalism, are working through their issues. You need only look at them to undertstand the sad and lingering effects of vindictive potty training -- lasting, in many cases, until they were well into their twenties. Anyone who has seen Fred Barnes or Tom Friedman knows I speak nothing less than the gospel truth. Acceptance of the article you posted would negate decades of struggle.