|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Thursday, July 20, 2006
So does Israel itself:
Israel regrets the loss of innocent lives. Israel does not target civilians, yet is forced to take decisive action against Hizbullah, a ruthless terrorist organization which has over 12,000 missiles pointing towards its cities. Israel, like any other country, must protect its citizens, and has no choice but to remove this grave threat to the lives of millions of innocent civilians. Had Hizbullah not established such a missile force, Israel would have no need to take action, and had Hizbullah chosen to set up its arsenal away from populated areas, no civilians would have been hurt when Israel does what it obviously must do. The responsibility for the tragic situation lies solely with the Hizbullah.
The doctrine is quite unshaken by the fact that Hizbollah's actions so far have killed a far higher proportion of the enemy in arms than the IDF's laser-guided precision bombs have managed, but that isn't the point I want to make. The doctrine itself is false. Its preaching should be regarded as a crime against humanity. We are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of our wilful acts. These include the consequences of restraint, of pity, of not hurting the enemy in any way you can. They also include the consequences of attempting to make war an accepted part of civilised life, which is to institutionalise war and thus to perpetuate it.
War is not civilized, but a regression to the state of nature, and in the state of nature there is no sin. In the state of nature there are, however, necessary and unnecessary evils, and in that respect we still have to make judgements. 'All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient.' If I were to criticise Hizbollah's rocketing of Israel, which in the present circumstances I will not, it would only be on the grounds of its futility, if that could be shown.
In The Execution Channel, the novel I've just finished, I imagined a terrorist campaign to destroy a country, to set its sects at each other's throats, to drive it backward towards barbarism; a campaign that targeted motorway junctions, oil refineries and fuel depots, conducted by '[a] network with some strategic thought behind it, that could hit at the most vulnerable points of an industrial society, that could sever blood-vessel and nerve-centre and tendon and take it apart limb by limb.' I didn't imagine that I would see just such a campaign so soon. It makes no difference that it's being done by an air force. Terrorism is not a matter of altitude.
The argument that Israel has a right to self-defence but that its present actions are disproportionate leads nowhere. Sometimes disproportionate response is exactly right, and for the state of Israel disproportionate response will always seem right. What is wrong is the existence of a state that can exist in no other way. Its only hope of survival, spelled out clearly enough by Jabotinsky, is to reduce the millions of people it has wronged to utter despair:
Every indigenous people will resist alien settlers as long as they see any hope of ridding themselves of the danger of foreign settlement.
Israel's assault on Lebanon is rooted in that same precept, and in Israel's past assaults on the Palestinians in Lebanon and on their Lebanese allies.
Protest this Saturday.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Ah, sunshine and exercise. It's been a while since I went for a long walk. The cruise liner Crystal Serenity is in the Firth, and the Hawes Pier has its own customs and security post. American tourists are discussing Harleys with two Scottish bikers, both of whom are bald, bearded and beer-bellied, in honour of American tradition. This is a test. If this was not a test ...
Blogging from the local library, by way of test.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Where I've been
'There is that in youth that will not fly,' said Bernadette McAliskey. It took me a moment to click to the usage. She said other memorable simple things. 'We thought we would change the world and then get back to our lives. Years later we found that this was our lives.'
'You have fewer rights than we had when we began the struggle. If I was young and lived here, my ass would be on the street.'
Over the past couple of months I haven't been blogging, because almost all my writing energy was going into finishing The Execution Channel. 'Easy writing makes damned hard reading,' said Dr Johnson. I like to hope that hard writing makes easy reading. Writing near-future is hard when the future changes by the day. A nuclear war can ruin your whole outline. Speaking of which, it may be a little early to be painting your nails for Armageddon, but as Billmon puts it, I could be wrong about that, in which case it's been nice knowing you.
A week last Thursday I delivered the book, which was just as well because I had a long-standing engagement to give a talk on science fiction at Marxism, the Socialist Workers Party's annual big public event. I attended a lot of programme items, such as the above one with Bernadette McAliskey, talked to people, and I have to say I left with a very favourable impression of the event and of the party that organised it. I've sneered at the SWP in the past, and jeered at its political project, RESPECT, so let me take this opportunity to eat crow. The SWP has many good people in it, some of whom I've known and respected for years - decades, in some cases - what finally dawned on me that weekend was that this is not inexplicable.
I came back with a few books, which I may review, but just as I was getting into them, the latest issue of Foundation hit the doormat. Half the articles in it are about Heinlein, and one of them makes the challenging point that Heinlein's late long books give no trouble to readers outside the traditional SF readership, and are worth taking seriously.
Maybe my next project should be a big bad book.