Friday, July 28, 2006

Cliches That Bite

Washington, St. Petersburg, Rome, Kuala Lumpur – these are the cities where the diplomats, prime ministers, and presidents gathered to talk about peace, development, and economics. Much of their time was spent on war: war in Gaza, war in Lebanon, war in Afghanistan, war in Iraq.

But among those gathered to talk there were notable absences, undoubtedly due to the lack of invitations to some of the countries and groups most directly affected: Israel, the National Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran. Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki came to Washington only to be criticized for criticizing the disproportionate force used by Israel against Hezbollah and Hamas without noting the indiscriminate rocket fire the latter groups aim at Israel.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other countries, ordinary people have no peace, no development, often no food or clean water. But they have an abundance of death and destruction.

All of which calls to mind a few clichés that just might still have some validity in times such as these.

- Keep your friends close; hold your enemies closest. (Ostensibly, that way they can’t reach for a knife to stab you in the back – assuming you have pinned their arms to their sides.)

- Arrogance diminishes wisdom. (No comment.)

- Judge a man by the reputation of his enemies. (Better yet, who among his “friends” will be more than a fair-weather supporter?)

On the other hand, don’t count on this one:

- The enemy of my enemy is my friend. (It’s a temporary condition, especially for a “super-power.)

Or, as Senator Chuck Hagel (NE) said today: "The pursuit of tactical military victories at the expense of the core strategic objective of Arab-Israeli peace is a hollow victory. The war against Hezbollah and Hamas will not be won on the battlefield."

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