Friday, January 02, 2009

"Take some war and call me in the morning"

Israel's continuing assault on Gaza -- which has killed at least 428 people and injured another 2,100 -- has been widely condemned by the world community, but according to the Associated Press, it has been received as an effective, albeit brutally violent, means of national mood enhancement in Israel itself:
Israelis feel empowered by attacks against Hamas

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's crushing aerial assault on Gaza has caused a significant shift in the country's mood, replacing lingering helplessness and frustration over Hamas rocket attacks with a sense of might and vindication.

In Sderot, a working-class border town that has been bombarded by thousands of Hamas rockets in recent years, residents said they haven't been this satisfied in a long time. On Wednesday, they cheered to each sound of distant explosions from Israeli airstrikes.

"You see people walking with their heads up in the air again. Finally there is some hope," said Itzik Biton, 38, who sells falafel at a fast-food stand.
As Randolph Bourne noted during WWI in his classic essay, "War is the Health of the State," military conflicts are unique in their ability to reinvigorate the public's faith in the very leaders whom, during peacetime, would rightly be seen as fallible if not outright evil and corrupt. But beyond raising support for increasing state power at the expense of civil liberties and other hallmarks of a free people, war also turns otherwise non-violent men and women into bloodthirsty monsters. 

Consider that many of those who would never dare start a fight have no compunction blessing the dropping of heavy munitions on their enemies (and their families) amid the belligerent amorality that accompanies military conflict -- a phenomenon Mark Twain captured during the Spanish-American War, and one which former New York Times foreign correspondent Chris Hedges covered in-depth in his powerful book, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning:
The enduring attraction of war is this: Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when we are in the midst of conflict does the shallowness and vapidness of much of our lives become apparent. Trivia dominates our conversations and increasingly our airwaves. And war is an enticing elixir. It gives us resolve, a cause. It allows us to be noble. And those who have the least meaning in their lives, the impoverished refugees in Gaza, the disenfranchised North African immigrants in France, even the legions of young who live in the splendid indolence and safety of the industrialized world, are all susceptible to war's appeal.

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