Not content with the unmitigated disaster of the civil war in Iraq, the Bush administration is now actively promoting a new civil war; this time they've targeted the impoverished and miserable prison camp for 1.5 million Palestinians otherwise known as the Gaza Strip:
Israel this week allowed the Palestinian party Fatah to bring into the Gaza Strip as many as 500 fresh troops trained under a U.S.-coordinated program to counter Hamas, the radical Islamic movement that won Palestinian parliamentary elections last year. Fighting between Hamas and Fatah has left about 45 Palestinians dead since Sunday.
The forces belong to units loyal to the elected Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate Fatah leader whom the Bush administration and Israel have sought to strengthen militarily and politically. A spokeswoman for the European Union Border Assistance Mission at Rafah, where the fighters crossed into Gaza from Egypt, said their entry Tuesday was approved by Israel.
The Bush administration has been doing everything possible within its power to collapse the duly elected democratic government of the Palestinian Authority since the January 2006 elections that brought Hamas to power. Our overt campaign to bankrupt the Palestinian economy has included cutting off aid (which is the lifeblood of Gaza), and threatening to place crippling sanctions on any financial institution that does business with the Hamas-led government. That approach hasn't been successful so now the Bush administration, in an act of monumental stupidity, has begun funneling cash to one of the sides in the Palestinian civil war:
The Bush administration recently approved $40 million to train the Palestinian Presidential Guard, a force of about 4,000 troops under Abbas's direct control.
The Israelis are also weighing in heavily on the side of Fatah:
"We're not the ones giving these forces operational orders. That will be up to Abbas," said Ephraim Sneh, Israel's deputy defense minister, asserting that Hamas's arms smuggling from the Sinai and military training in Iran have given the movement a battlefield advantage. "The idea is to change the balance, which has been in favor of Hamas and against Fatah. With these well-trained forces, it will help right that imbalance."
The end result of this intervention by the US and Israel on one side of the Palestinian civil war will likely be to strengthen the other side, Hamas, who can now claim, justifiably, that they are battling forces supported by the Israelis and the Americans. That should play well with the local population.
Taking sides in civil wars like these, as we've done in Iraq by tilting toward the Shiites, is of course utter folly in the long run for the United States. Ultimately, Hamas will probably win this struggle because their followers are more radicalized and fanatical. Then, we will have an implacably hostile entity to deal with for decades to come in the Palestinian territories. That won't help us to curtail terrorism or the spread of jihadist ideology.
So what to do? More below the fold:
I think we should take a page from Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul. We should maintain steadfast neutrality and stay out of these civil wars whenever possible. We should avoid entangling ourselves with one side or the other as we've done in Iraq and now in the Palestinian territories. Civil wars like these rarely have any sort of conclusion that is achieved by military means. We can look at the recent examples of Northern Ireland and Nepal to see models of how civil wars are brought to a peaceable end.
Our incessant meddling in the Middle East only creates situations in the future that require more incessant meddling in order to fix the problems created by our previous round of meddling. If we hadn't pushed for elections in the Palestinian territories in the first place, Hamas might never have come to power. If we hadn't installed the Shah in Iran we might never have seen Khomeini come to power. If we hadn't assisted in the rise of the Baath Party in Iraq, Saddam Hussein might never have come to power. In the end, our actions always seem to backfire on us in the Middle East.
Maybe it's time to just STOP. Sit down, take a deep breath, and rethink what we're doing over there and why. Maybe we don't have to takes sides in every struggle and skirmish in the Middle East. Maybe we can instead allow events to take their natural course. Allow Iraq to break up into three countries, let the Palestinians fight their civil war, and let the Israelis and the Palestinians settle their long-running conflict. Maybe, as an honest broker from a position of steadfast neutrality, we could effectively promote negotiations between these incessantly warring sects, tribes, militias and religions who are in many cases battling to settle centuries-old conflicts that we will never really understand. Maybe, just maybe, there is another way.
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