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William and Kate, A Royal Headache

27 Apr

 This weekend the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Catherine Middleton will command enormous attention here in the United States.  The Hangover asks, “Why?”

 It’s easy to understand why the entirety of the United Kingdom will be enthralled by the proceedings.  After all, this is their heritage, from King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table to Queen Victoria to Roger the Shrubber.  But even the most dim-witted of Americans must realize that the revolution that formed our country was an attempt to rid us of fops like King George and the Royal Family.  Despite saying goodbye to all that back in 1783 and then again in 1812, modern Americans seem smitten with English Royalty—this despite two hundred-plus years of “All men are created equal.”

When Prince Charles married Diana Spencer in 1981, United States media coverage would have suggested it was the third biggest event of the last century, following only the moon landing and OJ and Al Cowlings in the white Bronco.  Americans continued to adore Diana, even after she became, in the words of Mojo Nixon, a “drunk-divorced floozie.”  (Before you take offense, consider what you would call your neighbor’s ex-wife if she ran off with your town’s handsome local hero and sped around night-clubbing, drinking, and snorting blow.  “Your Highness” isn’t it; well, not unless you’re fond of ironic puns.)

 In the coming days, America will be again drowned in Katrina-like coverage of the upcoming Royal wedding.  The Hangover wishes the happy couple well. 

But what does our fascination with the event tell us about ourselves?    

Is it that: 

 a)  We no longer need to value “all men being equal” now that just about every American can afford high definition television.

 b)  We’ve become so ingrained with fairy tales and Disney Princesses that we just want the chance to imagine ourselves in the role.  After all, it’s only a matter of time before one of these Royal Highnesses will sweep into our Burger King, pull us from the flame broiler, and whisk us away to a McMansion in the clouds.

 c)  Americans are sheep.  We (at least those with cable) would watch Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie read the Los Angeles phone book if Entertainment Tonight, TMZ, The New York Times, and the Today Show deemed that it was an “event.”

d)  The less relevant something is to the reality of our everyday lives, the more it interests Americans.  This would explain the nation palpatating over Bret Favre’s emailed junk, the Octo-mom, John and Kate, Michelle Bachmann, and those teenage girls having babies on MTV.

 e)  All of the above.

 Enjoy the festivities.  Maybe the Newlyweds will even be so kind as to hop into a white Bronco as they head to the reception.  Wouldn’t that be ecstasy?

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Israeli Offensive Paves Road to Peace

7 Jan

The Israeli offensive that steamrolled into the Gaza strip on December 27th is a real step toward ending Middle East violence.   It is also a real step toward ending the Middle East.  And that is one sorry way to halt the seemingly never-ending conflict.      

In a March 2008 post, The Hangover deconstructed Israeli-Palestinian violence in sociological terms.  Conflict theory and historical perspectives were applied to understand what could bring an end to the conflict:  Creation of a Palestinian state and the conceding of occupied land.  However, Israel has once again chosen another path.  In response to Hamas rockets constantly being shot into their country, the Israelis have (ironically) launched a blitzkrieg into Gaza, an area populated by 1.1 million Palestinians, 50% of whom are children.   To date, over 600 Palestinians have been killed, a quarter of whom are confirmed civilians.  Six Israeli soldiers have also died.  One million Palestinians are without electricity, 700, 000 without water.   Yesterday, Israeli mortars took out a school being used as a shelter, killing 30.  To say that Israel has its boot on Gaza’s throat is an understatement.

The strategic objective of this attack is to end Hamas’  firing of rockets into Israel.   It’s proven effective.  Only fifteen were fired yesterday.  Apparently, progress is being made.  Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated:  

“We hope this fighting will be a swift episode.  We have no interest to endlessly drag it on, but only if two basic principles are reached we will be in a position to end it: The complete cessation of the (arms) smuggling and Hamas losing its ability to fire rockets. I have sworn not to allow our great nation to withstand any situation that will require the mercy of those who fire out the rockets.”

Once again, this is a short-sighted, brawn-over-brains policy.  To end the rocket fire under current conditions, the Israelis will need to occupy Gaza.  And there’s nothing in the history of Israel-Palestine relations that indicates a force-fueled cessation of conflict will be more than temporary.   So what will Israel gain?

Regardless of which country is “right” and which is “wrong,” each resident of Gaza will consider this offensive the same way the Polish and French regarded the Nazi blitzkrieg.  Each dead Palestinian has relatives, friends, workmates.  Each survivor becomes a potential future terrorist.  In World War Two terms, those fighting the occupiers were called “the Resistance.”

The great fear of statesmen around the world is that terrorists gain the means and  materials to create a weapon of  mass destruction.  Whether this is a nuclear, dirty, chemical, or biological weapon remains to be seen.   But as time progresses, the chances of such a device being acquired by terrorists becomes more likely (despite the efforts of the United Nations, Jack Bauer, and various intelligence agencies).  If a WMD does fall into Palestinian hands, there will be one target:  Israel.  

The current Israeli offensive will come to its definitive end when that WMD is deployed.   It might not happen next week or next year.  The bomb might not drop for decades.  But unless Israel stops fostering the conditions that perpetually create terrorists, it will happen.  All those in the region are under siege.  

At some point a Palestinian terrorist (or resistance fighter), perhaps one whose child has been ripped to pieces by an Israeli mortar, will push the button.   Maybe then—when the region is leveled, covered in radiation, or suffering from anthrax—compromise will be possible, provided there’s anyone or anything left to contest.

Budweiser: The Great Belgian-American Beer

18 Jul

The business world has been saturated like a rug at a keg party with the news of Belgian brewing giant InBev acquiring all-American Anheuser-Busch.  While this brings us that much closer to a “Rollerball world  where society is dominated and run by a few behemoth corporations, the real question lies in what this means to American Bud drinkers, of which The Hangover is one.

Will Bud taste the same as it does now?  Yes.  Will we still get to watch commercials of Clydesdales playing football in the fall?  Yes.  Will Bud and Bud Light still be brewed regionally? Likely.  Will Bud still be marketed as “The Great American Lager?”  Yes, even though it will be owned by Belgians.

But Americans have no reason to fear Belgian ownership.  Here’s why:  Belgians are great people.  Twenty years ago, The Hangover and one of his associates spent a few nights in a Biarritz casino that could have been a James Bond set.  Our first evening there we cleaned up playing blackjack, winning hand after hand, hooping and hollering and guzzling beer.  While most of the clientele was in suits, we were dressed in jeans and leather jackets; we felt like the Cartwrights cutting loose in Virginia city. 

However, on the following night, our luck wasn’t so great.  Despite the bartenders having our first round arrive at our table just as we did, we started losing.  It got to the point that we were playing hand-to-hand.  A few more bad cards and we were done. 

An older gentleman was seated next to us.  He’d also been at our table the previous evening.   

     “You guys aren’t doing so great tonight,” he said.

     “No, it’s a rough one,” I replied.  We lost a hand just as one of the bartenders came over to see if we needed another round.  We didn’t have the money.

     “Let me buy you guys a beer,” the gentleman said.  “You know, you really got everyone all upset last night.”

     “We were just having a good time,” my associate said.

     “I enjoyed it,” the gentleman said.  “Whenever you can piss off these French assholes, go ahead and do it.”

      “I take it you’re not French,” I said.

     “The hell with that,” he said, smiling.  “I’m from Belgium.”

As soon as the beer the Belgian bought us arrived at the table, our luck changed.  We went on a winning streak that recouped our losses and then surpassed our winnings of the night before.  We owed it all to the kindness of the Belgian spirit. 

The Hangover will continue to support and enjoy Budweiser.  And when the InBev-Anheuser Busch deal is finalized, The Hangover fully expects his first “Belgian” Budweiser will bring him more than just a buzz.

[Editors note:  Rollerball, as a movie, is a good one with compelling characters, action, and suspense.  It was filmed in 1975 based on a storyby William Harrison.  However, if viewed today, the movie reveals itself to be eerily prescient social commentary.  You’d have to be stone drunk on American-Belgian Budweiser to miss the connections between the sci-fi world of the film and the one you actually live in.]

Gas Tax Holiday In The Sun

9 May

In the last few weeks, John McCain proposed a Memorial Day to Labor Day suspension of the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents a gallon.   This would theoretically bring relief to the average citizen now paying $3.60 a gallon and up.  This is part of McCain’s economic plan, as well.  Theoretically, people will take the four bucks they’ll be saving on a “fill up” and pump those big dollars back into the economy.  Maybe he thinks there will be a direct response and the food industry will prosper by those savings being spent on the Twinkies, Funny Bones, and Ring Dings that stock the shelves of our local Quickie Marts and Gas Stations.  As the gas tax funds the maintenance and building of roads, perhaps McCain also hopes that saved consumer dollars might be spent in the rubber industry, when consumers replace tires blown out in unaddressed potholes. 

Democratic response to the proposal has been mixed.  The elitist Obama has the audacity to take a “big picture” view and call the proposal an “election year gimmick” that doesn’t address the real problem of oil dependency and gas usage.   He stands in the way of every American’s right to immediate junk food gratification.  No metaphor, there.

Hillary Clinton has taken the McCain Proposal one step further.  She would agree to the holiday if the lost revenues were regained through a windfall profits tax on the oil companies.  Now there’s an idea the Hangover can get behind:  Taxing those who are gauging consumers and enjoying record profits.  However, one would have to be quite naive to assume that this tax wouldn’t be passed right back to the consumer.  Exxon, Chevron, and the others probably have their creative staffs already fabricating an early summer crisis to blame for a can’t-be-helped 18.5 cent jump in gas prices on June 1st.

Brian Faler of Bloomberg reported that “more than 200 economists, including four Nobel prize winners signed a letter rejecting proposals”by Clinton and McCain.  Reasons include the possibility of raising oil and gas usage at a time when we should be trying to lessen it, and that the increased usage would benefit oil companies while increasing the federal budget deficit.  We’ve got big problems, and saving four dollars a fill up over three months isn’t going to make a dent. 

At least this is the first step, no matter how small, in a direction that this country is going to have to take: Strict Government Regulation of the Oil Industry.   Oil is a limited resource and we don’t have much of the world’s supply controlled domestically.  It’s clear that the American oil industry will act in their own best interest, which is not the same as the country’s best interest (Do voters yet regret not having pointed that out to Bush and Cheney?).  Exxon made 40.6 billion in 2007, Chevron 18.7.  Meanwhile, a greater percentage of people’s incomes are going to heat their homes and drive their cars; gas prices are raising costs in every sector of the economy, and supply is lessening.  These simple facts should make it obvious that the US cannot continue operating within its current oil industry model. 

The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 established the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to oversee the civilian aspects of the nuclear power industry:

 This Act is the fundamental U.S. law on both the civilian and the military uses of nuclear materials. On the civilian side, it provides for both the development and the regulation of the uses of nuclear materials and facilities in the United States, declaring the policy that “the development, use, and control of atomic energy shall be directed so as to promote world peace, improve the general welfare, increase the standard of living, and strengthen free competition in private enterprise.” The Act requires that civilian uses of nuclear materials and facilities be licensed, and it empowers the NRC to establish by rule or order, and to enforce, such standards to govern these uses as “the Commission may deem necessary or desirable in order to protect health and safety and minimize danger to life or property.”

The red text highlights the reasoning behind the Act.  The US is now at the point where oil needs to be considered in the same light as nuclear power.  Conditions in America and around the world (Hello, Iraq) indictate that world peace, the general welfare, the standard of living, and free enterprise all feel Big Oil’s foot on their throat.  It’s time to act–and 18.4 cents a gallon for three months just isn’t going to get it done. 

(Hey, regulation isn’t so bad.  We could always skip it and go right to nationalization.  The 155 billion in profits these companies made last year would look pretty good in federal coffers right now.)

Where’s the Outrage? Iraq and Public Opinion 2008

3 Apr

American public opinion of the wars in Viet Nam and Iraq have shown similar trends according to various Gallup polls, with American dissatisfaction growing as the wars progressed.    Of those thinking it was a mistake to send troops to the respective countries at quarterly intervals during the wars, Americans today are more likely to claim the action a mistake when compared to the same calender points of conflict during Viet Nam.  In fact, 66% of those polled this month by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation state that they are against the war in Iraq.  But while the citizenry is even more opposed to the Iraq war than at the same point relative to Viet Nam, there is little of the public outrage that marked the earlier conflict.  One rarely hears of demonstrations, protest marches, and college campuses in anarchy.  The Hangover asks why.   

While there are many similarities between US actions in Viet Nam and Iraq, the difference in publicly displayed opposition to the wars is clear.  The lack of protest spilling into the streets can be explained several factors, the foremost being a significant difference in media coverage.  (The importance of the lack of a selective service draft will be discussed in a subsequent post.)  

The Hangover grew up in the ’60’s and ’70’s.  The nightly news often consisted of photos and film of American soldiers, something that we do see today.  However, during the Viet Nam conflict, shots of struggling, wounded, and dead Americans were not uncommon.  They became a standard aspect of television and print news reports, as did pictures of flag-covered coffins returning to the country.  These images provoked a visceral reaction with the public.  Vice President Hubert Humphrey noted:  

“… This is the first war in this
nation’s history that has been fought
on television were the actors are real.
Where, in the quiet of your living room
of your home, or your dormitory, or
wherever you may be, these cruel, ugly
dirty facts of life and death in war
and pain and suffering come right to you;
and it isn’t Hollywood acting.  I’ve had
letters from mothers that have seen their
boys shotdown in battle …”

It’s one thing to read of soldiers killed by a roadside bomb.  It’s quite another to actually see the results in color on your 50-inch high definition Sony.  But that’s not happening.  Despite the instantaneous capabilities of current media technologies, the grisly, all-too-real aspects of the war in Iraq are not being presented to the American public.  The images of battle we were given in the ’60’s and ’70’s were less sanitized, more graphic, and as a result, more disturbing.   It is clear that they spawned action.  The Viet Nam war was something tangible and awful, seen on a daily basis.  Current reporting often makes Iraq seem like a far-away concept or a policy for debate.  That allows the conflict to continue.

It is interesting to note that the source of the Humphrey quote is a 1984 paper presented by Marine Major Cass D. Howell titled, “Television Coverage of the Viet Nam War and it’s Implications for Future Conflicts.”   Howell contends that television coverage inhibited the military’s operational effectiveness in Viet Nam by stirring public opinion against the war.   Although Howell’s main concerns point to a liberal media bias, he does recognize the importance of the content of shown footage:

“Not only is the amount of coverage selected for
broadcast a critical factor in molding the news, but the
type of news selected is of equal importance.  Television is
essentially an action medium and strongly favors combat
scenes over a dry recitation of facts and figures.  In
Vietnam this came to be called “shooting bloody,” a
preference for footage of dramatic engagements, even though
they were often irrelevent or uncharacteristic of the total
event.”

At the beginning of the Iraq conflict, we were shown “shock and awe” tapes of missiles and fighters lighting up the skies over Baghdad.  In film terms, those were “long” shots; they did not reveal human damage–more Space Invaders than the Normandy of “Saving Private Ryan.”  There is a twisted framework involved when violent, gore-filled war footage can win an Academy Award, but is deemed unfit for our television, print, or even Internet news.  It causes The Hangover to question just how free our free press is.

Major Howell concludes his report by advocating that post-Viet Nam wars need “Freedom from the Press.”  The television camera is a deterrent to victory and that unlimited media (television) access will cause America to “suffer.”  While The Hangover doesn’t necessarily agree with the restrictions Howell would place on reporting, he does make a thoughtful, valid argument.  Using the coverage of Iraq as evidence (certainly more facts and figures than anything else), it is not just lonesome bloggers who have read his work.  Those in power have heeded the Major’s analysis. 

Although reporters are now embedded with troops in Iraq, less hard news results.   War correspondents have complained of restricted access, lack of individual mobility, and an empathy and connection with their troops, which George Wilson of the National Journal said made him feel like “a willing propagandist.” Although a few firefights have made it onto American television, the overall coverage is nothing like what was produced in Viet Nam.  And that is the main reason our soldiers are still facing fire in a desert country in the midst of a civil war.

Physical civil unrest in opposition to the Viet Nam war became a part of everyday life in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  It was what brought our presence there to an end.  President Richard Nixon stated:

 “The War in Vietnam was not lost on the
 battlefields of Vietnam.  It was lost
 in the halls of Congress … in the
 editorial rooms of great newspapers …
 and in the classrooms of great
 universities.”

The will to fight the war in Viet Nam was eroded by public opinion that had turned into collective action.  Resistance was more than a letter to the editor, a post on a blog, or a sigh when reading the morning paper.  It was a hands-on, in-the-street I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!  Human nature might just dictate that Americans need to see twisted bodies, bleeding soldiers, and spilled guts before opposition to Iraq evolves into something that can affect policy.  It’s unforunate that our news media won’t provide those images for us–whether allowed to or not. 

Dick Cheney: Public Servant Translated

20 Mar

Vice President Dick Cheney has some strong beliefs and he tends to communicate them clearly.  In recent interviews, however, Cheney has made some comments that the average American might find confusing.  In the Hangover’s never-ending commitment to public service, we have translated them below:

From an interview with ABC White House correspondent Martha Raddatz:

Raddatz:  “Two-third of Americans say it’s (the war in Iraq) not worth fighting.”

Cheney:  “So?”

Translation:  “Fuck you, citizens.  You’re the ones who voted us in.  Live with it or move to Canada, (as if any of you morons could even find Canada).” 

Cheney:  “I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.  There has in fact been fundamental change and transformation and improvement for the better.”

Translation:  “There has been great change.  My friends at the oil companies are enjoying record profits.  So are my pals at Halliburton and their subsidiaries.  My portfolio has never looked better.  That’s the kind of change we can be proud of.”

And from his speech to American troops in Iraq:

Cheney:  (Following 9/11) “So the United States made a decision: To hunt down the evil of terrorism and kill it where it grows, to hold the supporters of terror to account, and to confront regimes that harbor terrorists and threaten the peace.”

Translation:  “It (9/11) was a good excuse to go into Iraq and grab their oil.  Who cares if Osama Bin Laden is still running around free while hooked up to his dialysis machine?  We’ve got Iraq’s oil.  Yipppeeee!”

Cheney:  “They (the Iraqis) know, above all, that America can be trusted.”

Translation:  “The Iraqis know that America can be trusted–to take their oil, to sell them Coke and Pepsi, to bring MTV to the region, and, hell, if we can get those women out of their burqas, you can bet your ass we’ll put up a few Victoria’s Secrets, too.” 

Cheney:  (To the Troops:) “I appreciate your attention this morning — it’s been my privilege to be with all of you. Keep up the great work. And thank you for what you do for all of us. “

Translation:  “It’s a privilege to be here with you troops, who are actually serving your country out of a sense of duty.  And thank you for what you do for me personally–making it possible for my buddies and me to make off with piles and piles of loot.”

Israel-Palestine Conflict Deconstructed and Defused (in 1500 words or less)

17 Mar

One doesn’t need to be a graduate of the Fletcher School of International Affairs to know that relations between Israel and the Palestinians are screwed.  While American attention is now focused mainly on Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, a series of articles in this past weeks’ Boston Globe caught The Hangover’s ire.  Israel and the Palestinians are at it again.  Of course, that line could have been written just about every day since 1947.

The Headlines:

Monday, March 10:  “Shooting Leaves Holy City On Edge” (Matti Friedman, AP)

A Palestinian gunman shot and killed eight Jews in a Seminary library.  Jerusalem Palestinians and Jews were set “on edge” as further violence and a tennis match of reprisals seemed possible.

Monday, March 10:  “Israel to Allow Contractors to Build in Disputed Areas” (Mark Lavie, AP)

Israel gave the go-ahead for 1000 homes and apartments to be built in disputed areas of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.  Considering the tenuous (absent?) nature of peace in the region, one wonders if Donald Rumsfeld hasn’t found work consulting for the Israeli government. 

Tuesday, March 11: “Israel Orders Military To Reduce Operations In Gaza” (Aron Heller, AP)

This would seem to be a wise, logical decision, as quelling the violence that has surfaced over the last few weeks would be a relief to those who actually live there.  But then Heller states:

“Hamas said it was encouraged by the relative lull, citing it as evidence that attacks on Israel were paying off.”

“Israel, concerned that calm could enable the militants to claim victory and rearm, said it reserves the right to strike at will.”

Oh yeah, that sounds like a solid foundation for peace talks. Both sides are more concerned with the perceptions of their opponents than with the actual results–fewer of their people getting killed.

Wednesday, March 12:  “Rocket Attack Breaks Lull in Palesinian-Israeli Conflict”(Isabel Kershner and Taghreed El-Khodary, New York Times News Service)

Palestinian rebels fired a rocket into the city of Ashkelon.  A militant group, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attac.  Israel blamed Hamas.

Thursday, March 13: “Hamas seeks period of ‘calm'”(Ibrahim Barzak, AP), “Israeli Forces kill 4 millitants” (Isabel Kershner and Taghreed El-Khodary, NYTNS)

Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh appealed for a period of mutual calm, urging Israel to halt military operations on the West Bank.  Shortly thereafter, Israeli soldiers killed four Palestiniam militants in Bethlehem.  So much for that cease-fire.

Friday, March 14:  “Gaza rockets barrage Israel after deaths:  Attacks follow W. Bank raid by Israeli forces.” (Amy Teibel, AP)

No explanation needed.

Here they go again.  Despite a small period of relative calm between Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Palestinians both inside and outside of Israel’s borders, hostilities have resumed.  This should surprise no one, simply because the conditions that give rise to the violence remain unchanged.

Some key factors that lead to conflict:

  • Israel now occupies land on the West Bank of the Gaza strip and in East Jerusalem.  These lands were acquired by Israel in the Six Day 1967 War with Jordan and Egypt.  Palestinians everywhere view the lands as being Palestinian.  Israel views them as the spoils of war–Israeli land. 
  • There are eons of hatred between the groups based on religion and disputed ownership of land.
  •  Palestinians living in Israeli-occupied land are not considered Israeli citizens.
  • Both sides consider the other to be terrorists.
  • The Palestinian state that was mandated in the 1947 Partition Plan has yet to exist.  Note that neither Palestinian or Israeli factions were pleased with the 1947 agreement.

Although it is not our usual style, The Hangover is going to go academic here.  There are both historical and sociological  perspectives that indicate violent conflict will continue until Israel changes its regional philosophy and adjusts current policy.

The Sociological Perspective:

Relative Deprivation can be used to explain the existence of conditions that can lead to social conflict.  Sociologist Jock Young concisely explains :

“Relative Deprivation occurs where individuals or groups subjectively perceive themselves as unfairly disadvantaged over others perceived as having similar attributes and deserving similar rewards (their reference groups).” 

The feelings of deprivation can be economically, socially, or politically based.  When the deprivation reaches a certain level, frustration results, which in turn, if the conditions are strong enough, can result in aggression.   This Deprivation-Frustration-Aggression model can be applied in an obvious “paint-by-numbers” approach to Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Palestinians view Israelis as their reference group.  Comparisons with their Israeli peers reveal the following points of deprivation.

  • The Palestinians feel they rightfully own lands now occupied by Israel.
  • Palestinians living in Israel do not share the same rights as Israeli citizens.
  • Israel exists, the Palestinian state does not. 

Frustration arises when the sense of deprivation is prolonged and heightened.

  • Sixty years and still no Palestinian homeland.
  • Palestinians denied access to former homelands and important religious sites.
  • Palestinians in Israel remain less-than-citizens and terror suspects.
  • Aggressive actions by Israel against Palestinian militant groups often injures Palestinian civilians.

  Aggression results in violent social conflict:

  • Palestinian militant organizations strike Israel using modern guerrilla tactics.  (Israeli response is also viewed as terrorism by Palestinians.)
  • The first “punch” was thrown so long ago, it doesn’t matter who struck first, only who struck last.
  • Militant group acts, Israel reacts. Or Israel acts, Militant group reacts.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  Rockets. Tanks. Ruination.

The Historical Perspective:

Occupied land never works.  Over time, the natural population will eventually contend for self-determination, equal rights, or access to the political process.  When those are continually denied, unrest follows.  That is, unless an “occupier” can decimate the native population (as the Europeans did in North America).  However, devastation of that level requires a technological advantage, as well as the will to accomplish it.

The cases showing failure of occupied land are many.  The first that comes to mind is Ireland.  After centuries of simmering and often violent conflict, the English relinquished the south of Ireland in 1922.  It is only recently that hostilities were quelled in the North by allowing Catholics access to the Protestant-English dominated political process.  Through those actions, the sense of Catholic deprivation (and frustration) that fueled the conflict was greatly minimized.

The age of empire is over for a reason:  An inability to govern occupied land.  India is no longer English.  The French long ago left Viet Nam.  South Africa is governed by native South Africans.   It doesn’t matter if the empire is halfway across the planet or across the street.  Unrest will follow. 

Israel and the Palestinians have shown they each have the will to persevere, but neither has the means to end the conflict.

The Solution:

Israel must eliminate the conditions triggering the collective deprivation-frustration-aggression construct that exists for Palestinians, which results in civilians of both sides being blown to bits on a regular basis.  If these conditions are not eradicated, violence will continue.  History in the Middle East (and everywhere else on the planet) proves that.

Israel should be a leading proponent for the formation of the mandated Palestinian state.  This would remove a major trigger of Palestinian deprivation-frustration.  It would also give the Israelis a focal point for communication and negotiation.  Instead of having to deal with a variety of militant organizations, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, Israel would have the opportunity to let Palestine be responsible for the actions of Palestinians.  Secondly, Israel should be prepared and willing to give back land they have occupied since 1967.  Mark Lavie of the AP indicates that there are “some Palestinians” who would consider swapping those settled and developed lands for other blocks of Israeli territory.  This seems specious, but at least a point for discussion.  It would be a break (if not a miracle) for everyone involved if logic and reason became operative aspects of the peace effort. 

A nation-state’s first concern should be the security of its people.  If Israel does not make concessions to eliminate the conditions fueling collective violence in the region, they can expect to continue their existence under siege.  That’s what history and social conflict theory make perfectly clear. 

Israel has the will to defend itself in perpetuity.  But why would they want to have to?  As the English relinquished Ireland, Israel should release disputed occupied land (or a negotiated equivalent) to a Palestinian state.  In what the Palestinians will claim as a victory, Israelis will reap tangible benefits.  They will have a chance for peace.  To forsake a significant change in their regional policy will doom Israelis to carry the threat of a ticking bomb in their collective consciousness, as well as in their communities.   There are better ways to live.