Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dispassionate analysis

Ok, I'm not from the Middle East (you might not have been able to tell). I do have some friends and colleagues from the region, but they tend to fall into both sides of the current unpleasantness (in my job, I've worked closely with Israelis on some matters, and Muslims of various nationalities on others). I have my irrational prejudices, but they generally involve disliking Europeans rather than Arabs or Israelis. (Though I do like European wine and cheese. And beer. And those really fast trains--they're pretty cool. And spikey-haired German girls in military fatigues. Like those, too. And French girls. Is it a national requirement that they all wear scarves or something? Not that I'm complaining... And Spanish ham! Un-frickin'-believable ham! And those little Portuguese egg tarts! Europeans have nice coffee, too. Goes without saying, I suppose...)

But I digress.

Today's complaint is about the lack of dispassionate analysis regarding political events in the Middle East. I know everybody there has been screwed over in one way or another, and it's all unfair. Fine. Whatever. Understanding motivation is wonderful, but the problem is we have motivation coming out of our ears. The real questions are who are the actors and the "deciders" (to use W's phrase), and what are their capabilities. What do they intend to do and what do they hope to accomplish by doing so? At this point, I'm really not interested in listening to who is right and who is wrong, or how I would feel if someone did X to my family, etc. It's not useful to talk about who is violating what international convention. Unless, of course, it helps predict what comes next.

So, at least from my perspective, the interesting questions are:

1) What does Hezbollah hope to accomplish by attacking Israel right now--short, medium and long-term?

2) What are Israel's options, given it's military superiority but manpower constraints?

3) What can Syria gain or lose from these events?

4) What does Iran believe it can gain from Hezbollah's actions, and what are Israel's options? What are the United States' options?

5) What does Hamas hope to gain from these events, and what does it stand to lose?

6) Are the objectives of Hezbollah and Hamas in sync or at cross-purposes?

7) How will the resulting end situation effect the United States in Iraq?

8) If the resulting end situation strengthens Iran's position in the region, how will the Saudis, Jordanians and other predominantly Sunni states respond?

There are some other interesting questions out there, but right now who is right and who is wrong are not among them.


ryan said...

I disagree. Dispassionate analysis sucks. I'd explain why, but see above.

ryan said...

When we talk about the United States' options ... wait, hold up. Why are we talking about the United States' options? Do we have options? Do we have interests (beyond, you know, being obviously upset at violence -- but aren't we ignoring that for the moment?)

Second, if we're interested in predicting the US's actions, does either the above paragraph OR a call to dispassionate analysis get us there? Surely the entirely non-rational, non-dispassionate side is fairly important in predicting our actions vis-a-vis Israel, right?

M.D. Fatwa said...

John Mearsheimer, get off my blog!