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Force, provocation, disaster…. more force

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Notice the page 1 story in today’s New York Times on the internal White House debate about Afghanistan. Holbrooke and Clinton want more troops, Gates mostly agrees, Biden is opposed to the idea. The Times doesn’t say, but we know: McChrystal and Petraeus (pictured) want more troops, while Mullen is skeptical. These advisers are in these positions because Barack Obama put or kept them there. Is the outcome not as predictable as the unevenness of the fight?

The debate and its likely outcome–escalation, which carries a momentum of its own–has broad consequences for Obama’s position on Israel/Palestine. The main thing necessary to extend Israeli militarism is the sheer presence of a large
American force in the Middle East: something like the near quarter of a million
troops we are fielding in two countries today (more if you count Blackwater and
the mercenaries). More is better, from the militarizing point of view. It means
there will be no shortage of provocations and disasters, to which the U.S. will
be "compelled" to react. If the provocations and disasters are small, they can
be construed into something larger.

Every new American commitment and every fresh disappointment gives retroactive
justification to Ariel Sharon’s dictum: that force is the only thing the Arabs understand. And the only alternative to force is more force.

David Bromwich

David Bromwich's latest book is "American Breakdown: The Trump Years and How They Befell Us." He teaches literature at Yale and is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post and has written on politics and culture for The New Republic, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, and other magazines. He is editor of Edmund Burke's selected writings On Empire, Liberty, and Reform and co-editor of the Yale University Press edition of On Liberty.

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