Ivo Skoric on Sat, 20 Apr 2002 19:41:51 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> latest rant

I remember watching TV news when I was a little kid. There were 
always some news about some war in the Middle East. Either 
Palestinians set the bomb off in some Israeli city, or Israeli forces 
razed some Palestinian village with tanks and helicopter gunships. 
The entire Vietnam war later, and as the wars in Campuchea, East 
Timor, Nicaragua, Somalia, Congo, Iraq, Iran, Bosnia, Kosovo and 
even Afghanistan went by, the news from Israeli-Palestinian conflict 
are still unchanged. That’s why most of the outside observers 
believe that Israelis and Palestinians richly deserved each other.

>From my dispassionate outsider perspective the solution was 
obvious for many years: there is about equal number of Israelis and 
Palestinians, yet Israelis are far better organized, supplied and 
armed, so they keep the Palestinian population in reservations, on 
the worst 20% of all land, limiting their earnings, employment, 
education and development potentials. Israelis, being near 
pathologically obsessed with security, also seemingly did not leave 
any other way for Palestinians to address this unfair situation but 
through terrorism. Therefore, the conclusion that they deserved 
each other is confirmed. But this is no solution.

Sharon and Arafat are both old hands that know nothing but war 
and suffering and spite. They are warlords, not modern democratic 
politicians. They are old and stubborn. The art of compromise 
eludes them completely. Sharon has a history of being a terrorist 
himself. He is presently tried for crimes against humanity in 
Belgium, for his actions in the 1980s in Palestinian refugee camps. 
What is he different from Serbia’s Ratko Mladic? And he has no 
remorse for any of it - judged by the interviews he gave to the Israeli 
press saying that he did not care whether he was called Judeo-
Nazi. His vision of peace in Middle East does not include any 
Palestinians in the state of Israel, I believe.

Arafat, on the other hand, is a head of formerly terrorist 
organization. And while both him and PLO came a long way, the 
terrorism within Palestinian population is not rooted out - because 
it appears that terrorism is the only ‘military action’ that 
Palestinians can perform successfully against their Israeli 
tormentors. But the fact that Arafat could/would not stop/prevent 
suicide bombers, despite that suicide bombings work directly 
against Arafat’s interests in obtaining global support for the 
Palestinian state (can you imagine what would happen with 
Bosnia, if there were Bosnian Muslims blowing themselves up in 
Serbian churches on Eastern Mass, and Izetbegovic could/would 
not rein them in?), means that Arafat is not really in control of the 
armed factions within Palestinian population, i.e. he is not really 
accepted as the undisputed leader for the Palestinian cause any 
more. Consequently, he is becoming useless in the peace 
negotiations, because he cannot guarantee anything.
Both sides need younger leaders. Both sides need civilian instead 
of military leaders. Both sides need to learn the immense 
advantages of living in peace. Other than that, Israel needs to 
abandon a lot of land and just leave it to Palestinians with no 
strings attached; and Palestinians need to focus on construction of 
their own state, rather than destruction of Israel. From lessons 
learned in the Balkans, one may conclude that presence of the 
international peace keeping forces is an absolute imperative and 
should not be delayed any more. In a broader picture, as Israel 
needs to come to terms about sharing the land with Palestinians, 
other Arab states need to come to terms about sharing the Middle 
East region with Israel. This is all well known. And it was a basis of 
the Oslo negotiations. And everything seemed to have gone well, 
until Rabin got conveniently shot by an extremist (terrorist?) Israeli 
and the right wing in Israel took over. Palestinians were once again 
pushed to the brink, and once again they responded with terrorism. 
The vicious circle was re-opened.		

In longer range the demographics present today in the Arab world 
will play a large role: half of the population in the Arab world is 
younger than 18. So, there is more violence and more suicide 
bombings to come. But there is also a couple of revolutions to look 
for. Many Arab countries are fossilized in the pre-Jacobin period. 
Due to the sudden oil riches the ruling feudal families managed to 
cement their rule by paying off their enemies and the masses. 
They could give their folks to eat cake instead of bread, unlike 
Marie Antoinette could. But the youthful population spells trouble 
for boring, strict and regimented feudal, theocratic Arab societies. 
We may see many of them fall apart in the next decade (Saudi 
Arabia, Iran, Iraq, etc.) creating instability in one of - for the US, at 
least - most precious regions of the world: Persian Gulf. 

The US goes to a major war to protect its oil supplies at least once 
a decade. And that’s in the Middle East region. The US bends over 
its policies backwards in order to continue to extend support to 
Israel, despite objections of its closest European allies over Israeli 
pushy and recalcitrant settlement drive and associated grave 
human rights abuses of the Palestinian population, in order to 
secure a ‘wedge’ in the vital oil supplying region, where other 
governments are often hostile to the US. 

US citizens are the largest consumers of energy on the planet. An 
average US citizen needs 2.5 times more energy than the average 
Western European citizen to survive and get around; 7 times more 
than Chinese, 10 times more than African. Saudi Arabian royal 
family is kept in power solely to feed the American industry with a 
reliable supply of oil. Watching the perilous Arab world 
demographics, the US is looking now for domestic resources, even 
if that means destroying its own natural treasure: US government is 
now ready to start drilling for more oil in the Arctic National Refuge 
in Alaska (if Senate permits so ever). 

Yet, there are over 800,000 federally owned vehicles in the US, 
60,000 of them driven by the Department of Energy, costing 
taxpayers a total of $2.26B. And it rarely occurs to Americans to 
save resources rather than increase supplies - such thinking 
seems to contravene the fundamentals of capitalist ideology.

The same fundamentals are the reason why my angry argument 
against the speed limits is probably a losing proposition. The 
speed limits were originally introduced because of the oil crisis. 
And it is true that driving faster decreases your miles per gallon 
ratio. I just noticed it myself, now that I am trying to drive slower. 
For media purposes, at some point, the end to the oil crisis was 
declared. The speed limits were kept on the books, though. 
Puritan, safety obsessed upper classes of the US didn’t have any 
troubles finding a more morally acceptable grounds for establishing 
speed limits. Which absolutely everyone breaks daily. But no 
politician dares to oppose. Because the harsh reality is that if 
Americans are allowed to drive faster, not only the number of 
accidents would increase, not only the air pollution would increase, 
but the oil consumption would increase even further, driving the 
gasoline prices higher, hitting the citizens where they hurt the 
most: their pockets. To do that would be a political suicide for any 

Americans drive as if they are always stoned. I can drive that slow 
and lazy, as the US rules of the road require, only when I am 
thoroughly baked. I can drive 40 mph on FDR highway in NY city 
then, too. I sometimes feel how cool it would be to drive a big 
truck, instead of a car, at that speed. High, of course. But, maybe, 
that’s what is driving the pick-up, SUV and the mini-van industry. 
So, ok, we have speed limits, which serve to tame the oil 
consumption, but then, on the other hand, everybody drives those 
huge gas-guzzling vehicles - one of them was just promoted in a 
radio ad as being so huge that mom lost her kid in the back of it 
and needed to look for little Eddy for about an hour.

What the US needs is: more and better public transportation, 
preferably powered by electricity; more car-pooling; smaller, more 
fuel efficient cars; development of new technologies for energy 
production and car engines that would utilize those new sources of 
energy; less commuting - different urban design that requires less 
driving around, more home-office type of employment
- speed limits are just a band-aid applied to a gushing wound. 


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