Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ruthless pragmatism

If I have to define my political philosophy, particularly in regard to the Palestinian dispute, I would say it is "ruthless pragmatism."  In this I follow the lead of that well-known politician Francis Underwood, the main character played brilliantly by Kevin Spacey in the TV series "House of Cards."  By ruthless manipulation Francis goes from Congressman to Chief Whip to Vice President to President in two series.  In doing so he dispenses with friend and foe alike, everything is possible as long as it preserves the appearance of legality.  In other words "ruthless pragmatism."
One practitioner of this political art is Pres. Putin of Russia.  He knows that Pres. Obama is not prepared to start WWIII over Crimea or Ukraine.  So he had the pro-Russian forces in Crimea not only take over the local Parliament, but also administer a referendum, that was passed by 98%.   He had Russian forces without insignia take over all military bases in Crimea, and then had the Russian Duma pass a resolution accepting Crimea into the Russian Federation.  He maintained the appearance of legality, even though the whole process was illegal under international law, but with sufficient force no-one is prepared to counteract him.  In effect, notwithstanding the US and EU threats and sanctions, Crimea is now part of Russia, fait accompli.  Now he is carrying out the same process in eastern Ukraine, although perhaps with a little more circumspection.  His accomplices in Donetsk and the other cities of eastern Ukraine are playing their role.  Only this time the interim pro-Western Ukrainian President Yatsenyuk has ordered the Ukrainian army into eastern Ukraine to remove the pro-Russian insurgents.  It seems that there will be a war, but Russia has overwhelming force and Putin knows that the West will not intervene to save Ukraine.  Ruthless pragmatism.
Why can't our PM Bibi Netanyahu exhibit more of this ruthless pragmatism when dealing with the Palestinians.  After all Israel has a prima facie case for sovereignty over the disputed territories, the Palestinians are splintered into several hostile elements, they are disorganized and weak.  Israel should be able to manipulate and outflank them.  First we should announce that because of the Palestinian unilateral actions all negotiations are over.  Second in response to their actions we should annex those areas that have a Jewish majority and that we wish to be part of Israel.  Third, when the Palestinians react violently, as can be predicted they will do, we go in and suppress them and take more of the territory. 
It might be argued that this policy is not moral, and it is true that it is not primarily based on moral concerns, but then neither is the political course taken by the Palestinians or many others for that matter (the British in their former Empire, Russia in Crimea, the US in Iraq and Afghanistan).  In order to beat them at their own game we must be realistic and pragmatic. It reminds me of the old adage, "faint heart never won fair lady," if you want her enough you must take her. In fact, in the arena of international relations, the order of the day is expediency, something that the Jews and the Jewish State have never been very good at. 
It also reminds me of the taking of the US hostages in Tehran in 1979, who were held for 444 days during the Carter Administration.  But the day after Pres Reagen was installed as President, the Ayatollah released the hostages.  It wasn't because he had changed his attitude towards the USA, it was because he feared the ruthless pragmatism of Reagen much more than he feared the incompetence and indecision of Carter.  Another case in point, if PM Thatcher had not exhibited ruthless pragmatism, the Falkland Islands would now be called the Malvinas.  If there are two sides in a dispute and you really want to win, then you must take active steps to ensure victory, while always maintaining at least the appearance of legality. 


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