Just when we thought we’d celebrate a New Year with some vague hopes of progress in the Peace Department, the good old reliable Israelis and Palestinians remind us once again that there need not be a dime’s worth of difference in our ethnic pedigrees before we earnestly slaughter one another. Rocket attacks met with bombing raids and no doubt an imminent invasion by  Israeli ground troops helps us cling to the familiar in the face of a blank slate of a New Year. We can rest assured that 2009 will be like 2008, only more so. So while president-elect Obama tries to figure out how the get America out of one war, our staunch ally Israel provides the world with a reminder that the Middle East will continue to be a thorn in the side of human progress and any hopes for peace for the foreseeable future.

While various African nations have been doing their part, staying busy as one-armed piano players practicing genocide on minority ethnic groups within their borders that look just like the majority ethnic groups, it took the high-profile Middle East to really send home the message that the world is full of the fighting spirit of the Hatfields and McCoys, two families on the West Virginia-Kentucky border that feuded for decades for reasons both families forgot long before they ended their fatal hostilities. It seems the reasons for feuds (and wars) become secondary once the shooting starts, and then it’s a matter of custom and inertia. Would the Israelis and Palestinians know what to do with themselves without a sworn blood enemy? 

How about all those tribes in Africa? With no subhuman dogs to slaughter they just might have to come up with a workable way to govern their nations. Where’s the fun in that? Where’s the glory? Besides, peaceful governments usually have to answer to their citizens for their failures and ineffectiveness, subjects that never come up when one’s nation is in a constant state of national emergency (war). And it’s not just our leaders who are to blame for this crap, it’s us too, who buy into the irrational hatred. Did any American really have a beef with Iraq? How many of us spent sleepless nights worrying about that nation before we invaded them? Well, now there’s plenty of reasons for concern, but still not a damned one for hating anybody. 

It wasn’t the Iraqis who gutted our economy, it was domestic enemies, organized crime rings operating on a grand sale in corporate circles, who even now are spreading the word that the world financial crisis is nobody’s fault, and at the same time everybody’s fault, including (!) poor people, but certainly not their fault. Which, one supposes, is a handy message to spread when you’ve just blown trillions of everybody’s hard earned and the investigators are circling. And a new war in the Middle East is just the antidote needed for the disease of self-examination and recriminations. Now if they can only figure a way to spread the conflict far and wide there will be vast fortunes to be made and subsequently squandered.

Guns, war planes, rockets and tanks are darned expensive, and so is rebuilding everything those things blow up. To the financial services industries, wars are simply business opportunities. Nations need vast amounts of financing to procure weapons, and no nation provides them for free. Armies must be paid and fed, and hospitals must be set up to handle all the catastrophic injuries. None of this can be done without financing and that nation that stiffs its creditors will see its enemies heavily financed to destroy them, so generally they pay up. Of course that may mean less food going to starving people in many cases, but that’s the price to be paid for jump-starting the world economy with warfare.

India and Pakistan are certainly doing their part, both massing troops along their common border, both ignoring the facts that before 1948 they were the same country and their people look identical. They haven’t had a really good dust-up over Kashmir in years, and the recent terror attacks in Mumbai gave them just the opportunity they needed to start hostilities on a grand scale. The trick these days is to make sure their shooting war is not on too grand a scale though, what with their nuclear arsenals and all, so theirs is a subtle dance and a fine line will have to be struck, that is; no great victories so as to humiliate the other nation.  

Trading small victories and ending an undeclared war in a stalemate is the better deal for all concerned, so that both nations may declare victory without the unthinkable outcome of Americans not having anybody to call when their computers go on the blink and the service centers we rely on are vaporized in a nuclear holocaust. That would be a most traumatic occurrence. So let’s hope for the best in all these brand new wars breaking out, the best unfortunately being that not too many civilians get slaughtered and nobody decides to drop The Big One. And let’s hope against hope that America can keep out of the equation in all of them. Happy New Year.

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