Saturday, July 08, 2006

Looking for some adults

Palestinians run for cover as militants fire rockets at Israeli army tanks and bulldozers during an Israeli army incursion in Beit Lahiya, in the northen Gaza Strip, Friday July 7, 2006. WRAL-Raleigh Durham. AP Photo/David Guttenfelder

Please, isn't it time for some grown-ups to take charge?

In two of the most volatile parts of the world, the same story: the powers-that-be, whether through stupidity or by design, have chosen symbolic action over substance and insist that the only remedy for attention getting behavior is brute force. Kindergarteners are taught better.

In Palestine, according to Gareth Evans and Robert Malley in the Financial Times:

Ever since the Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit was abducted by Palestinian militants a little over a week ago, all actors in the current drama in Gaza have been performing according to script.

Not knowing what to do, they are doing what they know. For Hamas – the elected Palestinian government – that means violence; for Israel, collective punishment; and for the international community – well, not much really.

There could be an alternative. Little as anyone may like Hamas, it did win "free and fair" elections. Stop boycotting the only force that can get Israel what it wants -- peace and quiet -- and deal.

On the other side of the world, North Korea has been seeking attention by (unsuccessfully) launching rockets. The nincompoop in chief assures us that if their rocket had worked, which it didn't, our missile defense system could have shot it down. Since this "system" has never worked, this seems unlikely, but then, what does he know?

Bruce Cumings and Meredith Jung-En Woo do know something about North Korea and they remind us that:

In the past, ... these [North Korean-U.S.] symbolic conflicts have led to new negotiations.

Sound strange? Well, Pyongyang has operated this way before. Nothing was more provocative, after all, than North Korea's decision to kick out United Nations inspectors and, in May 1994, withdraw enough plutonium from its reactor to make five or six atomic bombs. After putting the United States and North Korea on what seemed to be the road to war, the reactor crisis took the sort of bizarre turn one can expect from engagement with the North Koreans: Mid-crisis, Pyongyang agreed to a complete freeze on the reactor complex.

[Perhaps] ... North Korea's missile brinkmanship is not intended to scare us. Rather, in the ham-handed way that is Pyongyang's specialty, it is meant to invite Washington to make a deal.

Now, if there were only someone home in Washington...

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