Politics is not an arena for participants or observers who insist on clear decisions. It requires judging the quality of grays, rather than the clarity of black or white, or demanding one's concept of the good.
The condition reflects the complexities of interests and perspectives.
Shifting alliances are more likely than stable majorities.
The essence of democracy puts as much of an emphasis on the rights of minorities than the rule of the majority.
Leaving aside the morality, the pragmatic reason is that the minority on issue A may become part of the majority on issue B, may be attracted as supporters of B, or at least kept from active opposition to B.
If all of the above is likely to be true in domestic politics, it is even clearer in the fuzzier realm of international politics. There one must modify a view of who are the bad guys with the realization that it may be necessary to continue living along side some of them, and might have to deal with some, perhaps against guys who are even worse. The modern world has many countries that are potential allies, adversaries, enemies, or may be sidelined and kept quiet on one or another issue. What national leaders express in public may bear little relation to what they do, or tolerate in quiet.
All that is very general and abstract. Some examples will make the point.
In domestic American politics, one must reckon that not all gun lovers are pro- or anti-abortion, are rock solid Republicans, or take a clear position on Obamacare. Deals may be possible.
Barack Obama deserves credit for enacting the principal of universal health care, and thereby bringing the US closer to the values of Western civilization. Along the way, however, he had to swallow a number of unpleasant details that will haunt his reputation, as well as the campaigns of any Democrat or moderate Republican who aspires to the presidency in 2016
He is still trying for something on gun control, with who knows what level of sincerity, intensity, and possibility of success.
Jews are nervous about the Christian Right, many of whom are waiting for the end of days and a mass conversion, and currently take positions on abortion, homosexuality, and women's rights that are offensive to Jews. Yet the same people are intense in their support of Israel.
The US is as close to Saudi Arabia as to any other country. Oil is important. The kingdom's opposition to some Islamic extremists is also important, even though Saudis have provided financial support to some of the most extreme of the extremists.
Obama's postures with respect to Syria, Russia, and Iran will produce a library of commentaries praising the President's maneuvers and damning his choices. Absolute failure would only be marked by Iran's actual use of a nuclear weapon against Israel or any other country.
Israelis are currently facing another set of conflicting sentiments in their perpetual effort to maneuver among difficulties. Two killings of soldiers in recent days have spurred calls from within the government to curtail the peace process, to delay the next scheduled release of Palestinian prisoners, and to cancel the Oslo Accords of 1993. Against those sentiments are other voices that the peace process offers more than can be achieved from angry responses to two tragedies, one of which occurred when the victim went with a Palestinian into Palestinian territory against the constant barrage of warnings directed at Israeli soldiers and civilians. It would help Israelis committed to the peace process if someone high on the Palestinian side denounced those killings, rather than mumble justifications about legitimate resistance to settlement.
The Prime Minister has chosen, for the time being, to respond to angry voices by saying he will authorize Jews to occupy a building in Hebron where Israeli courts have decided in favor of Jewish ownership. Whether his statement will survive whatever reservations come from the peaks of the IDF and other security units, and the authority of the Defense Minister to rule on the issue, only time will tell.
There is no doubt that Israel's response to violence, American and European pressure to continue the peace process, and the need to continue living alongside the Palestinians is an area saturated with various shades of gray. There are no easy solutions for any of this.
On the other side of Israel is a happening whose news has been muted by the media attention given to the killing of those soldiers in the West Bank and the prolonged crisis--with some Israeli involvement--in Nairobi.
Israelis have found comfort in the tough stance Egypt has taken toward the Muslim Brotherhood, its cousins in Gaza, and groups even more extreme in Sinai. Among the Egyptian actions is the closing of its border with Gaza; destroying tunnels that had supplied Gaza with fuel, food, automobiles, munitions, building supplies and a host of other consumer goods; and razing a swath of buildings on the Egyptian side of the border that had provided cover for the tunnel builders and the smugglers who moved goods and fighters into and out of Gaza.
Among Israel's response is to increase its supply of goods to Gaza.
Why in heaven's name? according to those who see an opportunity to destroy the threat from Gaza once and for all, and to transfer its population to who cares where.
While the actual calculations and expectations are hidden in the inner discussions of leading security and political figures, outsiders can see this as another example of what is not clear or simple in international politics.
Among the issues:
- Considerations of humanity and morality, meant to avoid excessive hardships, especially in a situation where international worthies see Israel as at least partly responsible for Gazan welfare.
- Considerations of leverage. With Gaza more dependent on supplies from Israel, any naughtiness can bring forth delay or full stoppage in the shipments that benefit Gazan consumers and merchants.
- Considerations of economics. Israel is in something of an economic bind with something of an economic advantage in connection with Palestinians. It collects import taxes at the ports for goods destined for the West Bank, supplies electricity to the West Bank and to Gaza, and does not get payment for that electricity. Withholding the transfer of the taxes received at the ports in exchange for the cost of electricity and the cost of goods sent to Gaza helps to balance the books, with opportunities for Israeli firms that supply the goods sent to Gaza. This does not help Palestinian authorities pay its bloated numbers of civil servants, many of whom are kept on the rolls to quiet restive families. That issue has less impact on Israel than on Europeans and Americans who pay the bills as part of their moral burden for the Palestinians.
None of this is for simpletons. There is much to argue about, with subtleties and nuances aplenty.
There are also ample opportunities for those enamored of clear decisions and convinced about their monopoly of justice to assert once again that the road to hell is paved with misguided intentions.
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