Paul Greenberg
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"Cry Havoc!, and let slip the dogs of war."


-- Act III, Scene 1, Julius Caesar


Not that you haven't noticed, Gentle Reader, but the world is coming apart. Again. Beginning with the Middle East, where, to put it as diplomatically as possible, all hell is about to break loose on Israel's border with Hamasland, aka Gaza. You can see war coming by the rockets' red glare, hear the bombs bursting in air as the first deaths are tallied. How many more before the hurly-burly's done, the battle's lost or won?


Hundreds of explosive-laden rockets have been fired at random this year into Israel's Negev, its arid South. This week, as was bound to happen, one of them struck an apartment building in a little Israeli border town with fatal results.


Meanwhile, the Israelis have been responding with targeted raids against Gaza's terrorist leaders, doubtless hoping to disrupt Hamas' command rather than having to launch still another full-scale invasion of Gaza, which would be Gaza War No. 3 by my uncertain count. Like the first two, it would come complete with casualties military and civilian on both sides, and all the unpredictable dangers of a war spiraling out of anybody's control. As if any war were ever uncontrollable.


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An antiseptic term like collateral damage can't cover the real and painful suffering already being experienced on both sides of Israel's southern border, And the toll is about to grow, Events are already taking on an unstoppable momentum of their own.


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Gaza's war-lovers have set out to make life within range of their rockets unlivable. Israeli civilians in the country's south dare not move far beyond the nearest air raid shelter. Families huddle, schools close, children cover their ears, and all wait for the next siren to sound, if it does at all before another blast reverberates. And the range of Hamas' missiles continues to expand -- until not just Israel's coastal cities are hit but the suburbs of Tel Aviv, where sirens are sounding again and the public shelters have been reopened.


No country can live that way, and it's clear that the Israelis, while they have put up with a lot, don't propose to put up with any more of this. Not without a forceful response. Reserves are being called up, up to 75,000 of them now, and once Egypt's prime minister ends his visit to show that country's support for Gaza, the ground war could begin. And all bets will be off. Or as that noted military analyst Bette Davis might put it, "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night!"


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In short, there's more news to come out of the tough neighborhood known as the Middle East, and it's not likely to be good news. Israel waits like a coiled spring, the Gazans stock up on food and necessities, the curtain is about to go up on another tragedy.


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At this point the only faint hope of preserving the peace, or what has passed for it in that part of the world these past few years, is that Israel's air campaign will be punishing enough, precise enough, effective enough, and go on long enough to make a ground campaign unnecessary to restore the uneasy truce that Gaza's rocket-launching crazies have just about blown apart.


Behind the scenes, despite all the bellicose talk from their leaders, Egyptian and Turkish envoys, at the urging of American ones, may yet get Hamas to call off its attacks, but the odds against that are long. How reason with the unreasonable?


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This is the world after the Arab Spring, which brought hope and danger in at least equal measure. So long as aggression is tolerated, as it has been for so long as rocket barrage after rocket barrage has fallen on Israel's civilian population without an effective response, the pressure on the Jewish state to strike back will increase. Till the inevitable explosion erupts. And it looks as if it's about to. Once again.


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How bad the looming war will be, and how long it might go on, will depend not just on the fortunes of war but of diplomacy. An increasingly isolated Israel, unsure of its security, knowing it can depend only on itself, is bound to strike out alone at some point rather than wait any longer. Just as it has done in the past.


The moral of the story: The surest road to war is to ignore threats to peace. And now these accumulating threats against Israeli civilians, and actual attacks, are about to bear the usual, bitter fruit of aggression too long ignored. Israeli tanks are already rolling into position. More rockets have fallen -- on Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba . . . The day's news begins to read like the Book of Judges, full of war and rumors of war.


It may be only a matter of days, maybe hours, before the dogs of war are unleashed. Havoc is about to ensue. And nobody has written the end of this tragedy. For we are only at the beginning of this act.

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Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.