Bushs Alpha Male
Whats the proper form of address for a terrorist with a long record of mass murder? Emily Post doesnt cover this one, but in the state of Israel his title may be Mr. Prime Minister.
The political career of Ariel Sharon, successor of such democratic leaders as Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, appears to have ended at last. As he lies in a Jerusalem hospital after a possibly fatal stroke, the future of his country, the Middle East, and much more may depend on his fate.
Not since Joseph Stalin have American politicians and opinion leaders fawned so revoltingly over a foreign ruler. President George W. Bush calls Sharon a man of courage and peace. Neoconservatives regard him as a hero, almost beyond criticism except when he makes concessions to Palestinians. The New York Daily News hails him as the worlds best hope for peace in the Middle East, a leader of unparalleled vision and courage, and the personification of the nations centrist aspirations. Like Stalin, who had his own Amen Corner, Sharon has many well-placed apologists in this country, ready to justify him at every turn. Rush Limbaugh has likened him to George Washington.
Sharon achieved his greatest worldwide fame in 1982 when he led the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and arranged the grisly slaughter of about 2,000 refugees, including women and children of all ages, in the Sabra and Shatila camps near Beirut. Hundreds of thousands of shocked Israelis protested in the streets, but after an official inquiry he got off with a reprimand.
But his ruthlessness also added to his popularity, and he came back from apparent political ruin to become leader of the Likud Party and finally, five years ago, prime minister. He showed his courage and vision by adopting such policies as the target assassinations of Palestinian leaders (along with any unfortunate bystanders), including, last year, the killing of a blind quadriplegic in a wheelchair.
Bush and Britains prime minister, Tony Blair, tried to terrify the world with the prospect that Saddam Hussein might acquire a single nuclear weapon. But neither of them has ever expressed the slightest anxiety that the fanatical Sharon should possess one of the greatest nuclear arsenals on Earth, enough to annihilate the Arab world as the Arabs are well aware. Is it any wonder that Anglo-American hypocrisy has become so notorious?
There is grim comedy in the way Bush has praised Sharon as a great humanitarian, while at the same time trying to coax him to behave in a minimally civilized manner. Like a feckless parent trying to control a spoiled child by indulging him (to the disgust and annoyance of his company), Bush has too little self-respect to mind very much when his Israeli pal makes him look like a fool. He has tried to keep smiling through every indignity Sharon could inflict on him.
In this respect, though Blair has nothing to be proud of, he has much less to be ashamed of. A residual sense of the absurd has prevented him from lauding Sharon with Bushs egregious extravagance. British public opinion is humane enough to sympathize with the Palestinians and to be embarrassed by its alliance with Israel, especially under a brute like Sharon. If British politics isnt exactly moral, its at least restrained by some good taste.
Besides, Bush is intimidated by Sharon, as Franklin Roosevelt was by Stalin. Ruthless men can have this daunting effect on weak men, causing them to say things they know to be the opposite of the truth; and Sharon has known what is only too obvious to everyone, that Bush cant stand up to him. He has been Bushs Alpha Male.
We can hope that Bush will be at least a little less timid with Sharons successor. He must sense that his timidity before a tiny country has earned him the worlds contempt, and maybe a part of him will even feel relief if Sharon dies. Hell no longer have to be the 97-pound weakling in the relationship, hoping he wont be humiliated.
America doesnt have much to show for its expensive entanglement with Israel, but it has given us a good look at the stuff our rulers are made of. No patriot can take much pride in it.
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