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Dear Israel: Bombing Doesn't Work

German Chancellor Angela Merkel cuts a roasted wild pig beside U.S. President George W. Bush during a barbecue with residents in the northeastern German village of Trinwillershagen at the German Baltic sea July 13, 2006. Bush on Thursday defended Israel 's attacks on targets in Lebanon.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel cuts a roasted wild pig beside U.S. President George W. Bush during a barbecue with residents in the northeastern German village of Trinwillershagen at the German Baltic sea July 13, 2006. Bush on Thursday defended Israel 's attacks on targets in Lebanon.

I am always amazed at the childlike faith that powerful nations put in bombing. In the past 70 years we have seen nation after nation launch hideous bombing attacks on enemies, confident that the resulting carnage will “break the spirit” of their adversaries.

It never does. What it does, for the most part, is increase the bombees’ resolve to resist.

You might argue that World War II was ended by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but there we used weapons so much more powerful than anything seen before that it demoralized Japanese leaders (although even then some militarists there wanted to hold out, on the theory that we couldn’t have many atom bombs left).

But in Europe we bombed Hamburg to a forest of chimneys, we made Dresden a featureless plain, we all but destroyed Berlin and still the Germans continued to fight. On the other side, Germany bombed London relentlessly in expectation that the Brits would cry uncle and all they got for their troubles were a series of really good speeches by Churchill.

We dropped more bombs on Vietnam than we had during World War II and that didn’t get us anywhere. We tried “shock and awe” with the Iraqis, expecting as a reward to be greeted by a smiling, flower-throwing population. How’s that working out, by the way?

Now Israel is trying to bomb its archenemies, Hamas and Hezbollah, into submission in Lebanon and Palestine. I wish them luck but if it works I’ll be amazed.

The problem with bombing is that it is indiscriminate. You always kill many more innocent people than you do combatants, which costs you your moral advantage and turns the survivors into combatants.

So stop with the bombing already. Try something else; anything.

You’ll notice that I do not direct my good advice to George Bush. He is deaf to good advice.

I’ll go further. He’s brain-dead.

I mean it. Did you watch his performance in Europe last week?

He’s at a joint news conference with Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, and he says: “I’m looking forward to the feast tonight. I understand I may have the honor of slicing the pig.”


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OK, a little levity. Why not? Ms. Merkel smiles a perfunctory smile. But he wasn’t done.

“We discussed a lot of things,” he said. “Thank you for having me. I’m looking forward to that pig tonight.”

The chancellor’s smile takes on a puzzled quality. “Why does he keep talking about the pig?” you can hear her asking herself.

Then the floor is opened to questions and a reporter asks about our response to Israel’s bombing of Lebanon and the Great Decider says:

“I thought you were going to ask about the pig.” This time the chancellor does not smile.

I first saw the performance on the Jon Stewart show. President Bush’s responses were so inane that I suspected that Stewart, a satirist, had edited it to make the president look bad. But when I went back to the transcript, the Stewart version proved accurate. The president was bad.

Almost as bad as he was a few days later when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-8 conference. Of that meeting, Bush told the press:

“I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq, where there’s a free press and free religion, and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia would do the same thing.”

At which point Putin jumped in with: “We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, I will tell you quite honestly.”

If diplomacy were a prizefight, the referee would have stopped the match right there. How come every time world leaders get together on the same stage, Bush always looks like the dumbest one?

I still can’t believe Al Gore lost a debate to this guy.

Donald Kaul

Donald Kaul

Donald Kaul wrote newspaper columns for half a century, beginning with a long stint at the Des Moines Register that made him a household name (in a good way) throughout Iowa. Kaul, who was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for commentary in 1987 and 1999, wrote for OtherWords for many years, right on up to his retirement. He passed away in July 2018 and was lovingly memorialized throughout Iowa, the Midwest, and the journalistic world.

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