I’ve been following the story about the fire that’s burning through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in northern Minnesota. It’s not like it was a big surprise or anything, the situation has been inevitable since a huge windstorm resulted in a massive blow-down of 400,000 acres of trees in 1999. Afterwards any cleanup was stymied by policies and politics. Necrophiliac tree-huggers strongly objected to letting logging companies clean out the deadfall and to the thought of second-hand exhaust from vehicles and chain saws (motors have long been banned from the BWCA) violating the pristine area. Meanwhile the Forest Service pretty much took the position that “Nature created the mess, let her clean it up.”
We were all just waiting for the unavoidable spark, conditioned by years of warnings from Smokey the Bear to dread forest fires and hoping that the inevitable wouldn’t result in a flaming holocaust. Now that it’s here, though, it’s looking as if it won’t be as catastrophic an event as some might have feared (unless you’re a species of endangered wood tick or similar trapped in the thousands of acres burned so far). While the sky in the area may not be as pristine as it was, it is generally acknowledged that an occasional fire is a good and necessary thing for the ecosystem. Or, as Kenneth Mars might have said in Young Frankenstein, “A riot (fire) is a terrible thing. Und I think it is high time ve had one!”
In reading the news, however, I think I’ve seen some similarities between what’s going on in the Boundary Waters and events in the few-boundaries Middle East. Certainly there’s been all kinds of kindling piled up for years in the area and politics and policies have prevented any serious effort to get in there and clean out the fuel. In fact, “controlled burns” of aggressions immediately followed by half-measure mediations have only increased the pressures. Conditioned by years of fears that a fight such as what is happening in Lebanon would lead to World War III, we all held our collective breath at first, but now it is looking as if the result may be clarity instead of calamity. And maybe just what the region needs.
What is interesting (and the reason it hasn’t blown up – yet) is that countries such as Eygpt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have, for the time being, apparently signed up for the International Don’t Call list and Hezbollah and Hamas are therefore having a hard time getting the “Arab street” to return their calls. Those three countries, and others in the region, have their own reasons for not being too concerned if the Shiites hit the fan if it serves to crimp Iran’s ambitions in the region. Instead, whatever adventurism on the parts of Hamas and Hezbollah may sparked this conflagration, it has literally blown up in their faces.
The problem for a guerilla operation is that it is in trouble when it gets entrenched. Once you, say, actually have a headquarters with a mailing address you can’t assume the old advantages still apply to you. Once your opponent musters the will they’ll be ringing your doorbell like Jehovah Witnesses and you’re going to get ALL the literature whether you like it or not. Similarly, I don’t think the old bail-out tactics are going to work. As long as Israel maintains the momentum and focuses only on southern Lebanon there likely won’t be much in the way of “World Opinion” cavalry to ride in to the rescue. I think the usual players are content to sit back and watch Iran and Syria’s proxies get slapped around a bit, knowing that when’s it all over they, too, will be free of a nuisance and will still have plenty of time to denounce Israel’s aggression.
Collateral damage is inevitable and unfortunate, but the real endangered species is the parasites that have lived off of the blood (and money) of others and used their neighbors as human shields. Still thinking they were playing by the old rules, Hezbollah has said that the only way they’ll lay down their weapons is if you pry them from their cold, dead fingers. Only this time the Israeli response was, “finally, a peace proposal we can support!”