While I have been blithely blogging away lightheartedly about matters of no importance, really awful things have been happening in the world. I feel the need to say something here by way of acknowledgement of this reality, not because I have any useful thoughts to contribute to the public discussion but simply to pay respect to the dead and dying.
The Israeli invasion of Gaza is appalling, both in its brutality and in its wanton disregard for the rights of the Palestinians. It is not necessary to trace out the sequence of attacks and counterattacks that have led to this invasion, nor is it necessary to detail the failures of wisdom and leadership on both sides. The occupying power always bears the burden of responsibility for the violence attendant upon occupation -- whether it is Israel, Russia, America, Germany, France or China, or Rome or Persia or the Mongols, for that matter. The occupying power always reacts with righteous anger when attacked, and always claims that its role as occupying power is thrust upon it reluctantly by the intransigence and violence of the occupied.
The shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines jet is only made worse by the fact that one hundred of the murdered passengers were HIV-AIDS experts on their way to a conference. It is not hard to guess what happened, though Obama is being appropriately cautious until the facts have been established. Putin has been supplying the Ukrainian separatists with ever more sophisticated weaponry, which they have been using with his encouragement and approval to shoot down aircraft of the Ukrainian government. The separatists, lacking well-trained operators with a command of radar and associated technology, mistook the domestic airliner for a military plane and shot it out of the sky, first bragging online of their accomplishment and then hurriedly taking the boast down when they discovered what they had done. Since the U.S. does relatively little business with Russia, it feels free to impose economic sanctions, which do seem to be inflicting some damage on the Russian economy. The Western European powers, some of which rely on Russian natural gas, have been reluctant to cooperate in the regime of sanctions, and are now in a bind because their nationals were among the victims. What is interesting -- if that is an appropriate term to use in the presence of this crime -- is the extent to which even a continental power like Russia is dependent on its trade with the rest of the world, and hence is susceptible to economic pressure, rather than military threats. There is after all something good to be said for international capitalism.