Sometimes, when we look at someone from the side, we see unfamiliar things about him. At first it is hard to figure out what is different. The surprised observer says to himself: “Oh, I’m just imagining it.” He looks again from another angle and realizes that yes, this familiar person really does look different. The picture gradually becomes clear. This likable, friendly figure looks tougher, almost cruel, and even frightening from the side.
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Now we look at it like a mother looks at her son in the dock. “This cannot be happening,” she says. “He was such a good boy.”
Our children also look different from the side. From that angle we suddenly notice the broad shoulders, the interwoven muscles and the tough facial expression. We look at them, unable to believe that the sweet kid with the computer is now a tough soldier with a rifle. It is hard for us to believe that the cute kid we once knew is the powerful soldier we saw on television. It is hard for us to accept the change. It is hard to accept that he traded the tolerance he was brought up on at home for the belief in violence that he got in the army.
The army worked on that. The army gave him a book that prided itself on the murder of Arabs. In its swearing-in ceremonies, the army traded the Biblical chapters of consolation with chapters of occupation. The army convinced him to believe that radical nationalism was actually the consensus.
The army, too, was once a good kid. After all, we ourselves served there. Before we looked at it from the side, we cut it slack that we never gave anyone else. We accepted its bloating, swallowed the gaps in salary between high- and low-ranking personnel, and ignored the fact that the low-ranking ones were our own children. We never complained when it frightened us with the specter of awful enemies, and we also willingly accepted the prohibition on talking to those enemies. The army said: “Start talking and you don’t know how it will end.” The army did not want them talking and conciliatory; it wanted them hostile and rejectionist.
We don’t need to hear about the need for hostile and rejectionist foes. We understand that hostility and rejectionism are part of the security array. But things are not quiet there either. The Iranians can still be relied on – after all, everything they say is going to be a lie and their bomb will always be headed toward us. But the Palestinians? A big disappointment. What kind of enemy is that? “We will honor all the agreements” – what does that mean? “We will not resort to violence” – what is that?
We need an enemy that is consistent and violent. An enemy like that is part of the picture of our future. We are building for the future. Our education system prepares school students for the future. Today’s students, they say there, are tomorrow’s soldiers, and tomorrow’s soldiers are the day after tomorrow’s civilians. Watch what the education system is preparing them for today and you will understand what kind of future awaits us the day after tomorrow.
It takes maturity and skepticism to look at something from the side. A soldier, who is the child of all of us, has no adulthood or skepticism. He watches from the side as his generals fight for their pensions and does not realize that they are not fighting for his good but for theirs. He does not understand that the army is just another factory contending with decreased demand. He does not understand that the army acts like any public agency that avoids criticism, and that it portrays its budget as a problem that only it can solve.
He does not see how his army turns everything into a single lump of dough – the budgets for training, equipment and pensions – and then tells us: “All right then, let’s see you find anything in this mess.” He does not care that the army is sprinkling “security threat” dust over everything – and the security threats are always classified. With good reason. We might yet discover that we bought F-22 fighter jets for $150 million just to chase after kids with stones.
So now we have an army that is fighting for its conditions of service. It has officers, journalists, a political agenda and kids who are overly obedient soldiers at best, or overly enthusiastic at worst. What is missing? We are missing a serious enemy against whom they can direct all that power. We need an enemy. If there is no enemy, there is no need for a strong army, and if there is no need for a strong army, what will we do with all the missiles? What will we do with all the anti-ballistic missiles that are anti-missiles themselves?
We will straighten it out with the missiles. In the end, we will get rid of them through shady, roundabout deals, just like money is laundered. But what will the officers who have gotten used to the dedicated female clerk and the military car do? What will the retired officers do if all the boards of directors are already filled? And what will the cute kids who suddenly find themselves with a great deal of power do?
“No!” interrupted my friend G., whose desk is filled with such questions. “You don’t mean that ... ?
“Come on!” he said, banging his fist on the table. “That will never happen here.”
But one could not help but notice the tone of worry in his voice.