by Ted S. McGregor Jr. & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & s the Middle East burns, these words from American history may offer us some direction at a time when we so clearly need it: "We are remote from the scene of these troubles," a great man once said. "It is virtually impossible at this distance merely by reading, or listening, or even seeing photographs and motion pictures, to grasp at all the real significance of the situation. And yet the whole world of the future hangs on a proper judgment. It hangs, I think, to a large extent on the realization of the American people, of just what are the various dominant factors. What are the reactions of the people? What are the justifications of those reactions? What are the sufferings? What is needed? What can best be done? What must be done?"

Those words were spoken to the 1947 graduating class at Harvard University by Gen. George Marshall, the man who ran the United States' war effort in World War II. He had seen war, and now, after two years of internal debate about what must be done, he was announcing America's plan for healing the wounds that were festering in Europe and the Far East. The plan became known to history as the Marshall Plan, and it was one of our finest moments. Lately, we seem to have completely forgotten it.

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & fter literally centuries of off-and-on war, Europe in 1947 seemed hopelessly locked in a cycle of hatred. That cycle was renewed after every war, most recently after World War I, when the spoils went to the victors and resentments were allowed to germinate for a generation -- until the next war. The Marshall Plan's brilliance was in breaking that cycle by offering a helping hand to the defeated -- as well as to the near-broken victors. After staring oblivion in the face, the peoples of Japan, Germany and Italy returned to the ranks of sane society, and peace prevailed.

The Middle East today seems similarly hopeless, and that cycle of hatred has flared up again with Israel invading Lebanon. This column isn't about who's righteous in the fight -- who can blame Israel for taking the fight to the terrorists who are raining rockets on their towns? No, this is about what your mom told you -- whether fighting will really solve anything.

In the Middle East, everything's connected -- that's how the terrorists bent on jihad see it anyway. Hezbollah's firing of rockets into Israel has a wider purpose than simply blowing up a few buildings and claiming innocent lives -- they're designed to isolate the United States and radicalize the region, which is exactly what's happening.

Not long ago, after Lebanon expelled Syrian troops from inside its borders, President George W. Bush praised the long-troubled country as a promising outpost of democracy in the region. So what will he say if Lebanon elects a Hezbollah leader to run its government? After the invasion of Iraq, that's exactly what happened in Iran with Ahmajenidad. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Lebanon's troubles "the birth pangs of a new Middle East." Although her comment was widely derided, she was probably right. But what she doesn't seem to get -- and what is alarming moderate Arabs and the rest of the world -- is that what that new Middle East is going to look like is totally out of control.

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & "T & lt;/span & he remedy," Marshall told the Harvard grads that June morning, "seems to lie in breaking the vicious circle." He's absolutely right, and his observation -- forged in war -- applies to the Middle East today. Which makes the United States' not-our-problem attitude toward the invasion all the more untenable. Violence begets violence, and as the Arab world watches the horrible images from Lebanon, friendly regimes face uncertainty and our soldiers in Iraq are put in even more danger. Baghdad is a more deadly place now than it has been since the invasion of Iraq.

And at home, we seem numb to it all. Maybe after three years of war, we're too tired to get outraged. Maybe the years of constant bombardment of violent images, from pop culture to the evening news, have somehow inoculated us. During Vietnam, the protests grew as the war dragged on; during this war, the protests seem to have waned as time has gone on.

But I think it's starting to change. A few political leaders are starting to find their moral compasses, rather than relying on their political windsocks. Religious leaders are backing away from supporting Bush's war policies. And perhaps most important for this administration, business leaders are coldly calculating the impact of all this to their bottom lines.

Fortunately, there are some people of impressive stature who have, like Marshall, experienced war and see a different path -- the brave handful of retired military leaders who are calling for changes to our policies in the Middle East. We should listen to anyone who has a real plan to lead us to a place where the violence can stop. Maybe then the outlines of a new Marshall Plan can come into view -- perhaps implemented by other Arabs, but funded by the nations of the world. In time, with some skillful diplomacy, the terrorists will lose their fuel of raw anger and be expelled by nations fed up with their murderous ways.

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & M & lt;/span & any years before Marshall addressed his audience, a crowd gathered on a hillside in the Middle East, where the same subjects of vengeance and forbearance were under discussion.

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you," the Preacher told the gathering, "offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other one to him as well."

Or, as the sagacious singer-songwriter John Prine has put it, "Jesus don't like killin' / No matter what the reason's for."

Get Lit! 2021

April 12-18
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