Senate appropriators crank out the 2009 aid bill Friday links
Jul 232008

Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos is here in Washington today. We’re hearing that he is using his post-”Operation Jaque” victory lap to press congressional Democrats to restore the 25 percent of military and police assistance that they cut from Colombia’s aid package late last year. (As we explained when it happened, most of the trimmed-back military aid went to new development, humanitarian and justice-sector programs.)

Santos repeats the call for continued security assistance in today’s joint New York Times op-ed with Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The Colombian government must strengthen its authority in areas previously controlled by terrorists. Remnants of these bandit armies could continue their murderous ways as smaller, independent groups. That is why it is so important that American security assistance not be reduced — at least not until Colombia has control of its borders, and police departments, municipal governments and other government services are firmly established in all areas.

The Santos-Gates op-ed argues that U.S. security assistance has helped weaken Colombia’s armed groups and improve security, and we agree that a fraction of this aid has indeed helped. But by pointing out that Colombia’s armed groups no longer pose a serious threat to the state, their column makes more sense as a pitch for a turn away from the majority-military approach of the past.

For the reasons they cite – improved security and the need to improve delivery of government services – now is the moment for a more balanced U.S. aid package, one that seeks to help Colombia’s state serve citizens in long-neglected areas. Does it really make sense to make a pitch for more security assistance and a bigger Colombian defense budget at a time when the FARC is rapidly losing membership? At a time when even in the relatively wealthy province of Cundinamarca, which surrounds Bogotá, 70 percent of counties have no potable water? At a time when children in the northwestern department of Chocó are actually dying of hunger?

What difference, meanwhile, would another $150 million in military-police aid make, compared to the difference it can make in Colombia’s delivery of state services?

In 2002, Álvaro Uribe’s first year in office, U.S. military and police assistance to Colombia totaled $388.6 million. In 2008, it is a bit higher, at $433.7 million. While the aid amounts are similar, the U.S. contribution has shrunk rapidly as a proportion of Colombia’s own defense effort. In 2002, U.S. aid was equivalent to about one eleventh of Colombia’s defense budget. This year, thanks to a doubling of defense spending and the weak dollar, U.S. aid is equal to only about one twenty-eighth of Colombia’s defense budget.

Dollars Pesos
Table used for the above charts, with links to sources:
  2002 2008
US Aid Dollars 388,550,141 433,664,757
Colombian Defense
Budget Dollars
4,186,135,410 12,328,723,355
Multiple 11 28
  2002 2008
US Aid Pesos 1,002,438,075,118 779,445,926,600
Colombian Defense
Budget Pesos
10,800,000,000,000 22,160,000,000,000
Multiple 11 28
(2002 peso conversion data2008 peso conversion data;
2008 defense budget takes into acount small expected budget cut.)

The annual foreign-aid budget is always tight, since foreign aid is not particularly popular in most congressional districts. If Washington only has a bit more to give to Colombia, does it make sense to use these scarce resources to make a very minor contribution to a bloated defense budget in a time of improved security? Or is it time to accompany Colombia’s underfunded civilian state institutions as they seek to establish themselves in long-neglected territories?

For more perspective on Colombia’s skyrocketing defense budget, read this excellent column in today’s El Espectador from José Fernando Isaza, rector of the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University in Bogotá. Here are some translated excerpts. If anybody knows how to find the comptroller-general’s report referenced in the text, please post a link in the comments.

To Talk About Money, What a Shame!
José Fernando Isaza

Colombia is not a rich country, it belongs to the middle class of countries. As a result, though it may be an inopportune moment, the money destined for the Army should be examined. Note that I don’t say for the “war,” because according to the government there is no internal armed conflict.

The Comptroller-General of the Republic’s January 2008 magazine is dedicated to defense and security expenditures, and indicates that this is a useful debate. At the risk of being called a “self-plagiarizer” I am going to cite some results from a study that I carried out with Professor Diógenes Campos.

In 2007, defense and security expenditures reached 6.32% of GDP. To put this statistic in context, it can be compared with the value of the coffee harvest, which represents 1.1% of GDP. That is, Colombia is not a coffee-growing country, it is a military country. The United States devotes  4% of GDP to its defense budget, including the Iraq war; in European countries the defense expenditure is 2% of GDP. [Note: while Colombia's defense budget includes police expenditures, the U.S. defense budget does not, so the comparable U.S. percentage should be higher. I have not seen a good estimate of how much additional GDP the United States spends on federal, state and municipal police.]

In the 20th century, military spending in Colombia peaked at 3% [of GDP] during the war with Peru [1932-33]. During the “La Violencia” period [1948-1953] this indicator grew from 1% to 2.2% of GDP. It is interesting to mention that during the military regime [1953-1958] it decreased from 2.% to 1.5% of GDP. During the 1926-1998 period the average military expenditure was 1.8% of GDP, less than one third of the current proportion.

If we compare ourselves to neighboring countries, Colombia’s war spending is double Venezuela’s and almost six times Ecuador’s. The mere growth in pension liabilities for the armed forces represents 1.7 percent of GDP, 60% greater than the value of the coffee harvest. Military pension liabilities grew to 15% of GDP in 2006.

As the irregular armed groups diminish, paradoxically, the troop strength increases. During the 2002-2007 period 160,000 soldiers fought 16,900 FARC guerrillas, 3,700 from the ELN, and – according to official declarations – they also fought 12,175 from the AUC. That is, 4.9 soldiers for every irregular combatant. By the end of 2007, with the AUC’s demobilization and the guerrillas’ reduction, there were 15.5 soldiers for every guerrilla. Counter-insurgency theories consider a ratio of 10 regular combatants to each irregular combatant to be appropriate.

In 2008, according to the Herald Tribune, troop strength increased to 254,300 soldiers, without including the police, while the number of guerrillas at the end of 2007 was 12,499, which brings us to a statistic of 20.34 soldiers to fight each guerrilla.

The counter-insurgent results of the first half of 2008, according to the Defense Ministry, were 5,065 guerrillas demobilized, captured or killed. If these results continue for the rest of the year, if the recruitment of irregulars diminishes as a result of the democratic security policy, the guerrillas will be nearly finished, and a process of reducing military expenditure can begin.

Obviously, we should not be excessively optimistic. During the 2002-2007 period, according to official statistics, 50,464 guerrillas were taken from the scene – killed captured and demobilized – but the guerrillas were reduced by only 8,101 members, passing from 20,600 to 12,499. That is, they were able to recruit double the number of members they originally had.

The conclusion is clear: it is better to remove incentives for guerrilla recruitment.

51 Responses to “The upward spiral: Colombia’s defense expenditures and U.S. military aid”

  1. Chris Says:

    Couldn’t agree more…

    Colombia, more than ever, could do with a massive investment in infrastructure and education… and to be neutral, I am not talking about increased union support through juicy/special interest contracts, increased welfare, etc. I am talking about ports, roads, bridges, utilities, and more.

    An investment that will create job opportunities throughout the sector, attract tourists, and propel the country up a couple of notches in the world scale.

    Wouldn’t it be too ironic if $$$ were being funnelled into the Colombian defense industry to purchase Brazilian arms, so that the US corporations could guarantee access to more Brazilian natural resources.

  2. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Nobody listened to Venezuela’s Mr Chavez, another messianic figure from the pictorial plethora of redeemer’s surge in Latin American politics, when he hinted on Colombia turning into the South American Israel. Now With Adam’s information on this entry, little room is left to doubt on the intentions of the petty war mongers ruling the country, to play the colony-to-empire dreams of Colombia’s deranged ponerology upholders.

  3. Kyle Says:

    So a few weeks back, really bored one night in Bogota, I did some math of my own on guerrilla recruitment ability. This is what I got for FARC/ELN numbers. The numbers come from various sources (which I can provide and lowest numbers were used from total fighters):

    FARC in 2002: 17,000
    FARC at end of 2007: 8,500

    ELN in 2002: 6,000
    ELN end of 2007: 2,500

    Drop between the two: 12,000

    Loss of guerrillas from deaths in combat, demobilizations, arrests: 53,149
    Guerrillas “replaced”: 41,149
    Re-recruitment rate: 77.422%

    These numbers are different than those cited in the Semana article (I have the report that the writer is citing somewhere), and was looking to confirm. There are a few possibilities here. The first is that the guerrillas have massive recruitment capabilities still. This is obvious. The second is that some of the urban militia fighters may have been called up to “regular duty.” Scott Dalton is his piece on his kidnapping in Arauca by the ELN (at, he speaks of what seemed to be guerrilla reserves. Also, in Uraba, for example, is was very common to have “weekend guerrillas,” i.e. people that work during the week and on the weekends pick up their guns and go to the mountains. The third is that, because all of these stats on deaths, arrests and demobilizations are government numbers, they could be slightly exaggerated. For example, we do not know if extrajudicial executions make up part of the “deaths” numbers, or how many captured guerrillas are released on lack of evidence or declared innocent. Either way, we still see a massively high rate and ability of the guerrilla groups to recruit.

  4. AR Says:

    Too costly, very inefficient as a counter-insurgent expense, unsustainable as a path to economic development, neither secure, nor democratic policy.

    Uribe said, at one of his weekly community councils shortly after the 15 hostages release, that he would be willing to spend the whole of Colombia´s national budget in bounties to fight guerrillas. A statement that reveals how rational his Democratic Security is.

  5. William Says:

    The reality is that even more military expenditures are needed.

    Someone was saying that what is needed is expenditure on infrastructure!? Without security infrastructure expenditures are wasted. The reason there is a dramatic quality of life improvement over the past 8 yrs in the poorest parts of Colombia is because the security situation is better. Continue to improve on that, and you can attract foreign investment (what Col really needs). And infrastructure expenditures will mean something.

  6. Steve Says:

    William, I think the point is that, in economic terms, Colombia is realizing diminishing returns on its investment. It seems there is no evidence that further military increases (especially in the form of US aid) will cause an acceleration in improvements in quality of life.

    Lots of good info to think about in that post though, Adam. Much appreciated.

  7. Kyle Says:

    I’ll be short, while Colombia still needs to increase its military expenditures slightly, it also needs to make them much more efficient. Also, Colombia needs to increase its (what I’ll loosely label) social and development expenditures astronomically to have success in the military side of things. Of course, Colombia could use some more money to do that…

  8. jcg Says:

    The thing about U.S. aid is that it can be more important in terms of quality than quantity, though both are still related.

    That being the case, I would definitely welcome the continuation in recent U.S. congressional trends regarding such aid, gradually placing less emphasis on military projects per se (not to mention the horrible trainwreck of current drug enforcement policies as a whole, fumigations included) in favor of other areas requiring attention…but like Adam, Chris, Kyle and others have implied above, it’s also necessary for Colombia itself to increase the amounts it employs for social and development projects, though that doesn’t mean that military spending can be cut back significantly just yet, even in the event that peace negotiations could somehow begin anytime soon.

    Jaime: Would you be surprised if I said the “Colombia is Israel” thing still doesn’t really, really work? I didn’t realize, say, that Colombia was surrounded by hostile states (as opposed to merely administrations or leaders, and even that requires a lot of flexibility about what “hostile” means), many of which don’t even recognize its existence.

  9. MZR Says:


    One could argue that it is Israel (not its neighbours) that is the most aggressive state in the Middle East. For example, it continues to occupy other people’s territories (while expanding its settlements in these territories), it periodically invades other people’s countries, possesses over 200+ nuclear warheads capable of targeting every Arab city, refuses to sign the Nuclear NPT, in fact it refuses to fully admit that it owns nuclear weapons (similar to Iraq, although Iraq DIDN’T actually own any… but the US and its allies invaded anyway), threatens Iran on a daily basis due to Iran’s nuclear programme (despite Israel owning enough nukes to wipe out every city in Iran and, indeed, the Middle East), threatens Iran despite Iran not having invaded another country for over 300 years, etc, etc.

    And before you say: “But, Iran wants to wipe Israel from the pages of our history books!!”. Well, no, this is utterly false. Ahmadinejad never actually said that, and every translator from Tehran to Tel Aviv argues or concedes this point. He said, drawing comparisons to Fascism and Communism, that he wanted to see the end of Zionism, as an ideology, and wipe Zionism from the pages of history. This is entirely different from saying he wants to “wipe Israel from the pages of our history books”.

    Back to Colombia… I think many argue that Colombia is becoming “the Israel” of Latin America for a number of other reasons. For example, Colombia’s willingness to ignore international law, largely due to US backing giving the “green light” for such actions, is a good comparison. Israel does this on a daily basis, Colombia less often but, as we have seen this year alone, has violated the sovereignty of its surrounding states and disregards international law when it sees fit. Other examples could draw on Colombia’s militarised and bellicose government, which uses the premise of war to further its goals, similar to Israel. Or the huge amount of US aid used for military purposes in both countries. Or the corruption within the political systems of both countries. Or the huge number of displaced persons, still without permanent abodes, in both Israel and Colombia, etc, etc. So, I could go on giving examples but I think you get my point. So I can indeed see a clear comparison between Colombia and Israel. As do many others, it would seem.

  10. MZR Says:

    Actually, before I upset any Palestinians who might read this blog, I meant to say (with regards to displaced persons):

    “in both Israel (or rather, the territories it occupies) and Colombia, etc, etc.”

  11. Chris Says:

    Zionism is a political movement that supported the creation of Israel, and justified seizing the lands the state of Israel encompasses for the latter purposes.

    Hard to eliminate zionism w/out eliminating Israel, so…

    i am not putting too much into the idea that Colombia is the “new” Israel because the parallels are weak at best. Colombia will never compare to Israel with respect to US support and funding. Furthermore, all of the US funding to Colombia comes with some kind of stipulation… funding to Israel is a blank check.

    Overall, I agree that more $$$ should be invested in infrastructure. Primarily because, like others have mentiond, the security gains can be easily wiped out with continued despair and social problems. Just take a look at Afghanistan and Iraq.

  12. MZR Says:

    No Chris, he was talking about Zionism as an ideology. Ahmadinejad made specific reference to Communism and Fascism too, so what you’re saying is completely false. There are many Jewish people living in Israel, for example, who do not believe in Zionism. Do they also want the destruction of Israel? I think not. Also, the fall of Communism in Russia didn’t signal the end for Russia. The fall of Fascism did not eliminate the creation of a sovereign German state. Similarly, the creation of many states as know them today were not based on capitalism but, nonetheless, the transition to capitalism did not signal the end of that particular state. So, just because Zionism help create a state does not mean that the end of this as an ideology signals the end of Israel. Indeed, it is actually very easy to “eliminate Zionism” without “eliminating Israel”. Israel is a state which does not need further expansion and, indeed, should pull-out of the territories it is occupying (of which expanding in such territories illegal under international law, in the eyes of the majority of non-Israeli affiliated lawyers).

    “The parallels are weak at best?” Which parallels are those? Are Colombia and Israel identical? I agree, no they are not. But can we draw distinct comparisons? I would have to say “yes”.

  13. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Chirs, it’s not that I want to diss you, but fighting against zionism, is not fighting against Israel. Zionists created Israel, indeed, but Zionism has more extensive plans than simply mantaining Israel. Their doctrine, in few words could be assimilated to those of the fascism, and is infiltrated in all the powers of the world at the higest levels including the US.

    There are many a jew people that want zionism out of their country: take a look.

  14. MZR Says:

    Sorry, I meant: “(of which expanding in such territories *is* illegal under international law, in the eyes of the majority of non-Israeli affiliated lawyers).

  15. jcg Says:

    MZR: I don’t want to get into the Israel or Middle East debate for its own sake, at all, only to the extent such comparisons involve Colombia, so my description of the situation was deliberately restricted for that purpose alone. And that will continue in this reply.

    I’d also be the first to admit that I can’t possibly know -or care- as much either.

    Why? Because I’m Colombian. I’m not Israeli or Palestinian or Arab or Muslim (or U.S. American, if it comes to that). Which implies far too many things for me to list here.

    But I can tell, to say the least, that the more details are involved, whether on the Colombian or Israeli or Palestinian side, the less the comparison makes sense and the more flawed such parallels become beyond a superficial level (and even then some are almost ridiculous).

    I do have to say I agree with Chris on that particular point.

    First off, I think you should read up on how other countries have violated each other’s sovereignty in Latin America, including Colombia’s. You might find that interesting.

    One might say that most of those incidents have never involved bombing missions like one against “Reyes”, which could be arguably the worst, but the fact of the matter is that border violations have occurred and will likely continue to do so, even if less so than in the past, and Colombia is not always involved as the aggressor.

    There is also the important point that almost all countries in Latin America have friendly or at worst cordial diplomatic relations with Colombia, in spite of everything else, both now and in the past, and that Colombia has had very few actual wars against other nations, and vice versa, nor has it occupied territory after the fact. Israel’s situation couldn’t be more different, or could it?

    As for U.S. military aid, I think the original blog post and another related one Adam has recently made, sum up quite a few details you might want to take into account, beyond the concept alone, in my opinion. What is that aid made up of, how it’s developed throughout time and what it actually supports, for example, couldn’t be more different once you get past that initial stage of “both Colombia and Israel receive lots of U.S. military aid”. I don’t need to know as much about Israeli aid as I do about Colombia’s to realize the comparison is not too good.

    Mentioning corruption as a point of comparison is almost laughable, with all due respect. I couldn’t know less about Israel’s corruption, but I do know very well that Latin America in general has lots of it, not just Colombia, which makes it a very pointless issue. If something is so common, what difference does it make to bring it up?

    Comparing displacement in Colombia with the situation of the Palestinians is also questionable, if you look at history. I can see some similarities in the resulting effects for the displaced population, I can grant you that, but even so, other details like the origin of the problem and its potential solution, for example, don’t even seem to be in the same level.

    “So, I could go on giving examples but I think you get my point.”

    I think, but doesn’t mean I share it.

    “So I can indeed see a clear comparison between Colombia and Israel.”

    It’s only “clear” if you stay on the surface and ignore the details that lie beyond it, the way I’m looking at it.

    “As do many others, it would seem.”

    “Many” is an extremely relative term, especially online, and even so…the real or perceived majority isn’t always right. In fact, there are many things in this world which are widely believed but which are actually untrue or at best inaccurate -including some of the stuff I believe in no doubt-, so that point only makes me shrug.

  16. Jaime Bustos Says:

    “Why? Because I’m Colombian. I’m not Israeli or Palestinian or Arab or Muslim (or U.S. American, if it comes to that). Which implies far too many things for me to list here.”

    I hope not all Colombians have stooped down to your lack of interest for foreign affairs, my friend.

    You can really try hard to convince people to accept your points of view as true.

    Unfortunately the level of sophistry verbalization you practice is way down below that I could possibly bear or get involved with.

  17. MZR Says:

    ” I don’t want to get into the Israel or Middle East debate for its own sake, at all, only to the extent such comparisons involve Colombia, so my description of the situation was deliberately restricted for that purpose alone. And that will continue in this reply… I’d also be the first to admit that I can’t possibly know -or care- as much either. ”

    Then, why on earth are you commenting on a Colombian-Israeli comparison? To compare two entities one must know about both of these entities. So, first off, I think you should read up on this other entity that you commented on (indeed, especially when you argue that Israel is surrounded by “hostile states”, implying [to me, at least] that Israel is some kind of victim). In this case, the “other” entity is the occupied territories.

    “First off, I think you should read up on how other countries have violated each other’s sovereignty in Latin America, including Colombia’s. You might find that interesting.”

    I’m not sure if that was deliberately patronising but, I can assure you, I have read enough on Latin American history, both English and Spanish texts, to give my opinion. I hope you don’t want me to give my “credentials” here, jcg, to demonstrate that I meet your criteria to “comment” on Latin America? Nonetheless, thanks for the advice, jcg. I’ll be sure to take note.

    “Why? Because I’m Colombian. I’m not Israeli or Palestinian or Arab or Muslim (or U.S. American, if it comes to that). Which implies far too many things for me to list here.”

    So, because you’re Colombian you are only able to concentrate on Colombia’s problems? Do you think that, maybe, Colombia shares the same problems that others countries may have? Maybe by politically analysing other situations in the world we can learn something about our own problems? Help to find solutions, maybe? Your comment shows a very myopic way of viewing the world. I’m glad that there are others who don’t think in such a narrow way.

    “Mentioning corruption as a point of comparison is almost laughable, with all due respect. I couldn’t know less about Israel’s corruption, but I do know very well that Latin America in general has lots of it, not just Colombia, which makes it a very pointless issue. If something is so common, what difference does it make to bring it up?”

    What a bizarre comment, jcg. We were comparing Colombia and Israel. We weren’t comparing the whole of Latin America. Again, “I couldn’t know less about Israel’s corruption” yet you seem to be able to negate any kind of comparison. I hate repeating myself, but you should really know both entities before you begin “laughing” at comments written by those who might know a little more than you do with regards to at least one of these entities. I can recommend an extensive reading list if you like?

    “It’s only “clear” if you stay on the surface and ignore the details that lie beyond it, the way I’m looking at it. ”

    jcg, what a ridiculous statement when you have conceded that you don’t actually know the details! Nor that you actually care about the details (see jcg’s comment above). So, again, your comments are contradictory.

    As I mentioned before, jcg, I am not claiming Colombia and Israel are identical. Rather, there are similarities. The bellicosity of both states is a comparison which you didn’t try to negate. The fact that this bellicosity is directly stimulated by munificent US aid is another comparison. The fact that both states arguably serve the interests of their main sponsor, the USA, amidst cries of foul play, is another direct comparison. The fact that both states are accused of wide-spread human rights violations whilst simultaneously receiving aid from a country (the USA) that claims to be the champion of human rights, is another comparison. The list is endless and this simply isn’t the forum to provide the detail of analysis that you seem to desire. And, indeed, if one analyses the nuances of any political situation then differences will no doubt arise. Nonetheless, this is an internet blog, nothing more. But what you seem to simplistically think that that any comparison equates to these two states being identical.

    “Many” is an extremely relative term, especially online, and even so…”

    Ok, I take your comment but, again, I don’t like the tone of your post. So, again, jcg, this is an internet blog. Nothing more. As other commentators on here have previously noted, you want every comment to provide a bibliography to empirically back up the tiniest comment that you disagree with (in your attempt to attack the relevant post). I agree, of course, that providing evidence is important, but for every single comment I make it is somewhat difficult. And, unfortunately, I don’t quite have the time. I also thought that it would be somewhat boring for me to provide a definition (and subsequent debate) on what constitutes “many”. So, I take your point and I will retract my comment with a “shrug” and assert that it is me, and me only, who is making a comparison between Israel and Colombia. Now, if you can provide me with the empirical evidence to rebuke my comparisons, then please do. But I’m sure the majority of people on here would prefer that you email it to me personally, rather than subject them to hundreds of pages of analysis.

    Apologies for my tone, jcg, but it was in direct response to yours.

  18. jcg Says:

    Jaime: There are foreign affairs I’m interested in and then there are foreign affairs I’m not, either out of circumstance or willpower, but I still care more about my nation’s own problems, first and foremost, and I see no sin in that at all.

    I just present my points of view in a debate, knowing some might well be wrong. I’m not more or less interested in “convincing” others of any “truth” than anyone else.

    Judge others only as you would want to be judged yourself.

  19. MZR Says:

    jcg: “There are foreign affairs I’m interested in and then there are foreign affairs I’m not, either out of circumstance or willpower, but I still care more about my nation’s own problems, first and foremost, and I see no sin in that at all.”

    Again, I reiterate, how can you so vociferously rebuke a comparison between Israel and Colombia when you have conceded that you know next-to-nothing about the former’s situation, nor do you actually care about the former’s situation?

    I’ll add a quote too, jcg: “an injustice anywhere is an affront to justice everywhere”. (MLK). Maybe you should take heed.

  20. Jaime Bustos Says:

    jcg, forget it, maybe it’s the way you approach things …. whatever ;-)

  21. jcg Says:

    MZR: Because I think it’s flawed, with what I do know, without needing to bring credentials or bibliography lists into this, and without needing to discuss Israel for its own sake at length, because the comparisons have problems of their own. For example, by “hostile states” I wasn’t trying to argue that Israel is a victim, because it has been the opposite in several events such as the wars it has started, only that there is hostility. That doesn’t require any special knowledge of the situation, nor was I asking for it.

    I also wasn’t questioning your right to give an opinion, if that’s what came across that was never the point and it would be absolutely useless, but rather the idea that only Colombia is comparable to Israel in the sense that it has violated international laws and gone across borders, when Latin American history and even current news have other examples that can be looked up. That’s what I meant even if, yes, I made it sound a little too patronizing with my tone.

    Colombia shares some of those problems, if you only want to make a list, but the circumstances are different and the reasons behind those problems can’t always be compared.

    Something useful may come from professionally researching and reading up on other nations -and I have read up quite a bit on other experiences like Peru’s and others so it’s not like I don’t see the point-, but I don’t think, say, any actual solution to the Israel and Palestine conflict holds the key to solving Colombia’s internal conflict or the current crisis with some neighbors, for example…especially when implicitly or explicitly demonizing Colombia as the “Israel” of the region a la Chávez obscures more than it informs. This isn’t a case of “one size fits all”, much less when you are comparing two nations with completely different histories (even a passing knowledge of Israel’s history tells enough).

    I think it’s better to first be narrow and focus on a nation’s specific problems than to try to apply external models so casually when there are so many differences. Just calling Colombia “Israel” serves no helpful purpose at all, unless that brings with it an entire plan of action. It’s very easy to say that someone is the “Hitler” or the “Stalin” or the “Jesus” of Latin America too, but what does that do? It’s more of a subjective evaluation, if not an insult / compliment.

    It doesn’t seem relevant to say that Israel and Colombia are both corrupt when corruption is so common. You might as well say that the two nations are capitalist. I don’t know how corrupt Israel is, though I could certainly look it up just like anyone else could, but I do know how corrupt Latin America is, including Colombia. It’s not a specific “Israel-like” aspect that only Colombia shares or something that Hugo Chavez was precisely thinking of when he called Colombia “Israel”, unless you have something far more unique in mind when you say that. Even “democratic socialist” Venezuela under Chavez is also very corrupt, to say the least.

    Again, I’ve never asked for any credentials or bibliographies -though it’s not like they couldn’t be found-, but if I think a point is too vague incomplete, or wrong for a comparison to work, I can say so. If someone disagrees with me and thinks I’m completely missing something for the same reasons, that’s fine too. Completely fine. It doesn’t have to be all about evidence, but at least some specifics that go beyond the surface could be more useful. If that’s too much of a problem, then we just agree to disagree.

    The point behind my “many” comment is that numbers do not matter, not as much as the actual content of a discussion.

  22. jcg Says:

    MZR: I never said I knew “nothing”, only that I know much less than I do about Colombia. Some of you might as well say the same, or vice versa.

    But again, special in-depth knowledge isn’t going to make Israel’s basic history and reality look less different, when you have stuff like this: the recent creation of Israel, its multiple wars with Arab states, the mutual hatred between an Israeli and a Palestinian, the current threats of nuclear war, the occupied territories, the tension with Iran, etc. …that doesn’t require me to profoundly study Israel, Palestine, the Middle East, or to have a personal investment in their fate.

    Maybe it would have been better for me to just ignore this, granted, but I guess that is useless now and only a formality.

    “I’ll add a quote too, jcg: “an injustice anywhere is an affront to justice everywhere”. (MLK). Maybe you should take heed.”

    But alas, it’s an injustice that someone else will have to solve and that I am in no position to affect, even if I wanted to.

    Whatever I can, even if it’s only 0.0000001% of the total and maybe also useless because of other factors, I can do for Colombia takes priority in my heart. Changing the world is something beyond my grasp.

  23. Chris Says:

    MZR / Jaime,

    Did Ahmadinejad give any specifics on how he would eliminate Zionism… or did he make this broad statement?

  24. MZR Says:

    “This isn’t a case of “one size fits all”, much less when you are comparing two nations with completely different histories (even a passing knowledge of Israel’s history tells enough).”

    But I wasn’t saying “Colombia is Israel”. I was pointing out the similarities between the two. And there are many. So, the histories of the countries are different, yes. But you are placing was too much emphasis on this. For example, are the *origins and dynamics” of the respective conflicts similar? Well, again, there are strong comparisons. Sure, statehood plays a stronger role in the occupied territories. But, for example, if one subscribes to Francis Stewart’s “horizontal inequalities as a source of conflict” thesis, then the Colombian and Israeli-Palestinian problems are very similar indeed. That is to say, Colombia had (arguably still has) a disenfranchised section of the population, with clear horizontal distinguishing features e.g. disenfranchised rural campesinos who did not originate from a white, European background; juxtaposed with a dominant wealthy, European-descended class of Colombians who controlled the country’s wealth, land, media, political landscape, etc. This is certainly comparable with the situation in the occupied territories: a disenfranchised group of people, the Palestinians, who are arguably forced to work in extremely poor conditions, poor housing, poor access to employment, etc, by a dominant group of people who they can easily distinguish themselves from: Israelis. Indeed, by the hundreds of different accounts of the intifada given in interviews by those who participated in it, the overwhelming evidence highlights that it was their disenfranchised status, rather than a fight for statehood (and certainly religion was never mentioned), that gave rise to the first intifada (although it later changed its emphasis to incorporate statehood once the PLO become involved, but this happened AFTER the intifada had already begun). So, again, comparisons can be drawn and lessons can be learned.

    As for the political corruption: as you wish, I will be more specific. Look at the political scandal surrounding Alvaro Uribe and his second term. Now, look at the current controversy surrounding Ehud Olmert, in particular the bribery allegations that have emerged this year and the subsequent calls for his resignation. And you can’t see comparisons here?! There are also numerous other “serious” allegations surrounding Olmert, for which he is under investigation. Likewise, the number of “serious” allegations surrounding Uribe is increasing with each day of his presidency. Yet both continue to cling to power and (rightly or wrongly) resist calls to resign. The fact that both are subject to serious allegations regarding bribery and their respective presidency/prime ministership is only the most recent comparison. But, nonetheless, I think it is a salient comparison.

    Now, to deny that comparisons exist today between the two states is, of course, your opinion and one which I have to respect. But some of your points seem egregious as they are too-rooted in the history of each conflict. Nonetheless, as I have tried to point out, even the origins and dynamics of the conflicts can be compared, contrasted and analysed, with arguable similarities. Are they identical? Of course not. But there are similarities. And the current political scandals also seem to be very similar. Moreover, I feel that my other points still stand:

    “The bellicosity of both states is a comparison which you didn’t try to negate. The fact that this bellicosity is directly stimulated by munificent US aid is another comparison. The fact that both states arguably serve the interests of their main sponsor, the USA, amidst cries of foul play, is another direct comparison. The fact that both states are accused of wide-spread human rights violations whilst simultaneously receiving aid from a country (the USA) that claims to be the champion of human rights, is another comparison.”

  25. MZR Says:

    Chris, it was a broad statement that was centred on ideology. So, by your implied logic, by Ahmadinejad saying he wants to attack Zionism as an ideology = wipe out Israel with a nuclear bomb? This when Israel openly states that it can and will attack Iran for “allegedly” developing nuclear weapons which Israel itself possesses (more than 150 to 200+, to be more precise). The word “hypocrisy” comes to mind. Of course I don’t want any proliferation of nuclear weapons. So why won’t Israel finally admit that it has 200+ nukes? Why won’t Israel sign the Nuclear NPT or, even better, dismantle it’s nukes? How can Iran take any kind of talk seriously when the demands for Iran to stop nuclear enrichment comes from the most aggressive state in the region, Israel, (which has plenty of nukes), together with the most aggressive state in the world, USA (which has the largest arsenal of nukes)?

  26. jcg Says:

    MZR: Then my point is there might as well be many differences too, to go with those many comparisons. Both aspects go hand in hand.

    You didn’t call Colombia “Israel” per se, but Chavez pretty much did. And, as Jaime initially mentioned him, that’s where the concept traces its contemporary origins to, roughly speaking.

    Francis Stewart’s thesis is genuinely interesting and I would even like to read up on it now that you’ve mentioned it…but in general I would not immediately subscribe to it, at least not without huge side-notes. I belong to the school of thought, if you may call it that, which believes that subjective factors have more of an impact on reality and social consciousness than what is usually thought by, say, “traditional” Marxists and those influenced by them.

    Or if you want to put it in Marxist(or -ish) terms -though I’m a bit rusty so I apologize for any inaccuracies-, I think the importance of the superstructure is often criminally underestimated by those who give too much focus to the base structure of society (or what they perceive as it) throughout history.

    Both of them interact, no doubt, but I feel that precious superstructural details can lead to huge differences over time, and explain why “similar” situations do not have the same outcomes, even if (supposedly) those differences may not matter too much in some faraway “ultimate end” (at least that’s how the theory goes, more or less).

    Back to the actual subject…there might certainly be common disenfranchised sectors of the population -something which needless to say is not exclusive to Colombia even within Latin America- , but exactly *how* those situations came to be, how they develop and evolve is where the differences lie.

    You definitely have a point that lessons can be learned through such analysis, but I still think one can’t leave out the differences and it would be wrong to assume too much from just saying “this is like is”, which could almost always be followed by “this isn’t like this”.

    That general comparison between Uribe and Olmert, for example, is interesting going by your description of it…but it’s still not uncommon, if not now then in recent history, for Presidents -in more than a few nations across Latin America- to be involved in serious corruption scandals (or at least accused of doing so). Leaving aside the issue of how those scandals differ.

    I think that your point on bellicosity, which I did in fact overlook, is also not something I would share. It’s looking quite a bit different when you consider that Israel has both “internal” and external enemies with which it has gone to war in relatively recent memory, including territories from those nations that it now occupies. Colombia has not done anything like that, and in fact the last foreign war we ever had was against Peru, technically, though certainly some incidents have come close. I also think that the specifics of Israel’s and Colombia’s relation to the U.S. doesn’t stop at the mention of the word “sponsor”, nor, again, is U.S. aid identical, nor are the exact same interests involved in both cases.

    So yes, you could make infinite comparisons and I could point to infinite differences…but what would that lead to?

  27. MZR Says:

    jcg, I don’t have time to fully answer you post now. However, just let me point out that Stewart didn’t write specifically about Colombia. Rather, I was applying her theory to our argument. Indeed, I have utilised this theory for numerous papers and, although it I find it easier to apply to other conflicts (e.g. the Lebanon, the Sudan), I still maintain that it can be utilised here. Nonetheless, if you are still interested in reading about her theory, I can point you in the right direction (although I’m not sure if her work is available online).

    “So yes, you could make infinite comparisons and I could point to infinite differences…but what would that lead to?”

    Yes, I agree. Maybe we should call it day with regards to this Israeli-Colombian argument? I still maintain that comparisons can be made. But, as you point out, so can differences (although I wasn’t actually denying this).

  28. MZR Says:

    P.S. her name is Frances Stewart (not Francis). Apologies.

  29. jcg Says:

    I’d agree then. Don’t think I don’t get tired or don’t have other things to do (I’d wish).

    I don’t think such comparison can’t -or shouldn’t- be made at all or under no circumstances, but I have serious concerns about doing so casually, like Mr. Chavez did when he practically equated the two, which is my initial reaction is usually to resist or outright reject the idea, like I’ve done here.

    PS: If you can, I would be thankful. It may not be available online, but I can try to look elsewhere.

  30. Jaime Bustos Says:

    jfc, with all respect as I consider you a honest person, your way of seeing things could be extended to multiple situations.

    Let’s say somebody contends Pablo Escobar was a criminal.

    Then in your logic somebody could argue, that he also built houses for the poor, he was a very good son, that he brought prosperity to Medellin, etc etc etc.

    Just to point out that if you refute every argument based on its relativeness you are left with no criteria, and everything turns into a grayish subject, worthless to discuss.

    I remember recently you said something similar about Mussolini, Hitler and Al Capone, having been unfairly judged by history and contemporaries.

  31. Chris Says:

    I know the hypocrisy exists; however, that will always be the complaint of the have nots towards the haves…

    In the future, the US and Israel will be weak and maybe China, Brazil or some European conglomerate will be the leading power… and all of us over here in the US will complain about the audacity of their actions, the hypocrisy of it all, how unjust!

    So, apart from the hypocrisy argument… the nuclear divide exists in part because of history, and a genuine fear from regional states. Israel and its people have historically been subjected to the might of other powers and people. As a result, they have transpired into a period of opportune aggression and militarism. Specifically, they act when they feel they’ve been cornered or pressured, and yes… they can because they have the world’s lone superpower backing them up unequivically.

    It doesn’t help anyone when Iran, Hezbollah, former Iraq regime, Hamas, and others threaten Israel in anyway… regardless of how they cleverly use their words to imply something that they can later backtrack on easily.

    Israel can be a peaceful state with its neighbors… Egypt and Jordan have proven it… and Syria (at Lebanon’s expense) will soon. I think that Israel would declare its nuclear arsenal and eliminate it as well (they really don’t need it, the US has thousands of nuclear weapons and is itching to use them)… if its Arab neighbors would unequivocally state that Israel has the right to exist, and sign a peace treaty… but ironically they don’t, and the truth is that they will not because they use the threat of Israel and its existence as a tool to manipulate their own people. If you can haphazardly blame all of your countries woes on the Israeli’s and the US, then you shift the focus/anger of your population against them.

    That’s how I see it… MZR…. I don’t agree with your point of view.

  32. jcg Says:

    Jaime Bustos: I remember. You might as well add Stalin, Che Guevara or even Simon Bolivar to that list, for that matter.

    I wasn’t speaking of “unfairness” in terms of just omitting “good” things, the opposite can also be true. “Bad” things can also be left behind. Or both.

    That also changes over time though, depending on the circumstances, research and the evolution of different interpretations. And, of course, different factions.

    To provide a Colombian example that illustrates this very well….the modern “Neo-Bolivarian” version of the Bolivar myth isn’t, say, the same as what people thought about him just after his death or even 50 years later.

    If I remember correctly, for a long time Bolivar was one of the founding icons for Colombian Conservatism (even in the 20th century, there was a “Cristo y Bolívar” slogan or some such), while Santander was enshrined by the Liberals as a reformer. What’s more, towards the end of his own lifetime, Bolivar was considered to be a dictator by his opponents, and even compared to Napoleon or Julius Caesar -comparisons I’m not really fond of either, for the record-.

    Now it’s more or less the other way around: Bolivar has become a “progressive” icon for Neo-Bolivarians and a large part of the mainstream, who equate him with liberation and rebellion, while Santander becomes a “reactionary” figure that is equated with the establishment.

    Maybe there’s some truth to *both* interpretations, but this example shows just how relative history can be. There are going to be beliefs about all of these individuals that are widespread but not necessarily accurate. Things that are forgotten, both good *and* bad, or just simply things that are true and others that are false.

    One can still have a valid personal opinion about each of them and back it up with arguments or research, however, that’s not going to change. Discussions and debates can still occur. I’m just commenting on a general process that, like it or not, has taken place and will continue to do so forever.

    Also…I wasn’t trying to imply, in terms of the Colombia / Israel comparison, that one was necessarily “better” or “worse” than the other in any of the mentioned aspects, only that they are different and I resist equating them just because there are perceived or real similarities. And even then, Colombia is probably “better” than Israel in some areas, but also “worse” in others. Or just different.

  33. MZR Says:

    Thank you for your post, Chris. Everything you have said backs-up the argument that Iran should seek nuclear weapons. This wasn’t my intention (as I am against nuclear proliferation) but life does have its ironies.

    Chris: “the nuclear divide exists in part because of history, and a genuine fear from regional states. Israel and its people have historically been subjected to the might of other powers and people. As a result, they have transpired into a period of opportune aggression and militarism. Specifically, they act when they feel they’ve been cornered or pressured.”

    By this same logic, then, Iran has every right to acquire nuclear weapons. It is threatened on a daily basis by the world’s leading super power (the USA) and the region’s most aggressive state, Israel. One could also say that Muslims are being subjected to the “might of other powers and people”. For example, there is a (western) occupying force currently in Iraq. The same is also true of Afghanistan. Oh, and we have the Palestinian occupied territories too. So, again, by your very logic, Iran SHOULD acquire nuclear weapons.

    “Specifically, they act when they feel they’ve been cornered or pressured”

    What utter nonsense. Let’s take the first intifada, for example. Israel, with the strongest military in the region, simply acted during the first intifada because it felt cornered? It felt cornered when children were throwing stones at its tanks? I can see how, with it’s army, tanks, fighter jets, etc, Israel would feel so “cornered” to act so brutally during the first intifada.

    “It doesn’t help anyone when Iran, Hezbollah, former Iraq regime, Hamas, and others threaten Israel in anyway…”

    A very flawed and ethno-centric argument. So, it’s ok for the USA and Israel to threaten Iran on a daily basis?! This helps everyone for you, I assume, Chris? It’s ok for Israel to launch a mock-military operation by its airforce in preparation for an attack on Iran? Its ok for them to do this when the USA’s own intelligence services have conceded that Iran no longer has a weapons program (it has oil though… A bit like Iraq)? It’s ok for the USA to have warships stationed in extremely close proximity to Iran, with the ability to launch devastating attacks? As you have pointed out, a genuine fear of other states may stimulate the pursuit of nuclear weapons. And, Iran has a genuine fear of two, nuclear-armed states: the USA and Israel.

    Now, if every one simply accepted these “hypocrisies”, like you have so blithely done, then the world would be a more terrifying place. Luckily, there are many people fighting against an illegal invasion of Iran (although, I realise that the illegality of the invasion of Iraq did little to stop the USA and its allies).

    Also, you talk about “have” and “have nots”. This implies that Iran is simply complaining because it doesn’t have nuclear weapons and wants them. Like a child wanting the new bike that his friend has just been bought for Christmas. This is far too simplistic. For example, this also suggests that all non-nuclear armed states simply seek nuclear weapons because others “have” them. This doesn’t hold any weight as, for example, in Latin America, countries have voted against acquiring nuclear weapons. So, if Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon, it is not simply because it doesn’t have them and wants them. It’s because it feels threatened by two nuclear-armed states. And the threat would seem very real to an Iranian, no? Look at how many countries the USA has invaded since WWII. And how many times has Israel launched attacks against its neighbours? Coupled with the daily threats from Israel and the USA that Iran has to endure and you wouldn’t blame an Iranian for feeling a little threatened by the prospect of a military attack.

    “if its [Israel's] Arab neighbors would unequivocally state that Israel has the right to exist, and sign a peace treaty…”

    No, Chris. Israel needs to recognise and adhere to UN resolutions (especially Resolution 242) before any peace treaty can be signed. Israel needs to pull out of the territories it occupies before any peace deal can be struck. Israel needs to stop its policy of illegal settlement expansion in the occupied territories before any peace deal can be struck. Israel needs to recognise and address the “right of return” with regards to the millions of refugees that it forced from their lands before any peace treaty can be signed. Israel needs to recognise the international status of Jerusalem before any peace deal can be struck. Israel needs to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of any future Palestinian state before any peace deal will materialise. Chris, you seem to place all the blame on Arab states, with Israel being the victim. Why didn’t you mention any of the above factors as a prerequisite to peace? Because you focus your attention too much on the pro-Israeli, US media, maybe?

    “but ironically they don’t [unequivocally state that Israel has the right to exist, and sign a peace treaty], and the truth is that they will not because they use the threat of Israel and its existence as a tool to manipulate their own people.”

    Again, what utter nonsense. For example, tell the seven-year old Palestinian girl whom I was speaking to last summer if the “threat of Israel” is being used to “manipulate” her and her opinion. Was her anger (at losing her whole family after an airstike) real? Or simply a manipulation by Hamas? Such stories are endless. To argue that it’s simply manipulation by the relevant elites is ridiculous. You need to spend some time in the occupied territories. You have no idea, Chris. No idea at all.

    “If you can haphazardly blame all of your countries woes on the Israeli’s and the US, then you shift the focus/anger of your population against them.”

    I think Palestinians can blame much of their woes against Israel and it’s main sponsor, the USA. Or would you disagree, Chris? As for Iran: of course it is complaining about the USA and Israel; these countries are threatening military action against a state the hasn’t invaded another country for over 300 years!

    Chris, whilst you continue to see such conflicts through the lens of a CNN camera, then, of course, you will continue to disagree with me.

  34. MZR Says:


    You can actually google her work (I think you’ll get some good PDFs). In all honesty, her best work is found in journals (she has also co-authored some fantastic books, although, as academic books, they’re quite pricey) but I’m sure there must be some good material on the internet.

  35. Chris Says:


    First, you have a tendecy of putting words in other peoples mouths. You’re reading way too much into my posts and drawing conclusions that you then attribute to me.

    Yes… while major powers maintain nuclear stockpiles, Iran should seek its own. Or else it will continue to be second rate. I like your idealism, but the world is not yet ready for it.

    Iran has not invaded anyone in 300 yrs. because they haven’t been able to!!!! Prior to that, they were more than happy to…

    You profess to know so much about the situation and you state your words as if they’re uncontested facts. But you’re YOUR focus is strictly from the Arab point of view, so there’s is an extreme bias in your posts that warrant repudiation.

    Reevaluate the situation as a whole, you’ll realize that the problem is multi-faceted, has a shared responsibility, and is by no means BLACK & WHITE — GOOD vs EVIL.

    I am going off on a tanget, but every government or organization on this planet manipulates everything… such that their interests come first. That’s politics. The UN is right-up there with the worst of them when it comes to injustice, so when you start throwing those UN resolutions around, don’t think that they’re not motivated by one force or another for whatever reason.

    My notion of the “haves and have nots” IS really that simple to me… if Iran could acquire nuclear weapons it would change the entire dynamics of the Middle East in their favor. Then they probably would go back to invading other countries for whatever reason… it’s been like that since the dawn of civilization… did Iran all of the sudden become an exception to history?

    Latin America hasn’t gone down that route because they have limited means, and the political price outweighs the benefits. Brazil was heading in that direction, but later chose another for many reasons, among which — it was made explicitly clear to them and others that the US would not except nuclear weapons in the Western Hemisphere (apart from its own stock).

    There’s an imaginary red line that the little people don’t cross when dealing with the big people (other big people don’t cross those lines as well, unless they’re ready for all out war i.e. Bay of Pigs)… that is why our neighbors down south don’t have nuclear weapons… not because they somehow became the moral lighthouse of this planet… and we must all follow their lead. Bottom line, if they could they would… same goes for everyone. BTW, there are nations that have chosen not to because they way the economic burden of maintaining nuclear weapons, with their overall priorities and they don’t see the need to GIVEN that the US will provide them cover from other nation-states (Soviet Union) that maintains the weapons (in essence Japan, Great Britian, is getting a free ride on US).

    This could obviously go on forever… I am done. I will not respond to this subject again. Where’s my Friday round-up Adam?!!!!

  36. Jaime Bustos Says:

    One of the most interesting debates EVER in this blog.

    “Where’s my Friday round-up Adam?!!!!” :lol:

  37. MZR Says:

    This will be my last response too.

    Your posts are incredibly simplistic. “I like your idealism, but the world is not yet ready for it.” I honestly nearly chocked from laughter when I read that. Define my “idealism”. And I am not arguing that Iran should acquire nuclear weapons. I am arguing that while Israel and the US continue to threaten it (and continue to hold huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons), it gives Iran a huge incentive to continue to acquire nuclear weapons. And who says the world isn’t ready for Iran to have a nuclear weapon? Mr Chris? CNN? The US government? The Israelis? And you say I’m biased? So, Israel is ready for nukes… But Iran is not (or any other Arab nation? Because they are not like “us”, I suppose? They can’t be trusted!!!).

    Please read up on Resolution 242. You will find that it carries a large amount of support, not only within the UN. So, if you’re going to criticise the resolution, provide specific points of criticism. And, please, don’t argue that my views are only from an Arab point of view. That insinuates that I am Arab? I’m not an Arab, Chris. I’m looking at this situation from a human point of view. That is to say, a point of view that will spare the blood of thousands upon thousands of innocent lives should Israel/USA invade Iran. What evidence do I have? Look at the catastrophe in Iraq. Will the USA never learn?! So, my point of view isn’t Jewish/Israeli, Muslim/Arab, Christian, atheist, or whatever. The facts are palpable. And you simply refuse to see them. There is no extreme bias in my view. You know only a part of my view. Do I want the destruction of Israel? Of course not. Should there be a state of Israel? Of course there should be.

    There is an extreme bias in your views, Chris. Why? because of your ignorance. How can you possibly talk about “peace” in the Middle East without mentioning resolution 242? Or any other resolution, for that matter? Or the “right of return”? Or Jerusalem? Do you even understand how significant these factors are with regards to peace in the Middle East? Well, let me tell you: if they are not satisfactorily addressed, peace will not emerge. And the research of hundreds of academics, think-tanks, etc, attests to this. And, yes, I will profess that I know a lot more about the Israeli-Palestinian problem than you do. This is clear from the omission of the aforementioned factors from your posts. Also, you are clearly making out that Israel is the victim by suggesting it is up to the Arab states (and Arab states alone) to move for peace. You completely ignore the role of Israel. Your ignorance is extreme bias, whether you know it or not.

    “every government or organization on this planet manipulates everything”

    I’m not even going to get into how general and simplistic this comment is.

    “My notion of the “haves and have nots” IS really that simple to me…!

    Haha – yes, Chris. I thought it would be that simple for you.

  38. Jaime Bustos Says:

    MZR, by having read your comments I realize you are a pundit in the Middle East conflict issue, but you should also bear with those who aren’t that knowledgeable about the aforementioned. I have learnt a lot by perusing your comments and taking notes.

    Chris, some of what you say is true that, which according to my interpretation amounts to mankind being arseholes and likely continue to be for the time being. It’s true, but you also should listen to MZR and learn from his erudition on this field matter.

    Jcg, I have nothing to say about your philosophy of seeing things from different perspectives. At most that somebody in that thinking stance, hardly will ever act effectively as there will always be objections as to the appropriateness of his plans, whether they be simplistic as tying up your shoes, or more profound, as say, transforming society.

  39. Jaime Bustos Says:


    “mankind being arseholes and likely TO continue to be for the time being” :mrgreen:

  40. MZR Says:

    Jaime, I know that people might not be well versed in Israeli-Palestinian/Middle East politics. And this is a Colombian blog, so why should they, I guess? But what I do object to is people commenting on the Middle Eastern politics as if they are, indeed, experts and, as is always my fear on this blog, I worry that at least one person might read such comments and form a skewed view. I therefore feel a duty to comment. I simply cannot not help myself when I read egregious comments regarding problems in the Middle East. I feel that the same applies for many of us who visit this blog regarding the Colombian conflict.

  41. Chris Says:

    sorry had to…

    I quickly read wiki’s post on 242 and don’t see any of your glaring truths or knowledge, from your ever so complicated posts. All I see is a bunch of gray… I bunch of bickering over what word means what, and no definitive conclusion on anything. How can this resolution even begin to lead to any kind of peace in the middle east? If anything, it exascerbates the problem.

    I hope your not in any position to influence policy in that region.

    How did I insinuate you were arab? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

    I am not writing dissertations on this blog, so I like to keep things simple. Hence, simple concepts and opinions, broad statements so that the audience can get a sense of where I am going, and so that I can contribute in the minute I get between my real job. :-P

  42. MZR Says:

    HAHAHAHA – Chris, please! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. You are now using Wikipedia to rebuke my arguments?! C’mon, Chris, you have to exhibit more intellectual rigour than that! Wikipedia?! The online encyclopedia!? And know you’re arguing, from Wikipedia, that resolution 242 exacerbates the problem? Please…

    But, if you insist: if calling for “the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” and “termination of all claims or states of belligerency” exacerbates the problem, then I’m not sure how else to solve the problem. But this isn’t why the resolution is important. Indeed, Resolution 242 is so important because it recognises that the only way to achieve this peace is for Israel to retreat from the land it annexed after the six-day war. Chris, it acquired this land after a war. I assume that this is ok for you, though? Israel is recognised by the international community as an occupying force within these lands. Resolution 242 It is the only way that Palestinians (not to mention the United Nations, the Arab world and a host of other countries) see as the most pertinent way to solve the conflict.

    Now, I realise that my posts may be too complicated for you Chris. So, let me make it easy for you, with regards to one of my “truths”. How do I know that the Resolution is seen, internationally, as the best way to achieve a lasting peace in occupied territories? Well, because it was UNANIMOUSLY adopted by the United Nations. Indeed, you can see this on Wiki, your favoured source:

    “United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 (S/RES/242) was adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council on November 22, 1967 in the aftermath of the Six Day War. It was adopted under Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter.”

    So, the Resolution is so important is because it recognises that Israel MUST retreat to the pre-1967 borders, to give back the land it sized during the six-day war (and the Palestinians are not asking for a retreat to 1948 borders, it is worth noting). So, the land that Israel annexed from Palestinians, after the six day war, you think that they should keep this land? This is “just and proper” for you? You think that by illegally expanding on this land that this solves the problem?

  43. Chris Says:

    What’s your source… YOU!

    That’s even more laughable.

    I LOVE how you selectively choose your passages… EXACTLY WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN DOING WITH YOUR ARGUMENT!

    Did you skip over the entire SEMANTIC DISPUTE you moron! That’s what makes it hard to conceive that the resolution should produce results.

    OHHH the UN passed… do I have to state all the crap the UN has passed to demonstrate that it’s a worthless organization!

  44. MZR Says:

    Chris, why am I even bothering to debate with you? I’m the moron? We will see…

    My source? You want a full reading list? I’d be happy to email it to you (MZR awaits Chris’ immature “I wouldn’t give my email to a loser like you” reply). Or, if you want to read exactly WHY Camp David 2000 failed, try reading Bregman’s excellent book “Elusive Peace”. Maybe read some Ilan Pappe too. Or Avi Shlaim. And you will find out just how important the Resolution is. The fact that you had to “Wiki” Resolution 242 shows that you didn’t even know what the Resolution was when you began talking about “peace” in the Middle East! So, you know nothing about the Resolution, yet pretend to know about the conflict. Hilarious. It’s like thinking you know about the Colombian conflict and not knowing what Plan Colombia is (I assume you know about this, Chris? Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if you didn’t). Anyway, I’m guessing that you won’t read any of the books I’ve mentioned. In fact, you should stick to reading CNN headlines (and maybe Wiki) in which to base your analysis. I don’t want you getting a headache. Although, I think you will struggle with anything more intellectually challenging than Wikipedia or CNN. You blatantly know nothing about the occupied territorites. But you are clinging on to your Wikipedia fueled argument and parading as some kind of Middle East analyst.

    Now, you really want me to talk about the SEMANTIC DISPUTE (I love the way he capitalised this, as if he actually knows what it is! Haha – he read it on Wiki about 3 minutes before he wrote his post). EVEN if you subscribe to the view that the Resolution does not obligate Israel from withdrawing from all the territories it currently occupies (which is the debate we’re talking about), the Resolution WILL STILL BE USED AS A BASIS FOR DISCUSSION AND A PEACE ACCORD BECAUSE IT STILL OBLIGATES AN ISRAELI WITHDRAWAL. That is to say, some Israeli’s argue that the whole territories belong to Israel (using, for example, Biblical arguments to justify this stance). Now, the Resolution itself legally solidifies Israel’s obligation to withdraw from the occupied territories. I’m going to guess that you are not a diplomat or involved in any kind of negotiations or peace talks, Chris. However, I will try to explain. The peace deal, when it materialises, will be based on Resolution 242. This is a fact (again, if you want a reading list, I’m happy to provide it). But then, if you knew about the conflict we wouldn’t be having this debate as you wouldn’t be questioning the importance of Resolution 242. Nonetheless, withdrawal will be a NEGOTIATED WITHDRAWAL. That is to say, Israel will bargain to keep some of the territories it has expanded into. In return, the Palestinian negotiators will receive “concessions” (such as the dismantlement of other settlements). The fact that you are dismissing the Resolution because of the semantic dispute (sorry: SEMANTIC DISPUTE), again, shows how little you know. During Camp David 2000, Arafat conceded that Israel will not withdraw from ALL the territorites it has acquired . BUT the fact that he had the Resolution means he had a HUGE bargaining chip. Indeed, as a signatory to the UN, Israel is legally bound to accept this resolution and therefore negotiations will be based around some kind of withdrawal. So, no doubt, a land swap will ensue. Chris, we have already seen the importance of Resolution 242 in the most recent peace talks. But, I think that you might also know little (if anything) of Camp David 2000.

    So, Chris, if you insist on making your comments, then I implore you to read about WHY the last peace talks failed. It was for THREE factors: the status of Jerusalem, the right of return, and territory. And the important thing here is this: the Palestinian negotiators were willing to make concessions on territory and the right of return. BUT it was the status of Jerusalem that really prompted the Palestinians to turn down the peace deal (again, I can provide a reading list, but Bregman’s book will suffice). As Arafat argued, if he sacrifices on Jerusalem he will not only be seen as a traitor to Palestinians, but also to the whole Muslim world, and will therefore be signing his own death warrant. If you want to read a full, day-by-day account of Camp David 2000, read the aforementioned Bregman book.

    So Chris, your idiotic argument implying that the Semantic Dispute renders Resolution 242 useless is, indeed, idiotic. Without Resolution 242, the Palestinians would have no legal basis whatsoever to negotiate for their land. With it, as I have said, they have a legally binding document which has been ratified by the United Nations. Israeli politicians (e.g. Barak) have recognised this and thus began negotiations on a land swap. But, Mr Chris thinks Resolution 242 is useless because of the Semantic issue so the Palestinians should simply give up their legally binding, internationally recognised Resolution that will secure them a future state. So, to reiterate for you, Chris: the peace deal WILL BE BASED ON ISRAELI WITHDRAWAL FROM THE TERRITORIES IT OCCUPIES. Will this be a full withdrawal? The answer is “no”. But, nonetheless, there will be a withdrawal. Why? Because Israel faces strong international pressure to withdraw from the occupied territories. Why? Because of RESOLUTION 242! Without it, the Palestinians would have nothing. So, the fact is this: Resolution 242 will continue to play a huge role in any peace deal. It’s called negotiation, Chris and is very common in politics. I assume you didn’t do a degree in International Relations, Chris?

    Chris, to be honest with you, you are punching way above your weight on this one.

  45. Chris Says:

    NO MZR… I am not punching way above my weight limit…

    All of this BS you talk and at the end of the day… no progress whatsoever. I have the last several decades to prove that 242 and every other resolution is a waste of everyone’s time, but yet you and others still hold on to it vehemently. It’s your kind of thinking that keeps the situation the way it is…

    an inability to think outside the box… roaming around the garbage with the rest of them.

    You can spit and spat like a little girl all day long, but we’ll see who’s right when its all said and done…

    BTW… I want you to cry when you read this…

  46. MZR Says:

    Chris: “BTW… I want you to cry when you read this…”

    Haha. How pathetic you are, Chris. I thought I was debating with an adult, not a child. Obviously, I was wrong… Yes Chris, your post was so striking that I’m in tears.

    A terrible reply Chris. A terrible comeback. Pathetic. Which attests to my assertion that you simply know nothing about the occupied territories. I notice you didn’t debate anything specific with what I’d written. You simply had to reply with a personal attack on me. Pathetic.

    Chris, you are an ignoramus. And I think you’re a phony. Why? Because, Chris, it is people like you that keep “the situation the way it is”. People who know nothing (and I mean “absolutely nothing”) about the conflict yet talk so strongly about it. People who know nothing about what the Palestinians are asking for and their legal rights (and the Palestinians constitute quite an important part of the conflict, wouldn’t you say?), people who only see Israel as the victim, and simply watch CNN and think they know about the conflict. It’s people like you that keep the situation the way it is. Again, please stop talking about Res 242. It’s making you look like such a fool given that you don’t even know what it is. Your knowledge amounts to a quick read of it (by your own admission) on Wikipedia. Not exactly the most intellectual sound method of analysing a situation. But, nonetheless, you’re now parading as if you’re an expert.

    “you and others still hold on to it [242] vehemently”

    Who are the others, Chris? Practically ALL the UN, for example? What about Israeli politicians? Israeli negotiators who conceded that withdrawal is a necessary prerequisite? Palestinians? Pretty much ALL the Arab world? Chris, again, you’re talking about 242 like you actually know what it is. Until this weekend you’d never even heard of it. Chris, I’m far from “crying” at your post. I’m laughing even more at your idiocy!

    You’re debating way above your intellectual weight and ALL of your posts prove this. Now, I really feel like I’m wasting my time debating with you; I’m debating with someone who seems to know little about anything. I would’ve taken you so much more seriously if you would at least conceded that you know very little of the conflict but would like to give your opinion. But, alas, you pretended that you knew what you were talking about and looked like an idiot in doing so. And to talk about the Semantic debate… Chris, I honestly couldn’t stop laughing at your attempt to “out manoeuvre” me by mentioning this, thinking I wouldn’t know about it. You’re read an excerpt about it on Wikipedia. I’ve delivered lectures on this very debate. That one really backfired on you, didn’t it? Haha. Cheers mate. you’re making this so easy.

    This is getting so boring, debating with someone who palpably knows so little…

  47. Chris Says:

    Look who’s talking about personal attacks!

    Your comments reek of personal attacks!

    And I don’t debate the specifics with you because I realized several posts ago that you’re not the rational type… that regardless of the situation you’ll sit there and bark! bark! bark!… I offered my opinion a long time ago. I reached a point where I had nothing more to say.

    BTW… wiki is an excellent tool for a broad overview of any topic in a NEUTRAL context. Don’t be so ignorant about everything… the news orgs and everyone else… Come to think of it, how did you get your negative perception of the Iraq War… most likely CNN?

    Jaime pointed out that I wasn’t a Middle East expert, so where are you trying to go with that? From what I see, you’re not much of an expert either (or a good one), else your professed academic qualities would have convinced me long ago, but they failed. Why? Think about it… if you can.

  48. MZR Says:

    Ok, let me try to be more reconciliatory. Apologies for any posts that seemed to personally attack you. Maybe I was getting a little overzealous. I disagree with you, yes, but maybe we were both getting a little personal. So I’ll take back everything negative I’ve said about you and apologise: sorry.

    I certainly didn’t get my negative view of the Iraq war from CNN. It’s largely from academia. But, nonetheless, even watching the BBC would give a negative view of the war. It’s hard to get a positive view of it.

    “Jaime pointed out that I wasn’t a Middle East expert, so where are you trying to go with that?”

    Well, I was pretty much highlighting that it is difficult for someone with little knowledge of the conflict to prescribe what the solution is (or in your case, what the solution isn’t, i.e. Res 242). This is a very valid point that I was making.

    “From what I see, you’re not much of an expert either (or a good one), else your professed academic qualities would have convinced me long ago, but they failed. Why? Think about it… if you can.”

    Also, I’m not quite sure about this “academic” argument. If only people listened to academics more often (especially politicians!) then I’m sure the world would be a nicer place (my tongue is firmly fixed in my cheek here, as I’m obviously biased). But, by your logic, simply because someone is an academic does not mean that they, by definition, are able to convince a person of a particular line of thought. Well academics can try, but they often fail. There were academics, for example, arguing (with strong evidence) that Iraq didn’t have WMDs and that any invasion of Iraq would result in a lengthy conflict. And not many people were convinced, yet these academics were actually correct. If simply being a academic would convince a person of a particular line of thought, then every government in the world would employ an team of academics to “convince” everybody that they were right (as opposed to, say, hiring an advertising agency or PR company to disseminate a particular message). Often, there are many academics with many different academic views. But, I have at least provided at least two people with further knowledge on a particular subject: you and Jaime. As much as you might disagree with me, you might know a little more after our exchange (e.g. Res 242)? Maybe?

    Also, I’m not being ignorant (Chris, I have read every side of the various arguments in the occupied territories. From the legal justifications postulated by Israeli lawyers concerning settlement expansion, to Zionist, Biblical and other pro-Israeli arguments for continued presence in the occupied territories; to Palestinian literature highlighting their claims for a state, why Camp David 2000 failed, etc. I have personally spoken to large numbers of both Palestinians and Israelis in Israel and the occupied territories who are on opposite sides of the spectrum, etc). Wikipedia is largely unchecked and open to abuse. And the sources it generally uses are largely restricted to internet links, as opposed to academic journals or literature. So, in the hope of reaching a middle ground, maybe it can be used for a brief overview of Res 242… But nothing more. So, my criticism would be, then, to read-up more on the topic and not concentrate on Wiki.

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