Frederick Taylor’s 1911 Principles of Scientific Management came to define the treatment of workers in a system where efficiency: the most work done in the most time was what managers cared about. To an author who infamously provided the decisive answer to “how many times per minute should my secretary be able to open and close a file drawer?” (25 times–for other tasks, exactly 0.04 minutes per folder and .026 minutes per drawer), we now owe everything from class rank by grade point average to ring-per-minute tracking on retail workers to the U.S.’s standing army of management consultants. But it is doubtful that even Taylor would apply his wide-ranging theories on maximum efficiency to international diplomacy in the same way that the Bush and Sharon administrations have implicitly agreed to do in the case of Israel’s “goals” in Palestine.
Following the brutal fighting on both sides and Sharon’s decision to invade by military force the small portion of the West Bank that is actually under the control of the Palestinian Authority, Bush and Powell made their formulaic and insistent pleas for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories–pleas that could easily become demands if the United States threatened to actually end, or even reduce, its constant financial and military support of Israel’s current occupation of Palestinian territory.
These empty calls for “peace” would seem no different than any other interaction between the U.S. and its client state–except for the odd notions of diplomatic effort that are belied by both what Bush has left unsaid and what Sharon has said in return: human lives ranking somewhere south of uncomfortable lengths of time.
Bush, predictably, voiced no real deadlines in his call for the Israeli army to withdraw, and spoke of no penalties for Israel’s current flagrant neglect of a recent and groundbreaking Security Council resolution. He also placed the blame squarely on Arafat for the recent wave of suicide bombings by Palestinian extremists (although how Arafat was supposed to create a more perfect Bantustan when his own security forces bore the brunt of Israeli “reprisals” is uncertain). But the U.S. administration is clearly distraught over Israel’s rather ill-timed decision to take up the mantle of the “war on terrorism”. Arab solidarity against Iraq, even among the despots of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, is fast disappearing, and Bush sorely needs another military target to continue his most politically successful venture to date. An Israeli offensive that will rile up the popular elements of Arab society against their <U.S.-allied> dictators is not a good way to start a “regional” invasion to remove Iraq’s own dictatorship.
So how has Sharon responded? Statements that he will “expedite” his military operations so as not to extend his army’s diplomatically irritating stay in the already-devastated cities of Palestine. Get in, ensure that Palestine has no stable position from which to fight for its people, and get out before anyone important has time to get truly angry about it. The administration, if it meant what it said, should take this as a slap in the face by Israel. A certain amount of civilians attacked, imprisoned and killed over thirty days is no more disgusting than the same amount over ten days (and if anything can be said by either side of the conflict, it is that more civilian casualties are inevitable if Israel’s offense continues).
But to Bush and Co., the destabilizing of an already corrupt and unpopular Arafat regime (to make way for what?), the increasing popularity of Hamas and other fundamentalists in the face of Israeli state terrorism, an indiscriminate Israeli offensive and the Palestinians and Israelis that it will destroy, are all peripheral next to the threat of a thoroughly inefficient and long-lasting campaign that might ruin the plans of the United States.
So Sharon’s statement is taken as satisfactory on Capitol Hill–“without delay” is defined as “without delay” by Condoleeza Rice in an interview, or, alternatively, as “right now”. No one claims that anything adverse will happen to, say, the U.S.’s massive foreign aid to Israel, if the army does not withdraw “without delay”, as this would imply that there was actual care for Palestinian lives weighing on Bush. But all Bush requires is an “efficient” invasion and withdrawal, one that accomplishes its “goal” of destroying anyone who threatens to provide an actual negotiating partner on the Palestinian side.
So how long should it take a client state to impose ruin and general disillusionment on a devastated populace? Obviously faster than Sharon’s current speed, which is what might finally lead Bush to support a more compliant replacement. Of course, it’s not as if the Palestinian or Israeli people are worth much more to the masters of diplomatic efficiency than a folder or a desk drawer. Taylorism reigns supreme in the judgment not only of employees but of policy-makers: Sharon will show his worth to the U.S.’s way of doing things by his ability to carry out an unpleasant task in a short period of time, no matter how deadly, sloppy, or destructive that task may be.
So what can Bush, Powell, and the rest do to prove that substance, not speed, is what they desire from Sharon? They can use their preoccupation with haste to demand actual deadlines for Israel’s withdrawal from the territory that it has already begun to demolish, with corresponding reductions in American military aid if Israel continues to use weapons supposedly provided to ward off foreign invasion against civilians within the occupied territories.
If Israel wants surface-to-air missiles to destroy refugee camps, it will have to buy them from the same less savory elements that provide Iraq with its arms (another U.S. client turned rogue). And the administration can refuse as meaningless Sharon’s plea that the invasion and destruction will occur more “quickly”, and begin to focus on the Israeli army’s own complicity, along with that of Arafat and Hamas, in what is currently occurring in the occupied territories.
Nick Ring is currently unschooled in Cary, NC and is on the Board of Directors for Youth Voice Raleigh. Ring can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org