Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pride, Logic, and Real Estate

A few years ago I read an article that said that for the amount of money it cost us to fight the war in Vietnam, we could've given every Vietnamese person $3000, and not have lost a single American life. And just think of how far $3000 per person - not per family, but per person - would have gone there.

But there's something about us that thinks it's dishonorable to "bribe" people to do things our way, or that makes us feel that we're condoning blackmail if we pay rather than fight. I'm not so sure about this. I think that $3000 per person would've been a very good idea, and might have earned us a lot of friends very early in the game, instead of the enemies we ended up with.

All of this leads me to think about real estate. Some of the most contested real estate in the world.

The stuff in the Middle East.

Call me incredibly naive, or call me an amazing realist, but I'd like to sit representatives of the Israelis and the Palestinians together in one room and ask the Palestinians this very important question:
Is your issue with Israel about real estate, and the just compensation for it, or is it about pride?
The answer to this question is very important. Because if it's really just about real estate, this whole thing can be settled in a few days with the writing of a couple of million large checks. But the cynic here suspects that as much as the Palestinians may say that it's about the land that was unfairly taken from them when they "abandoned it" (as the Israelis might say), it's more about pride and still wanting to drive the Israelis to the sea, no matter how much money they had to offer.

It's as if we were actually smart enough to offer $3000 to every Vietnamese man, woman, and child, and they turned it down.

I think about the borders drawn in the divvying up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. Borders that have caused nothing but trouble, because they weren't really based on the ethnic and cultural realities of the region, but on what Europeans thought would be a good idea for themselves. I think about borders that have been the backdrop for conflict after conflict ever since; and may well be considered the continuing battles of World War I.

And I wonder why Florin can't just offer Guilder so much money to buy the contested land once and for all, without a shot being fired?

The answer, of course, is pride. They would rather spend even more money, and lives, to try to seize the land "for free" than just peacefully buy it outright.

And if they could do this, if they could just buy the contested land from the other country, and didn't have to spend money on soldiers and weapons, maybe they could put their remaining funds to use on making life better for their own citizens.

Ah, too often pride gets in the way of logic.

Logic which would allow them to live long and prosper.

1 comment:

  1. I think there is a certain truth to the notion that "That if once you have paid him the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane. "

    ie, in the situations you discuss it would not be a one time payment.