July 28, 2006

Back Fire vs. Backfire


I’ve been meaning to post this fine cover since it came out one week ago.  My hope, if we could, is to focus on Israel versus Hezbollah in terms of results on the battlefield.

In the last few days, a forming consensus (exemplified by this NYT piece on Tuesday, or Billmon daily) is that Hezbollah has shown surprising strength while the fight has been going badly for Israel.  This cover surfaced, however, on the cusp of that impression.  So, while it might have originally had a more understandable skew, the image seems to be growing more ambiguous by the day.

On first pass, I assumed the Israeli soldier was standing next to a missile launcher, having just fired off a round.  After all, wasn’t that the picture in Week 1 — and historically, as well?  On that score, where the ambiguity specifically lies in this shot is in the feeling of Israeli isolation, the sense of absorbed shock and the implication of blowback.  Pushing it further, though, the photo might even suggest an IDF soldier suddenly caught in the open, dodging fire, maybe even disoriented.  In light of yesterday’s ambush in Bint Jbeil, these latter suggestions — no longer far fetched — suddenly tap a whole new level of Israeli vulnerability.

(And, as a side note, how often would an American newsmagazine offer its audience something like this?  For all its suggests, this cover remains remarkably open ended. Credit The Economist  for trusting its readers to work with it.)

I’m sure you see other inferences here, and also have thoughts about the title.

(image: The Economist – North America Edition.  July 22, 2006.  Cover)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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