While doing my daily tour through the channels this morning(Weather Channel, ESPN, Fox, and HLN), the first thing that really caught my eye was the news that Ariel Sharon, the 11th Prime Minister of Israel, passed away today. This is not terribly surprising...I have known he had been in a 'vegetative' state since suffering a stroke back at the beginning of 2006. If asked yesterday, I probably would have told you that he had already passed away.
I also know that there is some perception involved here, and that not all people(especially those of Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi, Lebanese, or Palestinian decent)would consider him a hero...but since I'm from a Jewish family...I do.
I remember doing a biography on Mr. Sharon back in....oh, maybe 7th or 8th grade. At the time, I was quite the little warmonger, and Ariel Sharon seemed quite the ideal to measure up to, having fought in all 4 of Israel's major wars. It would be hard to recognize anyone other than perhaps Moshe Dayan(who had that distinctive eye patch) as being representative of Israel's military history. He wasn't just a leader either, being heavily involved in actual combat back during the 'all hands on deck' early years(and heck, even during the later wars....things were more than a little desperate at times in 1973.)
However, like Israel in general, he ran into a little trouble in the early 80's. While not directly responsible, he was blamed, through inaction, for the massacre of roughly 3000 PLO affiliated civilians at the hands of Lebanese Christian Militia. Essentially, he ordered the Israeli Defense Force to encircle the refuge camp, while allowing the Lebanese Militia to go in and clear things out, and then acting surprised once the slaughter started.
Not good. He resigned as Minister of Defense after this, and spent most of the next decade kicking around the Israeli Cabinet, serving variously as Minster-without-a-portfolio, Minister of Housing, and Minster of Trade and Industry, before serving as Foreign Minister for the decade of the 90's.
Upon his election as Prime Minister in the early 2000's, Sharon surprised a number of people by backing the Road Map for Peace, and beginning the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. This put him at odds with his own party, but was a popular move by the general Israeli population. Sharon came out ahead in the internal party battling that followed, but still eventually left his party, to form a new 'centrist' party. He was a proponent of withdrawing from the West Bank, and was expected to be re-elected as Prime Minister, when he suffered his stroke that left him in the hospital.
While not a Scandinavian, he was a hero in 4 wars, something those Asgardian's would approve of, as well as a reputed lover of food and drink, another check mark in his favor. There is no question he also had his flaws. His success during the Yom Kippur War came against advise from above, and after Moshe Dayan had already once blocked an attempt o remove him from command....but since it worked, he is a hero.
And he will be remembered.