Friday, July 14, 2006

The dogs of war

Serious international diplomacy is about to begin concerning the military exchange between Israel, Hezbollah, and Lebanon. That diplomatic effort has already received an inauspicious start from our bumbling commander-in-chief.

George W. Bush's initial reaction to the broad actions taken by Israel's military resulted in this lede for the New York Times:
STRALSUND, Germany, July 13 — President Bush gave qualified support on Thursday for Israel’s strikes on Lebanon, telling reporters gathered here for his visit with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, “Israel has a right to defend herself.”
Juxtapose that with this reported phone call from CNN:
Lebanon's prime minister says he has received a promise from President Bush to press Israel to stop the attacks on Lebanon.
CNN's Nick Robertson just reported that Bush told Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora that Bush understands and agrees with Lebanon's stance on the escalating violence.

This peculiar White House has finally realized that the situation could spiral even further out of control and endanger regional stability, United States interests in Iraq and beyond, the global war on terror, and countless innocent lives. The fact that this conclusion should have been evident to a high school student who has paid minimal attention to a class here and there ought to be mentioned.

This from the Washington Post:
Bush initially told reporters that ``Israel has a right to defend herself,'' qualifying the statement only with a call to avoid toppling the Lebanese government, which he deems a model for the region.

But as fighting worsened, the White House grew increasingly anxious and issued a late-night appeal to Israel. ``We just continue to ask that the Israelis exercise restraint, be concerned about civilian casualties, be concerned of course about civilian infrastructure,'' Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters at a hastily called news conference here, 10 hours after Bush's original comments.

Moments later, Daniel Ayalon, Israel's ambassador to the United States, said on CNN that Israel had tried restraint with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon since 2000, only to be targeted once again. ``I think they misinterpreted our restraint for the last six years,'' he said.
It should be further noted that though the conflict continued to intensify throughout Thursday, Bush was either unaware of the day's early violence or could not arrive at an adequate understanding of the impact these attacks and counterattacks would have.

In a matter as delicate and complex as this, the President of the United States would be lucky to arrive at a cease-fire after three days of substantial military and paramilitary action -- especially between countries with long-standing strife. However, this president has acted with the worst possible diplomatic two-step. Keep in mind that during this week he was supposed to work on Russia's democratic woes, alliances over North Korea and Iran, and the situation in Iraq.

Yesterday, Greg Djerejian understood the trouble Bush was stumbling into:
Meantime POTUS is in Germany, and his rhetoric regarding this burgeoning crisis can, most generously, be described as uneven and halting, and less solicitously, infantile in its gross over-simplications. ... It's a big, complex world out there, with lots of shades of gray, and this is a time for deft statecraft to contain various mestastasizing crises, not simply resort like woeful Pavlovians to the always-at-the-ready empty and tired bromides.
At present, Israel's tactics are as follows, as reported by the Washington Post:
Israeli military officials said they planned to implement a military blockade of Lebanon, employing the same terminology they use to describe restrictions that Israel imposes on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

"We have decided to impose a closure on Lebanon in the air, in the sea and on the ground," Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, head of Israel's northern command, said at a news conference. He said the Israeli military was attempting to force the government "to deploy its army in south Lebanon, take responsibility for the kidnapped, return them" and fulfill a U.N. resolution calling for the disarmament of Hezbollah.
Zvi Bar'el of Haaretz wonders (nod to Greg Djerejian):
The message that Israel was trying to send to Lebanon's government and citizens seems unclear. On one hand, the Lebanese hear that the Israeli government does not plan to allow Hezbollah to return to its positions in southern Lebanon. That is too tough a mission for the Lebanese government, so people wonder what Israel wants and why it is attacking targets that are not related to the positions in the south, like the Beirut-Damascus highway or the airport.

On the other hand, Israel warned the Lebanese government that it holds it wholly responsible both for the attack and for the fate of the abducted soldiers. Here again, the Lebanese government has no idea what it is supposed to do - go to war against Hezbollah? "Of course, this government can't go to war against Hezbollah, and can't and wouldn't recruit Syria to rein in Hezbollah," said the Lebanese analyst.

This is because there has been an almost complete disconnect between the Lebanese government and Syria ever since the Hariri assassination and Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon. Moreover, Syria is not dissatisfied with the heavy price that Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's government is paying, or with the fact that there are no more appeals from Beirut to Damascus to curb Hezbollah. Syria is now free to claim that without it, there is no Lebanese government that can bring order and quiet to Lebanon.
The short term goals of all sides need to be addressed if any cease-fire is to be realized. That may be beyond the scope of what we can anticipate.

Michael Slackman offers this analysis in the New York Times:
Regional momentum is supporting hard-liners. Newspapers and television commentators have assailed Egypt and Jordan for trying to negotiate a peaceful solution between Hamas and Israel. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who planned to call a referendum on whether to support a two-state solution, has been increasingly silenced. Even the Hamas leadership in Gaza, which had sought to forge a consensus with other Palestinian factions, found itself trumped by its more militant members.
This may be the nightmare scenario envisioned for the Middle East by numerous commentators before the Iraq war. As Andrew Sullivan wrote yesterday:
It's hard to avoid the conclusion from the fast-changing events in the Middle East that we are approaching a wider conflagration. ... This has always been a regional conflict, with Iran and Syria as dangerous than Saddam ever was. The Middle East has exploded before, of course. But not with 130,000 American troops stationed in the heart of it.


Blogger Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

It’s a real tragedy of Shakespearian proportions

And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue, [no doubt a prophetic criticism of Lebanon’s Druze war-criminal-in-chief W.K. Jumblatt, a fervent admirer of George W. Bush]
Nor any unproportion’d thought his act. [that one is for Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s lunatic leader maximo]
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel; but being in,
Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice; [a precept the puppet President of the United States a.k.a. Impotent POTUS and his Neocon handlers should meditate before handing America’s Mideast policy to Ehud Olmert on a silver plate]
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgement.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, [100+ Lebanese civilian deaths in exchange for the life of 2 miserable Druzo-Israeli soldiers…well that’s a steep price to pay for the latest Hezbollah-sponsored summer festival]
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station [unlike say effeminate East-Beirut Christian bourgeois types, the aspiring revolutionary Ayatollahs of Lebanon have shunned the decadent outfits produced by decrepit Parisian couture houses for the pristine pashmina headscarves of Persepolis]
Are most select and generous in that.

(Hamlet, Act I, Scene III)

1:26 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Great comment, Doc. I was looking forward to your input.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Kvatch said...

I read Bush's comments about he and Condi getting on the phone with utter disbelief. On the phone to whom? Hezbollah? Hamas? Who don't give a f*ck what we think. Or perhaps to Isreal--who no longer listens?

You were being kind when you said "inauspicious", right?

4:50 PM  

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