Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Not your typical WW3 rant

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post notes this, with an Archduke reference early on:
I review this familiar history for those of us (myself included) who've been wondering how the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers (and the killing of eight others in the Hezbollah raid) has escalated in less than a week to what may be the brink of a cataclysmic regional war with ghastly global implications. The two crises and the sets of conflicting forces are by no means parallel, but in each the power of nationalism, the sense of national victimization, the need for revenge, the opportunity for miscalculation, the illusion of attainable victory, and all-around fear and rage loom large. More inexplicably, so does the American absence.

In 1914, of course, America was not yet a member of the great powers club. George W. Bush has no such excuses.
Thus he rebukes the president for inaction. Current policy is completely new. In the past, U.S. presidents have had a bias toward ending conflict in the Middle East as soon as possible. However, George W. Bush is up to something...

The New York Times:
American officials signaled that Ms. Rice was waiting at least a few more days before wading into the conflict, in part to give Israel more time to weaken Hezbollah.

The strategy carries risk, partly because it remains unclear just how long the rest of the world, particularly America’s Arab allies, will remain silent as the toll on Lebanese civilians rises.
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Some analysts interpret the apparent absence of urgency as tacit support for Israel to continue its military campaign.

"The United States will allow Israel to go on pounding Hezbollah and its strongholds until the group says, 'Uncle,' " said Israeli analyst Amatzia Baram. "Then Uncle Sam will step in."
The Washington Times:
Israel's military operation in Lebanon is designed to cripple Hezbollah by destroying its headquarters, weapons stockpiles and supply network, and eventually eliminating the militant group, Israeli officials and analysts said yesterday.
The administration seems to think, and perhaps rightly, that letting Israel knock Hezbollah around and create a buffer zone will work. This is a way that Israel and America can engage a proxy of Iran and Syria without launching into a larger conflict, maybe. Here is one academic in the Asia Times:
Hezbollah, in turn, needs to prove to the Lebanese public that it doesn't need Israel's enmity to justify its existence. Dragging Israel into the heart of Beirut, recently rebuilt after decades of warfare, does the exact opposite. It sends Lebanese society the signal that Hezbollah's continued existence comes at great peril for Lebanon's future.

"It led us to a war we are not prepared to fight," Yassin Soueid, a retired Lebanese general, told the Washington Post. "Israel could hit the presidential palace ... They can hit wherever they want, and there is nothing we can do about it."

Iran, on the other hand, is playing a high-risk game with the West over the nuclear issue. Its strategy seems to be to continuously defy the US, but stop short of trapping itself in a military confrontation it knows it cannot win.
If Israel knocks Hezbollah down a peg, this could be a good thing. But in the Arab street, this will be viewed as America and Israel attaching innocents. That view is simplistic but not completely wrong. Even if George W. Bush eyes useful short term gains in this conflict -- with his inaction -- the potential long term tensions and terrorism need to be weighed. Moreover, the wolves are in the field now. Who knows when they will stop.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Bubba said...

Very nice post. And for as Bush being up to something and the new policy.....I say what we did in the past didn't work well..so you know the saying: Do the same things, get the same results! I say let Israel kick the krud out of Hamas and Hezbolla. They deserve it!

8:02 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Thanks. I admit some affinity for this strategy. The long term impact has me worried. Meanwhile, nearby Iraq smolders

4:13 PM  

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