Thursday, July 27, 2006

Lebanon Offensive Continues

Israel is taking the failure of the major powers to hammer out a plan for peace as a green light to dig themselves an even deeper hole:

Before the meeting, Israeli officials said they regarded the failure of an international conference to reach agreement on a cease-fire plan as clearing the way for further assaults on Hezbollah. “We received yesterday at the Rome conference permission from the world,’’ Justice Minister Haim Ramon told Israeli radio, “to continue this operation, this war, until Hezbollah won’t be located in Lebanon and until it is disarmed.’’

Or forever, whichever comes soonest.

The failure to create an accord among the major powers is mostly the result of our unwillingness to call for an immediate cease-fire and to a lesser extent the reluctance of the Europeans to commit troops to monitor any agreement. Of course our desire to avoid a cease-fire is a result of our "strategy" on Lebanon and Hezbollah. Unfortunately says Daniel Benjamin in Slate, that strategy has served only to strengthen our primary enemy in the Middle East, Iran:

How, you ask, could an administration that put Iran smack dab in the middle of the "axis of evil" in early 2002 and that has never relented in its denunciation of the clerics in Tehran be accused of opening the door to this catastrophe? The answer lies in the contrast between the appearance of hostility and the reality that American policy has consistently reduced the pressure on Iran to behave and has thus emboldened it to take a more aggressive course.

You should read the entire article to appreciate in full the utter failure of this administration's foreign policy in the Middle East, but I'll summarize the main points for you:

  1. Destroying the Taliban was necessary, but a side benefit was that it also removed an enemy on Iran's border. Iran now has the best of both worlds; a hostile neighbor has been removed, and the American-supported government that replaced it is weak an ineffectual, and we continue to be bogged down trying to fight a resurgant Taliban.
  2. The invasion of Iraq was meant to "shock and awe" the Iranians with our military might and put a friendly government on Iran's other border, thus surrounding Iran with nations friendly to us, leaving us in a stronger position both militarily and diplomatically. The opposite has resulted. Our soldiers cannot leave Iraq for trying to prevent an outright civil war, are vulnerable to attacks by Shiite militias instigated by the Iranians, and the end result will still probably be a Shiite dominated country that is a natural ally to Iran.
  3. Our refusal to deal one-on-one with Iran diplomatically at the height of our power in 2002/2003 has left them unwilling to cooperate with us now that are a less credible military threat.
  4. These failures have also left us unable to persuade other major powers like Russia and China to exercise influence on Iran in a way that is favorable to us
  5. Because of this, Iran is emboldened and has either green-lighted or instigated the conflict in Lebanon to derail attempts to get them to abandon their nuclear program, and to show us that they are force to be reckoned with in the Middle East.

The conclusion?

That Iran has broad regional ambitions—to steal the mantle of leadership in the Arab-Israeli conflict, ride the Shiite revival that began with the fall of Saddam, and fulfill its ambition to become a regional hegemon—is increasingly clear. The containment strategy that had held the line on Iran for more than a decade looks to be in tatters.

It is tempting to say that the destruction of Lebanon is the culmination of the administration's failed policy for the region. At this point, though, that might just be too optimistic.

Thus is the result of an inconsistent, incoherant, unprincipled, thoughtless, short-sighted and ineffective foreign policy.

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