Friday, July 21, 2006

We Are Taking the Wrong Approach to Lebanon

Further illuminating the somewhat shady plans of the Bush administration when it comes to Lebanon, Secretary of State Condoleeze Rice revealed that she will be travelling to the Middle East on Sunday, but that there are no plans to call for an immediate cease-fire:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday announced plans for talks with Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese leaders as part of a new U.S. diplomatic effort in the Middle East conflict, but warned that the United States would not support a cease-fire that fell short of disarming Hezbollah and restoring Lebanese government control throughout the besieged country.

On the eve of her foray into the crisis, Rice warned against the "false promise" of an immediate end to hostilities that would only trigger more violence "five or nine months" down the road.

"There are no answers that are easy, nor are there any quick fixes," Rice said at a news conference outlining talks scheduled in Israel on Monday and a meeting Wednesday in Rome with U.N., European and Arab officials on Lebanon. "What I won't do is go to some place and try to get a cease-fire that I know isn't going to last," she said.

Or any at all for that least not yet. As we've seen thus far, the delay in bringing about even a cease-fire (which might mean simply a temporary cessation to the hostilities) is a deliberate act on the part of the Bush administration, which seems to be hoping that Israel can if not destroy Hezbollah, than at least degrade their capabilities to the extent that they cannot seriously threaten Israel. The problem with this approach is that it not only puts us at odds with our allies, but it's also, quite simply, wrong. Let me explain why.

First of all, Rice's language to the contrary, an immediate cease-fire certainly can result in the disarming of Hezbollah. It is far too early to say whether Hezbollah is ready to lay down it's arms, and Israeli claims to the contrary, it is questionable whether Israel can destroy Hezbollah's cabapility to launch attacks by air strikes or even by a ground invasion. There is no "false promise" in simply requiring both sides to lay down their arms at this time, and only after cessation negotiating such a disarmament. But instead, the Bush administration seems to have decided that Israel will be in a better position to demand such disarmament if Hezbollah is more thoroughly bombed. That leads to problem number two.

We are gaining no friends in the world in supporting Israel's bombing campaign in Lebanon. At this time it is unclear how many Hezbollah fighters have been killed, but it is quite clear that many hundreds of Lebanese who may or may not be supporters of Hezbollah have been killed. The Israeli response to what was initially an attack on an Israeli outpost and the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers has been wildly disproportionate, and seems largely to be an over-reaction brought on by the now nearly forgotten capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas militants. There is simply no justification for killing hundreds of civilians and deliberately targeting infrastructure used by civilians as an effort to put pressure on the Lebanese populace to reject Hezbollah. Our tacit support of this campaign shows to the world quite clearly how little we value simple human rights, such as the right not be bombed when you haven't done anything.

It is also quite apparent that the hard-liners in this administration are at the reigns of our foreign policy again. Only they would consider it wise policy to allow Israel all the time it needs to bomb the snot out of Lebanon to degrade Hezbollah's capabilites, when a possible peaceful solution that could reach the same goal is quite evident. These are the same geniuses that brought us our little pre-emptive campaign in Iraq, and given the way that's gone, I naturally question any foreign policy action of this administration. And thanks to their policy of not "rewarding" our enemies by deigning to talk to them one-on-one, Rice will enter a situation in which we can exert no leverage on four of the five principal participants to the conflict. If that is the case, what's the point of even going, except to look as if we're doing something?

Lastly, we are allowing our image world-wide to be degraded, and we are tacitly accepting the extreme loss of human life, to allow Israel to degrade an organization which poses no serious threat to us. I question exactly what it is we're supposed to be getting out of this policy.Yes Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. No, Hezbollah is not affiliated with Al Qaeda in anyway. No, Hezbollah poses not threat to us at this time. So where's the upside in allowing them to be destroyed at the cost of hundreds of innocent human lives and the degrading of our image the world over yet again?

If you're looking for some sort of rational explanation for the Bush administration's approach to Lebanon...don't. This is the same group that thought that toppling the Taliban as a kick-start to Iraq would be sufficient, that thought that any serious planning for the post-war situation in Iraq was at best unecessary and at worst unwise because it would make people think we planned on staying there. We simply cannot trust the Bush administration to act in the country's rational self-interest, and that's really all there is to it.


Bukko_in_Australia said...

How are you going, Wise Men? As for not winning any friends across the world, let me tell you how the invasion of Lebanon is playing in Australia.

The headlines in the Melbourne papers, and on the national TV news programmes, are all about "Aussies trying to evacuate from the carnage in Lebanon." (There's a substantial Lebanese population down here. After World War II, the government encouraged immigrants from around the Mediterranean to come here. Need for workers, similar climate and so on.)

So you have all these English-speaking people who had been holidaying or visiting rellies there, and they're on the tube, tearful and fearful about the hell Israel is unleashing. The focus is not on what Hezbollah did, it's on what Israel is doing. So, more hatred for a country that once held the moral high ground.

Israel will certainly carry the day, and bomb the snot out of Lebanon, as you say. But it's going to be a pyrrhic victory, making them more enemies in the long run than the number they kill in the short term.

Big question: what does this do to Turkey, which has been an important Israeli economic lifeline in the Muslim world? I think it's going to radicalise the Turks, and their pollies will harden their attitudes toward cooperating with Israel on oil pipelines and other trade.

BTW, I'm an American who emigrated here last December because my wife and I could no longer consider ourselves morally clean whilst we were paying taxes to the war machine. I'm a registered nurse, so I could get a work visa. It's not perfect here, but I can sleep with a clearer conscience. Good luck back in the (other) States. I see more signs of fascism every day there, and it's going to take an economic collapse to bring on the rebellion that changes it. I'll watch from afar and read about it in the WaPo online. (Assuming Washington's not nuked...)

Xanthippas said...

Thanks so much for your lengthy and informative comment. It's interesting to hear what public opinion is in a non-Arabic country that is at least allied with us culturally.

I agree with you that this will radicalise Turkey's Muslim population. Listening to the radio yesterday, I heard a commentator talk about how the U.S. approach is to supposedly "solve" the underlying problem of Hezbollah, and yet year after year we make no plausible effort to solve the Palestinian problem, the source of the greatest misery in the Middle East and a reason for most of the ill-will directed against us. It has always made no sense to me that we'd be willing to invade a country to establish a "beachhead" of democracy in the Middle East, and yet fail to solve the Palestinian problem diplomatically. There can be no peace in the Middle East without such a solution.

(Of course, Turkey has it's own problem with the Kurds raiding across the Iraq-Turkey border, but we'll save that issue for another day.)

Thanks again for visiting.

Nat-Wu said...

Obviously the situation is going to radicalise everyone. If you accept the paradigm of the Bush administration or especially Israeli leaders, you have to end up on one side or the other. Israel doesn't feel like talking this one out, they just want to use it as an excuse to bomb the hell out of people. That might be because they do only see one solution to the problem, or it may be that they see a peaceful solution but prefer this one for political reasons.

Naturally, this isn't going to have even Islamic moderates crying out for peace when the other side is so obviously hell-bent on war. You'll get a complete bilateral division on this one, either for or against Israel.

This is where the tragedy of the US's lack of leadership comes in. We could step in and stop this. Israel depends on us, and if we said "Stop or we'll cut you off", they'd have to take us seriously. But the Bush policy of supporting them while trying to get them to stop is half-assed at best. What leverage can we wield from that position? And what leverage can we wield on the Islamic nations when they don't see us openly condemning the Israelis? If we don't condemn them, then the Islamic nations have no reason to listen to us.

Although this is a human rights tragedy, the question for us here is, what will this bring in the future? What are the possible outcomes of an Israeli invasion of Lebanon? Will it be just another slow, grinding war, or will other Muslim nations step in and take some action? Remember, this isn't 20 years ago, and we don't have the power or leverage we had then. If they don't have to listen to us, they won't. And what happens then?