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 matter...at 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.