In short, among other actions, yesterday Israel bombed the Beirut airport; Hezbollah fired rockets into Israel.
Professor Cole denounces Hezbollah’s attack as “criminal and stupid,” but he also criticizes Israel’s “disproportionate use of force.” In the long run Israel isn’t helping itself by causing chaos in Lebanon. He also writes,
I continue to worry that this outbreak of war in the Levant will exacerbate tensions in Iraq and get more US troops killed. Iraqi Sunnis generally sympathize with the Palestinians. And hard line Shiites like the Sadr Movement and the Mahdi Army are close to Hizbullah. Israel’s wars could tip Iraq over into an unstoppable downward spiral.
Bad news all around.
I scanned news stories yesterday, trying to catch up to the past several days’ events. I don’t pay as much attention to the Israeli-Palestinian situation as I should; after all these years, it’s become background noise to me, I’m sorry to say. For once, the blogosphere wasn’t much help. Commentary from lefties was sparse. Righties, on the other hand, declared war and eagerly cheered the Israeli team. For example, Kim at Wizbang writes,
Israel is proving to its enemies, who probably expected more capitulation, that it is prepared to engage in a two front war. … Now that Israeli government is finally responding to its enemies as it should have a long time ago, Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists would be advised, if they love their families that is, to hold their war planning meetings away from home.
Oh, by the wayâ€¦..where are all the lefty bloggers on this? Has anyone heard a peep out of them? Too busy defending Hezbollah and Hamas I guess.
It’s a legitimate question, even though the conclusion is the usual inflammatory and childish tripe righties are known for. I can’t speak for everyone, but for my part, I don’t want this to be happening. And yesterday I wasn’t sure how big a deal this military action really is — the beginning of a war, or just another episode in the Israel-Palestine epoch?
The next Middle East war–Israel against genocidal Islamism–has begun. The first stage of the war started two weeks ago, with the Israeli incursion into Gaza in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and the ongoing shelling of Israeli towns and kibbutzim; now, with Hezbollah’s latest attack, the war has spread to southern Lebanon. Ultimately, though, Israel’s antagonists won’t be Hamas and Hezbollah but their patrons, Iran and Syria. The war will go on for months, perhaps several years. There may be lulls in the fighting, perhaps even temporary agreements and prisoner exchanges. But those periods of calm will be mere respites. …
… According to a very senior military source with whom I’ve spoken, Israel is still hoping that an international effort will stop a nuclear Iran; if that fails, then Israel is hoping for an American attack. But if the Bush administration is too weakened to take on Iran, then, as a last resort, Israel will have to act unilaterally. And, added the source, Israel has the operational capability to do so.
As Matt says,
This is sort of mind-boggling. Let me just go on the record as saying that as bad an idea as bombing Iran may be, doing so as part of a wildly impractical scheme for Israel to launch a general Middle Eastern war is significantly less appealing.
The timing of the Hezbollah action could not be more revealing. Hezbollah commandos crossed into Israel on the same day that Iran was supposed to give its answer to the package of incentives that the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany offered to Iran if it will suspend uranium enrichment and enter negotiations to bring it into compliance with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Because no answer was forthcoming from Tehran, yesterday was also the day that the five permanent Security Council members expressed “profound disappointment” at Iran’s refusal to respond, and said they “have no choice but to return to the United Nations Security Council” to consider possible sanctions against Iran.
Hezbollah’s attack on Israel serves not only to distract from Iran’s defiance of the international community. It also plays into a propaganda campaign that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has conducted in recent months, conflating the issue of Iran’s nuclear program with what he has condemned as the intolerable existence of Israel. Also, by having Hezbollah strike now at Israel, the Iranian regime clearly means to neutralize Arab regimes that are fearful of Iran’s spreading influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had just disclosed publicly that he had worked out a prisoner swap with Israel and Hamas, but that “other parties” he would not name forced Hamas to sabotage the deal. It can be assumed that Syria and Iran are the other parties, the two countries having signed a military cooperation agreement last month that Syria’s defense minister described as establishing “a joint front against Israel.”
Knowing that Iran is behind Hezbollah’s act of war, Israeli leaders — who are openly warning of devastating strikes on Lebanon’s infrastructure — would be well advised to avoid a reflexive military response that lands Israel in an Iranian trap. If the regime in Tehran wants to provoke Israel to bomb Lebanese power plants, roads, and bridges, maybe this kind of military retaliation is not such a good idea.
Steve Gilliard gets to the heart of the matter (emphasis added):
Why are the Israelis being yanked around by their enemies? A kidnapping has created this insane risk of regional war. Every bomb dropped makes Hamas stronger. Every soldier kidnapped makes Israel react more violently.
Fools mistake weakness for strength and strength for weakness. And, unfortunately, since the United States government is being run by a pack of fools, we are weaker now than we’ve been in many generations. Sidney Blumenthal writes,
On Israel’s reoccupation of Gaza in response to Hamas’ terrorism, Bush has regressed to embracing no policy, just as he did when he first entered office. In the light of Bush’s failure to give Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas any tangible gains to show his electorate, Hamas’ victory was foretold. Now the withdrawal of the United States from any peace process is yielding a predictable downward spiral of mutual recrimination in the region.
This might be the time to stop and reflect on how the Bush Administration’s chuckleheaded “foreign policy” may have enabled a Hamas victory in last January’s elections. The Bushies, so enamored of the simple-minded notion that elections equal liberty, can’t see that where people want an Islamic government, elections might not equal liberty. From the February New Yorker:
But look around, Harari said: â€œIn Jordan, too, wherever there are free electionsâ€“â€“trade unions, student unions, professional guildsâ€“â€“the Islamists have the upper hand. If the Hashemite kingsâ€â€“â€“Hussein and Abdullahâ€“â€“â€œhad not played all kinds of tricks, the Islamists would have had a large representation in parliament as well. And when Egypt held its American-inspired parliamentary elections recently, the number of seats won by the Muslim Brotherhood rose fivefold. Throughout the Middle East, the Muslim Brotherhood is the main power with grassroots support. The Islamists are less corrupt. They are the ones with integrity and compassion. They are of the people and they speak for the people. Today in the Arab world, the choice is clear between democratically elected Islamists and Western-leaning dictators.â€
Here in the West we see the Islamists as totalitarians, but if (for whatever reason) it’s the will of the people to be ruled by Islamists, then standing in the way of that, attempting to impose secular government because we think it is better, does not equal freedom. That’s the conundrum righties cannot wrap their heads around.
Likewise, the Bush White House and its rightie admirers enabled Hezbollah to gain power in Syria, according to some observers. Robert Perry wrote last year,
George W. Bushâ€™s grab to take credit for a few democratic openings in the Middle East has endangered the regionâ€™s reformers while his two-year-old military adventure in Iraq continues to founder, a disaster sinking in the blood of Iraqi citizens and U.S. soldiers.
That grim assessment is, of course, not the imagery favored by the U.S. news media as it resumes its role of courtier press, lavishing praise on Bush and his neoconservative advisers as heroic visionaries leading the Middle East to freedom. …
… In the latest conventional wisdom about winds of freedom sweeping the Middle East, both mainstream and conservative commentators bought into the notion that Arabs were rallying to Bushâ€™s orations about liberty and finally appreciating his conquest of Iraq. But the reality is that Bush remains one of the regionâ€™s most despised figures.
So when Bush rushed to center stage ostensibly to urge on thousands of Lebanese demonstrators demanding Syrian military withdrawal â€“ and implicitly to take credit for the developments â€“ the U.S. news media missed the other story: that Bushâ€™s grandstanding was putting those protesters and their cause in danger.
One of the results was a backlash that saw pro-Syrian Hezbollah stage a counter rally of a half million people in Beirut on March 8, denouncing U.S. intervention in Lebanese politics and accusing Washington of regional â€œterrorism.â€ This massive outpouring emboldened Lebanonâ€™s parliament to re-elect pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karami, who had resigned just nine days earlier in face of the anti-Syrian protests.
The twin developments were a stunning reversal for U.S. policy in Lebanon, putting the countryâ€™s political position back almost where it was when the anti-Syrian protests began following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Feb. 14. The heightened tensions also have complicated the United Nationsâ€™ strategy for pressuring Syria to withdraw its remaining 14,000 troops from Lebanon.
Hezbollah, a radical Shiite Muslim party long denounced by the United States as a terrorist organization, was given a chance to demonstrate that Syria’s military presence, which began in the 1970s during Lebanon’s civil war, has the backing of a significant part of the Lebanese population.
Hezbollah’s muscle-flexing also forced another retreat by Washington. â€œThe United States has basically accepted the French view, echoed by others in Europe, that with Hezbollah emerging as such a force in very fractured Lebanon, it is dangerous to antagonize it right now,â€ according to a New York Times article by Steven R. Weisman. [NYT, March 10, 2005]
An alert U.S. press corps might have pounced on the Bush administration for overplaying its hand, but virtually across the board the U.S. news media had hailed the pre-March 8 developments as vindication of Bushâ€™s invasion of Iraq and the neoconservative strategy of using force to smash the Arab political structure. [See Consortiumnews.comâ€™s â€œNeocon Amoralityâ€ and â€œBushâ€™s Neocons Unbridled.â€]
Last year righties cheered the Lebanese who protested Syrian occupation, and they adopted the simple-minded but mistaken notion that the Lebanese were inspired by U.S. actions in Iraq to call for freedom. Today, some of the same bloggers who cheered for the people of Lebanon in 2005 (and complained that news media weren’t giving Bush enough credit) today condemn the New York Times for reporting that Israeli bombs killed Lebanese women and children. Sometimes their binary sorting system (good/bad, black/white, us/them) does create some discrepancies.
A statement issued by the White House yesterday condemns Hezbollah, as well as Syria and Iran, for the escalating violence but does not ask Israel to show restraint.
Hizballah’s terrorist operations threaten Lebanon’s security and are an affront to the sovereignty of the Lebanese Government.
Bombing the the Beirut airport is not an affront to the sovereignty of the Lebanese government, however.
Hizballah’s actions are not in the interest of the Lebanese people, whose welfare should not be held hostage to the interests of the Syrian and Iranian regimes.
That sentence is true, of course. It’s absolutely true. I can’t argue with it. However, Israel’s actions could complicate the work of the U.S. military in Iraq and get more U.S. soldiers killed. Yet the White House does not call for Israel to show restraint. I assume they’re treading carefully so as not to disappoint their base. Politics first, you know.
From Left I on the News:
… both the U.S. and the E.U. have condemned Hizballah’s seizure of two Israeli soldiers, with the U.S. escalating its attack on governments it doesn’t like by blaming Iran and Syria, while at the same time no one–no one in the U.S. government, no prominent politician, no U.N. official–as far as I can tell, has said a word about Israel’s murder of nine civilians by intentionally dropping a bomb on their house, nor any other action taken by the Israeli government.
And as a representative example of the liberal response in the United States, the Huffington Post has more than 20 posts/essays on its front page as I write this, covering such important subjects as Bill O’Reilly, Karl Rove, Superman, and other topics (why there’s even one or two about Iraq). Not one even mentions Palestine.
I don’t write about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict much for several reasons. One, I have no unique insight into the conflict; there are plenty of other people who do, and I defer to them. Two, what insight I do have tells me everybody involved is wrong a large part of the time. I mean everybody. I don’t take sides; there’s wrong all over. Like most westerners my sympathies want to be with Israel. Like most westerners, I sincerely rejoice that centuries of diaspora ended with the establishment of Israel. But that doesn’t mean the Israeli government is always right (or, conservsely, that the Palestinians are always wrong), or that Israeli actions are always wise and justified. I can’t render the situation into a good guys v. bad guys melodrama, the way righties do.
For years, my basic opinion was that I wished the hostilities would stop, but if not, I hoped the fools didn’t start World War III.
But the righties, and Left I, have a point — we liberals do seem to be avoiding the subject. We shouldn’t be leaving this discussion entirely to the righties.
Update: Via Taylor Marsh — You must read this piece by Michael Hirsch at Newsweek.com.