Hard Realities, Soft Buns

This morning’s news is that the violence in the Middle East is escalating. Via Laura Rozen, Michael Young suggests in today’s New York Times that Hezbollah’s aggression could be turned to Israel’s advantage:

It would be far smarter for Israel, and America, to profit from Hezbollah’s having perhaps overplayed its hand. The popular mood here is one of extreme anger that the group has provoked a conflict Lebanon cannot win. The summer tourism season, a rare source of revenue for a country on the financial ropes, has been ruined. Even Hezbollah’s core supporters, the Shiite Muslims in the south, cannot be happy at seeing their towns and villages turned again into a killing field. …

… The five permanent Security Council members, perhaps at this weekend’s Group of 8 meeting, should consider a larger initiative based on the resolution that would include: a proposal for the gradual collection of Hezbollah’s weapons; written guarantees by Israel that it will respect Lebanese sovereignty and pull its forces out of the contested Lebanese land in the Shebaa Farms; and the release of prisoners on both sides. Such a deal could find support among Lebanon’s anti-Syrian politicians, would substantially narrow Hezbollah’s ability to justify retaining its arms, and also send a signal to Syria and particularly Iran that the region is not theirs for the taking.

David Ignatius, in general, agrees. He says that Israel and America need to realize they can’t shoot their way out of this crisis:

Israeli and American doctrine is premised on the idea that military force will deter adversaries. But as more force has been used in recent years, the deterrent value has inevitably gone down. That’s the inner spring of this crisis: The Iranians (and their clients in Hezbollah and Hamas) watch the American military mired in Iraq and see weakness. They are emboldened rather than intimidated. The same is true for the Israelis in Gaza. Rather than reinforcing the image of strength, the use of force (short of outright, pulverizing invasion and occupation) has encouraged contempt.

Instead of force …

In responding to the Lebanon crisis, the United States should work closely with its allies at the Group of Eight summit and the United Nations. Iran and its proxies would like nothing more than to isolate America and Israel. They would like nothing less than a strong, international coalition of opposition.

The Canadian National Post reports that the G8 leaders are at odds over the crisis, however. Or, more accurately, Russia is at odds with the other seven nations, which have defended Israel’s right to defend itself.

Russia blasted Israel for its massive land, sea and air attacks on Lebanon, setting itself firmly in opposition with fellow G-8 members, including Canada and the United States, who it will be hosting at this weekend’s summit in St. Petersburg.

”One cannot justify the continued destruction by Israel in Lebanon and in Palestinian territory, involving disproportionate use of force in which the civilian population suffers,” Moscow said a statement Thursday. ”We firmly reaffirm support for Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

What does the President of the United States have to say to Russian President Vladimir Putin? Luke Harding reports for The Guardian:

George Bush yesterday promised to bring up Russia’s human rights record during tomorrow’s G8 summit, but said he did not intend to “lecture” or “scold” his host, Vladimir Putin.

President Bush, who was in Germany yesterday before he flies to St Petersburg today, said he would “respectfully” convey Washington’s message: that allowing political opposition, a free press and civil society was in Russia’s interests.

“My job is continually to remind Russia that if she wants to have good relations … she has to share common values,” he said, adding: “My own view in dealing with President Putin is that nobody likes to be lectured a lot.”

Yeah, just the thing.

His remarks follow a distinct chilling in US-Russian relations, which began in May when the US vice-president, Dick Cheney, accused Russia of using its energy reserves “as a tool of intimidation and blackmail”. This week Mr Putin hit back, dismissing the criticism as “an unsuccessful hunting shot” – a reference to the errant shot fired by Mr Cheney on a hunting trip that wounded a colleague.

“It was pretty clever,” Mr Bush said yesterday, when asked about the remark. “Actually, quite humorous – not to diss my friend, the vice-president.”

The Prez picked a heck of a time to go from being a hot dog to being a weenie.

More on Why We’re Screwed from Fred Kaplan at Slate:

It’s a perfect storm out there, each crisis feeding into the others yet at the same time laden with unique origins and features, demanding unique approaches and solutions. George Marshall himself would have a hard time keeping his grip.

The United States is hardly the only country at fault. Yet by its claims (“the sole superpower,” “the indispensable nation,” “we’re an empire now”) and by the objective facts (we are closer to being those things than any other country is), it does have the leverage—some would argue, the responsibility—to organize, mediate, and lead the way toward some solution. …

… But this sort of neglect is but a side effect of the larger deficiencies at the top. Whatever else might be said of them, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld are not worldly men. They’re neither well-traveled nor curious about the world. They came into office believing that America had emerged from the Cold War as the only real power and, as such, they didn’t have to care about what other countries said. They didn’t understand that powerful countries—at least powerful democracies—have always acted through alliances, even if only by manipulating them. A powerful country doesn’t always need allies to get a job done—but it does need them to get a job done with legitimacy, to get it done and keep it done.

One senior Bush adviser famously told Ron Suskind, back in those halcyon days shortly after Saddam fell: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” What’s happening now is that reality is roaring back.

A quickie survey of the righties indicates they are torn between believing Bush will order attacks on Iran, but is waiting for the right time, and those who are baffled by the new weenie Bush and want a hot dog to take charge and attack Iran. It appears that war between the U.S. and Iran is a given on the Right. Like going to war has been working out so well in the recent past. (See also Liberal Oasis.)

E.J. Dionne reminds us that the war in Iraq was supposed to prevent these little dust-ups:

Installing a democratic government in Iraq would force a new dawn. Newly empowered Muslim democrats would reform their societies, negotiate peace with Israel and get on with the business of building prosperous, middle-class societies. …

… “Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of jihad,” Cheney said. “Moderates throughout the region would take heart, and our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced.”

Today, with Israeli troops battling on their northern and southern borders, with Iran ignoring calls for negotiations on nuclear weapons, with Baghdad in flames and with many of Iraq’s moderates living in fear, those Cheney sentences stand as the most telling indictment of the administration’s failures.

The fact that righties think more war is just the thing to straighten out the mess — and that the Bush Administration is just the crew to carry out the plan — sorta brings home the importance of reality. Some of us are living in it, and some of us, um, aren’t.

Dionne writes that this is the time for bipartisan effort to face up to what’s gone wrong and come up with a plan to undo the damage. However,

… those in charge of Republican campaigns this year have another idea. They have hit upon the brilliant strategy of pushing any serious discussion of the failure of American foreign policy past Election Day. For the next 3 1/2 months, they want the choice before the voters to be binary: staying the course and being “tough,” or breaking with President Bush’s policy and being “soft.” There are just two options on the ballot, they say: firmness or “cut and run.”

Personally, given Bush’s blatant impotence to deal with the current crisis, I’d be turning that around on the Republicans — Bush is a weenie who lacks the moral courage to face his own obvious failures and do what is necessary to salvage anything worthwhile from the mess. Instead, he hides behind aphorisms and Condi Rice’s skirts.

Hilzoy provides the backstory for those who came in late. See also Arianna Huffington on “Rummy’s Disease.

4 thoughts on “Hard Realities, Soft Buns

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  2. Bush and Sharon and now Olmert know they have all the bombs and don’t have to consider the Palestinian people.

    The people elected Hamas and for sure there are plenty of extremists connected to Hamas but just the same there are extremists on the other side.
    Sharons walk on the Temple Mount, the ongoing building of more settlements, withholding of funds belonging to the Palestinians check points and the invasion of occupied territory are the actions of extremists.

    When Bush hinted to Sharon to reduce the violence after the second Intifada Sharon, not in so many words, said to Bush, get lost. And Bush said nothing.

    And we all could see on TV the distruction of Jenin and Rhamalla and the rest of the territories

    Abbas was willing to negotiate and was sent back empty handed and the people voted DEMOCRATICALLY for Hamas.

    Bush and Sharon are extremists and so is Olmert and many more.on the Israeli side and many, maybe most would be willing to make peace fair and square. on both sides.

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