Rice and Beans

Condi Rice made a surprise visit to Lebanon this morning and met with Lebanon’s prime minister. She’s talking about a “sustainable” cease fire

“We believe that a cease-fire is urgent,” Rice told reporters on a flight from Washington to a refueling stop in Ireland. “It is important, however, to have conditions that will make it sustainable.” …

… “The really important thing here is that whatever we do has to contribute to Lebanon’s regaining sovereignty over all its territory,” said Rice.

“It’s just very important that we work urgently, but that we also work in a way that is going to push this forward, not backwards.”

It’s a brilliant position; she can pretend to be against war while cheering war forward. Maureen Dowd:

The more W. and his tough, by-any-means-necessary superbabe have tried to tame the Middle East, the more inflamed the Middle East has become. Now the secretary of state is leaving, reluctantly and belatedly, to do some shuttle diplomacy that entails little diplomacy and no shuttling. It’s more like air-guitar diplomacy.

Condi doesn’t want to talk to Hezbollah or its sponsors, Syria and Iran — “Syria knows what it needs to do,’’ she says with asperity — and she doesn’t want a cease-fire. She wants “a sustainable cease-fire,’’ which means she wants to give the Israelis more time to decimate Hezbollah bunkers with the precision-guided bombs that the Bush administration is racing to deliver.

“I could have gotten on a plane and rushed over and started shuttling, and it wouldn’t have been clear what I was shuttling to do,” she said.

Keep more civilians from being killed? Or at least keep America from being even more despised in the Middle East and around the globe?

Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press reports that President Bush is opposed to an immediate cease fire.

White House officials said President Bush remains opposed to an immediate cease-fire to stop violence in the Middle East, despite personal pleas from ally Saudi Arabia that he help stop the bloodshed.

Saudi King Abdullah beseeched Bush to intervene in Israel’s military campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon, where the death toll is approaching 400 after less than two weeks of bombing. Abdullah’s request was hand-delivered to Bush by Saudi officials who requested a meeting Sunday at the White House.

“We requested a cease-fire to allow for a cessation of hostilities,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters as he departed the West Wing.

To which the White House replied:

“Our position on an immediate cease-fire is well known and has not changed,” said White House national security spokesman Frederick Jones.

That position is that before there’s a cease fire, the terrorist threat from Hezbollah must be “addressed.” Exactly what that means isn’t clear. The Sauds want Bush to persuade Israel to stand down, because the U.S. is the only nation on the planet with any clout with Israel.

Seems to me there are a number of diplomatic opportunities here. Will Condi, finally, get something right for the first time in her sorry-ass career? Don’t hold your breath.

Right now Israel is in a position to demand terms. In a few more days of fighting that might be less true. Billmon writes,

Twelve days in, and even Ralph Peters thinks the Israelis are losing:

    Israel is losing this war. For a lifelong Israel supporter, that’s a painful thing to write. But it’s true. And the situation’s worsening each day.

Now Ralph is the guy who spent a few days back in March riding around the safer parts of Baghdad (when such places still existed) and then came back and told his fellow true believers that the war in Iraq was as good as won. So if he now says the Israelis are losing, I would ordinarily expect the IDF to be accepting Hizbollah’s unconditional surrender some time tomorrow morning.

But it’s clear from many other sources that things aren’t going so well with Operation Midwife:

  • The Israeli Army — which dashed across the Sinai in two days in 1967, and surrounded an entire Egyptian army in 1973, has spent the past three days trying to secure Maroun al-Ras, a village about 500 meters inside Lebanon.
  • Securing that modest objective (and it may not be secure even yet) has cost the Israelis at least 20 soldiers KIA.
  • The number of rockets falling on northern Israel has been reduced only minimally, if at all, and Israeli civilians are still dying, despite 11 days of bombing and round-the-clock Israeli air cover over southern Lebanon.
  • U.S. military sources say that IDF claims to have destroyed a significant percentage of Hizbollah’s missiles are significantly “overstated.”
  • Jane’s Weekly reports that Hizbollah has emulated the Viet Cong and honeycombed the border area with underground tunnels and command posts that are virtually impervious to artillery fire and the Israeli Air Force’s existing stock of bombs. (It looks like those “precision” munitions the Pentagon is rushing to the front may be bunker busters.)
  • At least so far, it appears the Israelis have set extremely limited objectives for their ground forces. (This is one of Peters’ big gripes.) According to the Washington Post, the goal of the current operation is to secure four villages and a strip of territory six miles wide and 2.5 miles deep along the border. The significance of those villages and that particular piece of land is not stated. Nor is it explained how clearing them, and only them, will prevent Hizbollah from continuing to rain rockets on Israeli towns and cities — much less force the organization to disarm.

    Those glorious little wars just ain’t what they used to be.

    Righties, in their simple little binary way, assume that everyone critical of Israel’s recent actions must favor Hezbollah over Israel. So for the record — if it were up to me to choose one and discard the other, certainly I would keep Israel and pitch Hezbollah. The problem is that Israel, like the Bush Administration, puts far too much faith in war to solve its problems. Just as the invasion in Iraq has far weakened our nation and made us more vulnerable to attacks, Israel’s military aggression will likely sock Israel with more cost than benefit.

    Larry Johnson writes,

    Israel’s latest offensive to root out and destroy Hezbollah probably will fail and in the process will ignite a new round of international terrorist attacks that will put the United State squarely in the crosshairs. It is as if we are watching a plane crash in slow motion. We see the plane hurtling towards the earth, our mouths agape in a silent scream. We know it will explode on impact and can do nothing but watch. (Please check out Pat Lang’s take on the latest developments).

    Israel’s last invasion of Lebanon did not vanquish Hezbollah. This time around Israel faces a Hezbollah that is bigger, better armed, and well entrenched in highly fortified areas. Air power cannot extract Hezbollah from their bunkered retreats and caves. That will be the hard work of infantry. And as the Israeli Army tries to clear the caves, thousands of fighters on both sides will likely die.

    Condi Rice still holds the crazy belief that Lebanon’s Army, which is 50% Shia, will magically deploy and confront Hezbollah. She also deluded herself into believing that the radical groups, like Hezbollah and the insurgents in Iraq, are stirring up trouble because the US mission of spreading democracy is actually working. Maybe Condi also believes that the Tooth Fairy passes out coins for lost teeth, but believing in fantasies does not make fantasies come true.


    If the United States is perceived (emphasis on perceived) as encouraging or directing the Israeli response, the odds increase that Hezbollah will ratchet things up another notch by playing the terrorist card.

    We should not confuse Hezbollah with Al Qaeda. Unlike Al Qaeda, Hezbollah has a real and substantial international network. Unlike Al Qaeda, Hezbollah has a real and substantial international political and financial network. They have personnel and supporters scattered in countries around the world who have the training and resources to mount attacks. Hezbollah has no qualms about using terrorist attacks as part of a broader strategy to achieve its objectives. The last major Hezbollah attack against the United States was the June 1996 attack on the U.S. military apartment complex in Dharan, Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah also organized the attacks on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992 and Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994. But they also have exercised restraint when they felt they could achieve their objectives through political means. The ten year hiatus in major mass casualty attacks could come to a shattering end in the coming months, and American citizens are likely to pay some of that price with their own blood.

    For the past several days Michelle Malkin et al. have been screaming about Hezbollah sleeper cells in the U.S. and urging support for Israel’s war, as if a war to secure four villages and a strip of territory six miles wide and 2.5 miles deep along the Israel-Lebanon border will, somehow, make the terrorist cells in America evaporate. Again, as I argued in the last post, with righties you always need to separate reasons from motivations. And as in the last post, I think righties’ motivation is to punish — as in kill, maim, destroy — Muslims. Keeping America safe from terrorism — which their actions, IMO, are not doing — is just the excuse.

    Righties continue to believe war is the answer. Maybe they need to re-think the question.

    7 thoughts on “Rice and Beans

    1. They will have trouble ‘rethinking the question…’ as they cannot use their minds for what we would call ‘thinking’. Righties are brain-damaged in a way which we in the ‘lefty’ blogosphere fail to recognize. Your posts here lately on this subject have been informative. It would be productive I think to research what work has been done on the differences in though patterns and brain activity of ‘liberals’ vs. ‘conservatives’. I know some work has been done in this area.

      In the end, of course, there is only one thing to do with ‘righties’: Push them out of power.

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    4. The violence is a sign that democracy is working. What the rightwing simpleton machine denies is that Hezbollah has been elected, Hamas has been elected, there is a Shia Hezbollah supporting government in Baghdad that was elected. The will of the people is to resist american occupation forces and to resist Israel. As they elect people who hold the extreme views that violent resistance is necessary and the status quo is not good enough, we will see more violence not less

    5. I swear that I heard our Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel on NPR last week, making the very same points emel makes in comment #4. Essentially he reminded listeners H & H won “free elections” in various Middle Eastern democracies. I still haven’t figured out what I must’ve mis-heard, because it sounded to me like the upshot was, “Get over it.” I know he and Dubya don’t get along, but if he isn’t careful, Chuck’s gonna make an enemy of that other great Republican, Joe Lieberman.

    6. I think there is a plan here for a cease-fire and it was cooked up in Israel before the soldiers were kidmapped by Hezbolah. Israel does NOT want to occupy a ‘buffer’ zone in Lebanon. It was not fun the last time. They do NOT want Hezbollah shooting missles into Israel. What Isreal wants is for the UN to do it – occupy S. Lebanon and provide security. (you may view this sinister or simply the UN fulfilling its obligation.) Israel has deliberately created a ‘crises’ big enough (they hope) for the UN to get off their colletive butts and take action – instead of debate and issue Olympian edicts which are not enforced.I’m not a ‘chickenhawk’ but I want to see the bloodletting of innocents on BOTH sides of that border to end. Could this do it?

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