Monday, July 17, 2006

On The Road To Nowhere

I have so many disparate thoughts on the conflict raging in Lebanon right now that I'm having a hard time mustering a coherent theme out of them. Purely from an American-centric point of view, this whole situation paints a vivid portrait of how ineffectual Bush administration foreign policy is, as well as drumming up some tough questions on how to proceed. As for Israel, what in the world does Israel hope to gain by pounding on Lebanon in this way? The most certain way to energize the populace in favor of Hezbollah is an invasion that harms Lebanese civilians. While it's clear that the Bush administration won't learn a damn thing from Iraq, couldn't the Israeli government? At best, all Bush and Rice can muster is luke-warm support of Israel's actions coupled with a call for "restraint".

I think it's incredibly disheartening how little real influence the United States has in the world anymore. The Bush administration's "cowboy diplomacy" has resulted in marginalizing the U.S. into a bit player's role. I think NPR's Juan Williams put it succinctly in a conversation with Bill Kristol on Fox "News" (with commentary from The Rude Pundit):

Williams also said, "Well, the hard and unforgiving line has been, we donÂ’t talk to anybody. We donÂ’t talk to Hamas. We donÂ’t talk to Hezbollah. WeÂ’re not going to talk to Iran. Where has it gotten us, Bill?" These are sentiments also expressed by Joe Biden on Meet the Press, that it's not weakness for the most powerful nation to talk, to offer support to, say, the newly elected government of Lebanon back in 2005, when it might have mattered.

The same could be said of Bush's failure to be engaged much in the peace process between Israel and Palestine. Or the Bush administration's failure to recognize that the reality of Iraq was not going to conform to their neo-conservative pipe dream of heroic intervention. The U.S. helped set the table for war and now there's no leaving until every course is served...

Another aspect of this blossoming conflict that I touched on last Thursday is the conservative enthusiasm for the war. It seems all too apparent that, for many conservatives, the only good Arab is a dead Arab and if Israel's willing to do that dirty work, so be it. Israel will have the full moral support of American conservatives, especially if the bombs keep dropping. Israel's willingness to answer violence with violence is the epitome of conservative militaristic foreign policy: an eye for an eye. It's a policy that leaves all sides blinded.

I've tried to remain neutral as far as where the blame lies for this conflict, but clearly the way the war is being waged favors Lebanon, and by extension Hezbollah, in the court of public opinion. Israel answering an assault on its troops with a full-scale bombing campaign and naval blockade, leaving, at last count, over 100 Lebanese civilians dead, really calls into question the larger motives behind the invasion. At best, these deaths make Israel's military policy look sloppy and indiscriminate; at worst, it confirms exactly the kind of Israeli thuggery that the kind of ideologues who populate Hezbollah and Hamas preach to their followers everyday. The civilized world already know that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization bent on destabilizing the Middle East and eliminating Israel. Whether they can do either is certainly up for debate but there is little doubt that Hezbollah's being able to goad such a severe response from Israel helps the Hezbollah cause. As Evan Derkacz from AlterNet puts it:

Israel continues to hit the airport and numerous targets that have NOTHING to do with Hezbollah (like Tripoli which is Sunni), and word is they've got ground troops crossing the Lebanese border. The situation is getting worse by the minute.

As I've written before, the best way to unite the Lebanese people -- pro- and anti-Hezbollah -- is for Israel to act like a lumbering and cruel-hearted invader. To wit: "President Lahoud has officially claimed that he supports the 'Resistance' and will not give up Sayyid Nasrallah." It's a political no-brainer.

As for those conservatives eagerly pining for a broader war with Syria and Iran, perhaps these folks need some serious moral reflection. They've taken their worship of war's iconography, such as the ever-present comparisons of every modern U.S. conflict to WWII, and completely divorced themselves from war's horrid reality. More armchair quarterbacking from the conservative warhawks. Once they have the taste for war on their tongues, no amount of blood washes it away.

What is needed in the Middle East is diplomacy, humanitarian effort and a concerted will by "the West" to see these conflicts laid to rest permanently. Unfortunately, there is little hope of any such intervention with Bush and Blair calling the shots in the region. Once upon a time the U.S. could have been the cooler head that prevailed. Instead, thanks to our mendacious and ideologically-blinded leadership, we're nothing more than a wall-flower, left to practically beg our ally to use restraint while being unable to help broker the peace Israel needs. So many lost lives and opportunities...

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