I wanted to add two quick points to my post speculating that the Neocons--as distinct from the Bush Administration as a whole--may be the ones looking to turn three kidnappings into World War III.
First, I'm struck by the two weak leaders who made this possible (to say nothing of the vacuum of power in Lebanon). I mentioned in my previous post that Bush has probably already received his whispered instructions from his Wormtongue, and therefore probably couldn't consider the rational counsel (egads, did I say that?) of his Secretary of State. And what would he do anyway? Dick has always succeeded in outflanking Bush, even when Bush tried to make up his own mind.
And then there's Olmert. As JMM described well the other day,
Unlike most Israeli leaders, Olmert was not a career Army officer. Whether he is 'mature' or not, he doesn't have the leeway for restraint in the way Sharon might have. Not that Sharon was known for exercising restraint in many cases, certainly -- but he had much more room for maneuver, precisely because of that. No doubt, this greatly heightens the volatility of the situation.
In different ways, neither Bush nor Olmert seems to have the strength to act rationally here. (C'mon Condi, prove what you're made of! C'mon, girl!)
And then I started thinking about Francis Fukuyama and all the other Neocons who have been bailing of late. I beat up on Fukuyama when he announced his split, suggesting he is way too smart to claim he got fooled by these guys. But I can't help wondering if he foresaw where this was going--less than a year after two celebrated elections among the Palestinians and Lebanon, the Neocons' ally in Israel dismantling one elected government and attacking civilians in the other. Here's Fukuyama in his NYT op-ed announcing his split.
But it is the idealistic effort to use American power to promote democracy and human rights abroad that may suffer the greatest setback. Perceived failure in Iraq has restored the authority of foreign policy ''realists'' in the tradition of Henry Kissinger. Already there is a host of books and articles decrying America's na�ve Wilsonianism and attacking the notion of trying to democratize the world. The administration's second-term efforts to push for greater Middle Eastern democracy, introduced with the soaring rhetoric of Bush's second Inaugural Address, have borne very problematic fruits.
More than any other group, it was the neoconservatives both inside and outside the Bush administration who pushed for democratizing Iraq and the broader Middle East. They are widely credited (or blamed) for being the decisive voices promoting regime change in Iraq, and yet it is their idealistic agenda that in the coming months and years will be the most directly threatened. Were the United States to retreat from the world stage, following a drawdown in Iraq, it would in my view be a huge tragedy, because American power and influence have been critical to the maintenance of an open and increasingly democratic order around the world. The problem with neoconservatism's agenda lies not in its ends, which are as American as apple pie, but rather in the overmilitarized means by which it has sought to accomplish them.
The democratization claims were a lie, an attempt to paint naked imperialism with an idealistic face. But it's all the worse when naked imperialism (and understand, I'm speaking particularly of the Neocons goading Israel on here, not the Israeli response) wipes out democracy.
Even with our awkward attempts to game Iraqi elections, it was pretty clear where the false Neocon claims were going. I can't help but wonder whether those Neocons who really did believe in democracy bailed because they saw that too.
Update: Well, teach me to make pop culture references at all, say Wormwood (from Julian Barnes History of the World in 10.5 Chapters) instead of Wormtongue. Thanks to DemFromCT for correcting it.