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July 20, 2006


I know that's not very erudite, but basically that's all I have to say.

An interesting Ken Silverstein interview with a former infantry officer and West Point professor, now an Anthro/Intl Relations Prof at BU:

6. What accounts for the passivity of the Bush Administration in regard to Israel’s actions?

I’ve been studying American foreign policy in the Middle East for 34 years and I can’t recall any U.S. president who has subordinated American interests to Israeli interests like this one. The administration is being naïve about how this is going to reverberate elsewhere, in places like Iraq. Israel is primarily targeting Shiite Muslims and that’s going to fuel the sectarianism that is feeding the civil war in Iraq. We have other concerns we should be looking out for—but George Bush apparently feels that American interests and Israeli interests coincide, so we have a no-show foreign policy.

Side note--now that's an interesting resume. We'd be doing a lot better in Iraq right now if we had more anthropologists in the army.

when there is no active foreign policy all that is left is military action. Bill Clinton was accused of being over involved but his watch left the bunker busters in their stockpiles. Bush chose to disengage during his watch, as he continues to this day. So is the military option a necessity or a goal? I think we know the answer to that one.

These events represent the final stage of Israel taking control over White House Policy
Bill Kristol might soon becme Secretary of Defence..Oh..we have already had Wolfowitz I fear the consequences in the M.E will be catastrophic...Who would be seen as the US friend now in the Arab World.
Im told by a source there,that Saudi leaders are in a state of panic.The loyalty of their local forces will be crucial to their personal survival.What happens then to the Saudi oil ?


I'm a recent reader of your blog, and perhaps you can direct me to some earlier postings; in your last 2 postings you have criticized the Bush administration for their handling of this crisis, and you have criticized the Israeli's for their response stating it is 3GW and too many civilians are being killed. What is your view of Hizbullah's initial kidnapping of the soldiers? Their stated goal of the destruction of Israel? And Hizbullahs acceptance (dependence) upon Syria and Iran for it's weapons (to include missles capable of hitting ships at sea)? Is a negotiated settlement of all hostilities and claims possible when one side has no desire to negotiate? What message should the Israeli's be sending Syria and Iran and how should they send it, especially in light of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's quotation of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of Iran's Islamic revolution "...as the imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map..."? Agreed, killing civilians is NOT a proper response, but what is??

As for the Americans in Lebanon, it's the YOYO principle again--you're on your own--until they are shamed into trying something, and then they bungle it.

William Arkin comments on the effect of continued use of demonstrably superior military force by Israel (or the US, for that matter) in fueling the image of a power that indiscriminately inflicts pain and suffering on others but seems to endure none or very little of it itself. This is a contributor to the jihadist mentality--certainly in bin Laden, and fuels the counter desire to inflict as much pain as possible. So "rooting out Hizbullah" isn't going to happen and to the extent it does, will just create more terrorists.

AndyM--It's easy to come into a play in Act IV and ask what ought to be done. This has been going on for decades. Neither side is really willing to share the land. Israel invaded Leabanon in 1982 to get rid of the PLO and ended up with Hizbullah. It undermined the PLO in the Occupied Territories and ended up with Hamas. Now it is trying to get rid of Hizbullah and Hamas. What do you think will be the result?


I condemn the capture of Israeli soldiers, but I condemn the kidnapping of Palestinian MPs too (the former which is a legal act of war, the latter which is a war crime). I condemn the suicide bombs but I condemn rocket strikes with high collateral damage too (both of which are war crimes).

There are equally horrible comments on both sides (from Sharon, for example, who predicted his withdrawal from Gaza would kill off Gaza. Neither side has any moral standing in this crisis, and haven't for a very long time.

So for my part, I'm routing for the innocent civilians caught in the middle. And the best solution for all the innocent civilians caught in the middle would be engagement. It would rob Hezbollah of its strength. And it would also make it much more likely that Isreal would achieve lasting peace.

You see, I'm interested in efficacy. Israel is adopting a strategy that, more and more observers predict, will only exacerbate problems and strengthen Hezbollah, and the Shiite extremists, throughout the Middle East. You may want to scream for blood, but by doing so, you're only ensuring more blood will be spilt on both sides.

Furthermore, AndyM,

My point in this post is that the Bush Administration gave Israel the green light to bomb indiscriminately even though thousands of American civilians were caught with no means to evacuate. Only belatedly is it making an effort to ensure the safety of the Americans there. That says Bush places more value on Israel's attacks than on protecting American citizens.

Agreed, in terms of the overall issue, it is Act IV, however, I only see criticism of the admin's handling (which I concur is God awful), and I did find analysis of the situation (I found the archives!!), but no substance on an effective response/strategy to the situation. To simply say, 'what you're doing is wrong.' is fine, anybody can do it, but to offer substantive alternatives is helpful to demonstrate that all posted is not just criticism. Good question - what will happen?? will it be 'right' or 'wrong', 'just' or 'unjust', 'far-sighted' or 'short-sighted', for the good of all - or just 'our side' (whatever side one chooses). I wanted to know EW's take on it.

Has anyone considered that the reason the US has been so slow to evacuate American citizens is that if some are killed, it might give our government a good reason to enter the fray, "to defend" our citizens, there? And, of course, not against Israel, but against the Iranian surrogates, Hizbollah...making a backdoor war against Iran a possibility? (All this evil makes my head spin with fearful imagination. Please forgive me, but I simply have no confidence in this government, and no belief in it's integrity.) Maybe, that's why they sent in the Marines, instead of immediately airlifting everyone out, as did other countries. It makes a transition to "invasion" by Marines better PR.

I think Israel would be best-served by letting in an international force, made up of Europeans and hopefully some Russians. If anyone gets hit as a result, it will hit one of the few neutral parties. Hezbollah will no longer gain the moral credit for protecting the victimized Lebanese, and Israel will no longer have carte blanche to try to take one of Lebanon's one source of water supplies.

Then I suggest a waiting period, at least a month, and more likely 3 (actually, I'd wait until after the US election, because that's already playing into it). If nothing happens in the next month, there will be discussion in the UNSC about Iran just on the terms of its own activities, which is one of the reasons it staged this escalation. But the UNSC must be a discussion of what the IAEA, and not the US, has found. The US and Israel are warmongering with Iran for reasons that have nothing to do with nukes, fairly transparently. And they can't be allowed to turn bad intelligence into a casus belli again. I think Russia should push for one more version of its proposal, with the additional requirement that the US engage with Iran directly. At the very least, if we engage directly, we will undercut some of the strength of Ahmadinejad (think of this--he's a populist, his power will be undercut if the Iranian economy improves, and his power will be undercut if he is negotiating with the Great Satan). But it also means we have alternatives in future escalations, beyond simply saying we should demand that Assad, who we've disempowered totally, should do something to fix the problem.

In the long run, I'd like to see a program where Isreal pays reconstruction to Lebanon for its war crimes in exchange for hard concessions for Hezbollah. Don't think that'll happen anytime soon. But it'd do more to stabilize Lebanon (and disempower Hezbollah), and therefore to move toward a peaceful border. And unless someone pays for Lebanon's reconstruction, Hezbollah will continue to be the source of social stability in southern Lebanon.

As usual, EW makes sense.

I'm with Mimikatz. Proportionately, the more each side is terrorized, maimed, or dehumanized there is a loss in the ability to listen and negotiate. I see Kofi Anan is weighing in with a request to cease fire. As with each conflict the innocents of Lebanon have now been tainted with terror - who they hold accountable is the game.

I agree with Margaret. There is no excuse for the foot-dragging by the looney tunes except to have an excuse to put our military on the ground in Lebanon and hope for the worst. Bush's base would have its excuse to whoop and holler and scream for blood. Some are asking where Cheney is holed up. He and his war-mongers are hiding out while busily pulling the strings to hit Iran. After all, the other two wars they wanted are going so well, why not have another. There's still money to be made by the war profiteers. The only answer to this and every war is when all military age citizens throughout the world refuse to fight these trumped-up wars. In this case, put the Israeli and Hezbollah warlords in a cage and let them duke it out. To the winner, goes the spoils. And spoils are all we get from these senseless battles.

I agree with mainsailset and Mimikatz.

When individuals act out violence, they may represent a group but not a nation state. When an army acts out violence they represent the entire nation state. I think that is the difference between suicide bombers and fighter jets firing missiles into apartment blocks. One is the act of an individual terrorist the other is an act of state terrorism. US citizens ought to be concerned with their subsidy of Israel's ability to wage state terrorism, and press their representatives to end it.

What is particularly disturbing about the fate of Lebanese Americans is the State Dept. could not acknowledge they were in danger and do anything timely to help them because that would be an admission Israel, and US support of Israel's incursion into Lebanon, is violating the laws of engagement. It is a classic characteristic of totalitarian regimes to make the facts fit the ideology, so any admission of Israeli unlawfulness or gratuitous violence against civilians cannot be made by the US despite the possible suffering of its own citizens.

How this playing on TV? What is the line that our corporate media is plying? Since I don't watch TV, I am curious if others have.

ab initio

The TV doesn't get turned on until (American) football season starts.

I've been contemplating for a while now the idea that this administration handles most problems the same way . . . if it can't use military force, it will simply do nothing until things deteriorate to the point that it must use military force.

(I am, of course, talking about actual problems here, not the ones they invent to promote various schemes on the behalf of their campaign contributors.)

So, in Iraq . . . resist and refuse to cooperate with diplomatic processes until such time as you can justify an attack. Iran and Korea, ditto. New Orleans, do nothing of substance until the shooting starts, then send in the National Guard. Their bird flu plan was roughly the same.

It can't be coincidence. Following Katrina I came to the conclusion that use of military force (and writing massive checks to unsupervised contractors) is the only function of government that these folks consider legitimate, so it's the only one they use to deal with the real problems we face as a nation.

Aha! I had mine on for the World Cup. Football does not hit my screen until the playoffs. And news never.

EW, your suggestions could play for the Lebanon issue but the core issue remains what's the Israel-Palestinian settlement look like? What is the role of the US and Iran and other actors in the ME? How to deal with the jihadists and the neocons?

With the Cold War - MAD worked. Neither side took it past the brink. Another recent example is India-Pakistan. Both went to the brink but did not cross the rubicon. Maybe there is something to be said for nuclear deterrence. It renders conventional military superiority moot and causes actors to think hard before pulling the trigger. Although India has conventional military superiority with respect to Pakistan and perceives that the jihadists causing mayhem in India gain both material and financial support from Pakistan it has been restrained through fear of nuclear escalation.

The US invaded Iraq because as Cheney stated "it's doable". Overwhelming military superiority means that tool will be used to solve hard diplomatic problems. Israel's attitude is driven by their overwhleming military superiority. They don't have to compromise as much in their belief. A red herring thrown up is - Israel's right to exist. That is not in any doubt. None of their neighbors and all of them combined could not force the Israeli's into the Mediterranean Sea.

In my mind a prerequisite to a settlement and peace has to be to break the cycle of vengeance and reprisal and focus more on forgiveness. The irony is that the value taught by the religions in the Levant are subverted for other purposes. Some of the most intolerant and reactionary elements in our own society are the religious fundamentalists.

Why didn't the USA buy Lebanon after the Cedar Revolution, the way we bought Egypt and Jordan and especially Turkey? Pump money into the place, build the infrastructure for a real economy and a middle class that won't care for militancy -- yes, even infrastucture for Shiites south of the Litani. This is the same as my age-old question of how Bill Clinton could possibly have failed to buy Russia. The purchase of Japan and Germany and S Korea has been so overwhelmingly successful, I don't see why we would have any other policy anywhere.

And now that we've kept the Europeans and UN from stopping the Israelis, are we at least going to pay to rebuild Lebanon when the American-made, Israeli-branded bombs stop falling? I hope so. Otherwise Hezbollah WILL surge into the gap, stronger and more credible than ever.

ab initio

I think those are three different questions. I remain as concerned by Pakistan as I do by Hamas or Hezbollah, because Pakistan is a bigger immediate threat to us.

If I could invent a time machine, I'd take us back to before the Iraq war and dump the close to $500 million we've spent on Iraq into alternative energies. Once Iran's position as a huge oil and gas exported becomes less important, once it doesn't have the petroleum dollars to spend on Hezbollah, things will be different. If the rest of the Middle East didn't matter so much to us, I suspect our relationship with Israel would be different, since we'd no longer need a guaranteed beach head in the ME.

But the only answer (to piggyback on some things texas dem said), is to develop civil society independent of secular organizations. Hezbollah will be powerful so long as it's the only civil society available (and frankly a very well-functioning one, was well). Ditto Hamas. And that's what Pakistan needs, more than anything else.

Now the US doesn't have the money to contribute to the development of civil society in all these places, unless it gets rid of its big military funds. But that, to me, seems to be the tradeoff. We can sow peace by investing in real infrastructure and civil society improvements without disempowering local people. Or we can bomb the hell out of them without establishing lasting peace.

There's a whole underlying critique of capitalism, particularly as practices in our neomercantile globalized version.

BUt hey, maybe we'll be lucky and oil will just run out and then we'll be force to reinvest in local civil society and localized craftsmanship.

Oops. $500 billion. $500 million doesn't buy much alternative energy, or civil society.

Texas Dem: I think the motivation we had for "buying" nations went down the tubes with the Soviet Union. Now that there's no real alternative -- China almost qualifies, but not really, since we're so tied into them economically now -- we have no reason to start building infrastructure and functional economies. The new global-trade carrot is unimaginable wealth for those already at the top of the economic heap (once they get bought out by multinational investors), and the stick is exclusion. If we cut you off, you've basically got nowhere to go, although there's a growing global movement to change that circumstance. Why bother building model economies?

``Once Iran's position as a huge oil and gas exported becomes less important, once it doesn't have the petroleum dollars to spend on Hezbollah, things will be different.''

And the same for the other petroleum exporting countries, such as Saudi Arabia, as well. But the U.S. doesn't import much oil from Iran, whereas other countries do. The $500 billion would have to put them on the track to reduced dependence on oil as well. And some of the $500 billion should have been spent on serious reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan: the U.S. owed them that, and, were that not just an excuse to hook them on goods sold by U.S. multinationals, such an effort would have been of benefit both to them and to the U.S., which would have gained diplomatically, at least.

Looks like Rove is writing headlines again. Check out the Page 1 WaPo Headline today.

In Mideast Strife, Bush Sees a Step To Peace


I said "alternative energies," not energy independence. Which is a key difference because it would probably affect global warming as well.

But once you've got viable alternatives to petroleum, then it won't matter. Iran is important to us not so much because we buy petroleum from it (though on a world market, it doesn't matter), but because Iran is close to becoming a swing producer in both gas and oil, and because Iran sits at a geographically criticl location to get the resources in the Caspian out. Iran's important because it means power of the geopolitical sense, not of the energy sense.

Alternative energies won't eliminate thousands of years of strife in the Middle East. But it will give the rest of the world less reason to get involved and overlook some of the efficacy issues we do.

Though yes, Afghanistan deserves a chunk of that cash.

Great discussion -- many points I'm thinking about. But I do need to say that it distresses me that we revert so easily to framing the situation in terms of what happens to Americans trapped in Lebanon, or even Europeans. I've tried to chime in a little about the huge population of foreign workers from South Asia and Africa that have even less means to get out of the war zone than Americans. Chris Albritton has more on these folks from Beirut.

Thank you EW and all for a great thread... don't do a lot of posting, but this is important. The crisis in the ME has been growing and festering for over a thousand years. Unfortunately, with the idiots who have seized control of our Government, I see no solution in the near future. Indeed I fast and pray for that peace, but unless and until we have a 'leader' instead of a 'manager' (sic), I see no end in sight. Indeed, I am truly convinced that the PNAC group, is somehow behind the escalation of violence. In addition, they refuse to listen to any conventional wisdom and continue to 'plow ahead' as if they know what they are doing. God help us all. Col Lang, as well as Larry Johnson have great articles up on their blogs about this as well. Sojourners, has a good article as well, from the perspective of the 'left wing' of mainstream 'christianity'. Keep up the good work, and thanks for all the great info you all share here... M


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