July 14, 2006
Miscellanea, and More on Lebanon
Ross Douthat reminds us that all (geo)politics are local, David Frum engages in (clumsy) historical analogizing (always a perilous endeavour, even for seasoned scriveners), and Glenn Reynolds rues the so early passing of the Cedar Revolution, en passant at least, before elucidating thus: "...what's unfolding now is something that was prepared for, as part of the next stage in the war on terror". Meantime, a 'shorter' Glenn-style analysis, if you will, is showcased by a commenter at Tom Maguire's (a blog pal, though his commenters don't think much of me, alas), who simply opines (with almost poignant innocence): "Israel liberates Lebanon." The residents of Beirut will clap and cheer when they hear these reassuring words, doubtless...
...meantime, back in the real world:
Late Thursday, Israeli warplanes dropped leaflets across Lebanon warning residents to stay away from any areas where Hizbullah is active.
Hopefully these IDF leaflet warnings will work, as not even 48 hours into this operation, some 55 Lebanese civilians are already dead (In Israel, two civilians have died so far as well). What is Israel hoping to accomplish by delivering deep psychological blows to the people of Lebanon by imposing a total naval blockade, shutting down Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport, and bombing the key Beirut-Damascus road (for starters)? Zvi Bar'el appears puzzled, somewhat, as am I:
"It seems now that Israel is acting out of a desire for revenge and punishment," a Lebanese analyst told Haaretz via email. "After Hassan Nasrallah said at his press conference that he doesn't want to drag Lebanon into war, Israel wants to show him and Lebanon that Nasrallah is more dangerous than Lebanon imagines. But you must understand that there are huge swathes of Lebanon that understand the extent of the Hezbollah danger, but are helpless. Don't expect citizens to demonstrate outside government buildings tomorrow and demand that the state disarm Hezbollah. Washington, France and the UN tried through Resolution 1559 and failed, and you want a weak government that has not yet really begun to govern to succeed? We can do nothing right now but wait, and maybe you will disarm Hezbollah. That is also the message that slain Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri's son Saad sent to Jordan's King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, both of whom sought to use their good relations with Israel to curb the military attack.
I think Israel is making a strategic mistake by over-reacting to Hezbollah's provocations (the IDF should have limited the lion's share of its retribution in the south of the country, near the border, or only very specific Hezbollah-related targets elsewhere). If Bush and Rice don't exert pressure to very significantly cool down the offensive by early next week important American interests will increasingly become jeopardized, as ironically increased chaos in Lebanon will likely strengthen Iran and Syria's position there, rather than weaken it. Middle East peace has always been a race between moderates trying to cobble together democratic space and politics (like Hariri's son has been trying since the, so short-lived it appears, Cedar Revolution), and extremists who thrive on chaos (such as Nasrallah and Co). Bombing Lebanon back 20 years serves to assist the latter, not former. Regardless, let's see if cooler heads prevail in the coming days. I think the odds are just above even that happens (the timing of the G-8 meeting might not hurt, as other leaders will pressure Bush to take a more neutral approach), but there is a very significant chance indeed that matters instead escalate, not least because of this Administration's inattentions to date. We'll see soon enough, I guess, whether Washington becomes more seized by the regional implications at play, or is instead happy to see Israel beat back Iranian and Syrian proxies (but let's be careful describing Hamas as merely an Ahmadi-Nejad chess piece, no?) with impunity whatever the consequences to Lebanon's short to mid-term political future, civilians there and in Gaza, not to mention likely more loss of life in northern Israel.
MORE: Michael Young rightly points out that Hezbollah has wantonly violated various rules of the game, but concludes: "One important thing: No Lebanese government could legitimately help to advance such a plan if Israel were to try to, as its army chief of staff put it this week, “turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years.” Israel must cease its attacks and let diplomacy take over."
Posted by Gregory at July 14, 2006 05:05 AM
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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.
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