July 13, 2006

The Emerging CW, Another (Low-Grade) Regional War?

I see from reading Yossi Klein Halevi, Steven Erlanger, and Robin Wright that a new CW is emerging--a few dozen rockets and three hostages later--Israel is on the cusp of a long war involving, not only Hamas and Hezbollah, but sponsors Syria and Iran. With the US bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Israelis can pick up the slack in Damascus and Teheran, or such. Got that peeps? My humble advice to the Israeli government would be to take a quick look at the shambles the US is facing in Iraq, and beware strategic over-reaching. But I am but a lowly (very) part-time blogger, and much like my advice yesterday for the US Administration to try to take the temperature down a notch or two appears to be going unheeded, so doubtless will my advice to the Israelis.

Meantime POTUS is in Germany, and his rhetoric regarding this burgeoning crisis can, most generously, be described as uneven and halting, and less solicitously, infantile in its gross over-simplications. Such Manichean speechifying may have worked wonders back on 9/20/01 (yes, yes: I drank the Kool-Aid too), but people have to wake up and smell the coffee now all grown up a few years on. It's a big, complex world out there, with lots of shades of gray, and this is a time for deft statecraft to contain various mestastasizing crises, not simply resort like woeful Pavlovians to the always-at-the-ready empty and tired bromides.


...Syria "needs to be held to account" [ed. note: Like NoKo and Iran, doubtless?] for supporting and harboring Hezbollah.

"If you really want the situation to settle down, the soldiers need to be returned," the president said. "It's really sad where people are willing to take innocent life in order to stop that progress. As a matter of fact, it's pathetic."

Bush's comments came during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as Israel intensified attacks in Lebanon. Israel bombed Beirut's airport and the southern part of the country in its heaviest air campaign against its neighbor in 24 years.

Israel also imposed an air and naval blockade on Lebanon to cut off supply routes to militants.

Pressed on whether Israel's military assaults could trigger a wider war, Bush said he was concerned about any activity that would weaken or topple the Lebanese government. "Having said that, people need to protect themselves," he said of Israel.

"My attitude is this: there are a group of terrorists who want to stop the advance of peace," he said. "Those of us who are peace loving must work together to help the agents of peace."

Ah, if it were all so simple...all bible-like with the peacemakers blessed and the rest of us all goin' to hell.

P.S. As for Yossi Klein Halevi's piece, I'd understand his demand for "zero tolerance" better in the aftermath of a general peace deal internationally recognized with all the bells and whistles and final status issues resolved--but his argument is less compelling when you are talking about a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. After all friends, no one, I'd think, was under the delusion that the Hamas gang was suddenly going to transform themselves into our best buddies and better angels, and that they were going to really lay down arms when Israel pulled out of Gaza, so as to go all Hudna-like on us suddenly. Israel pulled out of Gaza because it deemed it strategically useful (resource drain, etc etc), all told, and even today Sharon's decision (despite Netanyahu and other hard right back-biting) was likely the correct one. What is needed now is a sense of proportionate response Yossi H., not apocalplytic rumblings about Iran in the cross-hairs because three IDF soldiers have been kidnapped (though of course, as I've said, this kidnapping tactic is reprehensible and the IDF must care for its men to the bitter end, always, but again, with a sense of proportion). Did Israel really need to bomb Beirut's international airport today, for instance? I'm just not persuaded, and I think the rhetoric both by the government and some of the smartest commentators (like Yossi) is getting carried away. But I guess that's no surprise, really, and so a long, hot summer beckons, on a variety of fronts...

Posted by Gregory at July 13, 2006 12:29 PM

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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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