Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Say What?

This blog has been a long-time supporter of the Bush Administration, and its efforts to fight terrorism around the globe. We've defended Mr. Bush and his national security team on numerous occasions, recognizing their willingness to tackle the hard jobs of defeating global terrorism and promoting democracy in the Middle East. Accomplishing those goals takes time and considerable patience, and we've been willng to give the White House the benefit of the doubt in pursuing those necessary aims.

But even our support has its limits, and we've been deeply disturbed by the administration's recent handling of the Lebanon crisis, and its analysis of the conflict between Israel and Hizballah. On Monday, for example, Mr. Bush announced that the Israelis had "defeated" the terrorists, without qualifying his remarks. The President's remarks suggested that the IDF had achieved a decisive victory over Hizballah, despite ample evidence to the contrary. What Mr. Bush should have said is that Israel met many of its operational and tactical goals, inflicting severe losses on terrorist forces in south Lebanon. That may sound like Clintonian parsing--and it probably is--but it would be a more accurate assessment than the President's "blanket" victory statement. In reality, Hizballah gained a strategic victory simply by going toe-to-toe with the region's most powerful military for more than a month, and will emerge from the conflict with greater influence than ever in Lebanon and beyond.

If that weren't bad enough, Secretary of State Condolezza Rice followed Mr. Bush's remarks with a rather astounding statement of her own. In an interview with USA Today, the secretary stated that it is "not the job" of the U.N. peacekeeping force to disarm Hizballah guerillas in south Lebanon. Dr. Rice also opined that the 15,000-member U.N. force "will keep the peace" and enforce an international arms embargo against the terrorists."

Say what? Secretary Rice has clearly been spending too much time with our European partners, because such inane comments are worthy of the French foreign minister, or perhaps, his German counterpart. In the span of less than two weeks, the U.S. Secretary of State has signed on to a "cease fire" that jeopardizes Israeli security, and endorsed a peace-keeping plan that ignores the fundamental requirement of disarming Hizballah.

Attempting to explain her position, Dr. Rice noted the difficulty of "disarming" a militia. If Hizballah resists calls to disarm, the secretary suggested that the arms embargo and international pressure could produce the desired effect. She even suggested that the terrorist group would find itself "increasingly isolated" from European and other nations, if it fails to lay down its arms.

Excuse me for a moment.


This is a joke, right? Does Secretary Rice actually believe that a more "robust" peacekeeping force will be any more successful at keeping the peace than its predecessor, which allowed Hizballah to camp next to U.N. positions in south Lebanon? Does she really believe that a terrorist group will voluntarily give up its arms, just to make the Europeans happy? Does she think the presence of Lebanese Army will make a difference? Never mind the fact that Lebanon's vaunted fighting force hasn't been in the area in more than a decade, and it represents a government that includes Hizballah ministers and is heavily influenced by the group. And finally, just for grins, does our Secretary of State believe that anything short of military action can actually stop the flow of arms from Iran and Syria, to the terrorists in Lebanon?

Obviously, the U.S. had hoped that Israel could defeat Hizballah quickly and decisively. That didn't happen, forcing Mr. Bush and Dr. Rice to put the best face on a bad situation. But if the United States government views the current cease fire and "disarmament" plan as an effective policy to deal with a major crises, then the smart boys and girls at the White House and Foggy Bottom are sadly mistaken. Admittedly, the Bush Administration couldn't support indefinite Israeli military operations in Lebanon, but forcing Israel into an ill-conceived "cease fire" and endorsing a fatally flawed security plan suggests that the Bush Administration may be losing its mettle, at the very time that courage and determination are needed in international policy, perhaps more than ever before.


Muslihoon said...

Was Israel forced into the cease-fire or did Olmert go along willingly?

El Jefe Maximo said...

I completely agree that saying that Israel prevailed is laughable, and that the Olmert government, for whatever reason, no doubt to be dissected in nauseating detail...screwed the pooch.

That said, I think it should be remembered that the US administration is more concerned about the Iranian problem than Israel's difficulties in Lebanon. Olmert got his hunting license; and if Olmert couldn't dispatch Hezbollah in the time allowed (it's not clear to me the Israelis really made the effort) -- then Bush was not going to compromise his own plans to buy them extra time. As stated here, he put the best face on a bad situation.

I think Bush and Rice are desperate, for the moment, to keep the Europeans on board for dealing with Iran. I think this emphasis is misplaced -- the Europeans will not do anything, but for domestic political reasons, Bush thinks he has to make the effort. This is a loser idea, but I think it's where they're coming from.

eatyourbeans said...

I have no experience, expertise, or knowledge of these matters, but sometimes the fool stumbles on things the wise miss. So, in that spirit:

If you look at the matter through the wrong end of the telescope, what you see is an emerging axis of mischief consisting of the energy-rich nations Russia, Iran and Venezuela; add in China as their big customer. A sort of Warsaw Pact of oil. That's a strategic weapon already aimed straight at us.

Iran, by its sucessful use of Hez to diminish Israel, has established itself as a worthy partner in this axis, so I'm afraid we'll see more trouble here.

Then too, Iran's increasing stature in the muslim world may soon make it the Rome of Islam, the spiritual and temporal ruler of a billion of the faithful. Including those living in the west.
(I suppose this cuts both ways. Tehran becomes responsible for every act done in the name of allah, so our missles have a return address. That's something.)

As for nukes, I don't think the plan is to launch them unless they have to. They're for prestiege and an umbrulla under which Iran can slowly, or not so slowly, take control of all mid-east oil. In response we would do....what? Start a nuclear war? I think Russia and China, who live rather close to ground zero, would have strong feelings about that!

For the time being, Israel is more useful alive than dead; it's such a great recruiting tool. But when the oil blockade is up, and the West is at the mercy of Czar Putin and Hugo and Almawhatshisname, it may be the end for that brave little nation.

If Bush & Condi are thinking anything along these lines, then we can excuse their silly boilerplate pronouncements; they got bigger things to worry about. Somehow they have got to wheedle Russia and/or China over to our side. There'll be a price and it won't be payable in fancy talk.

Thanks for letting a civilian rattle on here.

anonymous said...

In the comments there is some question about who pushed who into the cease fire. The fact is that from the very beginning Olmert never wanted a big military operation. From the very beginning he saw military action as a means to a diplomatic solution. He executed this strategy very well with the last minute escallation of the ground invasion to get the best terms possible in the UN resolution, but at this point in time, the strategy itself while executed well, does not seem to have been very wise.

Israel's diplomatic/military strategy is explained at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affiars web site faq questions 1 and 2.

The web page says, "The purpose of the Israeli operation was two-fold - to free its abducted soldiers, and to remove the terrorist threat from its northern border.

Israel understood from the outset that although military operations were necessary to defend its citizens by neutralizing the threat posed by Hizbullah’s terrorist infrastructure, the eventual solution would indeed be diplomatic.

The components of such a solution were as follows:

# the return of the hostages, Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser and Eldad Regev;
# the effective deployment of the Lebanese army in all of southern Lebanon;
# the expulsion of Hizbullah from the area, and
# the fulfillment of United Nations Resolution 1559.

# the preservation of IDF gains in removing Hizbullah from the border region
# the elimination of the Hizbullah long-range missile threat
# the prevention of Hizbullah’s re-arming by closely monitoring of the possible routes into Lebanon from Syria or elsewhere (an arms embargo)."

ptg said...

One may hope that Bush and Condi are simply trying to give the crooked sissies at the UN enough rope to hang themselves. We don't seem to be able to avoid a messy outcome in the region, so why not have a giant failure with "blame the UN" writ large upon it?