Monday, July 24, 2006

How the mighty have fallen

A refresher course on conservative rhetoric:

Shortly after the United States walked away from the UN process in the runup to the Iraq War, Richard Perle wrote:
Saddam Hussein's reign of terror is about to end. He will go quickly, but not alone: in a parting irony, he will take the UN down with him. Well, not the whole UN. The "good works" part will survive, the low-risk peacekeeping bureaucracies will remain, the chatterbox on the Hudson will continue to bleat. What will die is the fantasy of the UN as the foundation of a new world order. As we sift the debris, it will be important to preserve, the better to understand, the intellectual wreckage of the liberal conceit of safety through international law administered by international institutions.
Note here that Perle's disdain was not just reserved for the UN in particular, but for the idea of international law and multilateral institutions in general. If you agree with Perle, even NATO is useful only insofar as it furthers American interests.

Boy, Perle - who also helped write Netanyahu's "clean break" plan to ditch Oslo - must be curled up somewhere in a fetal position right about now:
KIRYAT SHMONA, Israel, July 23 — As Israel again pounded southern Lebanon from the air and ground on Sunday and the Hezbollah militia rained dozens more rockets on Israel’s north, diplomatic efforts increased with growing discussion of a multinational armed force being placed in the area.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Israel was interested in a NATO-led force, and the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, spoke of one consisting of European Union members with combat experience and the authority to take control of Lebanon’s border and crossing points.
Now, I'll be the first to say that this is hardly a great example of multilateral peace-building on anyone's part. The US, the EU, the UN, not to mention Israel all dropped the ball by not demanding international disarmament of Hezbollah earlier. That said, Israel has opposed international involvement in its affairs for a long, long time - something I am overjoyed to see changing, if only in fits and starts.

So things we know so far: There's going to be a cease-fire. There's going to be international involvement in disarming Hezbollah, which will stay as a political party in Lebanon. These facts are already being conceded by Israel. There's almost certainly going to be a prisoner exchange, as distasteful as that's going to be for Jerusalem.

(Catty side note: I told you so, Damian.)

What strikes me most is that realization that seems to be growing that the era of easy wars in the Middle East is over. Between Israel's legendary victory in 1967, it's miraculous survival in 1973, and the American victory in Gulf War I, there's been a conceit among western leaders that the Arabs couldn't fight. Well, we're learning otherwise.

It's similar, though in the reverse, of what we learned in WWII. The Nazis and the Japanese had basically an unbroken string of victories until roughly 1942 or so. This was due entirely to one fact: the poor quality of leadership opposing the Nazi advances. However, given decent training and good leadership, the Nazis and the Japanese were defeated in the field just as easily (or with as much difficulty) as any other enemy.

One of the earliest commanders to prove this was the American Gen. Stilwell, who proved the Japanese could be fought and beaten in Burma.

Now look at the history of western "zionism and crusading", in bin Laden's words, through bin Laden's eyes. The mujahideen defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and the resurgent Taliban are doing well against allied forces there today. The godless Hussein was destroyed by the Americans twice, but the religiously-driven insurgency in Iraq is all but surely going to drive the Americans out of a key Arab country. Now, while the Lebanese government does nothing against Israel, Hezbollah has shown that even the nearly-invincible IDF can be ground to a halt and forced to sue for peace - something the combined Arab armies were unable to do under the secular pan-Arabism of Nasser.

Common thread? The US and Israel have been defeated by religious armies, not secular ones. If bin Laden wanted a clearer confirmation of his ideology - and obviously he doesn't - this is it. While bin Laden probably doesn't want to give the Shia in Iraq and Lebanon the credit they're due, the pattern is clear. By starting wars we're unable to win, we've shown how weak we are, and shown the enemy how strong they are.

Good work, everybody.

One final note: It's possible, even likely, that an international force from NATO or the EU would consist heavily of German soldiers - unless the Israelis objected strenuously. I don't see this happening, meaning that in 2006 the Jewish state's northern borders are going to be secured in part by Germans with guns. And despite all the madness in the world at the moment, that single image makes me smile.

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