By supporting Israel, the administration also is losing its standing with the Lebanese public and the fragile democratic government in Beirut -- which has been Bush's poster boy for Western-style democracy in the Middle East, experts said.For all the talk of religious strife, nationalism is still the most powerful force in these places - Lebanese Christians hooking up with Hizbullah is a clear example of this.
"They believed that they were the center of the Bush administration's democratization program, and to suddenly have their international civilian airport bombed without much protest from the U.S. is pretty shocking for the Lebanese," said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Clayton Swisher, an expert at the Middle East Institute who was in Lebanon last week, said the disillusionment with the United States there has been brewing for some time.
"Christians in Lebanon are trying to distance themselves from America and forging a Christian-Shia alliance," Swisher said, referring to Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group. "These things, they flash like wildfire in the region, much faster than the Bush administration can catch up with."
That said, the Israelis could inadvertently make things really difficult for the US in Iraq is Iraqi Shia decide to take up the fight against the US as a response to Shia deaths in Lebanon. When you think about it, there's a pretty direct line from the US to Israel back to the US.
I'm continually bewildered at how quickly this escalated from grudge match with Hamas to regional war.