Friday, July 21, 2006

Something I Didn't know

I assumed that Bush met Sharon only after he became President. I was wrong:
Those who know Bush say his view of the conflict was shaped by several formative experiences -- in particular the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which made fighting terrorism the central mission of his presidency. Another formative experience was a helicopter ride over the West Bank with Ariel Sharon in 1998, when Bush was Texas governor -- a ride he later said showed him Israel's vulnerability. The cause of Israel has been championed by many of the evangelical Christians who make up a significant chunk of the president's political base.
That quote is from an article talking about how Bush is seeing the crisis in Lebanon as an opportunity to push back against the Islamofascist front. I guess when you're using made up words to describe your enemies, you also get to use made up strategies.
One former senior administration official said Bush is only emboldened by the pressure from U.N. officials and European leaders to lead a call for a cease-fire. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan demanded yesterday that the fighting in Lebanon stop.

"He thinks he is playing in a longer-term game than the tacticians," said the former official, who spoke anonymously so he could discuss his views candidly. "The tacticians would say: 'Get an immediate cease-fire. Deal first with the humanitarian factors.' The president would say: 'You have an opportunity to really grind down Hezbollah. Let's take it, even if there are other serious consequences that will have to be managed.' "
Of course, there is no such opportunity to grind down Hezbollah, because nothing Israel has done - in over 20 years of trying - has actually worked to grind down Hezbollah. Anybody who seriously thinks that Israel is going to "win" in any meaningful sense of the word is deluded or stupid or Bush.

But it does once again illustrate that when it comes to Bush's glorious ideas, no amount of burned and mutilated bodies is too large to see his bold strategies fail.


Babbling Brooks said...

Of course, there is no such opportunity to grind down Hezbollah, because nothing Israel has done - in over 20 years of trying - has actually worked to grind down Hezbollah.

I don't recall the Israelis ever trying to force what military strategists call "the decisive battle." It may not have much of a chance of succeeding, as you suggest, but you can't deny it's a new approach to an intractable problem.

You seem elsewhere on this blog to have advocated negotiation as an alternative course of action. What do you think Israel could offer Hezbollah that would ensure a long-term peace, other than outright capitulation?

john said...

What could Israel offer to Hezbollah? Well, look at what Hezbollah was asking for when this started - the return of Lebanese citizens taken prisoner (I use the verb in a neutral sense) by the Israeli army.

That's how this started, remember - Hezbollah capturing IDF troops because the IDF was sloppy, and Hezbollah had an opportunity to get a bargaining chip.

For now, Israel should accept an offer of a cease-fire, exchange of prisoners, with international forces in South Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah. Pretty much everyone recognizes this is what the eventual settlement is going to be.

(That said, pretty much everyone accepts the two-state solution to Palestine, but that's dragged on.)

Hezbollah is going to keep its position in the Lebanese parliament, and Nasrallah (if he survives this war) will remain influential. Israel and the US may insist on Hezbollah being blacklisted, which will just prolong the war and accomplish nothing for either side.

Babbling Brooks said...

IMO, your plan is not a recipe for long-term peace. It would simply result in a return to the status quo: Hezbollah and the IDF trading potshots across the border, and an ineffective UN force watching them do it.

Staying on this merry-go-round, pecking away at each other with skirmishes and missile attacks and suicide bombs is in Hezbollah's interest - that's how they achieve status and maintain power in south Lebanon. But it's not in Israel's best interest. They want to get off the merry-go-round, once and for all.

As hard as it may be for a political science student to admit, there are times when a military solution is the best option taken from a list of uniformly horrible courses of action.

Don't forget that Israel has tried disengagement, it has tried negotiation, and the international community has tried intervention and mediation. None of it has worked because a) Hezbollah's aim is the outright destruction of 'the Zionist entity', and nothing less will do, b) Hezbollah is backed by at least two states in the region which also wish for Israel's destruction, and c) a national Lebanese gov't cannot rein in this sub-national paramilitary death cult, and nobody else is willing to step up to the plate and do it for them.

Israel's only hope for success is to degrade Hezbollah's effectiveness through dismantling their infrastructure, destroying their arms stockpiles, killing their leaders and fighters; then withdrawing and hoping to heaven that other elements within Lebanese society - those not fanatically enslaved to the idea of wiping the Jews off the face of the planet - can fill the power vacuum left by the pounding of Hezbollah. Hopefully these other factions within Lebanon can govern it with a focus on creating, rather than destroying - and if you look at what was going on in terms of reconstruction prior to all this, there's some reason to hope.

Agreed, the chances of this coming to pass are slim, but again, I have to ask what's the realistic alternative? Without some intervention, Hezbollah will continue to hold the progress of the rest of Lebanon hostage as much as it holds those IDF soldiers.

john said...

Wait, who's a PoliSci student? You? And where did you go? Because it's not hard at all for me - as a PoliSci student - to admit that there are times where a military solution is called for. Watch:

There are times where a military solution is called for.

See? That was painless for me. I supported Kosovo and Afghanistan, and continue to support Afghanistan despite my increasing doubts. I may reach a tipping point soon if I don't here some good news, but for now I still support it.

So you can shove your aspersions about my intellect or my reasoning somewhere anatomically unpleasant.

As for your comment, I concede that Israel tried disengagement. But where was the well-armed UN or NATO or EU force to help the Lebanese disarm Hezbollah after the Cedar Revolution? There wasn't one - the existing UN force has no mandate to disarm anyone.

To be clear: No one has yet tried to disarm Hezbollah except for the Israelis, and they failed at it before. Do we have any reason to trust that the IDF can succeed where it failed before? Not really.

The IAF will probably not have any better luck eliminating the missile threat than the USAF did in Gulf War I. (The A-10s did an alright job, but the scuds kept hitting Israel.)

You concede that the chances of your "plan" succeeding are slim, but the record of international mediation in ethnic and religious records is modestly good, albeit imperfect: The Good Friday accords in Ireland, Dayton for Yugoslavia, and others.

Dayton was preceded by military action, true, but so would any peace talks that happened now. In any case, what really broke the Serb's back was the realization that America wasn't going to sit it out any longer. I'm not optimistic on this front.

As for something you said earlier, trying to force the decisive battle with Hezbollah is a sucker's game. If you like military strategists, read some Mao.

Babbling Brooks said...

So you can shove your aspersions about my intellect or my reasoning somewhere anatomically unpleasant.

Classy. Remind me not to bother coming back here. Keep screaming into the void.