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July 15, 2006

Comments

This current crop of executive actors keep reminding me of the administration in _Atlas Shrugged_, with the combination of haplessness, incompetence, and unwillingness to admit that anything serious is wrong. I would prefer not to be reminded of Ayn Rand novels, all things considered, for a whole variety of reasons.

The pig roast comments, and now this democracy in Iraq comment . . . I feel like I'm on a train where the engineer is an angry 8-year-old.

The administration needs some kind of leverage, and it seems we have nothing.

Destroying the infrastructure of Lebanon is dangerous. There will have to be reconstruction, and that reconstruction money will have to come from somewhere. And none of those places is good for the independence of the Lebanese government. I just think this creates a power vacuum in Lebanon that will be filled by the hostile rather than friendly forces in the country, over time.

Given a choice between keeping the faith and believing their own lying eyes, this bunch will go for keeping the faith every time. Isn't it likely that a significant chunk of the Administration thinks Israel is acting exactly as it should and that escalation is just one step closer to ridding the world of evil forever?

President Clinton called America "the indispensable country."

Amazing how we've gone from indispensable to irrelevant-yet-dangerous in just 6 years.

It's not just the Bush Administration. It's all of their enablers as well: the people who could have demanded staff changes, policy changes, and even censure or impeachment, and not only did no such thing, but cheered on the wrecking ball.

I have no use for the Bush administration, but I'm uncertain whether or not there really is anything we can do. Assuming the Israeli leadership has a plan (and I believe that's a safe assumption, but then, I thought the Bush administration had one in 2003, too), what is the United States going to offer them to stop the fighting? We can't provide them with security. We can't get their soldiers back. It would be nice if we could send an envoy to Tel Aviv to work out a deal, but diplomacy has to be based on either mutual interest or threats. I don't think we're willing to threaten Israel over this. I don't see what we can offer them that would get them more than what they hope to gain through this action. So other than providing the appearance of doing something, I'm unconvinced that the Bush administration really has many options in this situation.

"An envoy has to speak for the President. People who talk to the envoy need to know that what s/he says, goes. There can't be any daylight between the President and an envoy, or any room for people to hope, for instance, that they can get a better deal by going to Dick Cheney behind the envoy's back."

I don't really see the point even if there was such a person. If such a person existed, what could they say that would be useful? We'll do something about Hezbollah? Really what? The international community will put pressure on Syria? Heh. There really isn't anything to be said. That is the sad part.

Andrew--
Because the US gives so much money to Israel and has been its supporter in the UN so much, we always have the option of saying "Explain yourself." This is a threat, of a mild sort. But skilled negotiators should be able to use the US's right to that position to attempt to generate diplomatic possibilities. In this sense the problem to me seems to be that such negotiators are likely to be undercut by the combination of dishonesty and headless chickenitude of their bosses in this administration. And outsiders recognize that. In nearly any other administration, the leverage for entree would be utilized in order to try to lower the temperature of the situation. (Well, and we wouldn't have the problems we currently do in Iraq which also serve to paralyze us, as Hilzoy pointed out.)

"As I understand it, Lebanon is not capable of taking on Hezbollah: the Lebanese army would lose against Hezbollah, and Lebanon would be plunged into civil war. This would do great harm to Israel."

Why would this be a great harm to Israel? Hezbollah controls the border. That is the bad thing that can happen.

2 points.

1. W is doing what he and his handlers want - exactly.


From the PNAC plan of 2000, from the day W became POTUS, from the moment toward the end of the inital 3 weeks of the Iraq war there has been the desire to deal with Syria and Iran.

The drumbeats have been heard off and on the past 3 years, the threat of nukes, the supposed backing to terror in Iraq etc. W et al want the provocation, the reason (the excuse) to engage. This may be their moment.

If so, the fact that one of their early acts was to reconstitute the Draft Boards and that the No Child Left Behind act includes the requirement that each child's name, address etc. be reported to the Selective Service/Defense Dept may turn out to be Great Planning...

Or the plot of a book in the Left Behind series.

2. Hamas is a terror group and is also now both IN the Palestinian government and controls it.

Hezbollah is a terror group and is in the government of Lebanon. If you are correct saying they are stronger than the official military of the state of Lebanon than what do we see? Hezbollah has some form of dominance of Lebanon.

Are we seeing Terror groups attacking Israel or neighboring STATES attacking Israel? IT sure seems as if Israel has taken the latter position.

What do you think?


"This is a threat, of a mild sort. But skilled negotiators should be able to use the US's right to that position to attempt to generate diplomatic possibilities."

The problem is that as always the diplomatic possibilities involve Israel doing stuff and getting nothing real in return. Hell, they can't even get empty promises in return.

Jake,

I realize that we can threaten to cut off Israel's funding. But would we be willing to do so if push came to shove? If not, then we're making empty threats.

My theory is that Israel has looked at Iraq, listened to what the Bush Administration has planned for Iran, and decided that the Bush Administration is too dangerously incompetent (and, cf Bush's comments to Putin, possibly insane).

My theory is that Israel might have decided to precipitate a wider conflict on its own timetable - i.e., while conditions exist favoring its military superiority - rather than wait to see what new screwup the Bush Administration sets loose.

Sebastian-- Yes. I was trying to suggest that current events have left the US with a lack of power (and will) to try to ameliorate the situation (leaving aside the question of whether there really is a desire in the administration to go to war with Syria and/or Iran and/or to bring about the Rapture). The ability of the US to make demands of one kind or another from the neighboring states or offer them something valuable would be necessary for Israel to take the US's intervention seriously (that is, to change the cost-benefit for them enough to put down the guns for the moment). I take your point that there is no such and has not been for a long time wrt Syria at least.

Andrew-- Well, there's cutting off and cutting down. In a better world, where it suited the US administration to have a stable middle east, that desire and the economic leverage the US has wrt Israel ought to be enough to allow us to try to intervene. But since, to paraphrase Bertie Wooster, if there's one thing that circumstances aren't, it's different from what they are, the question is academic.

"Yes. I was trying to suggest that current events have left the US with a lack of power (and will) to try to ameliorate the situation"

I'm suggesting this isn't "current events". Unless someone, somewhere can come up with serious security guarantees, there is literally nothing to be done. Israel can't let missiles keep hitting its cities and can't let soldiers get kidnapped on an ongoing basis. (And I say kidnapped because if it is a POW situation then you have to admit that Israel is AT WAR, which I am willing to do, but most people aren't.)

Sebastian: under present circumstances, what we need to provide is something that will enable both sides to climb down. I do not think that this would involve a total settlement of all relevant issues. As I said, I think that the current bombing is now, and probably has been since, oh, yesterday morning, counterproductive for Israel. But it's a lot easier to stand down when someone gives you an occasion to do so than it is when the only thing you can do is say: right, we have not achieved all that much, but oh well.

As for why a civil war would be bad for Israel: in the long run, a solution to this problem will have to involve a stable Lebanese central government that is able and willing to rein in Hezbollah. The present government is not able to do so, but might be willing. Replacing it with no central government at all would set this whole process back immeasurably, along with needlessly alienating the people who might be inclined to think: oh God, let's just have a normal country, not all this war all the time. I'd think it would be in Israel's interest to foster that attitude, not destroy it.

Alternatively, civil war could bring Syria back in, which would also be a lot worse for Israel (and Lebanon) than the present situation.

I mean, again: what is the point of this, now? You cannot -- cannot -- destroy Hezbollah by shelling Lebanon. You could destroy (or cripple) it by cutting off its funding sources, but that's not Lebanon, nor will bombing Lebanon be more helpful in that regard than bombing, say, Belgium. You could also destroy Hezbollah by destroying all of its members in some way that would not involve creating new ones, but that would be impossible (given their numbers), and doubly so if one wants to do it without massive civilian casualties. (Where 'civilians' means: non-Hezbollah.) You can hit their rockets, but I bet a lot of that has been done by now -- at least, that a lot of the targets that the Israelis know where to find have been hit.

Sebastian--
I'd be interested to hear what you think of Steve Clemons's latest post (title "Some Questions Regarding . . .") at http://www.thewashingtonnote.com

"You can hit their rockets, but I bet a lot of that has been done by now -- at least, that a lot of the targets that the Israelis know where to find have been hit."

Large set of targets; it's going to take a while.

Hezbollah has been bragging for a few years about tens of thousands of rockets, and they've been accurate.

It's unlikely that if the southern Canadian border were controlled by Hezbollah, with thousands of missiles that could reach Texas, and they were launching them, killing people in their kitchens, that America would not respond aggressively.

It's awful.

As I keep saying: it is what it is.

Condi Rice, like most of humanity, is a more plausible candidate, but I don't really see that she is up to it either.

I think she has clearly shown her lack of capacity and imagination. “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon.” Yep -- already proven as not up to the job.

Andrew:

So other than providing the appearance of doing something, I'm unconvinced that the Bush administration really has many options in this situation.

Others have already pointed out the financial leverage that exists -- there are others.

I am reminded of the classic formulation of the elements of any negotiation -- power, time and information. Alleged powerlessness is frequently self-imposed, which is the case here.

What you are really saying is that although the power exists, for other reasons, the Bush administration would not make use of the power that it has to influence Israel. It is apparently less trouble to let Israel wreck havoc than upset the US/Israel relationship.

Its a sad example of what is wrong with our relationship with Israel.

I've got to say I hope the Bush Administration stays out of this thing, period.

They've show us nothing over the past six years if not a complete inability to deal with any sort of crisis. At this point, I feel the worst outcome would be to have an American mediary come blundering in with the now typical bluster, threats and aggression and make matters worse.

I've got to say I hope the Bush Administration stays out of this thing, period.

I hate to say it, but I agree - Hilzoy's pack of ponies grows by one everytime she asks the Bush administration to do something constructive. I'm generally an optimistic person, but I cannot fathom how direct U.S. involvement (given the players) would not contrive to make the situation worse...(though my nightmare is Bill Kristol's dream...)

"I mean, again: what is the point of this, now? You cannot -- cannot -- destroy Hezbollah by shelling Lebanon."

Beirut Under Fire ...Chris Albritton is in Beirut

"All this points to an invasion soon, and I think Israel is going to try to destroy Hizbullah once and for all."

Of course, Gary said Stratfor was full of it, and Haaretz was THE source. So, piddling details aside, Stratfor's credibility depends on a ground invasion of Lebanon by the Israelis, and Gary's credibility depends on there being no ground invasion. Now maybe it isn't the reserves, and mincing and twisting may be available, but the important point was whether or not Israel would re-enter Lebanon with ground forces. We will see who is right.

"...Gary's credibility depends on there being no ground invasion...."

No.

I said that as of Friday, there hadn't been a general call-up of reserves. Which was the case.

Period. End of story.

That Israel intends to destroy as much as possible of Hezbollah's infrastructre is, of course, a point I've repeatedly linked to and stated.

"...destroy as much as possible of Hezbollah's infrastructre"

Ya know, If in a hypothetical I link to a piece that says the 102nd Airborne is gonna parachute into Tehran tomorrow and someone says that can't be right cause there ain't no such unit as the 102nd and the next day the 101st parachutes into Tehran...

well, like what's important and useful in the story?

It really doesn't matter what unit and what kind of bullets they are using and the kind of food they are carrying what is important is if Israel is going to cross the border en masse into Lebanon. Like real important. And that was the major point of the Stratfor story and the nitting over the reserves kinda evaded that major question. Maybe it is a forest for the trees thing but if the accumulation of knowledge provides no enhanced predictive or analytical ability then what is it good for?

This is, as you know, a consistent theme with me, and not a particular attack in any way. But the Packers and Pollocks and Wolfowitzes and Chalabis were so completely full of it on Iraq that I really really question the value of expertise and intense study.

I read the economics & market blogs every day and all of them have a ton of knowledge and no predictive ability at all. It always seems to me that the more people know, the less willing they are to make definitive useful assertions. Knowledge is power, and power corrupts. Not being wrong becomes more important than guessing right.

Is Israel gonna send troops deep into Lebanon?

Military Hubris

Billmon on the IDF and 4th gen warfare.

bob mcmanus: Ya know, If in a hypothetical I link to a piece that says the 102nd Airborne is gonna parachute into Tehran tomorrow and someone says that can't be right cause there ain't no such unit as the 102nd and the next day the 101st parachutes into Tehran...

well, like what's important and useful in the story?

Depends. To any normal reasonable person, it's the attack on Tehran. To a supporter of the Bush administration, it would be the fact that you had said the 102nd rather than the 101st, and they would occupy a vast deal of time and effort showing that you were wrong, stupid, bad, and wrong for saying 102nd... and thereafter, any reference to the story would, in their eyes, be "the time bob mcmanus falsely claimed the 102nd was going to attack Tehran and he was proved wrong the very next day AND there's no such unit, even!" and anyone who described the story otherwise would be partisan and pro-terrorist.

Am I right or am I right?

Hilzoy: I hope someone else turns out to have the skill and wisdom our government seems to lack.

Me, too.

"As I keep saying: it is what it is."

not to be hating on GF, but statements like this either don't accomplish anything, or they accomplish only deception and distortion.

Whenever people use rhetorical tautologies--"boys will be boys", "war is war", "politics is politics", etc.--they are making a statement that is necessarily true if read literally. Of course boys will be boys--and cows will be cows and prime numbers will be prime numbers, and all purple things are purple. How could it be otherwise? And yet--so what? What does spouting tautologies have to do with deliberating about future actions?

But the statement is also so uninformative and pointless if read literally, that it invites a non-literal reading. A reading more along the lines of "boys will always act this way and cannot act otherwise", or "politicians will always lie so they cannot be held to any higher standards", or "war inevitably kills people so we shouldn't worry about civilian casualties".

In other words, it looks like it is making an uncontroversial statement about what's necessarily true ("war is war"--no duh), when it is actually making a highly controversial statement about what is only contingently so ("there's no way to reduce civilian casualties").

Statements like this counsel acquiescence by making the contingent look like the necessary.

So I think they reduce clarity of thought. Because "it is what it is" is either a vacuous and irrelevant tautology, or it is a way of suggesting-without-quite-saying "...and nothing can change the way that it will be."

You know, "polio is polio" is just as true as any other tautology, but Salk kicked its butt.

If someone wants to argue that there is no way that the US can make any difference in the Middle East, then that's worth saying flat out. If they want to say that there is little that a bunch of idle bloggers can do to make a difference, then they should say that flat out (and I'll agree with it).

But I dislike the use of rhetorical tautologies to try to reach a quietist conclusion by making what looks superficially like a necessarily true statement.

Hilzoy says:

"One reason I was interested in Bush's remarks today is because I have been trying to find, somewhere, some sign that this administration is doing something to exercise leadership in the Middle East."

Last time I checked a map Iraq was in the Middle East. You might argue that we are doing a bad job or you might argue that our leadership is poor, but to say we have not shown any leadership in the Middle East is dishonest.

But, I'm confused now because I thought the problem with Bush was that he "lead" us into this quagmire that is Iraq. When Bush leads he's wrong because he is acting unilaterally and when he let's others lead (Israel) he is wrong because he should be leading. That's a tough row to hoe. Isn't the real issue that Bush is hated... not that we should be leading or following?

If you are only referring to the current crisis then your statement is too broad.

I doubt that you or I really know what's going on behind the scenes. To assume we do is a bit arrogant on our part.

Hilzoy says:
"In similar crises in the Middle East, previous administrations, Republicans and Democrats, have weighed in pretty seriously."

Really? Can you demonstrate how this past "seriously" weighing in has been effective in resolving this conflict? Are you now recommending we need more of the same as we did in the past because of the effectiveness of this "weighing" in.

Perhaps Bush is showing leadership by not imitating all the failed policies of the past.

tunnel: there have been a lot of near-conflicts that have been averted through US leadership. US leadership (under Clinton) (and, for that matter, under Nixon) came pretty close to achieving a broader resolution as well.

You're right to point out that I meant the I/P conflict, not the Middle East as a whole. I would lump our inaction at present and our invasion of Iraq, as well as our various announcements of who might be next on our hit list (giving those countries an incentive to start arming), our refusal to deal with Iran when they wanted to, our failure to sit down with all Iraq's neighbors early on and try to get some sort of regional deal that would have minimized cross-border interference, and a lot of other things under the general rubric of "this administration's utter lack of wisdom". That some involve action and others inaction does not make this contradictory.

I mean, it's not as though when anyone recommends leadership they mean: just doing any old thing, however idiotic.

oh, give it up, tunnel--crawl back into your hole.

Bush showed "leadership" by starting a war three years ago on false pretenses without any plan for how to end it.

Since his "Mission Accomplished" mincing and prancing, he has been completely AWOL. For several years now, he has been stunned and paralyzed, a deer in the head-lights.

His "plan" was to proceed as though everything would go perfectly and anyone who said it might be difficult was either a traitor or a racist. When it didn't all go perfectly, he retreated into his shell and played make-believe--he is still embarrassing himself by pretending Iraq is a flourishing democracy, witness his being humiliated by Putin last week.

And that's where we stand today. The Loser in Chief has ruined another business, and he is just running out the clock until the next owner takes over--same as with Harken, same as it ever was.

Yeah, lot of leadership. Paralysis, fear, indecision, and incompetence, mixed in with the occasional accusations of treason and racism.

tunnel--would it help to hear it from a right-wing blogger who was a staunch supporter of the Iraq war from the start?

"An Alarming Dearth of Leadership

I'm taking in the major Sunday talk shows this AM, and I have to say it is manifestly clear we are facing a real leadership crisis in this country. "

That's Greg Djerijian, who's not exactly, y'know, Markos Moulitsas.

http://www.belgraviadispatch.com/2006/07/public_service_announcement.html

And yeah, the full quote says that both parties are equally bad. But the Bush administration and its media minions are fully implicated in his condemnation.

I appreciate that atleast Hilzoy responded with something intelligent as opposed to the other comments.

The solutions were close only if you ever believed there was going to be any follow through. I for one didn't trust Arafat to follow through. It was no surprise to me when he walked away. It's also no surprise to me that when Israel pulled out of Gaza Hamas attacked.

Bush is often accused of being naive and thoughtless in foreign politics, but from my perspective it seems that the Clinton team (and possibly yourself) were far more unrealistic, naive and lacking in sound judgment. Do the results in the Middle East not bare that statement out?

"(giving those countries an incentive to start arming),"

Seriously? Or are you just trying to create activity at your site?

Do you really believe that we could do anything short of attacking Iran that would discourage them from developing nukes? Certainly you don't think they are doing this because of Bush. Do you believe they only started their program in 2001?

Also, what have they done to show that we should put this much faith into an agreement with the mullahs?

Is it Bush's fault that NoKo violated their agreement with Clinton? Iran and NoKo were pursuing nukes long before Bush became president. Do you sincerely believe if we did things differently they wouldn't still be taking the same actions? Do you not believe that NoKo might also subscribe to your action/inaction comment below indepently of our actions? I'm sure you don't think that either Iran or NoKo let us define how they make all their decisions. Surely you grant them some thought that is independant of the actions of the U.S.

The problem that I see is you are trying to suggest we should have good faith negotiations with countries that negotiate in bad faith. Doing so doesn't exhibit leadership to me, but stupidity.

Why do you think it would work "this" time?

"That some involve action and others inaction does not make this contradictory."

I'm willing to grant you this flexibility? Are you willing to grant it to Bush?

I see that going into Iraq is good leadership on part of the President. I also see that letting Israel kick some Syrian butt as good leadership. Sometimes you have to know when to fight and sometimes you have to know when to let someone else fight for you. It may not be what you would chose, but that doesn't mean that is it not a thoughtful process on behalf of the administration. I imagine we could both cite many instances when it might be best to try and accomplish our objectives through proxies.

Do you really believe the mullahs in Iran sincerely wanted to negotiate in good faith?

For me, if my leaders agree with that, then the would be showing an utter lack of leadership in my opinion. Not negotiating with people who negotiate in bad faith is good leadership.

Do you think that we carry more or less weight because of our presence in Iraq? If we carry less, then it may be good leadership to keep our big fat mouths shut and if we carry more, then you might have to admit that having a strong presence in Iraq is beneficial and meaningful in reshaping the Middle East. I don't see that you can have it both ways on this one.

" I don't see that you can have it both ways on this one."

uh...no. In fact, you've just shown how someone *can* have it both ways on that one.

If we carry more weight, then we are more remiss in our lack of leadership for remaining silent. If we carry less weight, then you might have to admit that our awesome adventure in Iraq has been an utter failure.

That's the thing about dilemmas like that: they always cut both ways. If you think it's a big plus for your policy whether the price of corn just went up or the price of corn just went down, then this merely shows that the price of corn is orthogonal to your policy--and to the opposite of your policy, too.

Sorry pari,

I have to admit nothing. I am not trying to have it both ways.

"If we carry more weight, then we are more remiss in our lack of leadership for remaining silent.'

Not true.

Just because one has considerable weight to carry doesn't necessarily imply that not using it is remiss. Is Russia being remiss? Is Europe being remiss. Do they not have considerable weight? (As a side note, please confirm whether Europe carries any weight that we should be concerned with so I can understand if they are being remiss and if it makes sense to build more meaningful coalitions like the one we have in Iraq.) It has been argued by many that exerting our weight in Iraq was a mistake. Afer all, Hussein was locked up tight in a box. Would you not agree that we were remiss in exercising out weight?

I think we carry more weight today in the Middle East than we have in 50 years. Even if our Iraq policy is a miserable failure that is still true in my opinion. We just selectively apply it. Hilzoy's appears to disagrees with where and how Bush applies it. That doesn't make him a poor leader that only means she disagree with his leadership. My disagreement with Bush is that he should throw more weight around. That's the kind of leadership that would be most effective in this situation.

In my opinion we are eventually going into Syria. Sadly, this is so. Our only other safe option is to allow Israel. Or we can do nothing, but that hasn't worked for the last 50 years either.

"That's the thing about dilemmas like that: they always cut both ways."

Yes they do. That's really my point. Thanks for adding to it.

tunnel,
you seem to aiming for a full throated defense of our leader. So, given what we know today, do you have any reservations over the course that he has taken? Some things you might wish to consider.
-given our current concerns about Iran, why would leaving Sadaam in place have been a bad thing?
-given the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, was it a good strategy to go after Iran?
-do you believe that the US is in as strong a position as it was before invading Iran?
-does the apparent obliviousness to the bombings in Mumbai represent 1) a thought out policy or 2) too many balls in the air and if it is the former, to what end?
-Is the action of Israel expanding or reducing the number of options that the US has? If it is the former, could you explain why that is true and if it is the latter, can you explain how the actions of Bush and the administration can be viewed in a favorable light
-please note that apparently, the Israelis gave no warning or notice to the US concerning this course of action. If ostensible allies cannot be bothered to consult with us, why does this not speak to a reduction in ability to act, and why is it unrelated to previous decisions taken by this administration?
-where you write
In my opinion we are eventually going into Syria. Sadly, this is so. Our only other safe option is to allow Israel. Or we can do nothing, but that hasn't worked for the last 50 years either.
you suggest that the current course of action has been set for the past 50 years. Do you really think that this administration could have done nothing else to prevent or alleviate the current state of affairs?

lj--

did you mean "Iraq" at the second and third places where you wrote "Iran" up there?

Sorry about that, won. A disturbing Freudian slip, as I think we are more likely than not to go against Iran, but I meant Iraq in those cases

LJ,

How typical! You assume I haven't really thought about it. Should I thank you for reminding me too think?

That attitude strikes at the heart of why there is not currently a Democratic President. But that's an entirely a different conversation.


"-given our current concerns about Iran, why would leaving Sadaam in place have been a bad thing?"

FOB.

"-given the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, was it a good strategy to go after Iran?"

Assuming you meant Iraq... perhaps the casualty rate would enlighten us all

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2006-07/17/content_642144.htm

Relavant quote:

More than 1,600 people have been killed in Afghan violence this year, most of them Taliban, according to U.S. and Afghan figures. More than 60 foreign troops have been killed.

"do you believe that the US is in as strong a position as it was before invading Iran?"

Given re-enlistment rates and combat experience, most defintely YES.

Given personal experience with defense capabilites, most defintely YES.

Given investment in defense and training of personnel, most defintely YES.

"-does the apparent obliviousness to the bombings in Mumbai represent 1) a thought out policy or 2) too many balls in the air and if it is the former, to what end?"

Maybe I missed it... was there no terrorism in the U.S., Israel, India before Bush?

"-Is the action of Israel expanding or reducing the number of options that the US has? If it is the former, could you explain why that is true and if it is the latter, can you explain how the actions of Bush and the administration can be viewed in a favorable light"

Somehow I missed the memo regarding Bush's complete control over the entire world. Maybe your question would be better posed if you had asked, "Is 'Input Middle Eastern Country/Russia/China/Persian/Weak European' country expanding or reducing U.S. options."

But to answer a poorly posed question... expanding since we might not have to focus as much on Syria if Israel attacks them.

If reducing please see above acknowledging that Bush isn't entirely in control of entire world despite the Bush/Cheney Haliburton triumvirate.

The favorible light??? Perhaps letting a country defend itself against terrorist attack. Just a thought...

"Do you really think that this administration could have done nothing else to prevent or alleviate the current state of affairs?"

Maybe when we learn how to rehabilitate murders and such we might have a chance. Until that point in time, I suppose somewhere during 50 something years of failed policy we should eventually try something new. Do you not also?

How typical! You assume I haven't really thought about it. Should I thank you for reminding me too think?

tunnel, you seem a little defensive, and I'm not sure why as my questions were simply asking for your opinions. It seems that your defense of Bush is predicated on the fact that there wasn't much he could do, so rather than assume that, I thought I would ask you questions.

I'm not really sure what FOB means in this instance, so if you could explain it, I would appreciate it.

As for going after Iraq (apologies for the typo) and allowing Bin Laden to remain at large as well as leaving Afghanistan to, for the most part, fend for itself, casualty rates don't really address that.

As for the US being in a strong position, I was not referring to combat readiness or lethality, I was referring to political strength. I think it telling that Putin feels that he can make jokes at the President's expense, which strikes me as a good indication of how weak the US position is vis a vis world politics. Your metrics are like lauding the fact that we had a lot of military people able to speak Vietnamese at one point in time.

I'm not sure what the linkage you have in mind between previous terrorism and the Mumbai bombing is, it just seems that an event of that magnitude would have presented more opportunities to be taken of advantage of. It seems that the silence on the issue suggests that we are a lot more beholden to Pakistan than we would care to admit (though Bush's last visit there also resulted in a snub, iirc)

I'm not sure why you think my question about israel's actions expanding/reducing US options is poorly posed or how it implies that Bush has complete control over the entire world. If Steve Clemons' sources are correct and Israel gave the US no advance warning about its plans, it seems to me to mark a decline in US influence.

I'm also not sure how to rehabilitate 'murders', but if you mean murderers, the assumption that they are all on one side of the line is quaint at best. Also, to assume that 50 years of history is irrelevant to matters of Israel's relations with its neighbors is also misguided at best.

I'm tempted to think that you are doing a Leonidas because of the string of rehashed talking points, but I hope that you will disprove that notion by laying out your basic assumptions.

"you seem to aiming for a full throated defense of our leader. So, given what we know today, do you have any reservations over the course that he has taken? Some things you might wish to consider."

Sorry, but that sounds snarky to me. You are asking me to 'consider' not answer. You are assuming that I have not thought this through. If you just meant to ask questions to find out my opinion it would have been more appropriate so say, "Can you answer the following questions then?"

Maybe you didn't intend it that way, but if you don't assume an attack posture, I am sure I won't be defensive. ; -)

"I'm not really sure what FOB means in this instance, so if you could explain it, I would appreciate it."

Forward Operating Base.

"As for going after Iraq (apologies for the typo) and allowing Bin Laden to remain at large as well as leaving Afghanistan to, for the most part, fend for itself, casualty rates don't really address that."

Are they fending for themselves more or less now than they were in years previous to the U.S. invasion? Do you propose that we occupy the entire country? Should we tame the mountainous regions? Before the invasion we were supposed to fail because of how difficult the invasion of Afghanistan has been for other countries and that was a justification that many used for not going in. Now we need more troops in Afghanistan to pacify the Taliban. Well which is best? A large occupying force that will be attacked like so many other invaders or a form of controlled chaos with minimum troops and see if they can fight this out amongst themselves and provide our support when our chosen side needs it.

As far as bin Laden, it will take another mass killing of Americans before we invade a nuclear armed country.

" I was referring to political strength. I think it telling that Putin feels that he can make jokes at the President's expense, which strikes me as a good indication of how weak the US position is vis a vis world politics."

Maybe you can explain to me how effectively our pre-Bush political strength has been at resovling the issues in the Middle East. Even if there is all out war that's about par for the course is it not?

Russia and China are going to do just about whatever they want regardless of who is our President. To think otherwise is just wishful thinking in my opinion. Would you be willing to make an argument that Reagan brought about the fall of communism? It takes two to tango.

Russia understands the nature of the U.S. They understand that the giant is still in a stupor and not fully awake. If and when the giant wakes up Russia will play ball. Why would they before that time? Why would they not continue to do what they think is in their best interest? Why jump on board a ship that is so clearly divided?


"have presented more opportunities to be taken of advantage of"

Please feel free to list those opportunities and describe how we can take advantage of them.

"Israel gave the US no advance warning about its plans, it seems to me to mark a decline in US influence."

No. It could mean that we have a bunch of government workers that are actively working against the Bush administration instead of being loyal to the government and they might leak any information Israel provided us. Hell, I don't even trust that the CIA isn't working against the administration. Why should the Israeli's?

"Also, to assume that 50 years of history is irrelevant to matters of Israel's relations with its neighbors is also misguided at best. "

Funny, I thought that is what you and Hilzoy were doing in your criticism of Bush and his action/inaction in the current crisis.

"I'm also not sure how to rehabilitate 'murders', but if you mean murderers,"

Now see. That's the problem right there. You put Iran where you meant Iraq and I just said... Assuming you meant Iraq, but you respond sarcastically. You know its a typo and you knew exactly what I meant. When you made a typo I assumed what you meant and moved on. Why is it so difficult for you do me the same for me?


Is the G8 summit statement the kind of leadership that you were wanting from Bush?

Not that it means much, but if words on paper imply leadership, then it looks like Bush has delivered for you and Hilzoy.

So who is going to be first in line to congratulate Bush on his leadership skills?

I'm sorry that 'consider' is in the realm of snark now. Simply put, do you think America is better off now than it was 4 years ago? If so, why?

I supported the war in Afghanistan because I thought that we had some responsibility using the conflict as a proxy against the Soviet Union and when that was no longer needed, we dumped them (not snarking at you, but I include this picture because this is what tickles my memory) In short, yes, I expected us to set Afghanistan on its feet. I've also been told that this is why we went into Iraq. That you don't think this is true is your prerogative, but I think it puts you on the fringe of conservative thought, though the tide is changing

This sudden embrace of the "long view," as Brooks calls it, is of a piece with the recent claims by some neo-conservatives that there was nothing we could have done to prevent the sectarian violence in Iraq given its "coarsened and brittle cultures." Or as Josh paraphrased it: sure, we had a crappy post-war plan in Iraq, but that really didn't matter one way or the other.

While it is true that you can understand little about the Middle East without understanding its history, conservatives have an obvious motive for wanting to compress the last 20-30 years of events in the Middle East. Linking the brutal events of the recent past with the brutal events of today allows them to skip over the fact that real progress toward peace and stability in the region was made in the 1990s, in part due to U.S. leadership and diplomacy. In doing so, I suppose conservatives hope to obscure what a hash they have made of the Middle East in the last 5 years.

I'd also point out that previously, Bush said that he was going to get Bin Laden 'dead or alive'. The outsourcing of this not only may have prevented us from getting Bin Laden, but may have put a lot of people in Gitmo who have nothing to do with terrorism.

As far as opportunities arising from the Mumbai bombing, first of all, I am assuming that it was extremist elements linked to Pakistan, which may not be the case, but assuming it is, working with India and trying to get Pakistan to rein in extremist elements (remember, Khan was one of the major sources for nuclear proliferation) as well as reducing or even eliminating the fight over Kashmir would have massive ramifications in the so-called War on Terror.

Funny, I thought that is what you and Hilzoy were doing in your criticism of Bush and his action/inaction in the current crisis.

While I am honored that you put me in the same category as Hilzoy, I'm not sure why you feel unable to address me separately. This sounds snarky to me, but I'm sure that you have some underlying question.

Now see. That's the problem right there. You put Iran where you meant Iraq and I just said... Assuming you meant Iraq, but you respond sarcastically. You know its a typo and you knew exactly what I meant. When you made a typo I assumed what you meant and moved on. Why is it so difficult for you do me the same for me?

It is difficult because someone else asked the same question and I answered it 4 hours earlier. So protestations of how you are on the receiving end of so much snark, without any acknowledgement of how you might be adding some fuel to the fire seems like rank hypocrisy. Or perhaps in honor of your nickname, tunnel vision.

I would also point out that I think you are new to the list, so trying to discern what your basic assumptions are is part and parcel to being a newcomer. I cannot tell if you are denying that the US is in a weaker position globally than it was 4 years ago, or if you are arguing that George Bush can't be expected to be responsible for the weakness because he doesn't control everything. If you continue to oscillate between the two positions as a way of avoiding discussing challenges to your viewpoint, I think you should expect whatever snark comes your way.

Per JPost Halutz has said that the IDF has better options than a ground invasion of Lebanon although some troops crossed the border yesterday.

Kol haKavod to hilzoy for the good analysis.

"avoiding discussing challenges to your viewpoint, I think you should expect whatever snark comes your way."

As I see it you you challenged and I responded directly to your questions. As I have read your post I see you have chosen not to respond to directly to any questions I have asked.

I see no reason to deal with your posts in a substantive manner when you won't give mine the same consideration.

The LA Times reports that Israel has offered a cease-fire if the soldiers are returned. I'm sure we will soon hear about how unfair it is to ask Hezbollah to do anything to mitigate the situation.

I'm sure that we'll soon hear about how unfair it is to ask Hezbollah to do anything to mitigate the situation.

Hear it said by whom?

It seems to me that W is a remarkably perceptive leader: America has no credibility in the world, so he keeps his pie hole shut.

Any other course would be irresponsible.

It would help Israel, I think, for someone now to enter the picture and give the Israelis a reason to climb down...

More importantly, it would behoove Hezbollah for someone to enter the picture and give the terrorists a reason to climb down. Since we don't negotiate with terrorists, and since these terrorists are unreconcilable in regards to Israel, that someone should be Assad (whom Bush referenced in his "unscripted" remarks) or the Iranian mullahs. In the absence, Israel's best defense is a good offense. If anything, the IDF should ramp up in southern Lebanon, perhaps even take the fight directly to Assad. If Hezbollah is degraded enough, perhaps the Lebanese government could take back control of the south. Perhaps the reason we're not hearing too much protest from the Lebanese is that the Israelis are doing the job the Lebanses government is unable to do.

As it is, too much focus on the democratic nation, Hil, and none toward the truly offending parties. To me, that is clueless. Our role has been that of honest broker in the Middle East, but it only truly works when both sides are willing to live with one another. It worked with Eqgypt and Jordan, and it won't with Hamas or Hezbollah. If Condi need go anywhere, it's Damascus and then Beirut.

Israel's war is part of the greater War Against Militant Islamism, of which Syria and Iran are major players. Until those two nations tell their terrorist puppets to stand down, no progress or real peace will be made.

To tell you the truth, tunnel, I had a hard time figuring out what your questions were asking. Just for the record, here's a list

Are they fending for themselves more or less now than they were in years previous to the U.S. invasion?
Do you propose that we occupy the entire country?
Should we tame the mountainous regions?
Well which [not really sure what are the two scenarios offered] is best?

I addressed the question of Afghanistan. Pushing it back to whether we should have invaded or not is not a valid question


Maybe you can explain to me how effectively our pre-Bush political strength has been at resovling the issues in the Middle East. Even if there is all out war that's about par for the course is it not?

I thought it was obvious that I felt the pre Bush situation was better. telescoping 50 years of mideast history does not make that go away.

Would you be willing to make an argument that Reagan brought about the fall of communism? It takes two to tango.

I'm sorry, I really have no idea what this question asks or why Reagan has any relation to this dicussion, so I just skipped over it.

Russia understands the nature of the U.S. They understand that the giant is still in a stupor and not fully awake. If and when the giant wakes up Russia will play ball. Why would they before that time? Why would they not continue to do what they think is in their best interest? Why jump on board a ship that is so clearly divided?

I guess this is a question to suggest that Putin and Russia are just being Putin and Russia, and I thought that my point was that American influence was at a nadir when Putin can make Bush act like a straight man. You obviously feel that Russia has made American presidents laughing stocks before, (which might be why you are thinking of Reagan), but I tend to disagree.

"have presented more opportunities to be taken of advantage of"

Please feel free to list those opportunities and describe how we can take advantage of them.

I did, I suggest you return to my comment to see what I said.

Hell, I don't even trust that the CIA isn't working against the administration. Why should the Israeli's?

The idea that the CIA is full of spies and plants was voiced by a Representative recently, but I thought that was pretty bizarre. Still do.

Why is it so difficult for you do me the same for me?

I thought that I answered that, but if you didn't understand it, I'll be happy to go over it again.


A possible counterpoint to Chas is George Will's article to appear in the WaPo.

As it is, too much focus on the democratic nation, Hil, and none toward the truly offending parties.

I don't suppose that might have anything to do with the fact that Israel gets several billion dollars of our tax money in foreign aid and Hezbollah does not.

"Condi Rice, like most of humanity, is a more plausible candidate, but I don't really see that she is up to it either."

That's who is apparently going.

Digressing, I kinda doubt this exchange impressed Hu Jintao:

In the taped conversation Mr. Bush, clearly eager to get home to the White House after six days in Europe, is heard saying, apparently to a counterpart, possibly President Hu Jintao of China, who was sitting next to him, “Good job, gotta keep this thing moving — I gotta leave at 2:15 — you’ll want me out of town so to free up your security forces.” The voice that appears to be that of Mr. Hu agrees, “Ya,” and he laughs along with Mr. Bush’s trademark giggle.

But Mr. Bush sighs, and explains, “Gotta go home, got something to do.” Apparently betraying some confusion about the geography of Europe and Asia, he asks: “Where you going? Home? This is your neighborhood; it won’t take you long to get home.”

The counterpart, perhaps Mr. Hu, cannot be heard as he responds, but Mr. Bush exclaims, “You get home in 8 hours? Me too! Russia is a big country, and you’re a big country.”

Mm.

Our role has been that of honest broker in the Middle East...

That strikes me as an assertion that could use some bolstering, and probably some nuance.

"If anything, the IDF should ramp up in southern Lebanon, perhaps even take the fight directly to Assad."

It's worth noting:

[...] According to analysts and senior officials in Syria, Damascus is aware of the threat of an Israeli strike. In recent days, senior officials warned Israel against attacking. Lawmaker Muhammad Habash stated that if Damascus is attacked, another front would open on the Golan Heights. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has warned Israel against attacking Syria.

[...]

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday that Israel would not dare to move against the Islamic republic, state television reported.

Iran has denied Israeli suggestions that Hezbollah guerrillas could take the captured soldiers to Iran.

"The Zionist regime does not dare to cast a look with bad intentions at Iran," the president was quoted as saying by state television.

On Thursday, Ahmadinejad said an Israeli strike on Syria would be considered an attack on the whole Islamic world that would bring a "fierce response", state television reported.

"If the Zionist regime commits another stupid move and attacks Syria, this will be considered like attacking the whole Islamic world and this regime will receive a very fierce response," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying in a telephone conversation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Now, given the condemnations of Hezbollah from Saudi Arabia and other Arab states -- offhand, I've only noticed Yemen and Algeria also supporting Hezbollah -- obviously Ahmadinejad is doing his usual big talk, but it's certainly perfectly plausible to believe that Iran might militarily support Syria if Israel attacked.

Otherwise, while it's perfectly true that Syria and Iran are the sponsors of Hezbollah, and have great influence over Hezbollah, and thus are part of the equation, it's a tad questionable as to how good military advice is that instructs Israel that at a time when it's in a two-front war, that it should expand to three, and possibly four, fronts, unless utterly necessary, and as a last resort, including potentially against a nation whose population dwarfs its own, and is not without military resources, although, to be sure, it's a bit of a trip.

Mostly, though, at a time when as I've suggested, I think it would behoove everyone to consider keeping a lid on their moral righteousness, I have to, it appears, extend my advice to further suggesting that, perhaps, offering strategic military advice might be best left, at a time of great danger and stress and death, to those with some qualifications for giving it.

It seems to me more than a bit cavalier to blithely and glibly be advising nations on whom to launch wars against, particularly when one's own familiy isn't likely to be at risk, and during a time when people in at least two and a half countries are tragically dying.

If one were truly expert, this might be exercising professional expertise, and perhaps well-considered.

People, on the other hand, sitting at home, freely suggesting that others widen wars and further endanger their country and loved ones, might just possibly, just conceivably, want to consider the appropriateness of such glibness, and belligerence on behalf of others, no matter how well meant.

A touch of humility, perhaps, might be in order.

It might at least be something to consider.

Just because we can blog, and comment, doesn't mean its smart of us to do so at all times, with every passing thought that crosses our minds.

i thought the US role in the Middle East was the guarantor of Israel's security.

Stop waging war on Israel -- collect billions.

Continue waging war on Israel -- US gets cranky.

in real estate, a honest broker is one who can commit his client without the client later reneging. I guess that's what Chas means. He can't possibly mean that the US is perceived as a neutral party, can he?

Charles: "As it is, too much focus on the democratic nation, Hil, and none toward the truly offending parties. To me, that is clueless."

Well, no. In the passage you cited, I was talking not about what Israel should do, but about what was in Israel's interests. Why did I focus there? I took it to be obvious that some halt to this was in the interests of the Lebanese people. I have no interest in what's in Hezbollah's interests. That left Israel's interests to be considered. I thought (and think) that US leadership would serve them better than the current state of drifting into serious war.

"I have no interest in what's in Hezbollah's interests."

I suspect that is a serious oversight. If it is in Hezbollah's interest to see Israel publically back down (giving them more power in Lebanon for instance) this will in the medium and long runs lead to an even worse war later.

It's worth noting that there is expert opinion advocating "taking the fight to Assad".

rf, why would you classify Oren as 'expert opinion'? It think this article might illustrate some of the problems of prediction. This is not to say that Oren isn't a smart guy, this interview with him I found recently. But I find myself growing suspicious of 'expertise'.

"rf, why would you classify Oren as 'expert opinion'?"

I don't, myself, think that's an interesting question; more to the point might be that in Israel, as in the U.S., as in many places, one can find an expert opinion advocating just about anything.

That might be suggesting that rilkefan is deploying 'expert' in a biased way and I don't want to do that. Oren has a compelling bio, and I'm not trying to dismiss him out of hand, but rf thinks there must be something in the bio that argues for labelling him expert on the future events.

Also, from the interview, he said this:

Governments have to learn not to be complacent. They have to learn to anticipate crises and to react to them when they begin to emerge. Just one example comes to mind. This is back in ancient history, 2002, when Israel was launching its counter-offensive on the West Bank, Operation Defensive Shield, and Hezbolah in Lebanon began to shell northern Galilee, and the Syrian army began to move toward the Israeli border, and the Iraqi army began to mobilize, moving toward Jordan and Israel's eastern border. You basically had a situation that if Israel struck at Hezbolah, Syria was liable to attack Israel, Iraq was liable to attack Israel, and what have you got? You've got 1967 redux. And it would've happened very rapidly. It could've happened within 24 hours, and Condoleezza Rice basically went to the Syrians and said, "If you don't rein in Hezbolah right now, we're going to unleash the Israelis at you." And it stopped, the firing stopped. So, here is an example where the Bush administration did something the Johnson administration failed to do in '67, which was to react forthrightly and promptly to a crisis and to prevent it from getting out of hand.

My memory of Operation Defensive Shield was Jenin and the Church of the Nativity, so this is interesting, though I wonder why the same point cannot be made now, unless the simple act of Syria withdrawing prevents the US from going to Syria. I also wonder about Iraqi army mobilizing (could he have meant Iranian?)

I was talking not about what Israel should do, but about what was in Israel's interests.

Semantics, Hil. You can make a better argument that is in Israel's interests--and Lebanon's too--to degrade Hezbollah to the point where the Lebanese government can regain control of its country. Which is also in our best interests, since Hezbollah is on our State Department list of terrorist organizations.

This isn't so, much about Israel and its actions, so there's point in sending Condi to Tel Aviv to talk with them. It's about Hezbollah, and by extension, Iran. If Hezbollah ceased fire and returned the two hostages, there is no more fight. Because of this, the U.S. would be better off focusing its diplomatic energies on Damascus and Beirut. The calculus is pretty simple. It has to hurt Hezbollah more--way more--to launch missiles and kidnap Israelis than not. It also has to hurt Assad (or threaten to hurt him) and perhaps make Ahmadinejad think twice.

Hamas is observing all this, too, and they have a hostage and rockets of their own. If they see Israel backing down unilaterally or because of pressure from the U.S., Israel's interests will not be served. Hamas would see weakness and an opening for more kidnapping and Kassam rockets. Leaving Gaza last year didn't result in peace, so why would standing down do so? If Hamas saw the cost of attacks as exceeding the benefits, perhaps then they would direct their energies at actually governing their territory rather than tacitly instigating war.

Both Hezbollah and Hamas have demonstrated that they seek Israel's destruction over peaceful coexistence, which is why they don't have the international support they enjoyed in the past. They will ultimately lose, unless Israel decides to unilaterally stand down. This really is war and, sad to say, perhaps it's going to take a war to shake up the dynamic in the Middle East. With Hezbollah degraded, a more democratic Lebanon could be on the same footing with Israel as Jordan and Eqpyt, and the U.S. could even step in and broker a deal.

I don't suppose that might have anything to do with the fact that Israel gets several billion dollars of our tax money in foreign aid and Hezbollah does not.

Israel AND Egypt get billions from us annually as payoff for Camp David, Phil. Are you suggesting is that we add more strings to the money?

Gary,
You're probably right that going directly after Assad would take it too far, particularly if there are other means to persuade Assad to persuade Hezbollah.

But then again, Iran is already at war with Israel by proxy, and Assad has been no friend to the new Iraqi government or to the U.S. or to Israel. So how about a little speculation and armchair generaling.

So much emphasis has been on Israel playing a dangerous game in the Middle East, but I suggest that Assad and Ahmadinejad need to know that they're the ones playing with fire and that they're putting their own regimes at risk. This is high-stakes poker and, maybe this time, perhaps their bluff should be called.

Even if Iran joins Syria militarily, how are they going to get there? They have a piddling navy and their air force would have to cross Iraqi airspace, which won't happen. If they fire missiles, which would also cross Iraqi airspace, then they've just given Israel and the U.S. good reason for a mammoth strike against their nuclear facilities and their air force and their mullah leadership. No more need for the E3 or Kofi or IAEA to inspect facilities or get an agreement which the Iranians would dishonor anyway.

How would all this affect Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-majority states? There could be a whole range of reactions, but Saudi Arabia is no friend of Iran's. Would this create more terrorists? It could happen, but the same was said about al Qaeda in Iraq and they are losing. This may all be "blithe" and "cavalier" and "glib" as you insultingly suggest, but I'd be surprised if all parties weren't working through those very same scenarios.

Meanwhile:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to the Middle East to try to resolve the crisis, Bush administration officials said. The timing is still up in the air, and the trip will be a gamble. Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon, said on CNN that it might be too soon for Ms. Rice to accomplish anything.
Translation: give us another week, please.

I have to say that I don't understand the strategy behind bombing Lebanese Army assets, myself. At the moment I'm baffled on that.

Charles: "Semantics, Hil." -- ?? I think the difference between what's in Israel's interests and what Israel should do is pretty serious, actually. Especially since I didn't suggest that Israel do anything.

"You can make a better argument that is in Israel's interests--and Lebanon's too--to degrade Hezbollah to the point where the Lebanese government can regain control of its country." -- This would be true -- in fact, obviously true -- if the bombing campaign had no effects on anyone but Hezbollah. But, obviously, it does affect other people, specifically the non-Hezbollah Lebanese. My argument was that I thought that Israel had passed the point where the plusses of degrading Hezbollah began to be outweighed by the minusses of alienating the rest of the Lebanese people. Your mileage may vary, but I think it would probably be more productive to focus on why you're right and I'm wrong, rather than talking about how clueless it is that I'm focussing on the one democracy in the region, since, again, I wasn't.

Oren's a military historian, or a historian of the Middle East, and I thought his book on the Six-Day War was first-rate. I probably used "expert" because Gary remarked on "blithe"ness and is no doubt tired of reading opinions on the issue from uninformed pundits - and Oren isn't uninformed or a pundit.

That might be suggesting that rilkefan is deploying 'expert' in a biased way and I don't want to do that.

IMO, the word "expert" is being used in a biased way nowadays, and that's one of the major problems afflicting discourse in the US right now.

Anarch sucks, and is ruining this thread.

Had this been a real emergency...

???

If an action is in Israel's best interest, why would it make sense not to act? Unless you think it in their best interest to sit back and do nothing? Why the need to separate interests from actions that advance those interests?

But, obviously, it does affect other people, specifically the non-Hezbollah Lebanese.

Hezbollah has been getting its weaponry from Iran via Damascus via Beirut Airport, so Israel is protecting itself by bombing the airport, thereby preventing more rockets from getting to Hezbollah. Yes, this hurts the Lebanese people, but what's truly hurting them is that their government and their army are not strong enough to go against an Iranian-financed terrorist militia on their own soil. Last year, they successfully rid themselves of overt Syrian influence in their Cedar Revolution, but their work isn't over, not until they're able to get rid of the cancer in southern Lebanon. Israel is doing them a favor by doing the work for them, although I'm as baffled as Gary as to why the Israelis would bomb Lebanese Army assets. One of Israel's generals said this would be over in a few weeks. I think the Lebanese are smart enough to know that there will be some short-term disruption, with the end result being a weakened and degraded Hezbollah.

Charles: not everything that is in Israel's interests is an action that can be done by Israel. In this case, I was saying that it would be in Israel's interests to have the US intervene. Thus my perplexity at your saying that I was focussing too much on Israel, and my saying: look, I was asking what's in their interests, not what they should do.

"I was saying that it would be in Israel's interests to have the US intervene."

I doubt that direct US intervention would be in Israel's best interests under most scenarios I can envision. It will help out the conspiracy-mined terrorist mindset in the region.

We can't/shouldn't offer security guarantees. We can't give Israel what it needs. We certainly can't give Hezbollah or Hamas what they desire. We can't help much.

Israel AND Egypt get billions from us annually as payoff for Camp David, Phil. Are you suggesting is that we add more strings to the money?

I can't make heads or tails of what that question is supposed to be, but whatever words you're trying to put in my mouth, the answer is "No."

Your constant bravado in encouraging other people to fight wars in which you risk nothing never will cease to amaze me.

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