Saturday, July 15, 2006

Israel and Lebanon: How Bush lost his mojo

Accustomed to dictating the agenda, putting opponents on the defensive, dividing the rest of the world into good and evil, black and white, yin and yang, the Bush administration is now reduced to watching an escalating Middle East conflict from the sidelines. There are several reasons for that, but most prominently America's diminishing role throughout the world —traceable to Bush's failure in Iraq, the world wide rejection of his discredited policy of pre-emption, and the nature of the "new government" —if government it is —in Iraq.

Israel will ignore UN calls for restraint and the conflict will intensify because a principal player is missing in action, or should we say, inaction. That player is the United States —bogged down in Iraq, finding itself unable to restrain Israel, without any chance of dialogue with Syria or Iran. Bearing the brunt is Lebanon to whom the US can only say: "Hang in there, buddy!"

Over three decades, the US has tempered inflammatory situations, playing "good cop" to the Israeli "bad cop". Having given tacit approval to an Israeli "over-reaction" , the Bush administration compromises its traditional role of "honest broker". Without dialogue or leverage, Bush is not only out of the loop, he may even be on the wrong side.

Likewise, Israel lost control of the agenda when Hamas won recent elections in Palestine, a situation very nearly summed up by the Washington Post:

Since Hamas won control of parliament in the recent Palestinian elections, policymakers in Washington and Jerusalem have been faced with a dilemma: how to deal with a democratically elected government that is also on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations. Last week, Newsweek-Washington Post's Lally Weymouth interviewed Hamas's new prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, by phone in his home in the refugee camp where he lives with his wife and 12 children in Gaza.

Palestinian President Abu Mazen and the international community have put forward conditions for dealing with Hamas: 1) recognize Israel; 2) recognize existing agreements with Israel made by the Palestinian Liberation Organization; 3) renounce violence. Will you agree to these conditions?

We are surprised that such conditions are imposed on us. Why don't they direct such conditions and questions to Israel? Has Israel respected agreements? Israel has bypassed practically all agreements. We say: Let Israel recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinians first and then we will have a position regarding this. Which Israel should we recognize? The Israel of 1917; the Israel of 1936; the Israel of 1948; the Israel of 1956; or the Israel of 1967? Which borders and which Israel? Israel has to recognize first the Palestinian state and its borders and then we will know what we are talking about.

'We Do Not Wish to Throw Them Into the Sea', Washington Post
Tragic irony! Bush's neocon base have long supported Israel and would have supported an Israeli nuclear strike on Iran. Iran, of course, now has close ties with the Shi'ites who now call themselves the government in Iraq. By way of Hezbollah, Bush's new Shi'ite government in Iraq may find itself in a war with Israel. More simply: Bush had no clue! Bush had no idea what he was getting into when he ordered US troops into harm's way in Iraq. Now Bush is reduced to watching it all unfold on TV.

Bushies will resort to form: the no one could have foreseen defense. We've all heard it before. Condoleeza Rice used it following 911 when she said that no one could have foreseen that hijackers would use airliners. That was not so, of course; everyone but Bushco had "gamed" it.

More recently, Bush himself whined to Diane Sawyer: no one could have foreseen that the levees would break. In fact, everyone but Bush had foreseen that possibility. National Geographic did a documentary about it. Now, Bush can be counted on to come up with something equally absurd like no one could have foreseen that Shi'ites would win the elections in Iraq or no one could have foreseen that Israel would want to attack Lebanon. Who is dispensing those mind altering drugs at the White House?

Additional resources:

The Existentialist Cowboy
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