Monday, July 31, 2006

Hezbollah made me do it

Over the weekend, an Israeli airstrike in Southern Lebanon struck a residential building in Qana killing 56 civilians, mostly children.
The outrage over this latest massacre of innocent civilians is almost deafening overseas and it forced the hawkish Israeli government to agree to a 48 hour ceasefire (which they promptly broke) to allow any other civilians time to flee the area.
If they had agreed to the ceasefire last week, perhaps this would not have happened. And yet, as disturbing as this latest tragedy is, it has done nothing to sate the enthusiasm of those here in the U.S. who believe Israel has the right to bomb the hell out of the entire country of Lebanon (and any other country it chooses) as payback for the actions of a small (but growing) band of militant Islamic extremists.
A ceasefire would be a sign of weakness, they argue, and would only allow Hezbollah to recharge its batteries and recoup its strength.
Besides that, they say, the attack was justified because Hezbollah was firing rockets from that area. In other words, the ‘devil’ made us do it.

I’m not sure what the Israeli government thinks it is actually accomplishing with this sustained attack on the Lebanese countryside. So far, Hezbollah does not appear to have been crippled - as is the stated goal of both Israel and the U.S. - however the image of both countries has been severely tarnished in the eyes of the rest of the world and that could mean even worse problems for us down the road.
As the Washington Post notes today the crisis could undercut Bush's long-term goals in the region.

The Israeli bombs that slammed into the Lebanese village of Qana yesterday did more than kill three dozen children and a score of adults. They struck at the core of U.S. foreign policy in the region and illustrated in heart-breaking images the enormous risks for Washington in the current Middle East crisis.
With each new scene of carnage in southern Lebanon, outrage in the Arab world and Europe has intensified against Israel and its prime sponsor, raising the prospect of a backlash resulting in a new Middle East quagmire for the United States, according to regional specialists, diplomats and former U.S. officials.

Although the United States has urged Israel to use restraint, it has also strongly defended the military assaults as a reasonable response to Hezbollah rocket attacks, a position increasingly at odds with allies that see a deadly overreaction. Analysts think that if the war drags on, as appears likely, it could leave the United States more isolated than at any time since the Iraq invasion three years ago and hindered in its foreign policy goals such as shutting down Iran's nuclear program and spreading democracy around the world.

"The arrows are all pointing in the wrong direction," said Richard N. Haass, who was President Bush's first-term State Department policy planning director. "The biggest danger in the short run is it just increases frustration and alienation from the United States in the Arab world. Not just the Arab world, but in Europe and around the world. People will get a daily drumbeat of suffering in Lebanon and this will just drive up anti-Americanism to new heights."

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