Sunday, July 30, 2006

More on the same

I was talking today with a former U.S. diplomat and a Washington "insider" who made the following comment: "I'm beginning to suspect that the Israeli military has been 'Americanized.' They seem to repeating our mistakes in Iraq. Very discouraging for them and for us." This is coming from someone who is a critic of the Bush administration's policies and has been opposed to the Israeli response in Lebanon. My guess is that the Bushies and the neocons are hysterical. After all, much of what the neocons have been pushing for has been the "Israelization" of Americnan foreign policy and national security, in a sense that the Americans should adopt the tough Israeli methods in dealing with global threats, especially vis-a-vis the Arabs who supposedly "only understand force." The problem is that both in Iraq and Lebanon (now and earlier) and in the West Bank/Gaza this approach has proved to be a total failure in terms of policy (forget for a moment about moral dilemmas). There is going to be a major debate in Israel, the U.S. and elsewhere about what Lebanon means as far as Israeli military is concerned. Some would argue that it reflects the problems in responding to threats from non-state actors. Others would suggest that there has been a serious erosion in Israeli fighting capability and too much reliance on airpower and technology. Or perhaps it all has to do with the fact that the Arabs are getting better on the battle-field. Whatever the conclusions, unless the Israeli military will "surprise" everyone in the coming days, it seems to me the sense in the Middle East is going to be that Hizbollah won and Israel lost. Indeed, as I suggested in an earlier post, it's all looking more and more not like 1967 (the historical analogy being that Nasrallah will end up as a loser like Nasser) and more like 1973 when although the Sadat and the Egyptians were defeated in military terms, the perception was that they triumphed over Israel. This is the result of the "game of expectations," when one side does better than expected.

On Israel, Lebanon, Hizbollah

I've been busy working on several projects and haven't had the time to write a long item on the "situation." But Tony Karon has been reading my mind, so to speak, and has raised some of the arguments I've been discussing for quite a while. In "Is Israel Fighting a Proxy War for Washington?" he stresses that Bush and Condi have not only given a "green light" to Israel in Lebanon; that they have encouraged that (“Don’t hold back on our account, in fact, make sure you finish them off…”"). And he points out that:
I’ve always maintained that the “pro-Israel” position of the Bush administration, formulated and influenced by hardline American Likudniks (whom, it must be said, are hardly representative of mainstream Israeli thinking) is actually fundamentally bad for Israel. Its infantile, aggressive maximalism precludes Israel from doing what it will take to live at peace with its surroundings, instead demanding a confrontational approach in keeping with Jabotinsky’s “Iron Wall” in which Israel’s survival depends on crush and humiliating the Arabs. Bush may talk the language of “Arab liberation,” but his contempt for Arab democracy is plain — just look at his response to the Hamas election victory. His administration appears to be dedicated to a remaking of the Middle East on America’s terms through violent social engineering. The depth of their failure in Iraq appears not to have deterred them from another adventure in Lebanon, this time using Israel as their agent of “change.” (read the rest)

And Karon writes:
I can’t help thinking that for all of the enthusiasm of the neocon Likudniks, the Bush administration’s “New Middle East” policy is not only bad for the Arabs; it’s bad for Israel, too.

Also recommended is Karon's "Six Fallacies of the U.S. Hizballah Campaign." Here are the six fallacies:
Flawed Assumption #1: Hizballah Can Be Militarily Eliminated
Flawed Assumption #2: If Lebanon is Made to Pay a Heavy Price, It Will Turn on Hizballah
Flawed Assumption #3 (My personal favorite!): The Crisis Offers an Opportunity for the U.S. to Rally Arab Support Against Hizballah and Iran
awed Assumption # 4: Syrian Cooperation Can Be Acquired Cost-Free
Flawed Assumption #5: The Middle East’s Crises Can be Addressed in Piecemeal Fashion
Flawed Assumption #6: Israeli Interests are U.S. Interests ((and read the rest.)

I'm beginning to consider the possibility that contrary to the predictions by Tom Friedman and other Nasrallah will emerge from this crisis more like Sadat after the 1973 war and not like Nasser after the 1967 war.