Waiting for Diplomacy

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I can’t imagine anyone who reads this blog hasn’t been following the front pages, but apparently the Bush administration’s plan for the Middle East is to let Israel bomb Lebanon for another week or so in order to weaken Hezbollah—despite the fact that Israel has been bombing targets wholly unrelated to this purpose—and then bring in an international force to create a “buffer zone” in the South. David Ignatius has a good analysis:

Bush’s slow-motion diplomacy is partly an effort to allow Israel time to destroy as much of Hezbollah’s arsenal of missiles as it can. But what comes next? Israeli officials talk of accomplishing what the Lebanese government would do itself if it had the power: break the Shiite militia. That’s a worthy goal — Hezbollah has it coming — but one that is almost certain to fail.

Lebanon is as thankless a battlefield as Iraq, as the Israelis well remember. They were initially welcomed as liberators by the Shiites when they invaded in 1982 — only to be pinned down by Hezbollah’s resistance movement and forced to retreat. Only a compulsive gambler would think the odds are any better this time.

Right. If Israel doesn’t actually succeed in weakening Hezbollah significantly—and it’s not clear that they can through an air campaign alone (that hasn’t exactly worked for the United States in Iraq, recall)—then they’ve just killed scores of civilians and incurred a series of rocket attacks on Israeli cities for nothing. Worse, the air war could well provoke a Shiite backlash against the United States in Iraq—Muqtada al-Sadr’s already making noises toward this end—which would mean things could get truly horrific.

At the moment, the Bush administration seems to believe that Israel can accomplish just about anything through the use of force, and are acting accordingly. But when have they ever been right about that? Why should we think they’re right now?

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