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Monday, August 14, 2006


america's proxy war

seymour hersh is at it again -- and the "vigorous" denials all but confirm the truth of the matter.

The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preëmptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.

even if hersh is wrong -- and he's not -- what the administration had hoped to gain by israel's war is not in question.

Some in the Bush administration wanted Israel to mount a major effort from the start to destroy Hezbollah. But Israel was facing a dicey political question over whether to commit thousands of troops when Hezbollah rockets were not causing mass destruction.

Instead, experts said, the Israelis attempted to inflict as much damage as possible through airstrikes.

At the same time, according to Israeli news accounts and a report in the Forward, a Jewish newspaper based in New York, Israel had hoped that the United States would forge high-level contacts with Syria in hopes of reaching Hezbollah - but the high- level contacts never came.

As it became clear that the Israelis were not going to wipe out Hezbollah, support in the White House shifted from the hard-liners, typically led by Vice President Dick Cheney, to the advocates for more diplomacy.

"Israel's hesitancy kind of took the wind out of the sails of the hard-liners," said Joshua Muravchik, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

credit the economist for calling a spade a spade -- this is the prelude to war with iran, a proxy fight that sets the stage for a confrontation that the power-mad neoconservatives within the administration of george w. bush and dick cheney have been itching for since the carter years and have been actively working toward for many months.

These two countries (Israel and Lebanon) do not in fact have much to quarrel about. There is between them no painful land-for-peace deal that has to be made, of the sort that Israel made with Egypt and must one day make with the Palestinians. (The “disputed” scrap of land known as the Shebaa Farms is at most a pretext Hizbullah uses to justify its fighting.) Indeed, a case can be made that this particular conflict is not primarily between Israel and Lebanon at all so much as it is between Israel and Iran, Hizbullah's mentor—and between America and Iran. That makes it much harder to resolve, not least because the superpower, so far from being a mediator, is in effect a protagonist, competing with Iran for domination of the post-Saddam Middle East, and to some extent tempted in this war to use Israel as a proxy.

This is a dreadful new turn. The century-long conflict between Zionism and the Arabs of Palestine has been hard enough to settle on its own, without additional global and regional rivalries superimposed. The cold war prolonged the fight in Palestine. It is no coincidence that some of the most promising peacemaking came after the Soviet Union stopped competing with America to be the dominant power in the Middle East. Now the core conflict is once again becoming entangled in a bigger one—perhaps even more dangerous this time because Iran is more eager than were the secular Arab states of the 1950s and 1960s to put Islam at the centre of the anti-Zionist cause.

the net result? yet another loss for the neoconservatives, no matter how measured. olmert's government is finished, the moral authority of the israeli state is at an all-time low and the united states achieves none of its objectives vis-a-vis hezbollah or iran. on the other side, hezbollah's hassan nasrallah has become the hero of the arab world and the most likely political power to rise within lebanon as the existing government reels, yet further extending the influence of iran in the region.

and what is the reaction of the bush administration? to keep rattling the sabre and talking about iran as though it were the greater threat to peace in the world when it is clearly not -- when clearly the greatest threat to peace in the world today is embodied in the institutions of the american executive.

the administration and the neoconservatives still have no idea why they lose -- and why they will go on losing.

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