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US middle east policy: "...a blood soaked failure"!

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Israel targets Hezbollah but kills primarily civilians and UN observers. To call it "Unintended consequences" is polite. To liken it to Bush's strategy in Iraq is more accurate. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere chaos is loosed upon the world.

Things are so bad for Bush that only a catastrophe -Israel's disproportionate and tragic invasion of Lebanon -could knock Iraq off the front pages where some 100 civilians are slaughtered daily. If Bush thought a respite from bad Iraq news would help, he is sorely disappointed. A majority of Americans think the nation is on the "wrong track" and the fact that he is seen has having given Ehud Olmert a "green light" does not help his case. [See: Israeli Strike Kills 54]

While the world watches what George Will has called an "cascading escalation" in the middle east, Iraq itself disintegrates. "Operation Together Forward" -a joint Iraqi-U.S. military operation to restore security in Baghdad -is described by The Register Guard as "...a blood-soaked failure." There is even talk of an impending coup e'tat in Iraq. If Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shi'ite majority cannot rule Iraq, then what is to be said of the prospects for Democracy? What is to be said of Bush's rhetoric? But most significant: what is to be said of the many lies told by Bush to start the war to begin with?

There is also talk of a US backed Kurdish minority even as Sunnis take control of Baghdad. But I wonder how the Kurds -betrayed by Bush Sr -will be fooled again. Clearly -Bush never had a plan beyond bombing, attacking, invading and blowing up stuff. Quagmires, I suppose, are to heal themselves. Meanwhile, on ABC This Week, Fareed Zacharias suggested that the US is left with but one option: threatening Iraq with a withdrawal!

That bears repeating: the US presence in Iraq is such a debacle, such an utter failure, that the US -the chest-beating last remaining superpower -is reduced to threatening to withdraw. Perhaps Israel should similarly threaten Lebanon! It may be the only way left to win.

In the meantime, according to a CBS News/New York Times Poll, 62 percent of all Americans, 60 percent of all independents, and 89 percent of all Democrats disapprove of Bush's handling of Iraq.

It's tempting to attribute some of that to Bush's dubious achievements in the Middle East:

  • The Bush administration has ensured that the international community will fail to stop the mayhem in Lebanon by raising the bar, false hopes, and unrealistic expectations. Now, rather, is the time for practical solutions to an immediate crisis.
  • The US has ceased to play its traditional role of "honest broker"; instead, the Bush administration arms but one side of the dispute with sophisticated rockets and powerful bombs

It's time to face the fact that Bush policies, and likewise, the policies of Ehud Olmert in Israel, are counter-productive. A couple of points:

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  • Hezbollah didn't exist before Israel invaded Lebanon during the Reagan years.
  • Bush foot dragging and unrealistic insistence upon a "lasting peace" has allowed Israel enough time to devastate Lebanon though it claims Hezbollah is its target.
Israel publicly proclaims that its goal is nothing less than the complete dismantling of Hezbollah's military infrastructure -"once and for all". Aside from the fact that an air campaign alone cannot accomplish this, disillusioned millions, radicalized by the disproportionate nature of the attack in the first place, will most certainly emerge stronger and more radical. Even if Israel should succeed in crippling Hezbollah -the maximum achievable by an air campaign -a stronger, more radical party will emerge on the other side.

Nor can Hezbollah be "dismantled" by an armed invasion. Now that the hoped for cease fire has fallen apart, it is difficult to see how an emerging pattern of escalation -feeding upon its own momentum -will stop short of a disastrous march into Beirut. This option will only result in murderous urban, guerrilla warfare.

It will not render Hezbollah powerless, because it is simply impossible to eliminate thousands of small, mobile, hidden and easily resupplied rockets via an air campaign. And it will not lead the weak Lebanese government to confront Hezbollah, because the civilian casualties caused by Israel's bombing are infuriating the Lebanese population and providing fodder for Israel's enemies throughout the Muslim world.

-Philip H. Gordon, Brookings Institution

Israel should know better; it's been there before. In 1982, Israeli soldiers were greeted with flowers and candy. But the purpose then was to kick out PLO occupiers. But -alas -Israel became the occupier of Lebanon and stayed for some 18 years.

If the world is lucky, Israel will have learned a lesson and settle for something less than full victory which they've defined as the utter destruction of Hezbollah. Hezbollah, however, wins if it only thwarts Israeli objectives.

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A by-product of this war has been the increasingly alarmist vocabulary even among conservative commentators. George Will -a conservative -compared the "cascading escalation" to the events which followed the killing of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914.


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Len Hart is a Houston based film/video producer specializing in shorts and full-length documentaries. He is a former major market and network correspondent; credits include CBS, ABC-TV and UPI. He maintains the progressive blog: The (more...)

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