Tuesday, July 25, 2006

War and Diplomacy in Lebanon

The Jerusalem Post provides a summary of the recent fighting in Lebanon. The Israelis seem to be moving methodically and carefully to crush Hezbollah with the minimum harm possible being inflicted upon civilians.

Meanwhile Bob Gorrell has the diplomatic Kubuki dance figured out:

Surprises For and From Nasrallah

MEMRI has a transcript of an interview with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in which he makes two admissions which are particularly interesting. He says first that Lebanon knew in advance that Hezbbollah was going to kidnap Israeli soldiers and did nothing to discourage or prevent it. This means that Lebanon must share part of the blame for the destruction which has befallen it.

Hassan Nasrallah: I told them on more than one occasion that we are taking the issue of the prisoners seriously, and that abducting Israeli soldiers is the only way to resolve it. Of course, I said this in a low-key tone. I did not declare in the dialogue: 'In July I will abduct Israeli soldiers.'

Interviewer: Did you inform them that you were about to abduct Israeli soldiers?

Hassan Nasrallah: I told them that we must resolve the issue of the prisoners, and that the only way to resolve it is by abducting Israeli soldiers.

Interviewer: Did you say this clearly?

Hassan Nasrallah: Yes, and nobody said to me: 'No, you are not allowed to abduct Israeli soldiers.' Even if they had told me not to... I'm not defending myself here. I said that we would abduct Israeli soldiers, in meetings with some of the main political leaders in the country. I don't want to mention names now, but when the time comes to settle accounts, I will. They asked: 'If this happens, will the issue of the prisoners be over and done with?' I said that it was logical that it would. And I'm telling you, our estimation was not mistaken. I'm not exaggerating. Anywhere in the world - show me a country, show me an army, show me a war, in which two soldiers, or even civilian hostages, were abducted, and a war was waged against a country - and all for two soldiers. This has never happened throughout history, and even Israel has never done such a thing.

Nasrallah indicates genuine surprise at the ferocity of the Israeli reprisal. He did not expect them to go to war over a kidnapped soldier, nor did he expect that the Arab world would remain tacitly indifferent to their response. He seems to feel sold out by the Arabs:

Hassan Nasrallah: Once we used to ask the international community to denounce the hangman and to have mercy on the victim. Then we got to the point where we said we would accept it if they denounce the hangman and the victim alike. This has become what we could expect from them. If a resolution denounces both the hangman and the victim - fine. As for the Arab regimes - all we expect from them is to be neutral. And if they do not want to be neutral - brother, let them treat Israel and us equally. We would even accept it if they treat the hangman and the victim equally. But for them to participate in spilling the blood of the victim, and to provide cover for the crimes of the hangman - I tell you that we did not expect this. This was indeed a surprise.

He added this:

Once the war is over, in what way will it affect the Iranian nuclear dossier? What effect will it have on it? On the contrary, if this is in any way connected to the Iranian nuclear dossier, the war being waged against Lebanon does not serve its interest. The Americans and the Israelis have always taken into account that if a confrontation breaks out with Iran, Hizbullah might intervene in Iran's favor. So striking Hizbullah now would weaken, rather than strengthen, Iran on the nuclear issue.

Those who insist the Israelis stand down before their task is finished in Lebanon should take Nasrallah's words to heart. A weakened Hezbollah diminishes Iran's standing in the world and weakens their bargaining position over their nuclear program. Such an admission should give the world incentive to encourage the Israelis to complete the job. It's just one more way in which the cause of peace will be served by the elimination of Hezbollah.


CBS gets a scoop: A conservative icon does not consider President Bush to be much of a conservative. This, of course, is not much of a scoop:

President Bush ran for office as a "compassionate conservative." And he continues to nurture his conservative base - even issuing his first veto this week against embryonic stem cell research. But lately his foreign policy has come under fire from some conservatives - including the father of modern conservatism, William F. Buckley.

"I think Mr. Bush faces a singular problem best defined, I think, as the absence of effective conservative ideology - with the result that he ended up being very extravagant in domestic spending, extremely tolerant of excesses by Congress," Buckley says. "And in respect of foreign policy, incapable of bringing together such forces as apparently were necessary to conclude the Iraq challenge."

Of course, Mr. Buckley is simply reiterating what conservatives have been saying about George Bush for at least four years now. He's not a pure ideological conservative, and the only people who think he is, apparently, are liberals. George Bush is a political centrist, a man who forty years ago would have probably been in the mainstream of the Democratic Party. This makes the left's visceral hatred for him all the more astonishing.

Some will say that the left vilifies him because of Iraq, but the Iraq project is something for which the left should be grateful. Not just because Bush liberated 25 million people from oppression, a fact they often elide, but also because, as we've been tirelessly reminded, getting preoccupied in Iraq has made adventures in Syria, Iran and North Korea far more difficult and far less likely.

Parenthetically, it is one of the hypocrisies of the left's rhetoric that they castigate Bush for tying us up in Iraq to the point where we can't, in their telling of it, react with strength to the nuclear threat in Iran, when, in fact, the prospect of military action against Iran would send them into paroxysms of outrage.

Pushing the West Into a Corner

Victor Davis Hanson writes that the Islamists are pushing the West into a corner, a strategy which may prove very dangerous for the Muslims. Here are some key excerpts:

For years, the Arab world clamored for the Israel "problem" to be solved. Then peace and security would at last supposedly reshape the Middle East. The Western nations understood the "problem" as being Israeli retention of lands it had captured in Sinai, the West Bank, Gaza, Syria and Lebanon after defeating a series of Arab forces bent on destroying the Jewish state.

But after the Israeli departure from Sinai, Gaza and Lebanon, and billions of dollars in American aid to Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians, there is still not much progress toward peace. Past Israeli magnanimity was seen as weakness. Now Israel's reasoned diplomacy has earned it another round of kidnapping, ransom and rocket attacks.

Finally, the world is accepting that the Middle East problem was never about so-called occupied land -- but only about the existence of Israel itself. Hezbollah and Hamas, and those in their midst who tolerate them (or vote for them), didn't so much want Israel out of Lebanon and Gaza as pushed into the Mediterranean altogether. And since there will be no second Holocaust, the Israelis may well soon transform a perennial terrorist war that they can't easily win into a conventional aerial one against a terrorist-sponsoring Syria that they can.

Yet for all their threats, what the Islamists -- from Hezbollah in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley to the Iranian government in Tehran to the jihadists in Iraq's Sunni Triangle -- don't understand is that they are slowly pushing tired Westerners into a corner. If diplomacy, or aid, or support for democracy, or multiculturalism, or withdrawal from contested lands, does not satisfy radical Islamists, what would?

The answer, of course, is nothing will satisfy them except the total elimination of Israel. Now that Europe is facing its own "Muslim problem" more Euro-appeasers are beginning to realize that concessions will not sate the ravenous Islamic appetite. Despite calls in the media for a cease-fire realists recognize that a cease-fire will not be an end to hostilities nor will it presage such an end. It would only rescue the extremists so that they can resume the fight once they've recovered their strength.