Letting Lebanon Burn
July 21, 2006
A chilling article on the front page of today's Washington Post reports that the White House is "content to see the Israelis inflict the maximum damage possible on Hezbollah," as if that will accrue some benefit for the United States in its nebulous "war on terror." The article ends with a Jewish-American businessman praising the president for his obstinance: "I have never seen a man more committed to Israel." To believe that decimating Lebanon is somehow in Israel's best interests is folly. And no less than one of the leading American Jewish magazines says so.
Writing in The Forward (hat tip: WarandPiece) former National Security Council member Steven Simon criticizes the Bush administration for refusing to intervene in the situation, choosing instead to watch from the sidelines cheering Israel on (my words, not Simon's):
... Once the crisis began, immediate American involvement might also have prevented the violence from escalating. This, however, would have required the lines of communication and leverage with the warring parties that the administration's policies had systematically dismantled.
The perfect storm was made by everything going wrong at once: the sudden thaw of freeze-dried revolutions; multiple, concurrent blunders; resurgence of Shiite activism, and a mutually reinforcing lack of American attentiveness and dwindling influence. To survive the gale, therefore, everything has to go right at once, or more plausibly, in a tight, compelling sequence.
The violence must be brought under control, the captive soldiers returned, verifiable arrangements for Hezbollah's disarmament put in place, Lebanese army control over the south established, a modus vivendi between Israel and the Palestinian Authority negotiated, and infrastructure rebuilt. Even one or two of these measures would be a massive achievement. To accomplish all seems fantastic.
One thing, however, is certain. These things will not happen spontaneously. They will require the careful blend of planning, pressure and inducement that only a focused administration can supply . [Emphasis mine]
The world knows that Israel is acting with the Bush administration's permission. But who is giving the Bush administration permission? Congress, for starters. But some Americans are beginning to voice their outrage at the White House's savage "let them beat the hell outta each other" policy. Via HuffingtonPost, a group called JustForeignPolicy recently posted its new petition to the president:
As American Jews, we are horrified by your apparent support for the bombing and destruction of Lebanon, and your opposition to international demands for an immediate ceasefire.
We condemn the violence by all sides, especially against civilians. But we cannot accept your attempt to justify and abet the collective punishment of the people of Lebanon -- including thousands of Americans trapped there -- as part of "Israel's right to defend herself."
As Americans, we have a special responsibility to speak out against what our government is doing (or not doing, in this case) in our name. Where are the petitions that those of us who aren't Jewish can sign?