"The war isn’t over yet," says Tzipi Livni. The Israeli foreign minister’s address to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations left no doubt that the battle will continue, for the moment, on a diplomatic and political plane:
“At first there was the military battle and then there was the diplomatic battle and now it is crucial that the international community and the Lebanese government will implement fully the resolution 1701.”
The faster the UN peacekeepers deploy, the faster the IDF will withdraw from Lebanon: but the international force may take as long as a month to be put in place, and meanwhile the truce is very fragile. The resumption of hostilities is a real possibility. Under this kind of threat, the pressure is on to give Israel the victory it could not win on the battlefield. Israel’s demands were voiced by Danny Yatom, a member of the Knesset and a former director of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, when he said:
"There is no doubt that Hezbollah must follow the decision in its entirety, and it is the responsibility of the Americans and the French as well as the other members of the Security Council and the government of Lebanon to bring about the disarmament of Hezbollah and have it driven up north past the Litani."
Yes, those suckers, the Americans they’re responsible for cleaning up Israel’s bloody mess. So what else is new? It’s our fate, our destiny, our cross to bear like having a juvenile delinquent for a son, or a "black sheep" brother who can’t stay sober and/or out of jail. And we play the role of the dutiful, self-sacrificing Samaritan to the hilt: we paid for their ugly little war, and, if Yatom and Israel’s supporters in this country have anything to say about it, we’ll continue to pay for quite some time.
How much longer we can afford this policy of caving in to Israel’s every demand is in some doubt, however, as the cost of appeasement continues to skyrocket. The latest price hike: Dennis Ross, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, one of the Lobby‘s major tentacles, is telling us this is all about Syria, not Lebanon, and that the "implementation" of 1701 means a virtual blockade of Syria and Iran which must be prevented from resupplying Hezbollah.
But the resolution passed by the Security Council says no such thing: it leaves the task of disarming Hezbollah to the Lebanese government, and they have already decided, as Ha’aretz reports, that Hezbollah, rather than surrendering its weapons, will "conduct no military activity in the south. There is to be no ‘show of military arms’ by Hezbollah in the south, but only of the Lebanese army and UNIFIL." This don’t-show, don’t-tell policy, designed to maintain Lebanon’s internal peace and recognize the overwhelming popularity of Hezbollah in the wake of their victory is a slap in the face to the Israelis, who are hardly in a position to be making demands in the first place. After all, they lost the war: it is the Lebanese, and specifically Hezbollah, who hold all the cards.
However, the Israelis have an ace up their sleeves: the United States. It is the Americans who rushed military supplies and provided signals intelligence to their key ally in the region, and it is the Americans who are expected to come through, in the end, by providing diplomatic, and, if necessary, military cover for the Israeli retreat. While the U.S. still denies American troops will be present in the peacekeeping force, the Israelis are rejecting soldiers from any country deemed to be an "enemy" a designation that, as lately as two years ago, might have been applied to the French. Malaysia, which has so far refused to extend diplomatic recognition to the Jewish state, has volunteered 1,000 troops, but this does not appeal to the Israelis: the same goes for offers from Indonesia and Morocco.
As for the French, who were expected to lead the peacekeeping force, they have so far come up with a mere 200 engineers, accompanied by 10 officers. The Italians, too, are waffling, nervous about the terms of engagement and eager for a more precise definition of the peacekeepers’ tasks. As the peacekeepers’ ranks dwindle, so do the hopes that the cease-fire can hold.
Israel initially proposed a NATO force be brought in, and the American response to this was cautious. While Republican Dick Lugar thought it possible, Democrat Chris Dodd explicitly raised and rejected the idea of American participation: what’s significant, however, is that John Bolton, our voluble UN ambassador, did not rule it out. Ken Silverstein cites a "well-connected former CIA officer" who claims an American role in the peacekeeping force is being actively considered by the Bush administration and, as the prospects of an international force seem to wilt on the vine, the likelihood of direct American intervention grows.
The return of U.S. troops to Lebanon would be a mistake of colossal proportions, one that would rival if not top what Gen. William E. Odom calls "the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history," namely the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. It would set up a tripwire for massive intervention in the region, and also set our soldiers up for another slaughter such as occurred in Beirut in 1983, when 241 U.S. military personnel were blown to bits by a suicide bomber. Instead of ensuring stability, our intervention would bring about the exact opposite: it would create a popular movement against us and conjure visions of yet another American occupation of Arab lands. It would also suck us into an accelerating conflict with Syria, and this would draw in Iran a game plan that may suit the Israelis just fine, but which hardly serves American interests.
When the Israelis launched their blitz, they endangered the lives of 25,000 American nationals residing or visiting in Lebanon. When we finally undertook the rescue effort, the White House was legally obliged to inform Congress that U.S. troops would be deployed there. As news accounts noted, the notification went beyond what was strictly required for a limited rescue mission:
"The White House notified congressional leaders Wednesday of possible deployment of ‘combat-equipped U.S. military forces’ to Lebanon and Cyprus as the evacuation of embattled Lebanon escalated. Pentagon officials said the troops would be deployed solely to aid in rescue efforts, but added they were studying supplemental rules of engagement in case the troops were attacked or became embroiled in the fighting."
"Embroiled" is certainly the right word in this context, conjuring, as it does, visions of Uncle Sam being roasted over an open pit. If we are cast into this hellish maelstrom, there will be no easy escape: we will be conscripted into fighting Israel’s battles for the next decade or so: humbling the Syrians, confronting the Iranians, reducing the entire region to rubble in the name of promoting "democracy" and supporting Israel’s right of "self-defense."
Isn’t it odd how the "defense" of Israel always seems to require the invasion and destruction of its neighbors? Funny how that works.
Bill Kristol, the little Lenin of the neocons, came up with a slogan to express the current neocon line on the Israeli invasion: "This is our war, too." That they are desperately trying to make it so is the one thing that leaps out at us as the fog of war dissipates and the region prepares for round two.