Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bush's "Window of Opportunity" is the Blood of Lebanese Children

The Bush dyslexicon was especially revealing a couple of days ago, in his comments about the deaths of approximately 60 civilians, including 37 children, in Qana, Lebanon:

The current situation in the Middle East is a reminder that all of us must work together to achieve a sustainable peace. America mourns the loss of innocent life. It's a tragic occasion when innocent people are killed, and so our sympathies go out to those who lost their lives today, and lost their lives throughout this crisis.

Those who lost their lives in Qana and "throughout this crisis" are beyond "our sympathies" -- but Bush stumbles over this obvious truth, because the words on his lips are not coming from his heart. His words are almost comically odd, because he does not believe them himself, and thus cannot get them to come out right.

What Bush really believes is that Israel's war against Lebanon is a "moment of opportunity" -- albeit for America's ally in the Middle East to defeat Iran for us in a proxy war, not for peace and democracy. Dan Froomkin writes that Bush's continuing insistence on using terms like "moment of opportunity" to characterize an Israeli military response that has taken about 600 innocent lives so far is making him look both "callous and delusional":

President Bush's "moment of opportunity" in the Middle East is increasingly looking like an opportunity for disaster.

Bush's official position is that some blood-spilling in the Middle East is worth it in pursuit of the region's positive transformation.

Even in the wake of an Israeli airstrike Sunday that killed 57 civilians in the Southern Lebanese town of Qana, every terse presidential acknowledgment of the human toll is accompanied by soaring rhetoric about freedom and democracy and lasting stability.

In the best of circumstances, Bush would be running the risk of being considered callous. But in the current circumstances, he runs the risk of being considered both callous and delusional.
The White House position appears to be to refuse to even contemplate ideas that, elsewhere, are widely considered obvious: That regardless of who started it, Israeli strikes are taking a vastly more terrible toll on Lebanese civilians than Hezbollah is taking on Israelis; that Israel's actions are turning the region ever more resolutely against the United States and its goals; that the war is undermining Lebanon's fragile democracy; that the death of 37 children in an air strike is more than just a "qualifier" -- it is a bloodbath that shocks the conscience of the world; and that there is more urgency to stop the killing than there is to pursue a dubious and so far disproved theory of regional rebirth.

The other point, of course, is that the humanitarian catastrophe Israel has unleashed on the people of Lebanon in the name of its national security is not achieving any of Israel's military objectives; and in fact is putting Israel in a far more dangerous position with regard to its security. It's exactly the same as the effect the Iraq war and occupation has had on U.S. national security. In both cases, the choice of war and militarism over diplomacy and genuine efforts to achieve peaceful co-existence have failed.

Barbara O'Brien thinks that "the old-fashioned government-declared war between nation-states has become a relic of history."

Richard Norton-Taylor, in a (UK) Guardian op-ed to which Barbara links, picks up this theme:

Israel is learning a lesson that the armies of other countries, including the US, have already grasped. Military force can no longer guarantee victory, certainly not in the conflict Israel and its western allies say they are engaged in - the "war on terror", as the Bush White House calls it, or the "long war", as the Pentagon now prefers.

Whether you call them guerrillas, insurgents or terrorists, you cannot bomb them into submission, as the US has found to its cost in Iraq, and as Israel is discovering in Lebanon. Even Tony Blair appeared to admit this in his weekend speech to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp organisation. "My concern is that we cannot win this struggle by military means or security measures alone, or even principally by them," he said. "We have to put our ideas up against theirs."

He was reflecting what his military and defence officials have been saying for a long time. Last September serving army officers applauded Colonel Tim Collins, who commanded the 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment in the invasion of Iraq, at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. He said: "We have clearly no plan ... We are relying entirely ... on military muscle to impose freedom and democracy." Desmond Bowen, the policy director at the Ministry of Defence, told a conference at the Royal United Services Institute last month: "No longer does the singular strand of military activity lead to success."

General Sir Rupert Smith, who was Nato deputy supreme commander and commander of UN forces in Bosnia, spells out the limitations of military power in his book The Utility of Force. "We are engaging in conflict for objectives that do not lead to a resolution of the matter directly by force of arms, since at all but the most basic tactical level our objectives tend to concern the intentions of the people and their leaders rather than territory or forces."

Senior officers in the British army are wondering whether they will ever again fight a war, let alone win one, in the conventional sense. For them, the phrase "war on terror" is a misnomer, one that elevates the enemy and suggests terrorist groups can be defeated by force of arms alone.

Going back to Barbara, her idea is that the nature of the post-9/11 world is not conducive to military solutions. Unfortunately, right-wingers are still mired in in a pre-9/11 world and cannot give up their blind faith in war:

The reasons for the futility of force are many, but very crudely -- Through history wars have been fought for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is smoldering enmity left over from the last war. Since the 17th century, when firepower began to dominate warfare, governments had a near-monopoly on war. This was partly because only nation-states had the big guns. But now the forces of changing technology and globalization have made it possible for stateless groups to wage war, too.This is true even though these stateless groups don't have as many fighters or as much military ordnance as the "regulars," and this takes us to "asymmetric warfare."

... [A]symmetric warfare isn't new, but in the post-9/11 world it has taken on new dimensions. Such warfare has to be fought on many levels -- psychological (the old "hearts and minds" thing), political, diplomatic, financial, and economic, as well as military.

But out of that range of options, neocons can only see one.

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