The Bush press conference today in Crawford contained some odd and noteworthy comments from our commander in chief about the Lebanon crisis. I found it interesting how he characterized what would happen there after the first resolution is adopted:
The first resolution, which the Security Council is now considering, calls for a stop of all hostilities. Under its terms, Hezbollah will be required to immediately stop all attacks. Israel will be required to immediately stop all offensive military operations.
Hezbollah must “stop all attacks.” By which I presume he means all rocket attacks against Israel. But does he include Hezbollah attacks against the IDF within Lebanon? I would assume he does. But then he only asks Israel to stop all “offensive military operations.” Of course, Israel claims that its entire operation is defensive in nature and rejects the notion that anything it is doing is offensive. So how in heaven’s name does he expect to get both sides to honor a ceasefire when even he hasn’t made the terms or his expectations of both sides clear? What does seem clear to me is that he expect Hezbollah to observe a full ceasefire but reserves the right for Israel to continue engaging in some form of military operations in Lebanon. That’s an absolute non-starter and fully prejudicial to Hezbollah’s interests.
Usually in international affairs when a nation attempts to broker a ceasefire it tries to at least maintain the facade of neutrality, if only so that both sides will treat it as an honest broker. Such status allows the broker to be more effective in their efforts since both sides would presumably trust such a party more than one which was heavily prejudiced toward one side or another. That is clearly not true in this instance. The U.S. loathes Hezbollah and makes this clear in every way possible. So today, President Bush placed blame for the war squarely on Hezbollah:
The intent of the resolution is to make sure that we address the root cause — the resolution is to address the root cause, which was a state operating within the state. Hezbollah was — or is an armed movement that provoked the crisis.
And so whatever comes out of the resolutions must address that root cause. And so the task today for the Secretary and her counterparts is to develop a resolution that can get passed. It is essential that we create the conditions for the Lebanese government to move their own forces, with international help, into the south of Lebanon to prevent Hezbollah and its sponsors from creating this — creating another crisis.
How in heavens name does the U.S. expect Hezbollah or Syria to want to play any part in this ceasefire charade when a prime mover blames them alone for the conflict. Everybody knows that we carry water for the Israelis and vice versa. But you’d think that in this one particular case, we’d make even a modest attempt not to show our true hand to the guy in the turban on the other side of the table.
You’ll note further that Bush’s definition of the “root cause” of the Lebanon conflict nowhere mentions any causes attributable to Israel. No Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails. No Shebaa Farms. How can anyone see the ceasefire as a legitimate proposal when it appears that as “august” a world leader as George Bush doesn’t see it demanding anything of Israel.
Bush also seemed clueless in answering a question implying criticism of the U.S. refusal to engage Syria seriously in resolving the crisis:
Q Many strategists say that we’ll never get to the bottom of this crisis unless the U.S. engages directly with Syria and Iran. Why not talk to them directly about this, and have a back-and-forth conversation?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that’s an interesting question. I’ve been reading about that, that people have been posing that question. We have been in touch with Syria. Colin Powell sent a message to Syria in person. Dick Armitage traveled to Syria. Bill Burns traveled to Syria. We’ve got a consulate office in Syria. Syria knows what we think. The problem isn’t us telling Syria what’s on our mind, which is to stop harboring terror and to help the Iraqi democracy evolve. They know exactly what our position is. The problem is, is that their response hasn’t been very positive. As a matter of fact, it hasn’t been positive at all.
To Bush’s mind, Syria is but a mere appendage, an irritant to U.S. wishes for the region. There is no awareness at all in his response, to the fact that Syria has its own national interests at stake in this conflict; and that Syria has needs and goals that must be taken into account before achieving that “comprehensive” solution that Bush so claims he’s after.
In other words, Syria’s only role in this is not to “stop harboring terror and to help Iraqi democracy evolve.” Those are American definitions of what Syrian goals should be. Syria’s major goal is to regain the Golan from Israel. If that happens, then many other things are possible including Syrian recognition of Israel and possibly an abandonment of Hezbollah. If that does not happen, then Bush is just blowing smoke up the world’s a($.
Bush has a weird take on Hezbollah’s role within Lebanese politics:
the actions of Hezbollah through its sponsors of Iran and Syria are trying to stop that advance of democracy. Hezbollah launched this attack. Hezbollah is trying to create the chaos necessary to stop the advance of peace.
In other words, a group which organized as a political party and won seats in parliament and in the cabinet is somehow stopping the advance of democracy. Hezbollah and Hamas both ran as political parties. We just don’t like their politics so we label them as aborters of democracy. I would agree with Bush that Syria until recently was an opponent of Lebanese democracy. But the way to turn that nation away from its former path is to engage with them and find out what they want in return for becoming a constructive partner in the region. This is international diplomacy. You have to give to get. Bush wants to get but refuses to give. That’s not the way things work. I’m not even a diplomat and never stepped foot in the State Department or the White House and even I know that.
Here is confirmation, if ever you needed it, that Bush is living in cloud cuckoo land as far as Hezbollah is concerned:
Q Mr. President, you’ve been quite specific in Hezbollah’s role as the creator of this conflict. But what is the…the hook to get this group to accept a cease-fire…
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I would hope it would be international pressure on not only Hezbollah, the group of Hezbollah within Lebanon, but also its sponsors. And that’s the whole purpose of the United States working with allies and friends, is to send a clear message that sponsoring terror is unacceptable. It’s the great challenge of the 21st century, really.
“International pressure.” Really. What international pressure? From the Arab world? Hardly, they lionize Hezbollah for its successful resistance of Israel. What meaningful pressure can Bush bring to bear against Hezbollah? What pressure that carries any weight? None that I see.
In this inflammatory comment, it seems to me, that Bush has invited Hezbollah to see the U.S. as as much of its enemy as Israel is:
It is the great challenge of this century and it’s this: As young democracies flourish, terrorists try to stop their progress. And it’s the great challenge of the United States and others who are blessed with living in free countries. Not only do terrorists try to stop the advance of democracy through killing innocent people within those countries, they also try to shape the will of the western world by killing innocent westerners. They try to spread their jihadist message — a message I call, it’s totalitarian in nature — Islamic radicalism, Islamic fascism, they try to spread it as well by taking the attack to those of us who love freedom.
He may of course be referring to Al Qaeda here. But if so, by deliberately conflating Hezbollah and Al Qaeda he has once again done a grave injustice to the truth by fundamentally misunderstanding their nature and differences. Hezbollah may see Israel as the enemy, but it could care less about the west except inasmuch as they directly aid or abet Israel. Hezbollah is a Lebanese group and has no pan-Muslim delusions of grandeur like Al Qaeda. Hezbollah’s goals are fairly simple and clear and not grandiose bits of fever dreams like Al Qaeda’s. Bush’s grasp of the Mideast and Muslims in particular is hopeless.
Amazingly, Bush blames previous Administrations (including his father’s) for the 9/11 attacks:
And as far as this administration is concerned, we clearly see the problem and we’re going to continue to work to advance stable, free countries. We don’t expect every country to look like the United States, but we do want countries to accept some basic conditions for a vibrant society — human rights, human decency, the power of the people to determine the fate of their governments. And, admittedly, this is hard work because it flies in the face of previous policy, which basically says stability is more important than form of government. And as a result of that policy, anger and resentment bubbled forth with an attack, with a series of attacks, the most dramatic of which was on September the 11th.
Previous administrations which supported Mideast stability at the cost of true democracy caused the 9/11 attacks. Is the man out of his gourd?!!
Here’s more cloud-cuckoo land stuff regarding Ehud Olmert’s sterling engagement of Mahmoud Abbas to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
I also happen to believe that as Prime Minister Olmert was making progress in reaching out to President Abbas and others in the region to develop a Palestinian state, that that caused a terrorist reaction. Remember, this all started with the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by militant Hamas, followed shortly thereafter by the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah.
Ehud Olmert was so deeply engaged with Abbas in the cause of creating a Palestinian state that it threatened Hamas terrorists who kidnapped Shalit? Right. Who feeds him this bulls(&t??
In case you’re worried about whether the Bush Administration has a plan to get us out of the messes we’re in in Iraq and Lebanon, rest assured, he does:
What the American people need to know is we’ve got a strategy — a strategy for freedom in the Middle East which protects the American people in the long run. And we’ve got a strategy to deal with the situations that arise in the Middle East — first Lebanon; of course, the Iranian nuclear weapon issue.
I’m feeling better already.
Shouldn’t Bush and Israel have thought of this problem before they bombed Lebanon all to hell?
The [U.S.] strategy at the U.N., the diplomatic strategy is to support that notion [to support democracies], because a democracy in Lebanon will not only help that nation address its long-term issues — such as rebuilding, providing a hopeful life — but a democracy on Israeli’s northern border will stabilize — help stabilize the region.
How does a devastated nation become a stable, vibrant democracy when its neighbor has just destroyed almost everything that is vital to making this happen? Oh, but pardon me for talking sense to a man who’s taken leave of his own.
Joe Verica says
I think you make some excellent points here. The only problem I see (not with your analysis) is that Bush does not really want what he says he wants. I think the resolution demanding Hezbollah stop all its attacks while Israel need only stop offensive operations is mostly facade. Bush knows Hezbollah will not accept such conditions. When you also consider that Israel is purposely NOT destroying all of Hezbollah rocket launching capabilities the reasons become a little clearer. Neither Bush nor Israel want the conflict to end anytime soon. They want to destroy as much of Hezbollah’s and its infrastructure as possible. I think their may be an element of punishment for Lebanon as well for “harboring” Hezbollah – not that they really had any real say in the matter.
The other part of the picture that involved Syria is even more interesting. At some point, the UN will send peacekeeping forces into southern Lebanon to make the transition to returning control of the region back to the Lebanese. At that point, I think the US will try to convince Israel to take the battle into Syria. Syria is pretty weak at the moment. They have been a thorn in the side of the US and Israel for some time. Taking Syria out is a only a small step.
The big prize here for both Israel and the US is to take out Iran.
In the end, I think you will see Israel go back to its pre-67 borders – but only after it has eliminated the threats of attack from those who goal it is to wipe ISrael off the map.