Add Richard Armitage, former no. 2 State Department officer, to the chorus of American diplomats and Mideast analysts who question U.S. policy toward Israel during the Lebanon war. Unfortunately, Armitage felt he had to go all the way to Australia to reveal this turnabout of thinking on the war:
AMERICAN support for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon was a bad mistake that emboldened and strengthened Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.
That was the view of former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage yesterday in a speech to the Menzies Research Centre in Canberra.
He said it was understandable that Israel wanted to retrieve kidnapped soldiers and to make Hezbollah pay a price, but “it’s inexplicable that we would hold their coat for them and let them do it”.
Armitage described the bonus the U.S. policy handed to the Islamic radicals in Lebanon:
…What we have is a non-government organisation [Hezbollah] taking the place of a government, electrifying the streets of the Middle East with their boldness and, temporarily, it meant that Israeli invincibility was shattered,” he said.
“It is inexplicable why the US did this. Lebanon is much the worst off, Syria is in a much better position and Iran is in a fabulous position because of their backing for Hezbollah.”
Mr Armitage said it was even more inexplicable that Israel believed it could defeat Hezbollah with a bombing campaign.
“Israel, just like the United States, forgot the basic lesson of warfare that every single officer and NCO knows, and that is that only a soldier with a bayonet can bend an enemy to our will.”
To make matters worse, America’s failure to oppose Israel had created a dangerous precedent in the region.
“We’ve been sending envoys to Turkey to try to keep them from invading Kurdistan, to try to prosecute the PKK, the Kurdish terrorists,” Mr Armitage said.
“And we’re pleading with them and asking them not to do it. But now their answer to us is: ‘Why did you hold Israel’s coat?’
My one quibble here is that Armitage implies a belief that Israel could’ve subjugated Hezbollah with a full-scale ground invasion. Proof that this could not have worked can be seen currently in Gaza. There you have a full contingent of ground forces engaged in ongoing operations to subjugate Palestinian militants. And it’s NOT WORKING. Rockets continue to be fired. IDF soldiers continue to be wounded and killed. Nearly 50 Gazans have been killed in recent days, half of whom were civilians. There are military situations in which even bayonets won’t work. And this is one of them.
That being said, I find Armitage’s views quite interesting as he was Condi’s no. 2 at State. I wonder whether this indicates he’s turning against her views of the conflict. Or whether she agrees with him about the failure and he’s stating publicly what she cannot say herself. I do find it hard to believe that she would turn against her previous policy with which she was so integrally identified. If she did, it would indicate some maturity on her part (a trait not usually found among senior officials of this government).