Israeli troops launched a major offensive in southern Lebanon after Hezbollah militants kidnapped two soldiers in a cross-border raid, escalating regional fighting and underscoring the growing ability of Islamic extremists to provoke a broader security crisis.That is, unless the ultimate objective is conflagration not just in Iraq but in the across the broader Middle East. Hezbollah and Hamas, now with positions inside of Lebanon and control of the Palestinian government, respectively, are throwing down fisticuffs with Israel. US insistence on democracy is propelling these groups into positions of legitimate authority and influence.
As Hezbollah nabs Israeli soldiers, Israeli fighters fly over Assad's residence. Hopes for the stabilization of Lebanon's fragile democracy have been dashed. While Bush and Rice blame Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in Gaza, Olmert doesn't force distinctions between 'the terrorists' and all the rest of the Islamic 'good guys':
Olmert called an emergency cabinet meeting for later today to decide on further military action in Lebanon. "The murderous attack this morning was not a terrorist act, it was a war-like act by the state of Lebanon against Israel in its sovereign territory,'' he said at a press conference in Jerusalem.Bush can keep pounding on the supposedly progress purple thumbs inherently reveal, but the sympathetic WSJ tersely sums up reality:
Through elections, militants have gained power, Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon. They have been bolstered by the high-profile insurgency in Iraq -- which has offered tactical lessons in fighting a powerful military force, but also fueled broader anger among Arabs against what many see as an Israeli-U.S. regional alliance. Their opposition is fed by regional TV networks that broadcast images of damage and Arab deaths.The Muslim brotherhood won over a fifth of parliament in recent Egyptian elections while officially barred from balloting and suppressed during voting. Hamas wrested control from Fatah in the Palestinian territories. Iran elected Ahmadinejad. The Shia majority in Iraq is more sympathetic to Islamic extremism than Saddam ever would have been. None of this is making us better off. Not only do these things have a detrimental effect (albeit often overblown) on Western security, they shake the economy:
The unfolding crisis also rattled financial markets. The specter of broad Middle East instability boosted crude oil for August delivery 2.3% to a nominal record of $76.70 a barrel at the New York Mercantile Exchange. That helped push stocks lower, wiping out more than half the Dow Jones Industrial Average's gains so far this year as the blue-chip average slid 166.89 points, or 1.5%, to 10846.29 [10739 as of this posting].The US is placing responsibility on nefarious targets, trying to reinforce the idea of a struggle between good and evil while minimizing the scope of aggression against Israel in an attempt to deflate a situation that a divided 'world community' cannot possibly handle with any dexterity at all.
Olmert is pinning responsibility on Beirut because that's the best recourse Israel has in combatting asymmetrical warfare. Going tit-for-tat against sporadic raids and missiles fired some thirty miles into Israeli's interior is a sparring match Olmert will have a tough time winning. Israeli retaliation and further provocation will inevitably lead to imprecise carnage that media outlets and populists in the Middle East will harness to foment further anger against Israel. Olmert seems to think the best option available is the application of pressure on Beirut and Damascus to control the situation or face the wrath of the world's highest per capita military spender.
A simpleton, I've fancifully thought (fully aware that my level of knowledge is hopelessly lacking the rigor required to be considered valid) since 9/11 back in my high school days that the US should fight the terror war by starkly warning problematic regimes that if terrorist activity threatening America is uncovered on their soil and they fail to utterly and immediately quash it, we'll topple their governments, kill their families, and devastate their countries. Generally, Olmert appears to be doing something similar.
We need to divert the remaining $200 to $400 billion the CBO estimates will be sunk in Iraq over the next decade (with $300 billion already gone) into alternative energy research to wean ourselves and then the world of Middle Eastern oil so we can leave the miasma altogether. In that happier situation we would be able to help Israel more than we ever can now by simply taking our hands off the desert arena and letting Israel do what it needs to do to secure itself.