Last week, al-Maliki said that Iraq was urging the international community "to take a quick and firm stance to stop this aggression against Lebanon, to stop the killing of innocent people and to stop the destruction of infrastructure."While the skirmishes of the Cold War lend some credence to the assertion that democracies rarely go to war with other democracies, the days of large national contingents marching toward one another to do battle are becoming antiquated. The pertinent question now (from a Western security perspective) revolves around what form of government is most effective at controlling rogue elements within a state. Neither tribal societies nor societies based on an ecumenical religious worldview (of which the Middle East is largely both) make for effective representative democracies.
"What is happening is an operation of mass destruction and mass punishment and an operation using great force that Israel has -- and Lebanon does not," he said.
Olmert is overriding the US, which fingers Hezbollah, by laying blame on the seminal government in Beirut. Strategically, this makes sense. Going after Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon inevitably leads to civilian casualties and golden video footage for media outlets hostile to Israel. Israel sustains less PR collateral damage by putting pressure on governments with a static location and vested interest in satisfying a powerful Israeli state.
Unfortunately, in culturally disparate places like Lebanon (and Iraq), democratically elected governments enjoy little national unity. Representatives are supported only by the ethnic or religious groups they represent. The current conflagration risks plunging Lebanon back into the devastating civil war that ravaged the country for fifteen years during the seventies and eighties. Prime Minister Siniora, a Sunni, is too weak to confront the Shia south militarily. That kind of control needs an autocrat with an omnipresent military, like Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Threatening Assad, as Israel did symbolically by flying war jets over one of the ophthalmologist's homes at the beginning of the Israel-Lebanon conflict, has the potential of turning up the heat on an evanescent militant group like Hezbollah.
Al-Maliki doesn't want to be seen as a puppet of the US, or worse, of Israel. And as prime minister of Iraq, he has his finger on his country's political pulse:
Adding to the tensions, key Arab allies of the United States, predominantly Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, fear the rising power of Shiites in the region: Hezbollah militants who virtually control southern Lebanon, and who are backed by the Shiite theocracy that has run Iran for decades, which in turn has ties to Iraq's majority Shiite government.Maliki, a Shiite, is well aware of where the majority of Iraq's population (60% of which is, like Hezbollah, Arab Shia) stands on the conflict. The US, originally more antagonistic toward Sunnis, is now being goaded into reinforcing them against expanding Shia influence, which is probably more hostile to the West than the ruling minority Sunnis in Iraq ever were.
On a mordant note, a silver lining in the fighting might be a broad rapprochement among Sunnis and Shia across the Middle East:
From Egypt to Kashmir, thousands across the Muslim world used Friday's Islamic day of prayer to protest Israel's attacks on Hezbollah, urging Sunni-Shiite unity to defeat the Jewish state and condemning Arab leaders' reluctance to show support for Hezbollah.
Leaders in some predominantly Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt have criticized Hezbollah's actions. But many people from both sects in Muslim countries support Hezbollah because of its willingness to fight Israel. ...
Sitting in the shade as he sold figs in downtown Cairo, Hasan Salem Hasan, a 25-year-old Sunni, summed up a prevailing attitude of the so-called "Arab street":
"Although Hezbollah is a Shiite party, we are all Muslims, and all Arabs will defiantly support them and fight the Jews." ...
In Iraq on Friday, al-Sadr urged Sunnis and Shiites to unite so Muslims could defeat Israel. ...
Although currently locked in a sectarian civil war, Iraqis across the political and religious spectrum have voiced support for Lebanon and condemned Israel.
The Middle East is a miasma. We need to halt the Iraq bleeding at $300 billion and start pouring the $200-$400 billion the CBO estimates will be spent in Iraq over the next decade into making alternative energy viable so we can leave the place for good. Without a vital strategic interest in countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran, the US will be able to more firmly support Israel, which, with an Ashkenazi (including some pseudo-Ashkenazism that wanted to get out of Europe) population with an IQ of at least 103, and strong financial, technology, and medical industries, is more beneficial to human progress than the 400 million Muslims surrounding it that have contributed nothing to the world but the suicide bomber in the last five centuries. And the support would be relatively painless. We could merely take a hands-off approach, letting Israel do what it needs to do to secure itself. There would be no need for equivocating over 'proportionality', or the method of insuring that your enemy only dies for his cause as often as you die for yours (causing General Patton to cringe).
Senator Chuck Schumer asks a rhetorical question our leaders can scarcely answer:
"Part of the reason that America was sold on Iraq was to have a staunch ally in the region -- a democratic ally that would back our policies," Schumer said. "Now if the prime minister can't condemn terrorism, which is ruining his country ... then where are we headed?"Great question.
++Addition++Randall Parker has found polling results on Lebanese and Israelis, both of whom largely support fighting one another:
The stakes are high for Hizbullah, but it seems it can count on an unprecedented swell of public support that cuts across sectarian lines.According to a poll released by the Beirut Center for Research and Information [see another poll here that reports 83.5% of the Palestinian population agrees with Hamas that Israel does not have the right to exist], 87 percent of Lebanese support Hizbullah's fight with Israel, a rise of 29 percent on a similar poll conducted in February. More striking, however, is the level of support for Hizbullah's resistance from non-Shiite communities. Eighty percent of Christians polled supported Hizbullah along with 80 percent of Druze and 89 percent of Sunnis.And Israelis:
A new poll released in Israel confirms that Israelis are united in support of the fight against Hezbollah. 82 percent say the army’s offensive into Lebanon is justified, and 71 percent believe Israel should use even more force in attacking Hezbollah.The rainining of missiles onto northern Israel hasn't resulted in staggering Israeli casualties. But they have not been insignificant either. Steve Sailer remarks that since the conflict began Israelis have been dying at a rate of 1.2 persons per day. Israel has a population of 6.35 million. The US of 298.44 million. Proportionally, that's like 56 Americans being killed per day. November '04, the worst month in Iraq up to this point, saw 4.5 Americans dying each day. And it's happening on Israel's own soil. Olmert can't give empty platitudes about freedom and self-determination and then withdrawal Israelis to the other side of the world. So it comes as little surprise that the Israeli public supports the extirpation of Hezbollah. When it feels like your life is on the line, satisfying international consensus doesn't mean much.