When Israel answered the Hezbollah raid that captured two soldiers with air strikes on Lebanon’s airport, runways, gas stations, lighthouses, bridges, buses, apartment houses and power plants, we who questioned the wisdom and morality of what Israel was doing were denounced as anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.
Turns out we were right. In private, even Israeli army generals were raging that Israel was fighting a stupid, losing war.
Ehud Olmert, who gave Chief of Staff Dan Halutz the green light to launch the shock-and-awe air campaign, cannot survive the moral, political and strategic disaster his country has suffered.
While the Israeli Air Force was hammering Lebanon, Hezbollah rained down 3,000 rockets on Israel and fought off pinprick raids. When the Israeli army, after a month, moved in force against the real enemy, Hezbollah, Israel had already suffered irreparable damage to its reputation as a fighting nation and a moral country.
As the war began, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Bahrain all condemned Hezbollah, as did the Beirut government, for inciting the war. But with Hezbollah’s defiant resistance, as Israel smashed up Lebanon, the Arab street rallied to Nasrallah. Arab regimes followed.
Lebanon, which suffered 800 dead, thousands injured and 1 million made refugees, saw its infrastructure destroyed and nation set back 20 years. If the government falls or Lebanon becomes a failed state, it will be an even greater calamity for the Lebanese, and for Israel and the Middle East. For the mightiest political and military force in Lebanon, and likely heir apparent to power slipping away from Prime Minister Siniora, is now Hezbollah and Hassan Nasrallah.
Says Walid Jumblatt, savage critic of Hezbollah and its Syrian alliance, "Hassan Nasrallah has won militarily and politically, and has become a new leader like Nasser."
Another loser is Israel, and Olmert, who seized on the border skirmish to launch his Lebanon war. Writes Ari Shavit of Ha’aretz:
"Chutzpah has its limits. You cannot lead an entire nation to war promising victory, produce humiliating defeats and remain in power. You cannot bury 120 Israelis in cemeteries, keep a million Israelis in shelters for a month, wear down deterrent power, bring the next war very close and then say, oops, I made a mistake."
Olmert and Halutz are history. The Kadima Party regime will fall. Left and right are already tearing at its flanks.
What does this mean? The Sharon-Olmert policy of unilateral withdrawal from the territories is dead. The Hamas-led Palestinian authority, the creation of the freest and fairest elections ever held in Palestine, is on a death watch, after Israel’s starvation blockade and ravaging of the Gaza Strip, which has left 150 Palestinians dead.
A new Israeli regime will not withdraw from any more land, nor shut down any more settlements, nor vacate any part of Jerusalem, nor negotiate with a Palestinian Authority led by Hamas, or by a PLO that is unable to disarm Hamas. We are at dead end, as George W. Bush will not push the Israelis to do anything, nor will Congress.
America is another loser.
The United States knew in advance Israel planned to attack and, if possible, destroy Hezbollah. And America approved.
But when Olmert launched an air war on Lebanon, instead, Bush cheered him on, refused to rein in attacks on civilian targets, sent smart bombs and used U.S. influence at the United Nations to block an early ceasefire. Bush-Cheney are thus morally and politically culpable for what was done to Lebanon and the democratic government there that was born of a "Cedar Revolution" George Bush himself had championed.
Congress poodled alone with Bush, so Bush will not be called to account, as he would be were any other nation but Israel involved. From Morocco to the Gulf, there is probably not a country today that would welcome Bush, or where he would be safe on a state visit.
Where does this leave us? With Israel’s failure to achieve its strategic objectives in Lebanon and America having failed to attain its strategic objectives in Iraq, Nasrallah emerges triumphant, and Syria and Iran emerge unscathed and gloating.
What comes next? That is obvious.
With our War Party discredited by the failed policies it cheered on in Lebanon and Iraq, there will come a clamor that Bush must "go to the source" of all our difficultly — Iran. Only thus can the War Party redeem itself for having pushed us and Israel into two unnecessary and ruinous wars. And the drumbeat for war on Iran has already begun.
"(T)he dangers continue to mount abroad," wails The Weekly Standard in its lead editorial. "How Bush deals with Ahmadinejad’s terror-supporting and nuclear-weapons pursuing Iran will be the test" of his administration. Yes, the supreme test.
Bush is on notice from the neocons and War Party that have all but destroyed his presidency: Either you take down Iran, Mr. Bush, or you are a failed president.
If the president is still listening to these people, Lord help the Republic.