Monday, July 17, 2006

Nobody knows Anything!

"Nobody knows Anything" is a line attributed to William Goldman describing the state of conventional wisdom and expertise in the movie business. It is equally applicable to foreign policy. In this case, to the conflict erupting in the Middle East between Israel and Hezbollah. This dangerous situation is like a hypersonic signal to every crank and wingnut who has a silver bullet solution to mess in the Middle East, particularly the AIPAC wing of foreign policy think tank clones who think the answer to everything is blow crap up.

A perfect example of the genre has been provided for us over at the New Republic (sub.required). Michael Oren from the The Shalem Center in Jerusalem offers to show us how "Nobody knows Anything" works:

Back in 1966, Israel recoiled from attacking Syria and instead raided Jordan, inadvertently setting off a concatenation of events culminating in war. Israel is once again refraining from an entanglement with Hezbollah's Syrian sponsors, perhaps because it fears a clash with Iran. And just as Israel's failure to punish the patron of terror in 1967 ultimately triggered a far greater crisis, so too today, by hesitating to retaliate against Syria, Israel risks turning what began as a border skirmish into a potentially more devastating confrontation. Israel may hammer Lebanon into submission and it may deal Hezbollah a crushing blow, but as long as Syria remains hors de combat there is no way that Israel can effect a permanent change in Lebanon's political labyrinth and ensure an enduring ceasefire in the north. On the contrary, convinced that Israel is unwilling to confront them, the Syrians may continue to escalate tensions, pressing them toward the crisis point. The result could be an all-out war with Syria as well as Iran and severe political upheaval in Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf.

This whole article is a beautiful example of the Neocon art. Syria is behind Hezbollahs recent provacations? Israel is unwilling to confront Syria? Syria is escalating Tensions? And you believe this why exactly? Is there intelligence to support that? Are the Syrians threatening Israel? Are Syrian Jets or other assets involved?

The answer to all of these might be yes, but it seems absurd to me. Certainly this situation benefits IRan, dividing the Euorpeans and Russians from the Americans where they seemed to be coalescing around real action in the UN against Irans nuclear program. Iran benefits and hits an enemy at the same time using a proxy. I see little for Syria, who has a common border with Israel and stands to lose if Israel decides to march to Damascus, which they likely could do if they chose. My point is, Mr Orens article relies on some big assumptions and fuzzy logic to base an all out military campaign on.

Of course, like all NeoCon "thinkers" he completely ignores the question of who is going to occupy and run Syria if the Assad regime is overthrown. I'm no fan of the Baathists in Syria, but they are implacable enemies of Al Queda, and have recently been cooperative in closing their borders to foreing fighters who were crossing into Iraq. Will a new regime be better? Turning Syria into a failed state might open the borders to all sorts of trouble. And is Israel supposed to occupy the West Bank, South Lebanon and Syria? Was not their occupation of Lebanon a disaster? Does anyone even think about these questions?

Let me be clear. I am no fan of Hezbollah, Hamas, or the regimes in Iran and Syria that support them. They have consistently and deliberalty sabotaged efforts by the Palestinians and the Israelis, in the case of Hamas, to bringing the vision of resolution envisioned in the Oslo accords to fruition. Hundreds of innocent Palestinians and Israelis are dead because Hamas could not stomach peace. It was Hamas that started the suicide bombings in Israel that ended the process. Lebanon is likely to be destablized by Hezbollahs selfish and destructive actions. Dozens of people already dead, for what?

And did one of these military buffs and master armchair strategists at these think tanks ever consider NOT reacting exactly the way terrorists and enemy nation states expect you to react? Who benefits the most from Israel's reaction? I doubt it's Syria, or the Lebonese coalition in Beirut, or the civilians caught in the crossfire.

My argument is that the worst outcome for extremists in the Middle East is peace between Israel and her neighbors. Without the conflict, and Israel to blame for everything that is wrong in many of these states, who are people going to blame for the grinding poverty and political oppresion? If Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranian theocrats and Al Queda all decry a peaceful resolution in Palestine, doesn't that recommend the idea? And please don't pimp me that they are denouncing it to lure us into a trap. They aren't putting it down to convince Western audiences of anything. Their opposition is for local consumption. The last thing they want is peace.

Might it be that expanding war into Syria or Lebanon helps the people we oppose, destroying the very thing they fear the most, a fair and equitable outcome that sets the stage for progress in and around the Israeli conflict? Isn't the first rule of getting out a hole to stop digging? And considering the track record of NeoCons in Israel and the United States, maybe they should not be listened to, and not given space in prominent poltical magazines, newspapers and TV outlets.

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.

No comments: