U.S. Success in the
Gingrich was not too far off in his assertion that what we are seeing
today in the
Middle East demonstrates elements of a third world war.
While some might argue that such a conflict began long ago, others
believe it has yet to start, and others still might think it ludicrous
and irresponsible to attach the “world war” label to the struggle.
Whatever the technical categorization, however, it remains beyond
question that the current situation in
and Israel, let alone Iraq and the Palestinian territories, carries
colossal significance for the future of the United States and the world.
been multiple facets to President Bush’s campaign of Middle Eastern
democratization. Military invasions and state-building in Afghanistan
and Iraq, though necessary in theory and justified in intention, have
proven a thorny matter and a challenge to the capabilities of
politicians and the U.S. military.
One of the
alternative strategies used by the Bush administration for
democratization in the region, however, could be seen in Lebanon, where
as recently as a year ago, people were still enjoying the fruits of the
Cedar Revolution that saw unprecedented unison among various sects in
demanding a withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon. This Syrian
pullout was achieved through pressure mainly from the United States and
help from the United Nations that built on the forces already raging
inside Lebanon. At that point, it seemed that democracy and peace just
might occur simultaneously in an Arab country.
however, were naďve. Despite a democratic structure, Lebanon retained a
significant segment of the population that sympathized with Hezbollah,
an unusual political party and the only armed militia in Lebanon.
Sponsored by Iran and aided by Syria, Hezbollah is designated by the
government as a terrorist organization and is viewed as an obstacle to
having Lebanon join Egypt and Jordan in making peace with Israel. Since
it is sponsored by sworn enemies of Israel and the United States, it is
futile to hope that the promise of peace, democracy, and stability in
Lebanon would deter Hezbollah from what it dubs “resistance” activities.
expelling the Syrians was a positive step in the right direction, no
permanent stability could be established in Lebanon – or anywhere, for
that matter – with the presence of an armed militia that worked
independently from and oftentimes contrary to the wishes and aims of the
Lebanese military and population. The next step, therefore, would be to
complete the disarming of Hezbollah, and to integrate it as a normal
political party representing a segment of the Shiite population, as is
the case with the Christian, Sunni, Druze and other communities.
Bringing this about in a peaceful manner, however, necessitates work
that transcends Hezbollah to include Syria, and more ominously, Iran.
unforgiving Israeli attacks on Lebanon seen in the last few weeks
demonstrate that Tel Aviv has abandoned any hope of resolving the
Hezbollah situation peacefully, particularly since it would involve work
with Iran, the president of which has repeatedly shared his views about
wiping Israel off the map. In its substitute plan to incapacitate
Hezbollah itself, however, Israel has blundered severely.
could have built on the anti-Hezbollah sentiment that developed in
Lebanon and in parts of the Arab world in the opening days of the
conflict, particularly among non-Shiite communities, Israel has done
itself a disservice. By blockading Lebanon in its entirety, disregarding
civilian casualties and bombing Lebanese army barracks, non-Hezbollah
neighborhoods, and infrastructure and roads meant for civilian use,
Israel has so far paved the road for a stronger Hezbollah that continues
to regain sympathy from diverse segments of the Lebanese population
every day that the conflict goes on.
now placed itself in a highly unenviable position. Its halting of
attacks and withdrawal from Lebanon would signify the return of a
significantly stronger Hezbollah amid a now economically ruined Lebanon
with a weaker government that is even less capable of challenging the
Iranian-backed militia. The alternative would be a full-scale land
invasion that aside from costing countless lives on both sides, would
create a wrecked Lebanon that is unable to sustain the type of stable
government that Israel hopes would bring peace to its northern border.
options are as threatening to the United States as they are to Israel. A
chaotic Lebanon would be regarded as another failure of U.S. foreign
policy by its opponents, and a stronger Hezbollah would play into the
hands of Iran as it continues to challenge America and the world on the
issues of Islamic radicalism and nuclear capability. While Washington
seeks to involve multinational forces in southern Lebanon, it knows
quite well that such a plan is not a solution to Hezbollah’s weapons,
and in turn, to continued interference by Iran and Syria in Lebanese
world finds a way to deal with Iran, the United States can begin by
eliminating Damascus as the integral bridge between Tehran and Beirut.
Syria continues to sow discord to its east and west, but after all,
Syria is the one that is surrounded by four American-backed democracies.
Perhaps, for once, Washington can begin to use these borders in its
favor, as opposed to the status quo.
© 2006 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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