The most obvious question to the American observer of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah should be what course the United States should pursue to obtain a peaceful end to hostilities. In today’s reality, where most look to the US to make the first move in responding to international conflicts, temendous pressure is on the US to get involved. So we look for a solution from an American standpoint. Usually the answers are none too easy to come by, and in this conflict all the answers are unfortunately the wrong ones.
First, consider the option of helping the Lebanese government gain control of Hezbollah-dominated southern third of the country. Today Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora petitioned the international community to halt the destruction of Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure and citizens. Siniora also promised to “seek compensation from Israel for what he described as the “unimaginable losses” to the nation’s infrastructure.” Though Lebanon has made huge strides in developing itself as a stable nation over the past decade, its inability to mitigate the influence of Hezbollah in the south has presented a big obstacle in further stabilization. Formation of Lebanon as a stable nation would seem to complement the US agenda to create democracies in the Middle East to contribute stability to the region. But what would result if the US were to involved itself in Lebanon?
US aid to Lebanon in the form of money, diplomatic pressure, or military resources would almost certainly only occur if the interests of Lebanon and Israel were aligned, meaning that they would have to become allies in a sense. If that were achieved, the next step is to look at the consequences. Certainly Lebanon would be ostracized from the Arab community. More importantly, Hezbollah would be marginalized, but not without fighting desperately for survival. This would certainly be a violent event. Worse still, Iran, the real inspiration for Hezbollah, would undoubtedly become involved. Iran’s newfound belligerence and position of power in the region makes such involvement highly undesireable.
Clearly, that option is fraught with peril for the US. Little better is a second option for the US–maintaining a detached stance while offering verbal support for Israel. If this course is pursued, the result is further alienation from the international community, which undoubtedly will soon gather in a unanimous effort to obtain a cease fire. Rumblings about a non-proportional approach to the Israel-Hezbollah conflict by the US relative to its audacious deomcracy-planting experiment in Iraq are already being heard. Lou Dobbs on CNN asks “Where is our sense of perspective?” as he points out how much attention is focused on several hundred dead in Israel and Lebanon while thousands die yearly in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. The credibility if the US in the Middle East, already very marginalised, would be lessened further by non-action in this conflict.
And the last option, the more popular one internationally, would be to push Israel to accept a cease fire. Unfortunately, this too brings very undesireable consequences. Jospeph Puder of frontpagemag.com insists that “the one word the Bush Administration should refrain from using at this time is restraint. Half measures by Israel will only invite escalated aggression in the future.” A cease fire can only be held by a prisoner swap. To have responded so decisively to aggression only to accept a prisoner swap as Hezbollah and Hamas desire would be for Israel to admit to defeat. Israel for the sake of itself as a nation and for the sake of its people cannot afford to appear weak. Furthermore, there is little chance Israel would even consider a such a concession anyway. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Ohlmert himself said that “trading prisoners with a terrorist, bloody organization such as Hamas is a major mistake that will cause a lot of damage to the future of state of Israel.”
So then, if answers A, B, and C are wrong, is there an acceptable choice D? Or does D simply equate to the same bad results of all of the above?