After Lebanon

Israel’s ill-conceived and evidently botched effort to destroy Hezbollah forces in Lebanon has ended in stalemate. A UN peacekeeping force of fifteen thousand, led by the French, will now be deployed in the hope of keeping Israel and its adversaries apart. Whether UN troops will be able to enforce the current ceasefire is the immediate question. The more important question is whether Israeli hawks and their counterparts in the Bush administration will continue, in the aftermath of the Lebanon fiasco and the catastrophe in Iraq, to insist that the myriad conflicts now engulfing the Middle East can be settled by military force alone.

An American observer cannot but be struck by the robust, often vitriolic, political debate in Israel concerning its military strategy and performance. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government, besieged from both left and right, appears on the verge of collapse. Unlike the United States, Israel is engaged in an actual struggle for survival, and cannot afford the luxury of political or military incompetence. One wonders how long George W. Bush would stay in office were he faced with the responsibilities of an Israeli prime minister. Only the president’s most fawning acolytes can be oblivious to the wide margin for error Bush has enjoyed in his stewardship of this nation in the five years since 9/11. Perhaps the reemergence of more realistic and moderate leadership in Jerusalem...

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