Feeding the Fire with Israeli Bombs

On July 12, 2006, the Middle East sunk further into chaos following an attack on Israeli Defense Forces by Hezbollah militants, killing eight and kidnapping two of the soldiers. In Israel’s drive to destroy this guerilla network, it committed a series of gross violations of international law and massacred over a thousand people. And because of such belligerence, another nail has been hammered into the coffin that is peace in the Middle East. Make no mistake: this war would not have begun had it not been for Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s inability to understand Israeli political dynamics and learn from the Israeli response to Gilad Shalit’s kidnapping in Gaza. There is hardly any question as to where responsibility for this conflict should be dealt. No doubt, Nasrallah should be charged with war crimes for his actions, even if the odds of him standing trial for them are virtually non-existent. Hezbollah’s very existence is a continually destabilizing factor for Lebanon, and more disturbingly, it is allied in many ways with a resurgent Iran, itself a threat to regional stability. The war did not have to escalate to such disastrous proportions though. Israel had no justifiable right to invade Lebanon in such a manner. Whatever status is traditionally given to Hezbollah, the fact is that it is not a state, and Lebanon as a nation was pushed to the brink of another civil war as a result of the conflict. The concept of the Lebanese Army or anyone else disarming Hezbollah without its consent is laughable, even though the consequences of such an attempt would be anything but. Ironically, the main result of the war is that the Israeli government diminished their ability to provide citizens security for at least the next decade. After fighting six wars over a period of more than fifty years, it is becoming apparent that the greatest factor preventing peace is Israeli insistence of using force before negotiation. After all, what people would agree to live in peace and respect those who just murdered their friends and family? The United States has also been a monumental failure in dealing in dealing with the most recent conflict in the Middle East. The US stood by Lebanon as the Syrian overlords were evicted, and supported the Cedar Revolution that helped turn Lebanon into the Arab world’s most vibrant democracy, yet it failed miserably to stand in defense of the very goal it promotes for every other nation in the Middle East. The US is already seen as nothing more than a hoard of marauding crusaders bent on destroying the Middle East to aid Israel. A firm US stance to stop Israel’s invasion and a vow to work with Fouad Siniora’s Lebanese government would have had enormous benefits for the US by countering public perceptions that it is not an Israeli stooge, and that the president actually stands by his rhetoric of democracy. Sadly, US insistence on a “sustainable” ceasefire has cost it everything and merely laid the groundwork for further hostilities in the future. Hezbollah has won the war, and public opinion in both Israel and Lebanon is leaning towards that direction. Over a thousand died, the economies of two nations suffered greatly, and all that has come from it has been a situation worse than status quo ante bellum. Instead of a weakened Hezbollah, the rogue network has emerged stronger than ever. It has provided clear evidence to support its need to remain armed for decades, and an assertive Shia Iran looks like a greater regional power and leader than the trio of seemingly impotent US allies – Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The most disappointing fact is that the discussion before the war about the actual need of an armed Hezbollah was turning into a serious and contentious debate, with public opinion turning against it following the assassination of Rafik Hariri. Now, instead of a public furious about the destruction wrought by its actions, it receives stronger support from all parties in Lebanese politics. If the Bush administration and Israel wished for regional peace and stability, if they had paid attention to the situation on the ground, the outcome could have been different. Israel had a chance to show restraint and claim the moral high ground against a brazen attack from Hezbollah, and the US could have shown it was dedicated to peace. Instead, the Middle East is left to pick up the pieces and rearm for round seven. Maybe next time, just maybe.