Texas-style honest brokerin’

The Grey Lady gives us this discussion of a request by Israel for accelerated delivery of precision guided munitions for use in its attacks on Lebanon, a request that has been duly honored by the United States. It comes in conjunction with a clear screwing around by Secretary of State Incompetentalleezza Rice, who asks the musical question “what’s the point of shuttle diplomacy now?”
One might suggest that the point might be to, oh, stop the killing, which has resulted in hundreds of Lebanese and dozens of Israelis killed, and large parts of Lebanon (and smaller parts of Israel) laid waste.
But something broader is going on. While it is universally understood that Israel is our principal client and ally, by the broad definitions of honest in the Middle East, we were (at least before 9-11 changed everything, I suppose) able to play the “honest broker” role on occasion because so many Middle Eastern governments had close ties to us (Jordan, Egypt, Saudi and the smaller Gulf States, for example). It is unclear to me, however, what effect supplying Israel with arms in the middle of what is being seen more and more as a wildly disproportionate counter-strike against mostly innocent Lebanese civilians and the occasional Hizbollah fighter will accomplish.
And that’s just it… what is this going to accomplish? Hizbollah is probably the best-armed, best organized non-state militia/terrorist group in the world. It is everything we pretend al Qaeda is: it is ruthless, it is effective, it is well-armed, it is disciplined, it is organized, it has infiltrated legitimate operations (like the larger Lebanese government), it has popular support in some quarters… and it’s not easily dismantled, certainly not by push-button air-shows… Hizbollah has managed not merely to displace Israel from Lebanon, but the United States as well… it is somewhat chilling to see American Marines returning to Beirut over 20 years later…
Which is why Israel’s stated goal has gone from removing and destroying Hizbollah to degrading it, and now, to annoying it. While destroying Lebanon just in time for tourist season may radicalize Lebanese against Israel who weren’t previously radicalized, its not going to get the anemic and barely functioning Lebanese government to take out Hizbollah, something that Israel– acting as proxy for the United States– can’t do.
So, at this point, I’m going back to my original assessment that the choice to start attacking things outside of Hizbollah’s strongholds in the Bakaa Valley and Southern Lebanon was a mistake necessitated by concerns of panic over Hamas having just kidnapped a soldier in Gaza and domestic Israeli political necessity to “do something.” Fortunately, it looks like “doing something” does not mean a broader, insanely bloodier war formally drawing in Syria and Iran, the latter of which would probably draw in the United States.
Somebody can act intelligently now; the Israeli soldiers can be safely returned, say, to the Jordanian or Egyptian embassy in Lebanon, with an understanding that Israel will cease its attack at once, and Hizbollah will cease its attack at once. The broader goal of removing Hizbollah from southern Lebanon is just not going to happen; if years of Israeli occupation couldn’t do it, a few days of air bombardment isn’t going to do it (even if thousands of Israeli reservists have been mobilized for the task).
More lives might be spared, of course, if the United States were any longer capable of an honest broker role, or even tried. No one else is really capable of it, because Israel (rightly) trusts no one else… Alas, the precision weapons will doubtless arrive, hit their marks, people will die, and hopefully at some point, reason will return somewhere.
Please God.