I expect, rather hope, that the Seymour Hersh article in this week’s New Yorker will create a major ripple, first in the blog world, and then in the mainstream media. Hersh, who was at the forefront of investigative reporting on the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse case, as usual, has written a well-researched piece. The thesis of this article is one of major concern—the Bush Administration was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s attacks on Lebanon. Indeed, Israel had shared its plan for attacking Hezbollah with Bush Administration officials well before the July 12th kidnappings.
There are many reasons, most of them foolhardy, why the Bush administration would go along with the Israelis in planning to attack Hezbollah, and Hersh’s even-handed article discusses them at length. However, what I find most striking is that the Israeli campaign was encouraged by the U.S. because it was deemed as a dress rehearsal for forthcoming actions on Iran. So, the bloodshed and devastation inflicted on Lebanon, in the eyes of Bush Administration officials, was just a part of a greater game.
The callousness with which this administration continues to operate is astonishing. Lebanon, which anyway has now proved to be a much harder battleground than the slick war planners from Israel and the U.S. had though it would be, is a mere dot next to Iran’s dimensions, especially with respect to military, personnel, and economic might. Did no one think of these basic points before engaging in such murderous planning?
If a military college student tried to make an argument along these lines (attack Lebanon; weaken Hezbullah; gain pointers for Iran) in a war games class, I suspect he or she would be chastised by the instructor for an overly simplistic, ill-informed, and poorly judged piece of analysis. Shockingly, in real life, ideas that would get an F in the classroom are now the best that can be offered by the most powerful nation on earth.
Will the Israelis and Americans learn nothing from the failed campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now in Lebanon? Military might, which invariably leads to unintended consequences as seen over and over again, is a vastly inferior second to prudent diplomacy. Achieving a lasting peace is seldom borne out of outright military campaigns. The history book of international conflagrations is littered with instances of leaders who arrogantly believed that everything would work out if only they could have the enemy on his knees. What each successive generation of military campaigners seems to ignore is that wars end when ideas, not a people, are defeated. To fight ideas, there is no substitute for goodwill, smart and long-term strategic thinking underlying diplomacy, and respect for humanity.