cross posted as a dailykos diary
Where should Progressives stand on the question of “has Isreal gone too far?”
Republicans refused to sign on to Nancy Pelosi’s language in a sense of the Congress that urged taking steps to stop civilian deaths in Lebanon. President Bush defies the UN and waits t give Israel time to force Hezbollah to “stop this shit”. But, Israel has been attacked and the attack is serious – a real war is going on and real Israelis are being killed. What should Progressives do?
First, understand what is going on. There are multiple agendas and many interests and game plans being played out. At the immediate level, Hezbollah is fighting to be top dog in the dog-eat-dog environment of the Middle east – it is becoming the new hero of the Shia community. It is also cementing its position as the real power in Lebanon. At another level, Syria is recouping the influence and face it lost when it was driven out of Lebanon – this is revenge and politics as usual. At the most important level, this is Iran filling the power vacuum left by the invasion of Iraq and the fall of Saddam. This war is blowback from Bush’s war. The Israelis saw it coming; they began planning for this a year ago.
Second, understand the stakes. At a strategic level, especially for Israel, this is a new war. The Intifadas were essentially violence being used to set the stage for eventual agreement on a land for peace deal. The fact that the protagonists – Arafat and Sharon – had hated each other for 25 years complicated it, but in the end, there were reasonable Arabs who could talk to reasonable Israelis over the shape of the two-state solution. This war is not about land for peace, it is about destroying Israel. Whether or not Hezbollah is “defanged” as the President hopes is irrelevant; it is now top dog in a very dog-eat-dog world and it will quickly be “refanged” by Iran. It cannot keep up with the volunteers pouring into its various locations, offering themselves as cannon fodder and suicide bombers just to be part of the new Islamic winners. For Israel, Hezbollah and Iran, this is for keeps.
So, where should Progressives stand? I think we should stand for Progressive Realism, described my diary two days ago. By doing so, we will further demonstrate to the American people that we do have answers and in this case, our answers can help restore order in the short term and prevent a disaster – possibly nuclear – in the long term.
First. killing innocent people is never justified. We make the case that there is no evidence that the continued bombing by Israel is degrading Hezbollah, nor is there any scenario that shows why a degraded Hezbollah would not simply go underground until it was rebuilt and resuppplied to reattack. However, there is plenty of evidence that even moderate Lebanese are turning against Israel, and plenty of scenarios in which Israel’s bombing is only creating more Hezbollah recruits, and risks turning the entire population of a border nation against it. The President is wrong; the UN, Europe, and the President of Lebanon are right. Make Israel stop. This is progressive
Second, self defense always is justified. Hezbollah is a threat to American interests that must be eliminated. The Lebanese government and army have no control over Hezbollah. As long as Iran supplies it with money and weapons and the Lebanese government is too weak to provide services, security, and economic growth, Hezbollah will continue to foment war. It will not change, so the US should give its precision weapons to Israel to use to destroy Hezbollah’s TV and radio stations (if it needs better weapons, which it may not.) and continue to destroy them. Next, the US should work to bring Russia around to letting Iran know that if it continues to supply weapons to Hezbollah, there will be diplomatic, economic and possibly even military prices to be paid. This is realism
Third, the short term saber-rattling must be paired with long term strategic progressive thinking. Hezbollah cannot be stopped with violence; it can only stopped if its ideas falter. The US has to work with the Lebanese government to rebuild and retrain its army, and pump money and jobs into the economy so that every young man solicited by Hezbollah will prefer to keep his paycheck than fight a losing war.
This will take money (not paid to US contractors!) but by working to return Lebanon to its status as a middle class democracy, we discredit Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. And we should pressure Israel into joining us, at least as a contributor. By recognizing that building a strong middle class society in Lebanon is the best defense against Hezbollah, we can rebuild our image in the region, rebuild our values, and prevent this from happening again, and again and again – at some time with nukes.