I don’t know anyone who will be surprised that the Rome conference failed – it seems to have been designed to fail, to give the US the chance to appear to be “doing something” while giving Israel the time it wants to continue its offensive. But this policy is so transparent, such an obvious stalling mechanism, that it is probably making things even worse for the United States and for Israel: when you are faking it, you’re supposed to at least try to maintain the pretence so that others can at least pretend to believe you. The call for an immediate ceasefire has become more or less universal now, other than from the United States and Israel: even the pro-American Arab states like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, which initially blamed Hezbollah for the crisis, are now loudly demanding an immediate ceasefire.
America is totally alone on this. And more than most Americans might realize, America is being blamed for Israel’s actions. The shift in Arab public discourse over the last week has been palpable. For the first few days, the split between the Saudi media and the “al-Jazeera public” which I wrote about at the time. Then for a few days, horror at the humanitarian situation, fury with the Arab states for their impotence, speculation about the endgame, and full-throated condemnation of Israeli aggression. But for the last few days, the main trend has been unmistakable: an increasing focus on the United States as the villain of the piece. (That the Israeli bombing of Beirut stopped just long enough for Condoleeza Rice’s photo op certainly didn’t help.)
digby had his own comments to add:
The situation in Lebanon requires American leadership and we have failed miserably to provide it. The various players are engaged in a struggle in which minimizing loss of life and face saving kabuki may be the best we can hope for at any given time. The megalomaniacal belief that if only the Israelis are allowed to “get tough” or the Americans “take it to the Iranians” or whatever other simplistic schoolyard impulses they have been operating under have led us to the point at which the US is taking on the character of a rogue superpower, not a global leader.
To me the whole thing sounds like cloud cuckoo land. It seems particularly so after today. My conversation with my friend pre-dated the strike on the UN observers, so I don’t know if it has changed anybody’s thinking. But to me it seems like such an enormous provocation that I almost have to wonder if some military crazies on the Israeli side didn’t do it on purpose — just to foreclose the possibility of anyone or anything getting in the way of a fight to the death with Hizbullah.
I know that sounds paranoid, but then this is the Middle East.
In any case, the chances of a face-saving NATO solution will go from remote to nil unless the IDF can quickly batter Hizbullah to the point where it’s willing to agree, or at least tacitly accept, the presence of foreign peacekeepers on its turf. And that’s going to require the Israeli Army to move a hell of a lot more quickly than it has up until now, and produce more tangible results than it has shown so far. It could get very bloody.
The one thing nobody — at least in my friend’s circle of sources — appears to be talking about is expanding the war to Syria and/or Iran. I don’t know if that’s because that part of the war plan is way too hush hush for my friend to have heard about, or because Syria and Iran truly aren’t in play, at least for the moment. Right now I’m not even sure the IDF could take on Hizbullah and Syria, which isn’t something I ever thought I would say. And Iran is still very big and very far away.
If all this sounds familiar — the half-baked war plan, the unexpected setbacks, the frantic search for foreign legions, the lack of an exit strategy, the rising tide of blood — it certainly should. We’ve already seen this movie, in fact we’re still sitting through the last reel. It’s a hell of a time to release the sequel.