To the UK, I apologize

March 8, 2009

I feel I must apologize for our president. I’ve been hearing press coverage of PM Brown’s visit to the U.S. and it’s discouraging. I finally heard about the visit through the UK Telegraph, and now I’m embarrassed. Granted, from all accounts the “meat” of the reason for Brown’s visit was accomplished, but diplomacy is communication by various means including the use of words, decorum, and going through rituals of tradition, which indicate the state of our relationship with another nation. One of Barack Obama’s promises was to rebuild foreign relationships which had been “so badly damaged” by the Bush Administration. He’s getting off to a bad start (h/t to ArmyWife).

British officials, meanwhile, admit that the White House and US State Department staff were utterly bemused by complaints that the Prime Minister should have been granted full-blown press conference and a formal dinner, as has been customary. They concede that Obama aides seemed unfamiliar with the expectations that surround a major visit by a British prime minister.

A well-connected Washington figure, who is close to members of Mr Obama’s inner circle, expressed concern that Mr Obama had failed so far to “even fake an interest in foreign policy”.

A British official conceded that the furore surrounding the apparent snub to Mr Brown had come as a shock to the White House. “I think it’s right to say that their focus is elsewhere, on domestic affairs. A number of our US interlocutors said they couldn’t quite understand the British concerns and didn’t get what that was all about.”

Mr Brown handed over carefully selected gifts, including a pen holder made from the wood of a warship that helped stamp out the slave trade – a sister ship of the vessel from which timbers were taken to build Mr Obama’s Oval Office desk. Mr Obama’s gift in return, a collection of Hollywood film DVDs that could have been bought from any high street store, looked like the kind of thing the White House might hand out to the visiting head of a minor African state.

How is this a way to treat our closest ally? Obama was much more deferential to the nations of the Middle East than this. I don’t recall the U.S. being this ham-handed with any foreign dignitary during the Clinton presidency, or that of George W. Bush.

Mr Obama rang Mr Brown as he flew home, in what many suspected was an attempt to make amends.

I was aghast at the following:

The real views of many in Obama administration (sic) were laid bare by a State Department official involved in planning the Brown visit, who reacted with fury when questioned by The Sunday Telegraph about why the event was so low-key.

The official dismissed any notion of the special relationship, saying: “There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.

After all we’ve been through!!…Again, I must apologize. The UK has stuck with us arm in arm, more than many other nations have, in the War on Terror (as we call it here), and this is the kind of regard we have for them. Shameful. Well at least Obama had kind words to say about Canada, which has helped us out in Afghanistan. Of all the nations I can think of who have been our friends, I feel as though the UK has done the most heavy lifting for us. We should express our gratitude at every opportunity.

Why the slights? It’s being explained here that PM Brown is not popular in the UK. His power is declining, and Obama is not interested in weak leaders. I even heard it’s likely the conservatives will take over Parliament soon. This may be true, but I’ve never heard that excuse before with regard to state visits. When PM Blair was at his lowest popularity the White House still held joint press conferences with him, and the president still talked about our “special relationship” with the UK. When PM John Major’s popularity was only so-so, the White House showed him no less deference, as I recall. I think this reveals a certain arrogance on Obama’s part. What’s striking to me is how liberals are apparently blowing off these slights like it’s no big deal.

Actually, this is not the first time Democrats have put domestic concerns over diplomacy. I can remember not too long ago when they wanted to pass a formal resolution in congress condemning Turkey for the Armenian genocide. What they apparently weren’t aware of was that Turkey was helping us out in critical ways with the operation of the war in Iraq. Maybe they didn’t care. Once the Iraq war turned into a “fiasco” Democrats wanted nothing to do with it. As a result the Democrats were tone deaf on this issue. This is a sore point with Turkey, and at the time it was unwise to anger them.

Over the past few years Democrats have trumpeted how incompetent the Bush Administration was at diplomacy and foreign policy, as if they knew better. Incompetent compared to this?? You must be joking! Obama chided Americans during his campaign for our lack of knowledge about the world, and that the only foreign words we knew were the French “merci beaucoup”. PM Brown offered Obama a gift that had cultural and historical significance, showing that he and his crew had thought a lot about it. Obama offered Brown a set of DVDs. How quaint. I would be embarrassed and profusely apologetic if I were him.

I can’t help but think this latest incident has to do with our nation’s current view of the Iraq war, that it was a colossal foreign policy blunder. For those who have been paying attention it’s known that the UK didn’t just follow our lead into Iraq. PM Blair believed as we did that Saddam Hussein needed to be toppled. Now that we “know better” perhaps there are many in the powers that be who believe our relationship with the UK had something to do with this “colossal blunder”. After all, Bush uttered his famous words about Iraq seeking uranium from Niger, based on British intelligence. The threat of Iraq building nuclear weapons was the primary reason that most Americans think we invaded. I get a sense that there’s a desire to wash our hands of the whole affair, and everyone who was involved in it. It’s similar to the way in which people don’t want to relive the horror of 9/11. I can remember when the movie United 93 came out a few years ago people said they thought it was “too soon” to tell the story. The truth was a lot of us wanted to put 9/11 behind us, in a dark corner where we could ignore it. This sort of denial is never healthy.

Well at least for this American the UK holds special stature. I hope that in the future we will be able to make it up to you.

Edit 3/8/2009: Well this explains a lot. Morris Reid, former Clinton advisor, says “The special relationship (with the UK) is over and dead. It’s a different day.” Gee, I hadn’t gotten the memo.

I’ve been reading some more articles about Brown’s visit and it seems everyone thinks the DVDs were an odd “quickie” or “cheap” gift. A few sharp people made the point, “Better hope the DVDs were Region 2 encoded (European), not Region 1 (American) or else they won’t play.” D’oh!


Farewell, Prime Minister Blair. I will miss you

June 27, 2007

Today was Tony Blair’s last day as UK Prime Minister. He is stepping down in mid-term to be replaced by his Chancellor of the Exchequer (equivalent to our Treasury Secretary), Gordon Brown.

Blair came into office during President Clinton’s 2nd term. At the time he was the head of a political movement in liberal UK politics, called “New Labor”, which seems awfully similar to Clinton’s push in the Democratic Party for the “New Democrats”. Blair and Clinton seemed like the best of pals.

I went to visit the UK for the first time in 1999. I had the opportunity to talk politics with some of the locals, sleeping at B&B’s (bed and breakfasts), thankfully always keeping it cordial. At one place I stayed, the husband in the family and I got into a conversation about our respective national leaders. We both agreed that we didn’t like Clinton, but he gave me his own distaste for Blair, saying that he “spins everything”. He also complained, “I hardly know what he’s talking about half the time.” It sounded familiar. I told him we had the same problem of spin with Clinton. Fortunately with Blair there appears to have been no scandal about “getting a hummer in the office from an employee.” From these conversations I assumed that Blair was like Clinton: shallow and without principles.

I had a delightful conversation with a man and his wife in a pub. We talked about our perceptions of each other’s countries. I mostly talked to the husband. I remember he said they had an American made luxury car, and that it was a bit wide for their roads (I can imagine! Their one-way streets would pass for narrow alleys in the U.S.). He said that they had made a trip to the U.S. recently, and they were amazed at how cheap everything was. Their money went quite far. He said he was also amazed at the sheer size of our country, and I believe he said he could understand why we used airplanes to get across it. He said he remembered learning that the UK would easily fit in the state of Texas. I, on the other hand, commented about the roadways in the UK, and the lack of road signs. Whenever I’d get directions from anyone it was so disorienting, because they’d have to give me directions by landmark, like “take a left at the pub” and “drive down the windey road”; not road names or designations. Road designations were spotty at best. Writing down the directions was like writing an essay! It was so easy for me to get lost. I also commented on how expensive everything was, though the B&Bs were quite affordable. The difference in perceptions on cost was due to the exchange rate. The UK’s has long been higher than ours.

Then the man asked this question that flabbergasted me: “Does everyone in America own a gun?” I sat there a bit stunned for a moment. I said, “No. Why do you think that?” He said something about how the movies they see always have Americans shooting at each other. Something like that. I explained that most movies are set in the major cities, and yes there’s gun violence in those places, but even so, not everyone there has guns. Secondly, American movies tend to exaggerate and sensationalize to create excitement so people will go see them. There’s an air of unreality about them, because it’s meant to be an escape. I’m sure they also hear about the gun violence occasionally through the news.

As just a funny aside, after I got back to the States, I happened upon a movie called “This Is My Father”, starring James Caan, about an American man who discovers a family secret by travelling to his ancestral home in Ireland. During his trip two Irish girls walk up to him on a road and talk to him for a bit. I’m not making this up. It’s like they have a script over there…the girls asked him, “Does everyone in America own a gun?” Notice that it’s exactly the same wording as the question the man in the pub asked me. Get it through your heads, people! Not every American owns a gun! Sheesh! 🙂

One thing the man at the pub said has stuck with me years later. We were talking about international relations a bit between the U.S. and the UK. He said something about how he was glad that our two countries had held together a “special relationship” for so long, and he hoped it would continue. I agreed wholeheartedly. It was wonderful to meet people who were aware of what was going on in their own country and around the world, even if their view of the U.S. was a bit skewed. I find that a lot of people in the U.S. are not as aware of what’s going on in our own country, even, much less what’s happening in the rest of the world. The attitude we Americans display is that we have better things to do than to pay attention to this stuff, at least until our government enacts some policy that steps on certain Americans’ toes, or doesn’t lift a finger to solve a pressing problem.

After George W. Bush was elected president, he and Blair had their first meeting. It appeared to get off to a rocky start. They didn’t seem quite comfortable together. This concerned me for a bit. I hoped that liberal/conservative politics wouldn’t get in the way of our relationship with the UK.

The strength of the relationship between Bush and Blair really changed after 9/11. We learned from President Bush that Blair was the first world leader to call on the President to express his condolensces for our loss. What brought tears to my eyes was the vigil that was held at Buckingham Palace by British subjects, mourning our loss with tears in their eyes, waving American flags and playing our national anthem. Wow. To me that really said something, that they would go out of their way to do that, to express their solidarity with us at a time when we feared that things could fall apart–things could get worse. There was a genuine fear on the part of many that the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were just the first in a series of planned attacks, and that we might see more in the days and weeks ahead. For the first time in so many years we felt vulnerable.

The Canadian Prime Minister held a vigil for us as well with Canadians, doing much the same. It didn’t get as much coverage though, which I thought was a shame.

I can’t remember when this was, whether it was a special session of congress, or if it was Bush’s first State of the Union address after 9/11, but Blair was there in the gallery sitting in a seat of honor during the President’s speech.

I watched “The Blair Decade”, a documentary on PM Blair that aired recently on PBS. It was very interesting. It showed various members of his staff, and associates, talking about his term in office. They said that Blair strategically wanted to forge a close relationship with the Bush Administration after the 9/11 attacks, to help make sure that America didn’t “fly off the handle” and do something rash in response. To be sure, Americans were tempted to do that. I can’t say the Bush Administration had those thoughts, but American citizens certainly did. In my opinion he accomplished his goal. The documentary also revealed that Blair helped forge pro-American international relationships that would help us begin the global War on Terror. This was not done just because Blair was “Bush’s poodle”. Blair genuinely believed in what we were doing, and it turns out that extended all the way to Iraq.

Blair offered his support of the U.S.’s policy towards Iraq on the condition that we would try to get the U.N.’s stamp of approval for an invasion first. The Bush Administration did this. The documentary revealed that when things were not going well in the U.N., and we were pushing ahead with our invasion plans, and public opinion in the UK towards our policy was not good, Bush called Blair and offered him an out. He told Blair, “I want regime change in Iraq. I don’t want to see it happen in the UK as well.” Bush said it would be fine with him if Blair decided that the UK should not participate in the invasion. Blair wouldn’t have any of it. He believed, just as Bush did, that Iraq needed to be dealt with forcefully. He honestly believed, as Bush did, that Saddam had WMDs. Blair told Bush that despite public opinion at the time, the Blair government was with us on this. It cannot be said that Blair was forced into any of this. He chose it, and I think of him highly because of that. No, Blair was not an “empty suit”. I think he showed true leadership qualities. I’m sure that Blair was aware of the UK’s past history with Iraq, that Winston Churchill had dealt with it, before he became PM, and said, “I hate it!” He knew what he was getting into.

Based on what the documentary revealed about Blair I think that there are some common traits between him and Bush. It said that Blair tended to be more passionate about the general thrust of policy, and was not so interested in the details. This has been true of most of our recent Republican presidents: Reagan, and George W. Bush. I think George H.W. Bush was more of a policy wonk. Both Bush and Blair have a strong moral compass, and both are basically in agreement on the righteousness of spreading freedom. Both are devoutly religious, though Blair is not public about that.

The times when Blair came to give a speech before congress were really stirring. He is so articulate. He’s explained the War on Terror better than our own president. I don’t think that means he got it more than Bush does. Bush is a man of few words, and has trouble being articulate, though he has managed it on occasion. The anti-war forces have had a lot of success due to his inability to communicate well about it. I’ve sometimes wished that Blair would’ve made more visits so he could’ve explain our own war to us. I can understand Blair’s unofficial designation as “the Prime Minister of the United States” by his detractors, though I mean no offense by that.

I am sad to see him go. He was a good friend when we needed one. He stuck by us, by his own volition, despite being unpopular at home. He did indeed have convictions. Perhaps he found them on the job. I don’t know. In the “Pantheon” of British Prime Ministers I am sure he will be remembered in the history books, along with Margaret Thatcher, who was another consequential PM. In our public consciousness, at least among those who remember history, Winston Churchill is still at the top of the heap. In any case, I hope that in his retirement Tony Blair will make more visits to the U.S. As always he will receive a warm welcome here. I hope that Gordon Brown will measure up to Blair’s stature.

Are the Kurds making a move for independence?

June 9, 2007

Breaking News

Just heard about a news blurb that Kurdish and Turkish forces are amassing along the northern border of Iraq. Turkey is on that northern border, as is the Kurdish region of Iraq. It sounds like some cross-border attacks or artillary fire has already occurred. This is a significant development. I’ll talk about it more when I hear more news.

This is one of the things I was worried about with Iraq, though I didn’t think this sort of thing would come to pass unless we pulled out of Iraq too early. Turkey said from the beginning of our invasion of Iraq that they would not tolerate an independent Kurdistan. The Kurds had to remain a part of Iraq. The Turks would consider it an act of war if the Kurds declared independence.

Occasionally I’ve watched reports on C-SPAN from people who are from the U.S. and Iraq, about the situation there. The U.S. officials had worked intimately with the Iraqis, getting a sense of how things were moving. This included the Kurdish situation. One of the things that was worrisome is even though the Kurds had made no moves for independence, they were in effect acting as if they were independent. Kurdish officials had very little contact with the Iraqi government. They were building up their own ministries, and military forces, almost mirroring the official capacities of the Iraqi government. I think the only office they lacked was a prime minister. They even produced a nice ad for American television titled, “Kurdistan: The Other Iraq”. It expressed the Kurds’ gratitude for our invasion, and welcomed business investment, but all the same I was a bit worried about the “Kurdistan” reference. Again, it seemed like they were asserting their independence without making it official.

The Kurds have done a lot of work to build a more modern state than what they had before the invasion, and have progressed much faster than the Iraqi government has in creating a stable governing structure. Up to this point they’ve lived in relative peace compared to the rest of the country.

Anyway, I’ll be watching for what else is happening there.

Saddam is dead

December 30, 2006

Saddam Hussein was executed in Iraq Friday evening (U.S. time) at 10pm EST. People of Iraqi descent in Michigan celebrated.

It was interesting listening to the analysis of this event and its implications. Charles Krauthammer predicted on Fox News that it would remove an incentive for the U.S. to stay in Iraq, now that the mission of deposing Saddam is finished. A terrorism expert whom I have seen before on Fox News typically (though I didn’t catch his name) appeared on MSNBC saying some very interesting things. All the analysts I listened to predicted in so many words that the execution will have little effect on the sectarian problems in Iraq. This man on MSNBC was no different. He said that Saddam mattered little to the Sunni or Shia insurgents, because they’re both being fomented by radical Islamic forces. He said in fact both sides in the conflict are happy Saddam is gone because he went against some of their goals. Plus, contrary to what’s been reported previously, Saddam didn’t really live to benefit just the Sunnis. He practiced nepotism on a grand scale. He did things that benefited his family and his particular tribe, but everyone else, even other Sunnis, didn’t get much. He ran things like a mafia don. This MSNBC analyst said that Saddam was a figure who stood for Islamic Arab nationalism. The Islamic radicals on both the Sunni and Shia sides stand for sectarianism–not for a unified Iraq, but rather a Shia nation, and a Sunni nation. The Shia violence is being driven by Muqtada al Sadr and Iran. The Sunni violence is being driven by Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni groups.

Now that I think about it, a few weeks ago I heard an analyst say that it looks like Iraq is devolving the way Yugoslavia did. It did not stay whole, but instead separated into independent states along sectarian lines, after their communist dictator died, and after the Soviet Union collapsed.

This analyst on MSNBC said that there are some flaws in our tactics, which are allowing the situation in Iraq to get worse. He said that al Sadr’s militia needs to be confronted and disbanded, and that Shia insurgents need to be put away or killed. That is the only way the Sunnis will continue to cooperate with the Iraqi government, if their security is insured. He said what’s happening now unfortunately is that more and more Shia and Sunni communities are allying themselves with their own sectarian militias. The Shia are aligning with al Sadr or some other Shia groups, and the Sunnis are allying with Al Qaeda. This is exactly what they want. Both sides in the conflict want to delegitimize the Iraqi government.

It seems from what I’m hearing that the Shia and the Kurds have formed an alliance of sorts, perhaps only on some issues, and the Sunnis are getting the short end of the stick. This is understandable since the Shia and Kurds were both oppressed by Saddam, and they probably perceive the Sunnis as being the beneficiaries of Saddam’s largess. They probably feel there’s no love lost with them.

Historical background

What I’m learning bit by bit from various sources is that Iraq historically has been a difficult place to govern. So what we’ve been experiencing is not without precedent. About a week ago I happened to hear something written by Winston Churchill, read by someone on C-SPAN. What jumped out at me is Churchill said, “I hate Iraq!”, and expressed frustration about how disorderly the society was. This was read in front of an audience, and as this particular passage was read, I heard laughter, probably out of a common sense of frustration. The article I link to here says that back in the day when the UK occupied Iraq, during and after World War I, a similar thing happened then that’s happening now. The Kurds, Shia, and Sunnis each hated each other. So it was difficult to get them to cooperate. Churchill even advocated pulling out of Iraq a couple times, and at one point suggested using poison gas bombs on the Shia, though it sounds like they didn’t get around to doing this in a big way. Just so you know, chemical weapons were used in various battles during WW I.

Comedian Dennis Miller expressed a similar frustration to Churchill’s, during one of his stand-up routines: “I’m growing tired of the Iraqi people. I don’t think they’re loyal to us. I mean, one day you think they’re on board, the next day they’re ratting us out to the enemy. It’s very unpredictable. It’s like playing Stratego with Charles Manson. You know, he makes 7 good moves in a row, and you’re thinking, ‘Wow! Look at that. Charlie is getting it together.’ The next thing you know he jams the dice up his a**. That’s the Iraqi people to me.” Though he sounds hopeful that somehow Iraq will be a success story. Hat tip to American Soldier for this.

To provide a little context, The UK and France partitioned the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I into separate nation states, in 1920. The Ottomans were Muslim, ruled by the Turks, and an ally of Germany during the war. The Ottoman Empire was also the seat of what was called in Muslim tradition the Caliphate. The story of Lawrence of Arabia is set in this time.

In the process of breaking it up the Caliphate was disbanded, and Turkey (where the Turks ended up), Syria, Lebanon, Jordan (then called “Transjordan”), Iraq (which was otherwise known as Mesopotamia), and what was called Palestine were created to break up the empire. Most of these had a monarch installed by the allies.

Palestine and Iraq were occupied by the UK. Syria and Lebanon were occupied by France. It’s interesting to note that these places remain trouble spots today. Not to say that the UK and France are to blame for this. It’s just interesting to note that both of them had reasons to stay in these places, probably because they were unstable. These occupations lasted to varying degrees until just after WW II ended (in 1945). The U.N. in 1948 called for Palestine to be partitioned, creating the Jewish state of Israel.

In case anyone thinks we’re repeating history and should’ve known better than to go into Iraq, recent history has shown us that things can turn out differently than in the past. Before going into Afghanistan, in 2001, people in the U.S. had great fears about taking it on. Past history had shown that great powers had been defeated there, including England, and the Soviet Union (the latter was with our help). Afghanistan used to be known as “The Great Game”. It was a place wracked by war, and a place where different countries had come in competing with each other for “a piece of the pie”, probably because it was on a major trade route. Now it appears that Iraq is becoming such a place. People can point to the UK and it’s past experience with Iraq, look at George H.W. Bush’s own reservations about it (which were probably based on the UK experience), see what’s going on there now, and say, “See? We told you so.” However, if we had followed that line of thinking, we never would’ve gone into Afghanistan either.

Things turned out to be the opposite of what we expected. We expected Afghanistan to be like Iraq is now, perhaps worse, and we expected Iraq to turn out like Afghanistan did. You never know how a war is going to turn out until you get into it. Different strategies probably had something to do with it though.

Death to Saddam

November 5, 2006

The tribunal trying the case of Saddam Hussein for the massacre at Dujail in 1982 found him guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to death by hanging. Likewise, 2 other defendants were found guilty and sentenced to death. Three were found guilty of murder and torture and sentenced to 15 years. And one defendant was acquited for lack of evidence. Here’s an AP article that talks about it.

Edit: I should’ve added that all of the people who were sentenced to death have an automatic appeal, so the sentence is not final yet, but we can hope.

The tragedy in Lebanon

July 15, 2006

This past week I’ve heard about the situation with Lebanon and Israel. Lebanon seemed so promising not long ago. It was asserting its own right of existence again. The Lebanese pushed out the Syrians in their own peaceful “Cedar Rebellion” after it was found out the Syrians had assassinated their president. I managed to watch one news feature story on Lebanon last year, where one of our broadcast networks interviewed one of their leaders. I got a real sense of promise from this man, that Lebanon was going to assert itself and become a peaceful neighbor in the Middle East. It was pointed out that the leadership is always under the threat of assassination, and that the security situation is precarious, but it looked like they had a good security apparatus. I think the person doing the interview even called Lebanon the “Paris of the Middle East”, as a compliment. It was good to see. It may have been too good to be true.

The tragedy is Lebanon has become a pawn in an international game of chess, just as it used to be. The Iranians are behind this violence, even though they’ve apparently not admitted it. Hezbollah started the fighting by copying Hamas and kidnapping two Israeli soldiers, demanding the release of prisoners Israel is holding. Israel responded by moving militarily into Lebanon to get their soldiers back.

Like Hamas in the West Bank, Hezbollah is part of the government in Lebanon. It has been for years, in fact. The problem, as I heard it aptly characterized yesterday on the McLaughlin Group, is that Hezbollah is not fully integrated into the government. It has its own media operation, and it has its own militia. Imagine, if you will, that the Democrats and Republicans owned their own TV networks and had their own militias, separate from the U.S. military. The government apparently has no control over Hezbollah’s militia. This is not healthy, especially for the length of time that Hezbollah has been involved with the Lebanese government.

From what I have heard, the linkage to Iran is that Hezbollah does the bidding of Iran. Technically the group is linked to Syria, but it’s financed by Iran, so they have a say in large part in what the group does. The foreign policy analysts I’ve heard from have said that Hezbollah started the violence on the day that Iran was supposed to say whether or not they would agree to the “no nukes” deal offered by the Europeans, and endorsed by the U.S. I think we have Iran’s answer. Instead of addressing the issue, Iran is trying to change the subject, to avert our attention away from the nuclear issue. True, Israel has played a part in this diversion. You could say that Hamas and Hezbollah picked a fight with Israel, and Israel took the bait. Israel had two choices. They could’ve either agreed to a prisoner swap, which they’ve done in the past, though I think the wisdom of that is dubious, or they could go after these terrorist groups and try to get them themselves. They chose the latter.

The problem is not necessarily that Hezbollah was part of the Lebanese government. The problem was that it was never disarmed. In a rational governmental system, the government must regulate their own military, and any militias, and that authority must be respected. If this is not the case, you get what’s going on now between Hezbollah (not Lebanon), and Israel, though Lebanon and Israel are the ones getting hurt.

As the saying goes, war is politics by other means, and politics is war by other means. What I’ve learned from listening to what’s going on in Iraq is that the different factions and tribes there have had a history of using war as a means of exercising politics. They need to be convinced and taught that they can win their battles and exercise power, at least for a limited time, without killing each other: war by other means. The same lesson could ultimately be applied to Hezbollah, though I doubt this would take place without the threat of overwhelming force against them, demanding they disarm. It could also be applied to Hamas and Fatah in the West Bank. I realize these groups have had a long, terrible history of killing innocent civilians, but in the case of Lebanon and the West Bank, they’re part of the government now, and they are a force to be reckoned with. That’s just the reality.

In Iraq they’re doing something similar, though it’s my understanding that they’re being selective about which insurgents/militant groups they’re trying to bring in to the government.

The Israeli bombing in Lebanon has struck me as misplaced, though I’ve been gradually understanding the strategy. Hezbollah is primarily based in southern Lebanon. For those not familiar with the geography, Lebanon is situated on the northern border of Israel. Israel bombed the airport in southern Lebanon, because reportedly large airplanes had been coming in delivering munitions to Hezbollah. They’ve also been bombing highways leaving southern Lebanon, because they’re trying to cut off escape routes, where Hezbollah might try to move their hostages. They’ve bombed the headquarters of Hezbollah.

They’ve been bombing electricity stations, fuel depots and gas stations as well. This part is a mystery to me. Perhaps someone could explain. One foreign policy analyst I heard explained that Israel is trying to put a lot of pressure on the Lebanese government to act against Hezbollah, but the government has thrown up its hands, saying they have no control over Hezbollah’s actions. They’ve acted shocked at what the Israelis are doing. My guess is the Israelis are trying to eliminate Hezbollah for them, since the Lebanese have proved powerless of doing it themselves. Israel has a habit of doing this. It’s been eliminating and imprisoning terrorists that the Palestinians have said they’re powerless to control, for years.

All around it’s a tragic situation. I wish the Lebanese and the Israelis well. The Lebanese government has been a noble effort, though I think this conflict proves that they still have their work cut out for them.