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The Bush administration seems... confused...

As this headline rather succintly points out (thanks, Eugene!), the US government is in a bit of a quandry over what to do about Israel's recent foray into Lebanon. The US historically has backed Israel economically, politically (especially in the UN), and militarily, so what could be causing pause this time? Oh yeah, oil.

As Billmon points out:

For the first time since I don't know when -- the early '70s, I guess -- something is standing in the way of the customary U.S. kneejerk support for Israel. The higher gas prices go, and the lower the 401(k) portfolios of the masses drop, the dicier it gets for the GOP in its desperate struggle to stave off an eruption of democracy in our Chamber of People's Deputies (i.e. to preserve its death grip on congressional power.)

For the Rovians, it's a nightmarish dilemma: Do they pander shamelessly to the Israel lobby and its Christian conservative supporters (the default election year position) or do they try to keep the Israelis, and the global oil markets, under some kind of adult supervision, even if it leaves Charlie Krauthammer sputtering with rage? You can already see the sweat popping out on Condi Rice's forehead.

...

If Nixon and Kissinger didn't knuckle under to an Arab oil embargo and mile-long gas lines, I don't think the Cheney administration is going to let a bunch of 25-year old oil traders drive a wedge between America and its 51st state. But you can tell the gang is worried, and that in itself is almost a foreign policy revolution.

In this rare case, I'm going to disagree with Bilmon, I think it's more likely that the U.S. is conflicted over this because Lebanon's one of the few cases of a democracy in the Middle East, and the Bush Administration has been using them as a poster child to say that democracy can exist in the middle east. Right now, thanks to the Israeli invasion, it's getting dicy enough that the Christian militias are forming alliances with the Shia's against the Sunni's.

Dan,
Interesting point. Bilmon is an economist and so his analysis tends to slant that direction.

It's unfortunate that all of the states around Israel are either autocratic or unstable democracies, because it really feeds the problem. Of course, this is a *result* and not simply by chance, but still...

I'm sure oil prices would go up a whole lot more if Israel invaded Iran to get its soldiers back. The US administration and its friends like Carlyle have been benefitting from the high price of oil. I doubt it has anything to do with it anyways.

More likely it has to do with mid term elections and the President's popularity in the polls.

I'm quite positive the Us would have known about the air strike on the runways before they happened and the intelligence that the soldiers were being transported to Iran.

No difference of opinion there. No way. Don't let those soldiers out of Lebannon. Stop that at any cost, because the alternative is much worse.

Shoshana,
I think Bilmon's argument was just what you said - that it's related to oil prices because of the upcoming mid-terms. Cheney and the boys are quite happy to reap the results of high oil prices personally, but probably would prefer to save their political skin this fall.

I keep hearing that story of Iranina complicity that the soldiers were going to Iran, tha the missle that hit the Isreali ship were Iranian, but I have nto seen one iota of proof.

Sorry Shoshana, but until there is proof, it is just convenient conjecture that points a finger at the Bush regime's boogey man du jour. Too convenient. Like stories of yellowcake and Saddam were 4 years ago...

What we do have ample proof of is innocent Lebanese civilians, who have nothing to do with Hezbollah or the kidanpping of soldiers, are dying in Isreali airstrikes in Beruit. So far over 100. Yes Hezballah has killed 15 Isrealis as well. Rocket attacks that kill civillians are a war crime, no matter who launches the rockets.

I guess cutting off funding to the Hamas government and driving thme intot e arms of the Iranians looks like a pretty bad idea now doesn't it? Guess the kind of "constructive engagement" we do with China should have been tried, eh?

Mike,
I was just reading over some reports on Harper's support of Israel in this affair and, in light of your reference to our government's cutting funding to Hamas, I can't help but think of Bush's predilection for reinforcing an error with a mistake.

He indeed does see the world as George does. Heaven help us.

Yeah, Mike - there's 100 civilians killed by Israeli attacks. And there are how many Israeli civilians killed by suicide bombers sent by Hamas and Hezbollah over the years? With all due respect to your opinion, until I've been in the position of being forced to put up for 50 years with forces who's stated position is to kill me, I am not going to criticize Israeli actions.

Dan,
Not to take away from the unfortunate situation that Israel has found itself in (I know, understatement), counts of the dead during the Intifada that I've read in various places are close to the numbers summarized here: 3,200 Palestinians versus 950 Israelis.

Choosing to not criticize the Israelis should therefore be contingent with not criticizing the Palestinians. I intend to do neither, but I do try to remain as rational about the situation as I can. The rational part of me thinks that killing hundreds of civilians in southern Lebanon is just pouring gas on the fire, further strengthening Hezbollah and weakening the already-weak Lebanese government.

Kev,

Got a couple of issues with the numbers you linked to - one is that it seems to be contradictory in spots, at top it says 950 casualties, while below it states over 1000. Also, it doesn't break down the casualty numbers - for instance, how many of those Palestinian numbers were suicide bombers and isn't it kind of churlish to blame those on Israel? I'd rather blame those on the clerics who told them this was their pathway to heaven. For that matter, how many of those numbers were the result of in-fighting between various Palestinian factions such as Hamas and Fatah?

I'll also take issue with Mike's contention that Hamas is in the arms of the Iranians because Harper cut their funding - the relationship between them predates Harper's term in office by a far margin - in fact, it was Chretien's government that designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Dan,
The numbers aren't consistent, you're right, but it's Wikipedia. That they are close is good enough for me. There have not been that many Palestinians killed in the act of suicide bombing - certainly not an appreciably large portion of the 3400+ that they site. If those deaths are included in the total it would be a relatively small component, I'm sure. Neither of these however touch my contention that more Palestinians are killed by Israelis than the other way around - and a higher percentage of those killed are civilians, too.

Yes, Chretien's government called Hamas a terrorist organization, but that does not necessarily mean they were funded by Iran - terrorism exists that are funded from other sources as well. However, Iran *did* step in to replace some of the funding lost when the western governments withdrew Palestinian support earlier this year.

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