Once again the Bush administration is floating on a wave of euphoria. Israel's offensive against Hizbullah in Lebanon has liberated the utopian strain of neoconservatism that had been traduced by Iraq's sectarian civil war. And the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has propelled herself forward as chief cheerleader. "What we're seeing here," she said, "are the birth pangs of a new Middle East." At every press conference she repeats the phrase "a new Middle East" as though its incantation is magical.
Her jaunt to the region is intended to lend the appearance of diplomacy in order to forestall it. As explained to me by several senior state department officials, Rice is entranced by a new "domino theory": Israel's attacks will demolish Hizbullah; the Lebanese will blame Hizbullah and destroy its influence; and the backlash will extend to Hamas, which will collapse. From the administration's point of view, this is a proxy war with Iran (and Syria) that will inexplicably help turn around Iraq. "We will prevail," Rice says.
The administration has traditionally engaged in promiscuous threat conflation - al-Qaida with Saddam Hussein, North Korea and Iran in "the axis of evil", and now implicitly the Shia Hizbullah with the Sunni Iraqi insurgency. By asserting "we" before "will prevail", Rice is engaging in national interest conflation.