Saturday, September 16, 2006

Neocons Amid Lebanon’s Rubble: A Challenge to Krauthammer's Israel-as-Strategic-Asset Argument

Much of the debate in Washington in the aftermath of the fighting between Israel and Hizballah has focused on who has "won" and who has "lost" Lebanon War II. Foreign policy pundits have pondered about the final outcome of the bloody cycle of violence in the Levant and the way it affected each side's strategic goals, military power, economic resources, diplomatic support and propaganda methods.

Wars not only bring about the rise and fall of military powers, they also create winners and losers in the wars of ideas and decide the fate of certain intellectual tenets that guided the leaders of these powers. Indeed, there is a growing recognition in Washington that the neoconservative paradigm that equated the advancement of U.S. interests with the spread of democracy in the Middle East has suffered a major blow as a result of the disastrous outcome of the Iraq War. Hence the notion that freedom is not on the march in Mesopotamia and elsewhere in Arabia could erode the influence of the Wilsonian agenda promoted by the neocons and enhance the power of their intellectual rivals in the foreign policy community, namely the realpolitik types.

From that perspective, one of the main casualties of the latest crisis in the Middle East has been another favorite neoconservative paradigm, according to which the United States should regard Israel as a major "strategic asset" in the Middle East, which in turn is rooted in a neoconservative axiom of sort, that what is good for Israel's strategic interest is good for America and vice versa.

The neoconservative plot-line of the recent Middle East "cinematic event" was obvious: Iran and Syria encouraged its proxy in Lebanon, Hizballah, to deliver a blow to America's proxy in the Middle East, Israel, as a way of shifting the balance of power in the Middle East in favor of Tehran and Damascus. According to the script, Israel, the American proxy was supposed to deliver a counter-blow to Hizballah, the Iranian-Syrian proxy and re-shift the balance of power in favor of Washington. This game was expected to conclude with an American-Israeli win over the Axis of Evil team. Instead, according to the conventional wisdom among experts, the final results of Lebanon War II--Israel failing to decimate Hizballah by doing a rerun of the Six Day War or a remake of the Entebbe rescue operation--are looking more and more like, in the best case scenario, a draw or, in the worst-case scenario, a perception of a Hizballah victory.


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