Monday, November 6, 2006
A GOOD ARTICLE
By Chris Hedges
Editor’s note: In this column, the former New York Times Mideast bureau chief argues that America’s failure in Iraq and Israel’s humiliation in Lebanon have emboldened and empowered those in the Arab world who seek to topple U.S.-backed regimes in the Middle East and cripple the Jewish state.
"The Israeli debacle in Lebanon, along with the failed occupation in Iraq, has given many Arabs, after decades of humiliation, hope that armed guerrilla resistance by Islamic radicals will topple U.S.-backed regimes in the Middle East and cripple the Jewish state. The callous comment by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the Israeli bombing of Lebanon signaled “the birth pangs” of a new Middle East has turned out to be true, although not in the way the secretary intended.
The dogged resistance by bands of irregular fighters, disciplined in battle and indoctrinated with radical Islam, has seen Washington’s most vociferous enemies, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, lionized throughout the region. This resistance has eroded the power of pro-Western regimes in Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. As we prepare for Round Two, with Israel plotting to again bomb and invade Lebanon, it is clear that these wars of attrition are about to become cyclical, with Israel and Washington clinging blindly to the illusion that increased force will solve their dilemmas.
Israel and Washington see Lebanon and Iraq as temporary setbacks. They believe that these setbacks can be rectified with modified tactics, greater force and more sophisticated counterinsurgency campaigns. But the Arab world views Lebanon and Iraq differently. It sees the battles there as finally challenging the long subjugation at the hands of the Zionist state and its American backer. A second attempt to neutralize Hezbollah will mark the beginning of a prolonged conflict between radical Islamists and the Jewish state. A strike by Washington on Iran will unleash waves of rage and revulsion throughout the Arab nations. These are battles Israel and America cannot win.
The U.S. failure in Iraq and Hezbollah’s stubborn resistance illustrate that modern armies such as Israel’s, equipped with the world’s fourth largest air force, are not invincible. These failures have exposed the impotence of the U.S.-backed regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and Egypt, which have nothing to show for their collaboration with Washington other than increasing repression, isolation and corruption.
Israel and Washington appear not to have grasped this seismic change. Israeli leaders, busy studying the failures of the first incursion, appear as intoxicated with their military power as when they began bombing Lebanon. Washington mouths its usual empty promises about a negotiated solution to the Palestinian and Israeli conflict and its tired clichs about building democracy in Iraq and the Middle East. The quiet endorsement of the Israeli strangulation of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, along with the carnage unleashed by U.S. forces in Iraq, makes Washington appear more and more remote, even ridiculous."