Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, August 03, 2006

U.S. risks backlash in Mideast

As detailed in the Washington Post, the Israeli bombing of the Lebanese village of Qana revealed the enormous risks for Washington in the current Middle East crisis.

The United States has strongly defended the military assaults as a reasonable response to Hezbollah rocket attacks, which allies see as an overreaction. Analysts think that a continued war could leave the United States more isolated than at any time since the Iraq invasion three years ago and hindered in its foreign policy goals.

"The arrows are all pointing in the wrong direction," said Richard N. Haass, who was President Bush's first-term State Department policy planning director. "The biggest danger in the short run is it just increases frustration and alienation from the United States in the Arab world. Not just the Arab world, but in Europe and around the world. People will get a daily drumbeat of suffering in Lebanon and this will just drive up anti-Americanism to new heights."

The White House recognizes the danger but views this as a chance to finally break out of the stalemate of Middle East geopolitics. Bush and his advisers hope the conflict can destroy or at least cripple Hezbollah and strike a blow against Iran, while pressuring the region to move toward final settlement of the conflict with Israel. "He wants a resolution that will solve the problem," White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters yesterday. "Not only do we feel sorrow for what happened in Qana, but also a determination that it is really important to remove the conditions that led to that."

"This moment of conflict in the Middle East is painful and tragic," Bush said in his radio address Saturday. "Yet it is also a moment of opportunity for broader change in the region. Transforming countries that have suffered decades of tyranny and violence is difficult, and it will take time to achieve. But the consequences will be profound for our country and the world." Many foreign policy veterans in Washington are pessimistic, especially as leaders of Hezbollah and al-Qaeda start calling for followers to take the fight to the enemy. Analysts predict a complicated outcome, with Hezbollah surviving Israel's airstrikes and strained relations between the U.S. and its allies.

The White House recognizes the dangers of stirring up anti-Americanism. "There may be times when people say that they're unhappy with whatever methods we pursue," Snow said last week. "We are confident that in the long run, people are going to be much happier living in freedom and democracy than, for instance, in nations that are occupied by terrorist organizations that try to hijack a democracy in its formative stages."

For the complete article, click here. (last article on page.)


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