Q On Lebanon, there seems to be two tracks that have emerged. There are those calling for an immediate cease-fire; there are those calling for a sustainable cease-fire. And the sustainable camp says there’s a risk — if you just call for an immediate, you’ll be back here in three weeks or three months. Isn’t it worth the risk if you stop innocent Israelis and Lebanese from being killed; isn’t it worth taking that risk while you try to bang out something more sustainable?
MR. SNOW: The question is whether that’s a fool’s errand, Jim. The idea that you suspend — number one, there’s a notion that somehow both sides are going to suspend, and we remain deeply skeptical that Hezbollah is going to abide by any such agreement. But the more important thing is, sustainable really does matter, because as we’ve seen in some places, if you allow terrorists to proclaim victory and to continue to take root within a country, you actually encourage further misbehavior. There’s no place on the record where as a result of a negotiation a terrorist organization has said, okay, we give up, great treaty.
So instead I think the most important thing is to put into place conditions where you’ll have a sustainable cease-fire. What does that mean? It means that Hezbollah not only returns the soldiers, not only returns the rockets, but either decides or lacks the capability to weaken the government of Lebanon by operating independently of that government and serving as a rogue force that is capable of not only seizing territory, destabilizing within Lebanon, threatening the Lebanese government, threatening the Lebanese people, but also threatening the peace of the region.
So the sustainable cease-fire is one that is not going to enable Hezbollah to declare victory, but instead will allow the people of Lebanon to look forward to peace and prosperity.
Tony Snow, White House Press Briefing
June 24, 2006
Given that Tony Snow also appears to believe that a cease-fire is a victory for Hezbollah, it looks like Peter Mackay really is reading from the White House playbook. Shame. (As for the quip that no terrorist organizations have ever abided by a treaty, I would have thought by now that the press would have heard of Northern Ireland, but apparently not.)
So, the US is simply waiting for the proper conditions for a sustainable cease-fire. What could those be, I wonder? It’s interesting that Tony Snow was a journalist (okay, he worked for Fox, which isn’t quite the same) because I don’t really understand what the hell he’s talking about. He’s taking grammar lessons from his boss, I’m afraid. Hezbollah has to “return” the rockets to whom? Syria? Iran? Right now they seem to be returning them a few at a time, but I’m not sure if that’s what he means.
I think that he’s hinting at the fact that the US want to detooth Hezbollah so that they can no longer destabilize the Lebanese government, which is a useful and constructive goal. However, if in doing so we mobilize the population of Lebanon against the West, by say bombing the shit out of everything, then there is no way that we can have a stable government that is also ready to go to the table with Israel and seek a peaceful solution. Bombing civilian populations and destroying civilian infrastructure has proven time and time again in the long run to produce more resentment and anger, and this is not what the situation requires.
So what really is the US up to here? I find it hard to believe that they think that a long-term solution can come of a simple military victory, because as dull-witted as Bush has proven to be, Condoleeza Rice isn’t. No, there’s something more here. The Washington Times has an interesting take on Tony Snow’s statements:
In Washington, Mr. Snow said there was no reason to think that an immediate cease-fire would stop violence in the Mideast and that the world should confront the destabilizing force of Hezbollah and its practice of using the Lebanese people as “human shields.”
This got me thinking that maybe what the Israeli government plans to do is to remove the human shields behind which Hezbollah is currently hiding. Driving the civilian population to the north leaves Hezbollah two choices – melt into the human tide and go north or stay in the south, now more exposed, and fight it out. If they fight it out, they will either lose or at best get hurt very badly, and if they leave, the Israelis move in and allow a very controlled return of civilians, hoping to filter out Hezbollah.
I’m not sure exactly how this is supposed to work, it’s not like terrorists actually look any different so “filtering” might be very difficult. What is becoming clear now, is that the Americans are onside and are perfectly willing to drag the negotiations on to give the Israelis time enough to drive out or kill all of the civilians.