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July 26, 2006

Betting The Ranch Palestine/Middle East

Things can't get any crazier, right? Think again. Harper's (via Billmon):

There's much discussion of putting a multinational, NATO-led force in southern Lebanon as part of a ceasefire agreement in the Israel–Lebanon conflict, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, according to a story in the Washington Post, has said that she does "not think that it is anticipated that U.S. ground forces...are expected for that force." [A non-denial denial - PP] However, a well-connected former CIA officer has told me that the Bush Administration is in fact considering exactly such a deployment.

The officer, who had broad experience in the Middle East while at the CIA, noted that NATO and European countries, including England, have made clear that they are either unwilling or extremely reluctant to participate in an international force. Given other nations' lack of commitment, any "robust" force — between 10,000 and 30,000 troops, according to estimates being discussed in the media — would by definition require major U.S. participation. According to the former official, Israel and the United States are currently discussing a large American role in exactly such a "multinational" deployment, and some top administration officials, along with senior civilians at the Pentagon, are receptive to the idea.

The uniformed military, however, is ardently opposed to sending American soldiers to the region, according to my source. "They are saying 'What the fuck?'" he told me. "Most of our combat-ready divisions are in Iraq or Afghanistan, or on their way, or coming back. The generals don't like it because we're already way overstretched." [...]

The former CIA officer said that the Bush Administration seems not to understand Hezbollah's deep roots and broad support among Lebanon's Shiites, the country's largest single ethnic bloc. "...Once you start fighting in a place like that you're basically at war with the Shiite population. That means that our soldiers are going to be getting shot at by Hezbollah. This would be a sheer disaster for us."

The scenario of an American deployment appears to come straight out of the neoconservative playbook: send U.S. forces into the Middle East, regardless of what our own military leaders suggest, in order to "stabilize" the region. The chances of success, as we have seen in Iraq, are remote. So what should be done? My source said the situation is so volatile at the moment that the only smart policy is to get an immediate ceasefire and worry about the terms of a lasting truce afterwards. [Emphasis added]

What is it that they imagine they're doing? What scenario can they have in mind?

A US force in Southern Lebanon would have an enormous bulls-eye on its back, putting it mildly. It couldn't help but take significant casualties from Hezbollah and others (who could be portrayed as puppets of Syria and/or Iran, as needed). Sooner or later, we'd wind up with US and Israeli forces fighting side by side, the forces of radical Islam arrayed against them — the clash of civilizations, or at least that's how it would play on Fox News. US and Israeli forces fighting together, taking casualties together — the precedent would be set. Next stop, Damascus? Tehran?

Putting a substantial US force in southern Lebanon would be reckless in the extreme. You know that, I know that. Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld must know it, too. That they're even contemplating such a move shows how big of a gamble they're still prepared to take. How could a US troop presence in southern Lebanon not lead to a much-expanded regional war? How can the administration imagine such a war to be winnable? Nukes?

Posted by Jonathan at July 26, 2006 09:33 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb


I tend to think this could be a backdoor way of getting started on Iran - put US troops to work against Hezbollah, then point the finger at Iran for arming them everytime the US takes casualties.

With the propaganda machine whirring away eventually sufficient consent will be manufactured...

Posted by: Big Gav at July 27, 2006 04:45 AM

What can U.S. citizens do to persuade and prevent our country from going to war with Iran?


Posted by: Jeff at July 27, 2006 12:32 PM

Tom Whipple:

"The Israelis, of course, will heartily approve the arrival of outside peacekeepers in southern Lebanon as they can turn the whole mess over to somebody else. Hezbollah, of course, will find that Jihad and martyrdom will work against peacekeepers just as well as Israelis. It is difficult to conceive the current level of conflict going on for long without dragging in some Middle East country with oil wells and then, the world will change."


Posted by: Michael at July 28, 2006 12:25 PM