Thursday, August 03, 2006

Israel/Hezbollah - The Syrian connection (Robert Pape & G.W. Bush)

Robert Pape, a self-styled expert on terrorism, has just published a New York Times op-ed piece criticizing Israel's strategy in its conflict with Hezbollah ("Ground to a Halt"). Most of this piece doesn't even need to be read, since it just repeats standard themes. But one passage stands out as genuinely interesting, especially if it is compared with another recent comment on the same subject:.

George W. Bush (overheard at the G-8 Summit in St. Petersburg - July 16, 2006):
See, the irony is what they really need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over.
Robert Pape ("Ground to a Halt" - August 3, 2006):
Given Syria’s total control of its border with Lebanon, stemming the flow of weapons is a job for diplomacy, not force. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, Sunni-led nations that want stability in the region, are motivated to stop the rise of Hezbollah. Under the right conditions, the United States might be able to help assemble an ad hoc coalition of Syria’s neighbors to entice and bully it to prevent Iranian, Chinese or other foreign missiles from entering Lebanon.
The attentive reader will notice that these two analyses define the heart of the problem in precisely the same way. Talk about irony! Another irony is that Robert Pape probably doesn't realize that Condoleeza Rice and the Israeli government clearly agree with him on this point. Without its stockpile of over 10.000 Iranian missiles, Hezbollah would certainly continue to be active, but its ability to cause harm to Israel, Lebanon, and others would be drastically reduced.

The real questions are (a) whether or not this kind of multilateral diplomatic solution can actually be achieved and (b) how force can best be used to promote it. The answers to those questions remain to be seen.

--Jeff Weintraub