A response to Captain Ed

Captain Ed finds my suggestion that “the Bush administration didn’t want to take the heat for more fighting in Lebanon” to be “an unfair shot at the White House.” Ed writes:

Bush and his team made sure that they would not allow the UN to win the war for Hezbollah, and this document at least shows that effort, regardless of its implementation. It’s really not our job to hold umbrellas for Israel, and they certainly didn’t show too much enthusiasm for fighting the kind of war the post suggests in any case.

Except for his final clause, I’m not sure I understand exactly what Ed is saying, but let me try to respond.

Without the administration’s participation in the formulation and adoption of the U.N. resolution, there would have been more fighting in Lebanon. Thus, it seems indisputable that the administration didn’t want more fighting in Lebanon, and Ed does not say otherwise. The question then becomes why the administration wanted the fighting to end. Was it because more fighting would have been in Hezbollah’s interest? Clearly not. With each day, Hezbollah’s military capacity was being diminished, and the degradation would likely have accelerated now that Israel finally has boots on the ground in something like the ratio thought to be required to succeed in this type of action. Had Israel made its way to the Litani River, as it had finally resolved to do, Hezbollah not only would have been further degraded, but would have lost its ability persuasively to claim that it successfully resisted the IDF.

Since we can still assume that administration wants to injure Hezbollah, it must be the case that some interest Bush deemed substantial caused him to take a major role in halting the IDF’s drive against that entity. Ed does not identify that interest. To me, it seems reasonable to believe that the U.S. was bowing to pressure from those who wanted hostilities to stop. It is no secret that Secretary Rice was communicating with the Egytians and the Saudis and that we were working closely with the French. Moreover, domestic critics were warning that with each passing day our status among “friendly” Arab governments and our European allies (including the folks upon whom we’ll be relying in our efforts to sanction Iran) was declining. It’s not unfair for me to connect these dots.

Ed’s statement that “Bush and his team made sure that they would not allow the UN to win the war for Hezbollah” makes little sense to me. Let’s assume for the sake of argument (and only for that purpose) that the adminisration’s negotiating efforts produced a resolution that prevents the UN from winning the war for Hezbollah. Bush could have obtained that same result (no victory for Hezbollah) by not agreeing to the resolution. This alternative would have had the added virtue of making it possible for Israel, if not to win the war then at least to achieve more of its objectives.

Ed has bought into the notion that there had to be a UN resolution. That’s manifestly not the case, except to the extent that the Bush administration was unwilling to take the heat associated with no resolution. And that was my point.

Ultimately, Ed adopts precisely the argument that I predicted would constitute the administration’s defense — that it’s Israel’s fault for not going into Lebanon harder earlier on. Yes, Israel should have gone in harder sooner. But that’s no justification for the administration’s decision to pull the plug just when Israel finally had started doing what is necessary.

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