Michael Ledeen and John Podhoretz disagree about how well the Bush administration is handling the situation in the Middle East. Ledeen is disturbed that administration folks like Steve Hadley and Secretary Rice are talking “lawyer and diplotalk,” when in fact the war presents an opportunity for Israel to smash Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, to place the Assad regime in jeopardy, and to humiliate Iran.
Podhoretz counters that Bush “has, in effect, given Israel a green light by saying it has the right to defend itself but not to be disproportionate — which is code for saying what Israel has done so far is not disproportionate.” He finds that “once again the Bush administration has proved itself the best friend Israel has ever had — and, relative to almost any other administration one could think of, standing up to appeasing world opinion here in a very resolute manner.”
This is a debate that can’t be resolved unless one knows whether the administration is attempting behind the scenes to limit Israel’s actions in any way. We not only don’t know that, we don’t how far Israel itself wants to take this. My sense is “so far, so good” — the administration does not appear to be attempting to restrain Israel’s action in Lebanon. What else, if anything, Israel intends to do, and what the administration’s stance will be on that, remains to be seen.
JOHN adds: I think “so far, so good” is about as good a summary as any. But I’m struck by how little hard news is coming out of Lebanon and Gaza. News accounts keep a running total of civilian casualties caused by Israel, and we know about Hezbollah’s rocket attack on an Israeli ship, but that’s about it. Is Hezbollah being crushed? Is Hamas? Who knows?