Essays on American politics and foreign policy
By Donald E. Nuechterlein
Donald Nuechterlein is a political scientist
and writer who resides near Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the
author of numerous books on American politics and foreign policy,
- Defiant Superpower: The New American Hegemony, 2005
- America Recommitted: A Superpower Assesses its Role in a Turbulent World, 2000
- A Cold War Odyssey, 1997
LEBANON CRISIS REQUIRES REASSESSMENT OF MIDDLE EAST POLICY
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's expectation last week, that the U.N.
Security Council would quickly pass a resolution to stop the bloodshed in
Lebanon, now seems premature. Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asserts that
his military will stay in Lebanon until international peace enforcing troops are
The Lebanon war and growing international protests against President Bush for
refusing to press for a cease-fire brings into focus a key question: has the
president overreached in his drive to force fundamental change throughout the
entire Middle East?
It is not known, as this is written, how soon the U.N. will authorize a major
force that can spare both Lebanon and Israel additional destruction and
bloodshed. The current dangerous situation has the potential of escalating into
fighting between Israel and Syria along Lebanon's eastern border.
It is time for the Bush administration, Congress, and media commentators to
address fundamental questions about U.S. policy in the Middle East, where we
should be headed and what price we are willing to pay. Here are five central
questions that should be asked:
- Is it a feasible task for the United States to remake the political
institutions of countries in the Middle East, as the president and Condoleezza
Rice have been urging? Have recent democratic elections in Iraq, Lebanon, and
Palestine produced effective governments able to control terrorists, or have
they resulted in political instability?
- Are Israel's and America's interests in the Middle East identical, or are
they parallel in some cases, and divergent in others? In May 2002, Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon persuaded George Bush that ousting Saddam Hussein in Iraq
would greatly improve Israel's security and permit it to pull out of Gaza and
most of the West Bank. Did Bush carefully weigh the consequences of his decision
- Is it realistic to think, as some suggest, that Syria can be intimidated
into ceasing its support of Hezbollah if Israel should threaten to invade and
bomb its cities? Would an Israeli attack on Syria trigger a Middle East war, and
- Should the United States try to be an "honest broker" in helping to
resolve several Arab-Israeli conflicts? Jimmy Carter earned a Nobel Peace prize
for brokering a peace settlement between Israel and Egypt. Does George Bush
think his strong support of Israel's actions in Lebanon will produce a general
peace in the Middle East?
- Will Congress, particularly the Senate, assert an independent role in
assessing the costs and risks of our large military presence in Iraq and the
Persian Gulf? Should Congress insist on approving any proposal to send American
troops to Lebanon, or Gaza, to help secure Israel's borders, or leave that
decision solely to the president's judgment?
These questions ought to be addressed by congressional committees to the
secretaries of State, Defense, Treasury, and the director of National
Intelligence. They should also be debated by candidates in congressional
elections this fall.
Washington Post columnist, David Ignatius, suggests that the war in
Lebanon resembles the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel and Egypt. Others think
it looks like August 1914, when European powers, and eventually America, were
drawn into a world war. A better precedent is the Spanish Civil War in the
1930s, when Moscow supported the leftist government in Madrid, and Berlin aided
the fascist forces of General Franco. That "proxy war" is an appropriate term
for what is occurring in Lebanon.
File last modified on Sunday, 6-AUG-2006 7:50 PM EST