The Corner

The Perils of a Pause

I understand why the Israelis agreed to the bombing pause, but it seems to undermine their case: either the bombing is militarily necessary, in which case it should continue even if there are tragic mistakes, or it’s not, in which case they shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place. I’m guessing it’s going to hard for them to start up again–will they stop again as soon as another bomb goes astray?

Also, if the hawkish critics who believe that Israeli should have invaded southern Lebanon in force on the ground are correct that nothing short of that would deliver a debilitating blow to Hezbollah, it is now presumably too late for that to happen. So the least effective part of the Israeli campaign–the bombing–will have foreclosed the option of a more effective campaign on the ground.

Perhaps the situation can still be saved, but it’s hard to get around this calculation: Hezbollah is going to survive, and there’s no way it is going to disarm voluntarily. A meaningful international force will enter southern Lebanon only if Hezbollah is disarmed, and since it won’t be, there won’t be a meaningful international force. That means one of the linchpins of the Israeli post-war strategy is not going to come about. So Hezbollah wins.

At this point, around the Middle East, the Bush administration seems to have two options: admit defeat, or continue to raise the stakes. Here is a good suggestion about how to do the latter with regard to Syria.

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