Monday, July 31, 2006

I Have No Idea What's Going On Anymore

Serves me right for prognosticating.

However, note two important things: the Post this morning said that Sec. of State Rice had cancelled her trip to Beirut after the Qana bombing yesterday, but did not mention that the reason she didn't go is most likely because Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora has refused to speak to her.

Then, the Post went on to state that the 48 hour break in Israeli aerial operations was Secretary Rice's chief achievement of our diplomatic efforts. 12 hours into it, the Israeli Air Force had resumed air strikes using the caveat that ground operations needed to be protected and potential threats neutralized. In the course of this, a drone aircraft fired a missile at a car in Tyre that was thought to contain a senior Hizbullah leader. Instead it was filled with Lebanese soldiers, one of whom was killed.

So, with these two slights in mind, contemplate the larger potential peace process. Lebanon refuses to speak to our envoy and Israel will ignore her when they see fit. We refuse to speak to Syria, Iran, and, of course, Hizbullah. Previously, our chief contribution to arbitration in this conflict was to insist that a cease fire be withheld only to change our tack after it became unfashionable to be responsible for the deaths of children in multiples greater than five. Where the hell are we going with this?

The world's sole superpower has been reduced to asking its citizens to donate to the Red Cross and the Magen David Adom. Hell, I haven't even heard that out of the State Department.

Maybe I should be seeing more movies this summer; I still haven't seen the new Pirates of the Caribbean.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


I have this creeping dread when I watch al-Jazeera in the lounge at work and I think I finally figured out why. I’ll offer a prognostication in a bit.

I started off being incredulous and angry, which is typical for any day spent thinking about the Middle East.

Why the hell would Hizbullah seemingly go nuts for no reason, attack across the border, and kidnap Israeli soldiers?

Why is Israel claiming to want to punish Hizbullah, but bombing outside of southern Lebanon with the strikes on the airport and the Beirut-Damascus highway?

I went on being mad until I started seeing conspiracies, which is another thing that al-Jazeera can make you do. The airport and the highway were bombed so that Hizbullah would have a hard time getting the soldiers out of Lebanon. Where would they go? Syria? Iran? Would Israel go so far as to invade Syria? Would we go so far as to put even more pressure on Iran?

So, you see Hizbullah carrying off a master stroke. World opinion is already moving towards anger at Israel for re-invading Gaza, the family who were blown up at the beach, and now re-invading southern Lebanon. The Israeli government can’t invade Syria without losing the support of the Israelis who voted for unilateral withdrawal from these sorts of situations, but if the kidnapped soldiers are taken out of Lebanon and the Israeli government can’t get them back through force, it might also give votes to the Likud who want a more hawkish response and, of course, a greater control of the government. Either way, the current Israeli government loses.

Now, if the soldiers are taken as far as Iran, we might be revealed to be overextended and unable to threaten Iran militarily if the soldiers are held for, say, as long as the last time the Iranians held hostages. That’s bad enough; the Bush team loses even more international face and we lose one more threatened stick to go along with our carrots in the nuclear negotiations.

It could be much, much worse. Suppose Hizbullah decides to truly cast the region into a chaos that they think could be better filled by them and other like-minded groups: the kidnapped soldiers are executed on Iranian state television. Israel, unilateral detachment or no, begins air strikes and declares outright war. They ask us to help and suddenly we either have to tell our ally that we’re currently occupied with occupying or we have to pull up the very reserves that we’ve already burned out for war with Iran. The sad thing is, I honestly don’t know if we could win against a nation willing to send schoolchildren running through minefields to clear the way for tanks.

Where would we be if we lost?

That’s my current crystal ball gazing. I’m hoping that either they get the soldiers back immediately or offer Hizbullah some incentives to trade them before it gets worse.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Strange Conversations

I run into some interesting people at work- various Arab royalty, former U.S. government members, occasional lunatics spraying invective. This afternoon I was getting a form from the dean's office for a student I'm trying to pay scholarship money to, when George Tenet started talking to the woman next to me about Zidane's headbutt in the World Cup Final yesterday. He said something along the lines of, "I just can't believe he did it," and then looked to me for confirmation. I, being scrappy, disagreed:

"There was a nipple twist that they didn't show."


"Yeah, the Italian guy totally twisted Zidane's nipple right before the headbutt."



I had other things I could have probably talked to George Tenet about. The politization of the intelligence field, the difficulty of finding Arab language specialists that can meet sometimes esoteric security clearance requirements, or, hell, the two weeks of rain we've had. Nope, I had to talk about the dreaded purple nurple.

Well, fuck.

For the record, I wanted Italy to win regardless of nipple action.