Hopefully, Iraq and Afghanistan will be the Lebanon War of the United States.
Israel learned from the massive invasion and long occupation of Lebanon (1982-2000) that too much force is frustrating, does not accomplish announced goals, and may be self-defeating. Its second Lebanon war of July-August, 2006 demonstrated the lesson: only four weeks passed between its onset and the cease-fire, followed by several years of quiet on the northern border.
Lebanon II was not perfect. Planning and execution went awry, and brought about a blistering investigation that damaged the Prime Minister, Defense Minister, and Chief of the IDF General Staff.
Gaza 2009 was better. It lasted only three weeks, and produced a minimum of Israeli casualties against considerable damage done to Gaza and its residents.
The essence of these lessons is that prolonged operations meant to solve complex problems are not likely to do so. Better to send a violent, but short message, intended to punish and to warn an adversary that one should not expect to conquer, occupy, and turn into a good neighbor.
World War II was necessary, heroic, and fought against powers that earlier had been civilized. They went very bad, had to be destroyed, and could be brought back into the family of the enlightened.
The dominant picture throughout the Middle East is something else.
The Crusades of the early Middle Ages did not work as proclaimed.
George W. Bush''s crusade against Iraq was a world class tragedy. Efforts to turn Afghanistan into a normal and responsible country have been even more foolhardy.
It is discouraging that Iraq and Afghanistan came less that 30 years after the end of Vietnam. Perhaps the United States don''t learn so good.
Pressure on Israel and Palestine to create a responsible Palestine willing to live at peace alongside Israel?
As long as Jews are described by a prominent speaker at a conference of the "moderate" Palestinian party as "descendants of apes and pigs" the mission appears to be as foolhardy as civilizing Afghanistan.
Currently the situation between Israel and Palestinians is relatively peaceful. Every day or so there are efforts to kill Jews, but most of them do not succeed. The regime of the West Bank contributes to the restraint; the regime of Gaza less so, but both seem to have learned what Israel does in response to significant upticks in violence.
How long can the status quo survive?
That is an open question that no one can pretend to answer. Currently aspirations to manage the conflict seem more promising than aspirations to solve it.
And the implications of all of this for Iran?
Best would be the appropriate amount of economic pressure and/or the minimum use of military force that will prevent the development of nuclear weapons. No chance of turning that place into an enlightened regime. Under our friend the Shah it was not that.
One can argue about many details.
- Where to put check points within the West Bank or between Palestinian areas and Israel, and how to implement security concerns requiring the inspection of vehicles and individuals?
- How to respond to each rocket fired from Gaza into Israel, or every case of a Palestinian or Israeli Arab attacking a Jew?
- How should American forces respond to provocations in the Persian Gulf, or the persistent development of nuclear weapons?
- What action should Israel direct at Iran?
A simple citizen cannot clarify all the details. I do feel comfortable articulating a strategy.
- Don''t fool ourselves into thinking that we are at a junction like the onset of World War II, where powerful evil states must be defeated, reformed, and turned into democratic and responsible members of the international community.
- Do not pretend that Islam is not a problem. This does not mean that all Muslims, or all Muslim governments, are evil or dangerous. As currently arrayed, however, Islam is a problem, and the aspirations of its many extremists must be contained with persistent threat and occasional force.
- The conquest of Islam, or Muslim countries is not an appropriate goal. Any massive invasion is likely to produce results that are superficial, costly, frustrating, and temporary.
- Control is a more reasonable goal, via the measured use of pressure and/or force.
The choice and implementation of specific actions will not be easy, and will engender a great deal of ongoing dispute.
It could be worse, if we let our dreams of solution lead our aspirations.