Tuesday, July 18, 2006

More on Lebanon

This post by Peter Howard--perhaps too lucid for publication in the op-ed pages of a major newspaper--provides some very useful historical perspective on the current conflict in Lebanon. Howard writes, "The situation today has many echoes of the past. This is Israel's fifth major military incursion into Lebanon--1978, 1982, 1993, 1996, and now 2006--to stop a non-state terrorist organization resident in Lebanon from launching attacks against Israel." But, Howard notes, there are some significant differences between the current conflict and its historical antecedents. Read the commentary to learn more.

Meanwhile, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has explicitly blamed Iran for the timing of the incident--the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah--that prompted Israel's attack on Lebanon. And British prime minister Tony Blair has accused Iran of supplying the same weapons to insurgents in Iraq that it has supplied to Hezbollah for its war with Israel.

Thank goodness that Howard reminds us that each of the prior Israeli interventions in Lebanon "had deep connections to wider regional issues and brought fears of regional escalation." But wait. He goes on to note that "only US-led international intervention prevented that nightmare."

There is definitely a chance of regional escalation at present. It may be time for some decision-makers to go back and read the late Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August, as President Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis. Ambassador Chester Bowles, who urged Soviet ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin to read Tuchman's book, summarized its message in a memorandum to President Kennedy dated October 13, 1962: "In July 1914, men of intelligence in Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, France and England, all quite conscious of the forces which were feeding the approaching holocaust, found themselves enmeshed in internal pressures, commitments and precedents which left them powerless to avoid the inevitable." He added, "It would be the greatest folly in history if we were to repeat this insane process in the nuclear age."