Thursday, July 27, 2006

Desertification

"Deserta faciunt et pacem appellant."
("They make a foresaken desert and call it peace.")
-- Tacitus, Agricola 30

A bombing campaign deliberately aimed at persuading Lebanese civilians to shut down Hezbollah is a "wild throw of the dice," Phillip Gordon argued the other day in the Washington Post. This week in Rome, the U.S. Secretary of State threw those dice and succeeded in her aim of preventing the assembled leaders of Europe, Arabia, the United Nations, and the European Union from calling for a cease fire and using their condiderable diplomatic leverage to bring it about.

Israel's influential Justice minister, Haim Ramon, immediately re-interpreted this as "permission from the world" to continue waging war.

It wasn't from "the world." It was from us, via Condoleeza Rice: Go ahead, we told Israel, make a desert and we'll call it peace.

There is -- or, at least, there was -- an alternative. Instead of unilaterally barring the assembled world leaders represented in Rome from attempting to broker a cease-fire, we might have taken the lead in "a deliberate peace effort led by the United States," as Zbigniew Brzezinski thoughtfully proposed last week at a private session sponsored by the New America Foundation.

What is at stake in the events in Lebanon and the West Bank, in his view, is "the fundamental test of American ability to lead... . If we do not do well, we will lose our capacity to lead... ."

Brzezinki had more to say. A lot more, and all of it worth reading.

But if you're rushed, Steve Clemons, who presided over the event, provides a useful summary here.