Bush’s Foreing Policy Disaster

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(Bush has no respect for diplomacy).

Bush and Blair's resistance to a UN ceasefire call, and the US's effective cover for the Israeli attack on the UN compound at Khiyam, have disarmed the UN as much as Hezbollah. These shortsighted policies have effects far away-and especially so in Darfur, for which the Security Council is considering the long delayed peacekeeping force.

A week after resolution 1701 called, very belatedly, for a ceasefire in South Lebanon, the UN was desperately trying to pull together troop contributions for the peacekeeping force, while the Israelis were seemingly in flight from reality, as well as from Hezbollah, by trying to dictate which countries would be allowed to send troops.

When 1701 passed, Ehud Olmert had immediately thanked Bush for his procrastination of the cease-fire in order to give time for Israel to "finish the job." He did not bother with Blair since why would he talk to the dummy when he had the ventriloquist on the line. But to everyone except Olmert and Bush, the resolution was a graceful way for the Israelis to climb out of the hole that they had dug themselves into-and to stop the slaughter and destruction, amounting to war crimes, that the IDF was perpetrating.

However, left unresolved is the question of how Lebanese sovereignty can be assured by forcing the Lebanese government, against its will, to disarm a group that last week had the support of 87% of the population and which is represented in the government in Beirut. Indeed, for all the talk of green revolutions and new democracy, one might wonder at the fossilized electoral system that still assumes a Maronite majority that has not existed for over half a century and which gives Hezbollah only 18 seats out of 128 in the population when the Shi'a who support it amount to at least 40% of Lebanese.

While calling them "terrorists" or "Islamo-fascists" may give some therapeutic relief to people who should know better but signed up for the War on terror, it is not an effective, nor particularly democratic, way to come to solutions.

Apart from the almost obligatory snub to the UN-the two day Israeli offensive launched to coincide with the resolution-the IDF withdrew from the trap with surprising speed, instead of the grudgingly slow compliance that most people expected. Previous experience suggests that it was not respect for UN decisions that motivated such rapid Israeli withdrawal, and on present evidence, it certainly was not because it had succeeded in its mission of destroying Hezbollah.

The real Israeli attitude was revealed in the weekend commando raid in the Bekaa valley that Annan condemned as a breach of the ceasefire but which was predictably described by Israel as a "defensive" operation. Resolution 1701, at Israeli and US insistence only called for a halt to "offensive" operations.'

For their part, the Lebanese government and the UN seem to have adopted a variation of Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military for Hezbollah's weaponry. As long as they don't come out with them, neither the Lebanese Army nor the peacekeepers will go poking around for them, and that seems to have been what dissuaded France from its original hint that it would provide thousands of troops.

France has been in the forefront of the anti-Hezbollah campaign at the United Nations, and has no wish to deliver hostages in South Lebanon. The cease-fire resolution offers some hope, however, assuming the Bush Administration will pressure Olmert to help redeem the tattered reputation of American diplomacy by implementing it. A crucial issue is the disputed Shebaa Farms.

Interestingly, at the UN this week Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni said that the Shebaa farms area, currently under Israeli occupation, was an issue between Lebanon and Syria, which could either be stress induced oversight, or a signal that the illegal Israel annexation of the Golan Heights is not so sacred after all. If one part of it can be handed back to Lebanon, then the rest can go back too Syria and reports from Jerusalem suggest that the Ministry is actively considering reopening negotiations with Damascus.

However, not even Bush would claim that the war was launched to restart negotiations with a charter member of the latest edition of the Axis of Evil, and if Israel had wanted to, a simple phone call to Damascus phone call would have been a less costly message than invading Lebanon.

On the wider front, Secretary of State Condoleezza's Rice's declaration, several hundred mangled civilians into the Lebanese war, that it was "premature" for a cease-fire, should come back to haunt the Bush-Blair Axis each time it tries to rally support for its adventures abroad.

Blair sincerely supported the principle of "The Responsibility to Protect" when it was agreed last year, but he should be aware that his touching faith that being a galley slave on Bush's piratical adventures gives him a hand on the helm leads to shipwreck on the rocks.

Foreign policy, in Robin Cook's memorable phrase, should have an "ethical dimension," but it should also be joined up. The US and UK are not always wrong. Horrible things have been happening in Darfur, and the UN warns that worse is about to unfold. However, what credibility can Bush and Blair have in pushing for a UN force there after fighting to stop the ceasefire in Lebanon? After Iraq, with bellicose talk about Syria, they have given Sudan the diplomatic weaponry to fend off any UN force that could protect civilians there. 


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