Monday, August 14, 2006

This Peace Will Hold

We have a chorus again. This time the chorus is not forecasting OIL to reach USD 100 in the next five minutes. No, this time the chorus is telling us that the shaky U.N.-brokered cease fire in Lebanon is not going to hold. The reasoning is pretty much this: how can Israel withdraw until Hezbollah disarms and how can Hezbollah disarm until Israel withdraws. And then there is the nit-picking about the wording of the U.N. resolution. We are told it will all end in tears.

Wars were ever thus. And cease fires the same. At some point both parties wake up to the fact that peace is actually a better deal. And then there is peace. There is only one bunch of guys this wouldn't suit: the American "Neo-Cons". But peace suits the Hezbollah and it suits the Israelis. The Hezbollah have every interest to support the peace. They are busy rushing around telling everyone who will listen that they stopped one of the world's greatest armies. In any case, the Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers was never meant to start WWIII. If a prisoner exchange can be brokered, as was the original intent of the kidnappers, the Hezbollah emerge as heroes. This is a good a place to be as they can wish for.

And it seems that the Israelis have woken up to a much greater strategic risk: the possibility that the Government that comes to power in the U.S.A. in 2008 comes to power with a broad anti-war policy platform. Ned Lamont's recent victory in the Connecticut Primary can not be easily dismissed. If Israel were to find itself, at the behest of the "Neo-Cons", in the middle of a major conflagration right at the time when the American public votes against war, that might not be such a great place to be.

The reality of the Israeli position is that they are isolated in a hostile environment and their one major ally is the U.S.A. which, in spite of indications to the contrary, is a democracy which may decide at any time that providing Israel with a never-ending stream of weapons and funding is no longer part of the game plan. Given this risk, the best deal for the Israelis is to try and come up with a peace which they can live with while they still have access to Uncle Sam's weapons and money. That time is now.

Apart from the 1,000 or so people who were killed in this recent skirmish and the USD 2 billion or so of infrastructure which was damaged for no good reason, the people who have really come out of this with nothing but egg on their faces are "The Neo-Cons". With no real allies in the region (Saddam is gone, they lost Iran when they lost the Shah, they don't have Syria, or Jordan in their back pocket. They still have Turkey, but should Turkey join the EEC that alliance will lose its central role in Turkey's politics. They say they have Saudi Arabia, but what kind of ally and supporter sets up OPEC and then sells you oil at USD 75 a barrel?) the Americans only ever really had Israel. And they held on to Israel by working on its sense of paranoia and isolation. It made the perfect ally. With the right politicians in place you could set armies marching and achieve your strategic regional aims. Or so it seemed.

If Israel has finally worked out that the U.S. alliance costs more than its worth, then they may just prefer a peace which is manageable while they can get it. The Israeli politicians with the closest ties to the Bush Administration may fight this peace and call for further hostilities but if the Israeli people don't back them, then it's really over. This leaves the "Neo-Con" plan for retaking the Middle East in disarray. If there can be peace in Lebanon and a broader peace with Israel in the region then the neo-colonialists will be locked out of the region for a very long time. Israel will no longer need them and no-one else in the region wants anything but their heads on platters.

Divide and conquer has been the battle cry of colonialists everywhere. But then it really was about time that such anachronistic thinking was archived forever.

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