Brzezinski: Israel’s Actions in Lebanon Essentially Amount to “the Killing of Hostages”

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On Thursday, 20 July (last week), former National Security Advisor and one of America’s top strategic thinkers, Zbigniew Brzezinksi, spoke at a public policy dinner salon that my colleagues and I at the New Amerca Foundation organized.
Brzezinski’s presentation and responses to questions were riveting. He framed the stakes of what was evolving in the Middle East as well as the basic motivations of all the players in ways that many policy intellectuals and senior foreign policy writers had not considered.
I am posting Zbigniew Brzezinski’s comments here. The Q&A was not fully on the record, so I will be working to digest the best material from the Q&A to protect the identities of those posing questions or making comments — and will post that material at a later time. But I wanted to get Zbigniew Brzezinski’s opening remarks on line now.
Some of the notable points made by Brzezinski were:

1. America’s “policy in the Middle East is the basic test of America’s capacity to exercise global leadership.” This is similar to “what transpired during the Cold War when the ultimate test of America’s capacity to act as a defender of the free world was its ability to conduct a meaningful policy in Europe.”
If America does not do well in its Middle East challenge, the U.S. will lose its capacity to lead.
2. Neither the United States nor Israel “has the capacity to impose a unilateral solution” to Israel’s problems in the Middle East. “There may be people who deceive themselves of that. We call them neo-cons in this country and there are other equivalents in Israel as well.”
3. Israel and its neighbors alone “can never resolve their conflict peacefully, no matter how much they try, now matter how sincere they may be.” When one party is sincere, the other’s intentions are not synchronous.
4. Brzezinski stated: “I hate to say this but I will say it. I think what the Israelis are doing today for example in Lebanon is in effect, in effect — maybe not in intent — the killing of hostages. The killing of hostages.”
“Because when you kill 300 people, 400 people, who have nothing to do with the provocations Hezbollah staged, but you do it in effect deliberately by being indifferent to the scale of collateral damage, you’re killing hostages in the hope of intimidating those that you want to intimidate. And more likely than not you will not intimidate them. You’ll simply outrage them and make them into permanent enemies with the number of such enemies increasing.”
5. “The solution can only come if there is a serious international involvement that supports the moderates from both sides, however numerous or non-numerous they are, but also creates the situation in which it becomes of greater interest to both parties to accommodate than to resist because both of the incentives and the capacity of the external intervention to impose costs. That means a deliberate peace effort led by the United States, which then doubtless would be supported by the international community, which defines openly in a semi-binding fashion how the United States and the international community envisages the outlines of the accommodation.”
6. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate the Israeli-Palestinian, problem, the Iraq problem and Iran from each other.
7. “The Iraq problem, look what Prime Minister al-Maliki said today — it’s an indication of things to come. The notion that we’re going to get a pliant, democratic, stable, pro-American, Israel-loving Iraq is a myth which is rapidly eroding and which is now being contradicted by political realities.”
8. “And that leads me then to the proposition beforehand, namely that we have now, we’re not only committed to what I said earlier, regarding the Israeli-Palestinian process, but more deliberately by terminating our involvement in Iraq. And I have put forth a four-point program which [I am sure] I have discussed in one of the rare occasions within the last year administration has talked to me, some top level people in the administration. They listened to this:
That we start talking to the Iraqis of the day of our disengagement., We say to them we want to set it jointly, but in the process, indicate to them that we will not leave precipitously. I asked Khalilzad what would be his definition of precipitous and he said four months and I said I agree. Are you saying to the Iraqis, we intend to disengage by some period? We need to.”
9. “As far as Iran is concerned–and with this I’ll end–thanks to Iraq, I think we have made an offer to the Iranians that is reasonable. I do not know that Iranians have the smarts to respond favorably or at least not negatively. I sort of lean to the idea that they’ll probably respond not negatively but not positively and try to stall out the process. But that is not so bad provided they do not reject it.
Because while the Iranian nuclear problem is serious, and while the Iranians are marginally involved in Lebanon and to a greater extent in Syria, the fact of the matter is that the challenge they pose to us, while serious, is not imminent. And because it isn’t imminent, it gives us time to deal with it. And sometimes in international politics, the better part of wisdom is to defer dangers rather than try to eliminate them altogether instantly, because the later produces intense counter-reactions that are destructive. We have time to deal with Iran, provided the process is launched, dealing with the nuclear energy problem, which can then be extended to involve also security talks about the region.
In the final analysis, Iran is a serious country, it’s not Iraq. It’s going to be there. It’s going to be a player. And in the longer historical term, it has all of the preconditions for a constructive internal evolution if you measure it by rates of literacy, access to higher education, the role of women in society, a sense of tradition and status which is real.
I’m convinced that the mullahs are part of the past in Iran, not its future. But that process can change in Iran, not in a confrontation but through engagement. I think if we pursue these policies, we can perhaps avert the dangers that we face but if we do not, I fear that the region will explode, and for that matter, Israel will be in the long run in great jeopardy.”

Again, the transcript of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s opening comments is available by clicking here.
There was an amazing small group assembled to participate in this discussion.
Those who attended the dinner included (not complete list):

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, his wife the artist EMILIE BRZEZINSKI Hauser Foundation President and International Peace Academy Chair RITA HAUSER, Financial Times Diplomatic Correspondent GUY DINMORE, American Prospect Editor in Chief MICHAEL TOMASKY, Middle East blogger and University of Michigan professor JUAN COLE;
AP Diplomatic Corresponent ANNE GEARAN, Correspondent for The Nation ARI BERMAN, New America Foundation Whitehouse Senior Fellow MICHAEL LIND, Inter-Press News Service correspondent JIM LOBE, New York Times Diplomatic Correspondent HELENE COOPER, Juniper Financial CEO RICHARD VAGUE, Open Society Institute Founder and Chairman GEORGE SOROS, New America Foundation Geopolitics of Energy Initiative Director FLYNT LEVERETT;
McGuire Woods attorney MARK BRZEZINSKI, journalist and NYU Center on Law & Security Senior Fellow SIDNEY BLUMENTHAL, Los Angeles Times Diplomatic Correspondent PAUL RICHTER, Washington Post columnist DAVID IGNATIUS, Georgetown professor and Council on Foreign Relations Fellow CHARLES KUPCHAN, CNN Washington, DC Bureau Chief DAVID BOHRMAN, former Hill & Knowlton Chairman FRANK MANKIEWICZ, “The Week” Washington Editor MARGARET CARLSON;
Dallas Morning News DC Bureau Chief CARL LEUBSDORF, Slate Chief Political Correspondent JOHN DICKERSON, Trammell & Co. CEO JEFFREY TRAMMELL, Washington Post intelligence correspondent DANA PRIEST, New Yorker correspondent JANE MAYER, Department of State analyst HILLARY MANN, Johns Hopkins University/SAIS professor FRANCIS FUKUYAMA;
New America Foundation/Century Foundation Fellow DANIEL LEVY, Washington College professor ANDREW OROS, Wall Street Journal political correspondent NEIL KING JR., Time Magazine diplomatic correspondent ELAINE SHANNON, New York Times investigative correspondent and “State of War” author JAMES RISEN, Financial Times Correspondent HOLLY YEAGER, EDS Executive BILL SWEENEY, and others.

— Steve Clemons

Comments

53 comments on “Brzezinski: Israel’s Actions in Lebanon Essentially Amount to “the Killing of Hostages”

  1. review says:

    BBC says on its ticker: “Ninth Israeli soldier
    killed in clashes in Southern Lebanon. More soon.”
    It can be only hoped, no?

    Reply

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  3. tower defense says:

    I would not have advised them to go to war, but I think this was in the making for a while now and with support from some in the Bush administration. I would have done what Israel has done before–a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah. Now, if that’s too humiliating for the macho pride of the Israeli military I would have gotten the necessary intelligence and tried a targeted operation. Again, it’s been done before.

    Reply

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  5. DrAIR says:

    Well said Cherly Maietta. Couldnt believe when I saw all of the comments and no-one really seemed to mind that this guy helped set up the ‘terrorists’ we’re all supposed to fear and from what Ive read, helped manipulate Russia into starting a war against the people of Afganistan. Not to mention he helped start the Trilateral Commission with Rockefeller. Have you never heard of the parallel government? These people give you your leaders to chose from… And now you got Obama… Whose backed by this/these guys… Good luck with that…
    And sorry to be so negative, I really dont mean to be… I just think the world needs some REAL change. Not just another puppet backed by the global elite…

    Reply

  6. Jeremy says:

    Brezinski is worse than Rice, Here is his solution to Lebanon: “…a serious international involvement that supports the moderates from both sides, however numerous or non-numerous they are..” Well, we had that. The Syrians were temporarily embarrassed and forced to send their uniformed soldiers over the border to Syria ( not the plains clothed spies however- they stayed) but for how long? Syria is determined to annex Lebanon one way or the other just as Saddam was determined to annex Kuwait – or as Saddam put it “Iraq’s nineteenth province.” Besides when Syria left there remained their proxy Hezbollah which was militarily stronger than the Lebanese national armed forces ( which are religiously integrated and whose Shia members will not upon Nasrallah’s request and demand bear arms against Hezbollah. So where is Syria’s weakness? What did the international community with their moderate Sunni and Druse allies accomplish? We see the results this past week ( May 2008) when Hezbollah made a military and political mockery of whatever forces may be in Lebanon to counteract against it. There is no force in the region strong enough to dislodge Hezbollah except Israel and when Israel took on that job in earnest towards the end of their 34 day war the UN and the US demanded a ceasefire thus saving Hezbollah and offering terms which sound great on paper but none of which was even midly accomplished – 1. release of Israeli hostages; 2. ending of arms shipments to Hezbollah by Syria/Iran and 3. the disarming of Hezbollah. Brezinski has had quite some time since his disastrous tenure with Carter and he hasn’t learned anything. The ‘moderates” ( another word for those opposing Syria’s stranglehold on Lebanon) in Lebanon are either dead by car bomb or were just released from gunpoint confinement by Hezbollah after promising not to do anything to impede or annoy Hezbollah in the future. Brezinski is just like his future boss Obama. Looks and talks great while your home is being systemically robbed.

    Reply

  7. Daniel Lofton says:

    Continue to support Lebanon in these trying times;
    http://ambassador.abboud.googlepages.com/

    Reply

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  9. Cheryl Maietta says:

    Brezinski is almost unparalleled in recent times except possibly by Bush Sr. as a force of chaos, destruction and the subversion of every basic instinct to life.
    He is the architect of the destruction of civil society in Afghanistan and stands upon the world stage without a glimmer of remorse. Consider the incaculable harm to millions this man has wreaked upon the innocent.
    Can you say sociopath? There is no other word to describe a man of such calculating, cold and destructive behavior. And all this he wraps in his elitist apologetic that the elite of the world have only to fear the poor. (One does need to ask, and what then should the poor fear? It would seem nothing but a world happily arming the ignorances of such madmen)
    Any website that lauds such a man is beyond words misguided.

    Reply

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  12. debbie gordon says:

    What would I advise Israel to do? First, I would not have advised them to go to war, but I think this was in the making for a while now and with support from some in the Bush administration. I would have done what Israel has done before–a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah. Now, if that’s too humiliating for the macho pride of the Israeli military I would have gotten the necessary intelligence and tried a targeted operation. Again, it’s been done before.
    I think the problem here is obvious–the soldiers taking prisoner of war were a pretext for war plans that had been on the table for about a year.
    When you have a garrison state, you end up signing over you political problems to military generals. The Israeli military is founded on constant ideological labor to create a sense of apocalypse, as if each day when you wake up, your back is up against the wall.
    This is a highly institutionalized self-fulfilling prophecy in Israel. The only way to stop that perception is an international campaign of sanctions against the state of Israel. Everything else has been tried and shown to be a failure.
    A campaign of sanctions is non-violent and the only way to communcicate with a regime and public opinion that has not had to bear the consequences of its actions against its neighbors.

    Reply

  13. jm_rice says:

    “Brzezinski: Israel’s Actions in Lebanon Essentially Amount to ‘the Killing of Hostages'”
    Yes, and we know where Mr. Brzezinski’s thinking on that score landed us, in Iran in 1979. It is Brzezinski’s craven thinking that made terrorists around the world realize that blackmail, kidnapping and extortion are powerful weapons in furthering their murderous agendas. The lunatics in Iran and their Hezbollah clients know it, Hamas knows it, Syria knows it; they all know, that thanks to Brzezinski’s precedent, they can act with impunity.
    Yes, it is horrible, tragic and outrageous that hostages are involved. But rather than making us shrink, it should raise our righteous wrath in ruthlessly and decisively extirpating Hezbollah and other jihadi savages from the face of the earth.
    And it’s time to consign Brzezinski’s feckless anachronism to the oblivion it so richly deserves.

    Reply

  14. special k says:

    wow.
    thanks for this post – and thanks to Mr. Brzezinksi.
    amazing watching the israelis bomb un peacekeeper outposts then deny knowing they were in fact un outposts – is this why innocent civilians are dying in lebanon? or… same lied – same died?

    Reply

  15. Pissed Off American says:

    “There is no earthly motive for the IDF to bomb that UN outpost, I think.”
    Well, there are a numnber of reasons they may have felt they needed to do this. But first and foremost does the term “observer” give ya any clues, turn on any light bulbs??????

    Reply

  16. Carroll says:

    Really, what motive does Israel need for bombing a UN post?….they have done it before. There have been several occasions when the Israelis slaughtered people when it wasn’t necessary to any military objective…just revenge..or a show of rage.
    The Israelis know how to “hate” with the best of them, the Muslim radicals have nothing on them in that department…and they absolutely “hate” the UN…that is no secret.

    Reply

  17. Nell says:

    Zbig on Iraq: “The notion that we’re going to get a pliant, democratic, stable, pro-American, Israel-loving Iraq is a myth which is rapidly eroding…”
    I’m genuinely puzzled at who was in the audience for this talk. Didn’t they just shout out “Ya THINK?” at this point?
    This is not some deep insight; it was evident to people who knew anything about Iraq a year before the invasion, and to most people with any capacity to take in new information in the spring and summer of 2003. Anyone who hadn’t figured this out by 2004 shouldn’t have anything to do with foreign policy ever again.

    Reply

  18. Pissed Off American says:

    “Israel is hardly blameless, but the outcry about atrocities is overdone.”
    Rescue workers were trying to clear the rubble, but Israeli firing “continued even during the rescue operation,” Struger said.
    http://wakeupfromyourslumber.blogspot.com/2006/07/seeing-is-believing_26.html

    Reply

  19. Pissed Off American says:

    “Israel is hardly blameless, but the outcry about atrocities is overdone.”
    Video – Ambulances are hit by Israeli forces in Lebanon
    http://www.freespeechwar.com/smf/index.php?topic=2568.0

    Reply

  20. Hal says:

    Joel,
    I share your sentiments completely, both about Israel and about the Iraq War.
    I would commend to everyone an article in the Washington Post, by David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, called “Israel Is Within Its Rights.” The authors were in the Justice Dept. under Reagan and Bush 41. It’s at:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/25/AR2006072501300.html
    Israel is hardly blameless, but the outcry about atrocities is overdone. It reminds me of 2002, when the IDF went into Jenin, on the West Bank. The media were full of talk about an Israeli massacre, for days. I remember looking at a Financial Times editorial that said, “While there may not be a massacre going on, certainly Israel is committing war crimes.” As if you arrived at the truth by splitting the difference.
    As it turned out, there was heavy, urban fighting, with about 58 Palestinians dead and 23 Israeli soldiers. Keep in mind that the Israelis could have just flattened the whole town from the air, which would have been a war crime.
    Why are so many people so ready to speak of war crimes when the military of the Jewish state goes to war? If one wanted to argue that the decision to go to war was a bad one, that’s fine, but that’s not the argument that I keep hearing.
    One more thing — don’t overlook the possibility of screwups. There is no earthly motive for the IDF to bomb that UN outpost, I think. But stupidity happens in war.

    Reply

  21. baffled says:

    Joel,
    i share Brzezinski’s view that Israel is quite indifferent to collateral damage. there is a documented history of it: dropping bombs into densely populated areas in Gaza (the killing of Salah Shehadeh, incl. 14 civilians-9 of them children)…the targeted killing of Sheikh Yassin, which also killed innocent bystanders, just to name a few. thus the statement by Brzezinski does not strike me as being slanderous. i mentioned the US policy vis-a-vis Iraq because you made reference to operation “shock and awe”. you’re quite correct, OUR total disregard for civilian lives / collateral damage is unsurpassed in recent history.
    as to Lebanon: we have, with criminal neglect, paid zero attention to the needs of that country once the Bush administration extracted maximum PR following the ‘cedar revolution’. their ragtag army is in no position to effectively engage Hezbollah, witness the difficulty the vaunted Israeli military machine was / is experiencing. our foreign aid to them totaled 40 million dollars.

    Reply

  22. Shalom says:

    Note to Joel and all others who care about the Lebanese victims of this Likud effort at conflict resolution:
    http://www.lebanonembassyus.org/
    What should Israel do? They could ground all F-16s paid for with American taxpayer dollars and stop the barbaric carnage immediately. What can you do? Read RJ Eskow’s recent article on what it means to be a truly loyal friend of Israel. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/theblog/archive/../../rj-eskow/help-the-people-of-lebano_b_25743.html
    Shalom

    Reply

  23. Carroll says:

    Joel…giving you a serious answer to your question…
    “But I am asking this as a serious question, not a rhetorical question.
    What would you have Israel do?
    Posted by Joel at July 26, 2006 05:32 PM”
    Israel has always known what it has to do to have peace.
    They have to give back Palestine land.
    They have to learn how to survive and do business in the land of Arabs, where they chose to live…the old fashion way…by compromise, cooperation, cash and bartering…instead of thinking they can aquire everything they need and want by force and using the US to economically strongarm other countries for them.
    No fair settlement with Palestine, no peace..and I when I say “fair” settlement, I mean all the little details that make it a fair settlement, not the gloss over of “land for peace”…otherwise it just goes on.
    If I were Israel’s attorney I would tell them to settle before they lose their case entirely…they can’t win a war in the ME, the US can’t win a war in the ME.
    The longer this goes on the more they will lose in the end.

    Reply

  24. gleeeeson says:

    BBC says on its ticker: “Ninth Israeli soldier killed in clashes in Southern Lebanon. More soon.”
    It can be only hoped, no?

    Reply

  25. Carroll says:

    http://harpers.org/sb-source-bush-admin-lebanon-1153936109.html
    “Rumors” that the adm is considering putting US troops in the Lebanon deal from Ken Silverstein at Harper’s.
    Would they actually be that crazy..to put our troops to fighting Hezbollah? Cause that is what would happen if they were put in Lebanon. Instead of taking troops out of Iraq as promised we are now sending more…do we even have any troops left to send to Lebanon?

    Reply

  26. Joel says:

    Thanks for the responses.
    First of all, to baffled, I’m not sure why you refer to U.S. policy in Iraq; my comment was clearly about one specific statement that Steve posted (with his apparent concurrence) by Zbigniew Brezhinski about Israel. I have been bitterly opposed to the Iraq war ever since my jaw dropped in wonder a couple days after 9/11 when our lapdog media started reporting without shock or irony that Bush was going to use 9/11 as an excuse to take out Saddam.
    I stand by my characterization of Brezhinski’s comment, claiming that Israel is “indifferent to the scale of collateral damage.” That is a slander. Period. (And it is consistent with blood slanders and blood libels against Jews going back millenia, but I don’t want to get started on that.)
    To elementary teacher, I am as shocked, saddened and horrified as you or anyone at these stories and these pictures. But I also find it interesting that the world media show far more of these related to Israel’s actions than they ever do anywhere else in the world, including the tens of thousands of Iraqis killed or wounded by U.S. action in Iraq (presumably including numerous charred babies with severed heads).
    I do agree with you about the roads and bridges. As I said, I disagree with much of what Israel does both tactically and strategically and I am no fan of Ehud Olmert or of his predecessor. Tactically they wanted to make it harder for Hizbollah to move around. I assume they accomplished that to some extent, but as you say, they also made it harder for civilians to evacuate. So point well taken.
    My point was not that “collateral damage” (itself a frighteningly Orwellian term) is good, but rather that Israel has taken extraordinary pains to minimize it, almost always with the result of placing their soldiers at greater risk. Every time they spread those leaflets before bombing it gives Hizbollah the chance to either get out of town or get into their bunkers, therefore making the war take longer, at greater cost in Israeli lives.
    So I would ask you: given that for the last 5 years or so since Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon the sovereign government of Lebanon and UNIFIL have explicitly and with full awareness allowed Hizbollah to create the clearly impressive and daunting infrastructure they have created on the Israeli border, and to ammass an arsenal of short and mid-range rockets that by some estimates is around 13,000, what would you have Israel do?
    Again, I want to be clear that I am not agreeing with every item of Israeli policy or strategy.
    But I am asking this as a serious question, not a rhetorical question.
    What would you have Israel do?

    Reply

  27. Matthew says:

    What nonsense about “slandering” Israel. Israel is a nation state, but a person accused of sexual impropriety. Thanks Joel for proving yet again that Israel supporters first, last, and always try to limit debate and criticism of that country. I don’t remember anyone accusing the Neo-Cons of “slandering” France…..

    Reply

  28. Pissed Off American says:

    “No other nation in the world could carry out the level of bombings that Israel has done in the last two-plus weeks without causing far greater numbers of fatalities. The U.S. probably would have had ten times as many.”
    Yeah, now you’re going to explain to us how razing farmlands in Palestine, and how bombing bridges in Lebanon all add up to targetting Hamas or Hezbollah, eh?? How do these actions help secure the release of the soldiers?
    It is “odd” how the media keeps quoting numbers of missile attacks on Haifa or other parts of Israel, yet we do not hear any figures about how many rounds an hour are being fired from the Israeli artillery pieces, or how many sorties a day are being flown by the Israeli Air Force. I gotta believe, in light of the destruction we are being shown, that the fatality numbers in Lebanon are FAR MORE than the media is thus far revealing.
    ]And the cost of human suffering as over a million Lebanese are rendered homeless is unimaginable. To imply that the Israelis are exercising “restraint”, or are keeping the civilian casualties to a minimum is pure unadulterated crap. You cannot destroy a country’s infrastructure without realizing that you are inflicting human suffering and death on a major scale.
    The whole country has been brought to its knees, and how someone could be so fuckin’ ignorant that they think that weakens entities such as Hamas or Hezbollah is beyond me. This whole clusterfuck, Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, EMPOWER the Islamic radicals, and prove to the moderates that we are everything the radicals claim we are.
    Then, to top it off, when I turn on the TV and see the God damned syncopantic main stream media running features on biblical prophesy and the apocalypse, I KNOW we have a bunch of wackos running the show. These fuckers in the White House, and their Israeli masters, are FAR more dangerous than Al Qaeda could ever dream of being.

    Reply

  29. elementary teacher says:

    Joel, I understand the distinction, but the leaflets aren’t working. I saw a photo of a baby’s charred body. No head. It was bombed off. It is hard to evacuate when the roads, bridges and airports are destroyed. None of this ensures Israel’s security or our own — to say nothing of the Palestinians and Lebanese. I sob to God about these children, ours, yours and theirs.

    Reply

  30. baffled says:

    Joel,
    there have been many commenters on this and other blogs who have vociferously objected to our campaign in Iraq. i don’t recall anyone being accused of slander.

    Reply

  31. GQ says:

    I second the notion on Democrats coming up with an agenda. But does it matter? Foreign policy is usually defferred to the “C”inC, as it should be. Also, while I would like to see the Dems put up a list of “common sense” proposals, the way this administration has proven to act, they will do the opposite for purely political reasons.
    Long term questions: Is the U.S. screwed? Will John McCain or Chuck Hagel be any better as a GOP president? We need to start confronting them now to get answers. I’m losing confidence rapidly in McCain’s ability to run a decent foreign policy agenda. (Not that I’d ever vote for him, but the media likes to bend over backwards to make him into a demigod.)

    Reply

  32. Joel says:

    Steve,
    Brezinski’s claim that Israel is “indifferent to the scale of collateral damage” is an outrageous slander. 400 deaths are tragic but I would guess that a similar number died every ten minutes of our own “shock and awe” campaign in Iraq.
    Israel is far from perfect. They make policy decisions with which I disagree, and they make mistakes too (like the UN observers yesterday). But no army, no nation in the history of the world has been more concerned with minimizing collateral damage. Every time they drop leaflets warning of a coming bombing they are giving Hezbollah a warning, as well as the civilian population.
    No other nation in the world could carry out the level of bombings that Israel has done in the last two-plus weeks without causing far greater numbers of fatalities. The U.S. probably would have had ten times as many.
    Brezinski knows better. You should too. Best,
    Joel

    Reply

  33. Zathras says:

    I fear coverage Brzezinski’s remark about “killing hostages’ is likely to overshadow everything else he said. He never could resist a clever phrase, even if it obscured his main message.
    Though Steve’s summary of Brzezinski’s talk includes a number of sensible points, we need to start suspecting the judgment of anyone who believes the first point listed. Excessive emphasis on the Mideast and the Arab world generally has been one of the abiding defects of recent American foreign policy. The Mideast is not analogous, in any way, to Europe after 1945; it is not even close. Neither ending the Lebanon crisis by itself, nor restarting the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian, nor thinking of creative new ways to promote democracy in countries that have provided no evidence whatever that they are capable of sustaining it, nor — especially — trying to establish Iraq as a focal point for the region’s transformation….none of these things touch on the great questions of America’s future in the world, unless by concentrating our attention and resources on them we neglect more important areas of the world.
    Settling the quarrels of the Mideast cannot be more important to us or to other governments outside the region than they are to the people living there. It is time American policy toward the region started with that truth, and set the interminable competing claims of victimhood coming out of the Mideast in the background where they belong.

    Reply

  34. susan says:

    Here is another writer who, I think, “gets it.”
    http://tinyurl.com/lnsve
    Friendly Advice
    A foolish war is never a just one — and Israel’s war is a moral and strategic folly.
    by Matthew Yglesias
    It’s usually best in the American context to keep one’s criticisms of Israel polite and measured, but there are times when it’s better to be blunt in the hopes of achieving clarity. Israel’s current war in Lebanon is strategically blinkered and morally obtuse. The idea that the United States or American Jews like me should support it out of friendship is akin to the notion that a real friend would lend a car to a drunk buddy after the bartender confiscates his keys. I understand why the Israeli government and public think this war is a good idea, but they’re simply mistaken.
    Moral obtuseness is this case follows directly from strategic foolishness. Much — too much — ink and hypertext has been spilled on the question of “proportionate response,” which leads only to the blind alley of debating arcane points of just war theory. The more basic point is this: War is a terrible thing. Waging it is a terrible thing to do, but sometimes a necessary thing. A misguided, counterproductive action, however, can never be necessary. A foolish war is never a just one.
    One can tell simply by the extreme speed with which the Israeli operation in Lebanon was launched — with no interval for threats, diplomacy, preparation, or negotiations — that little if any thought was put into the merits of this venture. Already, one hears word from Israel’s camp that the IDF itself deems talk of “crushing” Hezbollah as little more than bluster. Eighteen years of previous warfare did not render southern Lebanon terrorist-free, and Israel now seems to have reached a consensus that past efforts to actually occupy and administer portions of Lebanon were disastrous. Israel’s Hezbollah problem is not, fundamentally, one amenable to forcible resolution. The issue is less the presence of an armed anti-Israeli militia just north of Israel’s border than the widespread public support just north of Israel’s border for the presence of an armed anti-Israeli militia.
    What’s more — and however impolitic it is to say — the fact remains that this operation came about in response to a problem that wasn’t very problematic.
    In the years between Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon and the current crisis, Hezbollah was known, now and again, to fire off a rocket or two in Israel’s direction. Primarily, however, the organization directed its energies at Lebanese domestic politics. Indeed, even the occasional rocket attack is best understood as having been undertaken for domestic consumption. The nominal rationale for Hezbollah being allowed to maintain a militia while other Lebanese factions were not was the struggle against Israel. Therefore, it was necessary to launch a notional attack or two to prove that the group was still in the fight. These attacks were, morally speaking, despicable — the targeting of civilians with no possibility of achieving any legitimate war aims. They were not, however, a large problem in practice for the state of Israel. Efforts to root out Hezbollah rocketeers by force have made Israelis civilians much less safe than they were before.
    The cross-border raid to capture Israeli soldiers was, of course, another matter. But here Israel had options. If they wanted their soldiers back, they could have traded some Hezbollah captives for them. If they wanted to act tough in the face of threats, they could have refused to negotiate and mounted a smallish, well-targeted retaliatory strike that would have garnered significant international support. Instead, Israel chose to escalate a low-intensity border conflict that posed no serious threat to its security into a much larger-scale battle it can’t possibly win — one that will only harden anti-Israeli sentiments in its neighbor to the north.
    Hawkish pundits in Israel and the United States are celebrating the move by Sunni regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan to take an anti-Hezbollah line in the current conflict. This is blinkered and short-sighted. Popular sentiment in all three states is running sharply against Israel and in favor of its adversaries. Osama bin Laden’s longtime contention that the United States, Israel, and the Arab world’s homegrown autocrats have banded together in an anti-Muslim conspiracy are seemingly vindicated by these events. Nothing threatens American interests more in the long run than actions which push the Islamic world’s masses into the arms of the extremists. That is precisely the main effect of this incursion.
    Israel and its friends abroad need to face reality — the problem that needs solving is the Palestinian problem. Were Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians resolved, other challenges like Hezbollah would soon melt away. The idea of firing rockets into Israeli towns would appear absurd. Iran and Syria would have nothing to gain from supporting groups that behaved in that manner. Arab public opinion would no longer applaud the firing of rockets at random into Israeli cities.
    The Palestinian problem is, to state the obvious, not an easy one to solve. The Israelis made an offer at Camp David they regarded as generous and that the Palestinians deemed inadequate. Israel, in turn, rejected a peace proposal emanating from the government of Saudi Arabia that Arabs saw as generous and Israelis saw as inadequate. This is a thorny issue. But the difficulty of finding a mutually acceptable agreement is no excuse for the Bush/Sharon/Olmert policy of just giving up. Certainly, it in no way justifies wreaking devastation on Lebanon in a quixotic effort to alter what is fundamentally a public opinion problem by means of airstrikes and mass displacements of the civilian population. Rather, the very difficulty of reaching an agreement points toward the vital importance of doing so.
    Given a mutually acceptable agreement, Israel’s other difficulties would subside or become amenable to much easier solutions. Absent such an agreement, solving the ancillary problems will be impossible. And efforts to solve those problems through force — efforts like the disastrous folly we are currently witnessing — will only worsen the problem while piling on the loss of innocent life.
    This, rather than hearty bromides of encouragement and solidarity, is what Israel needs to hear from its American friends right now.
    Matthew Yglesias is a Prospect staff writer.

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  35. Carroll says:

    I am having second thoughts about an international force between Isr and Lebanon.
    If things run true to form Isr might try to get internationals to take on Hezbollah.
    It sounds like to me that is what the US and Isr might be angling for if they indeed allow a force in there at all. All the talk has morphed into defeating Hezbollah “for the sake of Lebanon democracy.”
    So now it not just about “security” for Isr but another state that has to be “liberated” from it’s own terrorist.
    “If” there was any kind of plan in Isr’s attack on Lebanon, it is obvious the US and Isr were cooperating and both knew what each one had to do to get to their objective….maybe trade bombing the civilian population in exchange for Lebanon accepting it’s “liberation” from Hezbollah.

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  36. EEK says:

    Steve- Quite a rooster of talent, it’s a shame Zig was preaching to the choir. How sad to not be able to force feed that information to the Feith/Cheney/Bush/Hadley axis of evil. The difference between policy and ideology continues to elude the Neocon Admin, or at the very least it does not matter to them.
    We will all wish mightily that sanity may carry us to 2008.
    Earl

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  37. ???? says:

    The old man has finally lost it.

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  38. Pissed Off American says:

    I can only imagine what is going on in Palestine as the eyes of the world are on Lebanon. And meanwhile, in Iraq, over one hundred civilians are dying DAILY. Imagine being an Iraqi citizen. Under Saddam, as long as you stayed disengaged poltically, and you did not advocate or ascribe to radical Islamist doctrine, you could live in relative comfort, make a living, and raise your family in a secure environment. All of that security has now gone by the wayside. Death lurks on every square inch of Iraqi real estate. The violence knows no prejudice, and is escalating with each passing day. The infrastructure is in shambles, power is sporadic and insufficient, the economy is in the crapper, the police force is splintered into various allegiances, and the overriding distrust of the Americans is being replaced by a seething hatred. Welcome to Bushworld. How many people will die today, GLOBALLYm, because of Bush’s crimes and malfeasance?

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  39. Concerned American says:

    What’s urgently needed is for the Senate and House Democratic leadership to join some of these individuals, along with Sec. Albright, Magnus Ranstorp, Bernard Haykel, Richard Clarke and Paul Pillar in a strategy planning session to formulate a compelling and realist message for the November elections – all advised months ago in the national security section of the Dartmouth Plan. Currently the Dem. leadership displays characteristic cluelessness and incoherence – not ready for prime time. Also, where is the media strategy for shaping public opinion on these matters in the key states? Nada.

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  40. Crab Nebula says:

    Zbig is the best communicator of any major foreign policy official that I can recall. And of course if you agree with him, it’s that much better.
    I do hope he has at least an informal advisory role in the next administration in 2008.

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  41. Texan in DC says:

    Thanks for organizing such an illuminating conference, Steve. You had the right players in the room. Too bad the Houston Chronicle wasn’t represented as well.

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  42. Palo says:

    Zbigniew Brzezinski is the most ‘to the point’ guy there is out there. His capacity to succinctly state the complicated matters of foreign policy is admirable.
    I wish he would write a book on the rise and flourish of islam militancy. I’d like to hear his thoughts on that issue. He was, after all, a key enabler in its creation, back then when the soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

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  43. Concerned American says:

    Dishonorable mention for TWN: “Rice attempted to increase pressure on Israel to stand down and to demonstrate restraint,” said Stephen Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. “The rumor is that she was told flatly by the prime minister’s office to back off.”
    http://www.insightmag.com/Media/MediaManager/Condi2.htm

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  44. eCAHNomics says:

    Engagement with Iran–hardy, hardy, ha, ha. Castro would have been gone years ago if the U.S. had “engaged” with Cuba. Ditto the mullahs in Iran. We never learned with Cuba (regardless of the U.S. party in power) and we’ll never learn with Iran. The desire for bullying revenge after Iran overthrew our guy and took our people hostages is just too overwhelming.*
    The situation in Iran and the rest of the Middle East is just too toxic for any sensible player to get involved with. It’s hopeless. It will only get worse. Next case: Turkey, which has experienced terrorist incursions much more serious than the pinpricks felt by Israel.
    *Read Kermit Roosevelt’s recollections of his involvement in the 1953 coup in Iran, written after the 1979 Iranian revolution. Roosevelt shows no signs of recognizing any of the negative long run consequences, and regards his 1953 efforts as just a great, fun romp.

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  45. J says:

    Isn’t Mark Brzezinski with the Carnegie Endowment now?

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  46. bob h says:

    Brezinski, like the President he served, is an example of a public servant who has really come into his own after leaving office. He is one of the most trenchant and ascerbic of the administration.

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  47. Carroll says:

    Steve: Do you have any sense how the Democrats will offer a real alternative to Bush’s handling of the Middle East. Sen. Harry Reid’s comments about revoking PM Maliki’s invitation to address Congress reveals he’s not ready for Prime Time.
    Posted by Matthew at July 26, 2006 06:15 AM
    I am glad you asked that question Matthew because it appears to me the dems are too dumb to walk and chew gum at the same time.
    Here’s what Juan Cole said:
    “The AIPAC Democrats in Congress came after Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki on Tuesday, condmening him for his refusal to condemn the Lebanese Hizbullah. Al-Maliki had on the contrary complained (quite rightly) about naked Israeli aggression on Lebanon and had called for a cease fire. At his news conference on Tuesday he dodged questions about the issue and said his main concerns were humanitarian”
    Here are the statements of the dems he based that on:
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,205521,00.html
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060726/pl_afp/mideastconflictusiraq_060726065319
    It’s damn amazing how they get checkmated every time their open their peepholes…they are insisting the Iraq PM recant his opposition to the Lebanon bombing and support Israel before he can be recieved….the repubs meanwhile have presented his remarks as hallmarks of democracy and freedom of speech.
    I have decided (actually a while ago) these idiots are too stupid to vote for. They made inroads into the upset reds for voicing some agreement on a pullout in Iraq, then now when 75% of the public is grossed out with what Israel is doing making war on Lebanon they jump on that war bandwagon.
    Of course they never gave a thought to how their Israeli fealty and insult to the Iraq PM would be recieved by the Iraqi street and what fallout that might have on our troops in Iraq.
    I think the answer to your question about the dems ideas is that their only idea is to try and get elected on the deal they made for AIPAC money and 2% of US population’s vote.
    Maybe AIPAC bought out Diebold, the dems are definitely gonna need a fix to get elected.
    I am so desperate for an alternative to the dems and repubs I am thinking of calling Pat Buchanan and begging him to run. I can live with a chauvnistic isolationist easier than I can live with either of the crazies.

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  48. Hal says:

    There is some wisdom here, and some basis for hope, but also some slippery language that raises questions as it seeks to answer them.
    For instance:
    “”The solution can only come if there is a serious international involvement that supports the moderates from both sides, however numerous or non-numerous they are, but also creates the situation in which it becomes of greater interest to both parties to accommodate than to resist because both of the incentives and the capacity of the external intervention to impose costs.”
    To take Israel and Hezbollah, there are no moderates on the Hezbollah side. It would go against the group’s reason for being. So the U.S. would have to be forcefully involved, ready to mete out punishments and rewards, for years, maybe many years, to achieve a peaceful border between Israel and Lebanon.
    This looks harder — and perhaps bloodier — than brokering peace between Egypt and Israel. The Bush administration lacks the will to do it, and I doubt that the next administration will want to, either.
    This strikes me as a rational proposal, full of goodwill, that just isn’t realistic.

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  49. Matthew says:

    Steve: Do you have any sense how the Democrats will offer a real alternative to Bush’s handling of the Middle East. Sen. Harry Reid’s comments about revoking PM Maliki’s invitation to address Congress reveals he’s not ready for Prime Time.

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  50. Carroll says:

    1 thru 9 and everything else….Totally Agree!
    It is “Riveting”… too bad that common sense truth has to be described as riveting these days.
    Any idea what it will take to make Brzezinski’s ideas prevail?
    Give us some hope here…all we can see is the crazies still in charge and getting crazier.

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