If I were paranoid, I’d say, “The fix is in.”
Look at the news stories today. First, from The Baltimore Sun:
International pressure mounted on the Bush administration yesterday to call for an immediate cease-fire in the hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice headed to the region in search of a long-term solution to the 12-day-old conflict.
With civilian casualties in Lebanon mounting, the United States’ Arab allies added their voices to the calls for a truce. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, met with President Bush in the Oval Office and delivered a letter from King Abdullah II asking him to intervene.
And then there’s this one, from CBS News:
Oil prices dropped Monday after the Saudi oil minister said OPEC wanted to avoid an economically disruptive increase in oil prices and as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to the Mideast to try to find a diplomatic solution to the violence in Lebanon and Israel.
Occam’s razor on rare occasions supports the paranoid explanation for events, and this is one of them. In terms of American policy towards Saudi Arabia, the paranoid theory multiplies the fewest needless entities.
The Despot of the Desert, with a mere flick of a finger, can make Americans pay $10 for a gallon of gas. So, when he yanks the chain of the Bush Administration, Condi goes to Israel to yank Ehud Olmert’s chain, stopping off in Lebanon on the way to pick up the terms of the deal she is required to “craft” with Israel in order to “jump-start the peace process.” Or some similar wording from the State Department Middle East Style Book.
It’s an effective protection racket the Saudis have going. Hizbullah and Iran get too big for their britches: fine, let Israel kneecap them. But don’t whack ’em! No, they come in handy from time to time, so Israel must “show restraint.”
And so the message goes out: Nice little economy you’ve got there. Wouldn’t want anything to happen to it. And then the obedient diplomatic helicopters start landing in the capitals of the Middle East.
All right, that’s the paranoid explanation. I hope it’s wrong.
And, for the sake of argument in this symposium I’m going to assume it’s wrong.
I’m a neophyte in matters of military strategy, weaponry, and intelligence, so I try to stay informed by reading the Belmont Club, Chester, the Counterterrorism Blog, and Kingdom of Chaos, among other blogs. Those guys know much more than I’ll ever learn; I recommend daily visits to them if you want to keep up to speed on the current crisis.
Assuming that Israel’s chain does not get yanked; here is a general outline of events as they are likely to unfold, drawn from the above sources:
- Israel will continue to do battlefield prep by air in southern Lebanon, while operating across the border against dug-in Hizbullah assets.
- The IAF will continue to target the supply lines from Syria to Hizbullah, and the IDF will eventually mount a major incursion to completely cut off the route through the Bekaa Valley to the border with Israel.
- The major Hizbullah infrastructure in the Bekaa Valley will have to be destroyed in a ground assault. Depending on the military necessities, this may involve some air operations against targets in Syria.
- Israel will plant forces north of the Litani river, either by airborne drop or via an amphibious landing (the latter a very intriguing suggestion put forth in several blogs).
- With Hizbullah completely cut off by land, sea, and air, a massive ground operation, taking at least several weeks, will pound the terrorists, their weapons, and their installations into dust.
Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that something like the above will in fact happen.
What happens next? What will the Middle East look like after Hizbullah?
What happens to Syria? What does Syria have besides Hizbullah? It’s got some of Saddam’s old WMDs, a lot of sand, and presumably some olive trees and date palms. But on a “Principal Products” map of the Middle East, Syria’s main product icon would be a little picture of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Take that away, and what does Syria do to hold its head up in the honor-sensitive Arab world?
What happens to Iran? How do they respond to having their best boy whipped? How will they bring their influence to bear in the Maghreb after Hizbullah is gone? Will they drop Boy Assad as an ally once he has outlived his Hizbullah-related usefulness? How will it affect their nuclear efforts?
I’m too ignorant to venture any answers to these questions myself. I invite readers to respond, either here or on their own blogs, and thereby help make up for my lack of expertise.