By: Greg Mitchell
The juxtaposition could not have been more humiliating (assuming a capacity for that): A New York Times news story about an Israeli air strike killing dozens of civilians in Qana, Lebanon, most of them children, and a Sunday column by David Brooks coming out against a ceasefire in the conflict and praising the Bush administration’s adroit handling of the situation.
This is Brooks’ right, as a Republican apologist, of course, but what is truly bankrupt about his stance is his admission that the current U.S. policy has little chance for success — beyond the certain slaughtering of hundreds if not thousands more — but he endorses it anyway. And why can’t it succeed? Because, he admits, America’s standing and influence has been fatally crippled by its Iraq debacle — which Brooks strongly backed and still supports.
Talk about loss of moral authority.
What Brooks doesn’t mention, among other things, is that it is not just Iraq but the accurate perception by those in the Middle East, and around the globe, that the death Israel is raining down from the sky comes in the form of U.S.-made or donated missiles unleashed by U.S. jets or artillery (as I noted in my previous column).
Most editorial pages in U.S. newspapers have failed to condemn the level of Israeli air strikes on civilian areas, and the infrastructure, in Lebanon, and in fact, cheered it on until recently. Leading liberal bloggers have also failed to take a stand against it. Now what will they do?
Sadly, it is in many ways already too late, since the extent of Israel’s bombing has already turned Lebanon against it, killed hundreds of innocents, and crippled that country for years to come. Israel has not been defeated — but self-defeated. Oh, did we mention, that recent air strikes produced oil slicks causing what is now being termed the worst environmental disaster in the region’s history?
But back to Brooks, who in a July 16 column mocked those who claimed that Israel might be “overreacting.” Now he not only comes out against a ceasefire but he wants to make sure that Hezbollah does not emerge “from this moment still strong.” Yet he does not clearly suggest how this can be accomplished. An all-out Israeli invasion? That failed 20 years ago — and, in fact, created Hezbollah. Harsher air strikes guaranteed to kill thousands more? That will work wonders for Israel’s, and America’s, image and influence in the region, for sure, not to mention further destroying Lebanon and its centrist government.
In fact, it was an air strike against this same Qana that led to an international uproar forcing Israel to end its operations then.
No, Brooks says nothing about this, but instead rips those idealists who want to stop the suffering but who refuse to consider “long-term considerations.” In fact, it is others — not Brooks, the Bush crowd and Israel’s leadership — who accurately warned of the dire long-range implications of the massive air strikes, now becoming obvious to (nearly) everyone. Hezbollah, condemned by most Arabs two weeks ago, now enjoys surging popularity. Those few Americans who predicted this, trying to restrain the air war, were the true friends of Israel and its longterm prospects, not Brooks.
But all this appears lost on our Mr. Brooks, who babbles: “Lebanon is a chance to show that the death cult is not invincible. … To its enormous credit, the Bush administration has kept its focus on that core reality, and it has developed a strategy to reverse the momentum.”
Then, after all that, he admits: “Yet, having spent a week on the phone with experts and policy makers, I’d be lying if I said that I was optimistic the strategy will work. The renovation of Lebanon will require scaffolding, and the fact is the scaffolding of the West is corroding at every joint.
“The U.S. lacks authority because of Iraq. Over the past few days, Israel has grown wary of getting into Lebanon, because it might have no help getting out.”
In other words, Brooks in the end admits that all of his fulminating about a solution to the conflict is crippled by a U.S. war in Iraq — which he always thought, and still thinks, was a swell idea, launched and managed by an administration he still showers with “enormous credit.” A former New York Times columnist, Russell Baker, used to write like this — but his columns were meant to be funny.