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Via Kevin Drum, I read Mona Charon’s recent post about dual loyalties and Jewish Americans. Now I have a ton of Israeli colleagues, and I’ve talked about this a bit with them. Almost all of them believe that the past six years were a huge missed opportunity, in that Hizbullah’s build-up in Lebanon was unchecked.

Oddly enough, only a few seem to share my view that this traces back (at least in part) to Bush’s stupid move in dropping Clinton’s peace moves. The military option Israel is exerising now is driven by frustration, not any real plan for victory. Leadership by the US over the past six years might have done much to limit Hezbollah’s strength there, and avoided the current crisis–or at least, made the current crisis one that the Lebanese could have managed themselves.

Some of my Jewish American friends express this, but not all. And I’ve yet to read any American journalist (bloggers included) clearly express this point: that anybody with Israel’s long-term well-being at heart really sees the current US administration as an unmitigated disaster. They won’t achieve the lasting peace that Israel needs, in fact they will probably end up undoing the past couple of decades of prosperity in Israel.

Whether or not Bill Clinton’s specific proposals were the best idea or not, they led to genuine dialogue. Whether Arafat was sincere or not, he was still talking, and others in the region were participating. Bush, having been let into the China shop, is now doing what he does best.

I’m looking forward to your hearing your views on this.

It actually goes way beyond the incoming administration’s decision to ignore the Israel-Palestine track from the get-go, though that has played a very big part in this unfolding disaster. The Bush administration has always seen the situation in Israel-Palestine as essentially a side issue in the larger context of the Middle East, one to be solved through overthrowing regimes either in Baghdad or Damascus. The Israelis and the Palestinians themselves had already done quite a lot to make a mess of things by January 2001. But by comparison with today things six years ago seem almost idyllic.

The thinking of the Bush administration was that the Clinton folks had put tons of time into the Peace Process and what had it gotten them? Just a big headache and no achievements, either political or substantive.

But what I think you learn when you watch the region over time is that things can always get worse. And quite a lot of effort is often required to keep things on the barely tolerable level of miserable without slipping into the truly horrible. To prevent going from one to the other is a job of international management that really a greater power alone can accomplish. Us. Us with the Europeans. Probably also the Russians and even the Chinese. Easy? No. Do these different countries have different agendas, not all of them wholesome? Sure. But that’s life. Or rather, that’s running the world.

Is this crisis the Bush administration’s doing? No, it has deep roots that go well beyond it. Would things have gotten quite this bad if the administration hadn’t basically ignored these problems for six years and simultaneously blown up the Fertile Crescent? No way.

This is the Bush administration’s apocalypse. We are, to borrow the phrase, just living in it. But then, that’s quite bad enough, isn’t it?

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