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Monday, July 17, 2006

Middle East: Responsibility For Lebanese Disaster Rests With American RNC Leadership

The American Administration has crated quite a mess for itself in Lebanon. In response to Hezbollah attacks on Israel, the US advocates pre-emptive attacks on Syria and Iran, without any credible means to justify or sustain these combat operations.
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[ Kristol asserts RNC leadership at fault Ref: #12: Sample 1 Sample 2 Sample 3 Sample 4: Links at #36 Sample 5 Sample 6 Contrast the inconsistencies American Caesar]

Consider the legacy in Iraq: A Mess, and still No Credible Plan [ No plan, means no credible budget Waxman US Has No Operational Control Civil war]

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Rather than explore what they have done to contribute to the problem, this Administration is more willing to craft excuses and dubious justifications than create and implement credible solutions. With both Iran and Iraq, American’s only (apparent) option is to point to one set of conditions, as it did with 9-11, to justify action in an unrelated area, as it hopes to do with Iran.

  • Real war crimes have occurred Ref

  • Proof the US is letting Isreal commit war crimes, contrary to public denials. Notice the US is pointing to Iran as using Hezbollah as a proxy; when its actually the US that is using Isreal as a proxy. [ Ref ]

  • Difference between Hamas and Hezbollah: Ref Via

  • Thoughts on Israeli action uniting Lebanese against Israel [ Ref ]

  • Bush's view: Syria has influence, but does not control Hezbollah Ref Transcript: Note the lack of urgency about calling Anan at the UN to put pressure on Syria, doesn't sound as though there's much confidence that Syria, if called, can do much, [ Bush: "I felt like telling Kofi to call, to get on the phone to Assad and make something happen"]

  • This view uses one absurd assertion -- that Iran has a nuclear program, which it does not -- to assert a subsequent absurdity: That Iran is orchestrating the attacks as a diversion from the non-existent nuclear program. Surely, if there was Iranian involvement, NSA would have picked this up, and the President's comments about Annam and Syria would be definite, not speculative or uncertain. We judge the claimed "Iranian involvement to act as a distraction from something else" as meaningless.

  • First, note the diversion from [a] war crimes committed against civilians, and failing to adequately protect civilians to [b] whether there is or is not a lawful basis for actions. Secondly, if Israel’s war was (in the Minds of the RNC) justified -- on the grounds of defense, recovery, or something else -- this would raise questions about the same legal arguments over action in Iraq, which was neither. [ Ref ]

  • UN briefing: 18 July 2006 -- Plans to address Lebanese Crisis [ Ref ]

    * * *


    If NSA can vacuum everything, what's the problem with:

    A. Tracking the origin of the message;

    B. Determining, before the hostilities broke out, what was going on with "external support" for Hezbollah?

    I'm walking away with two adverse conclusions:

    1. The NSA has no information about Iranian-Syrian direct support of Hezbollah, as the President has not mentioned this; rather, he simply pointed to what Syria (paraphrasing) "might" do to put pressure on Hezbollah; and

    2. We're not getting a straight story why (apparently) Bin Laden is able to communicate, but nobody seems to be able to find how his words first enter the internet. Either he's alive and exists in physical space; or he is a ruse. The lack of a trace casts doubts about the excuses for failing to find him. [Analysis at link under my name:]

    * * *

    Let’s consider what the United States is proposing with Iran: That because of some tenuous link between Iranian support for Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel, that the US and Israel may take action against Iran. This argument would, if logically applied, mean that the United States, because of its support for Israel, should be targeted in a like manner by Iran and Syria.

    The point isn’t what is or isn’t happening between Lebanon and Israel, but the way the US is selectively framing the situation, without any expectation that the construct be similarly applied to the United States. If the US is going to argue “whoever supplies weapons to Lebanon deserves an attack,” that rules has to be applied to all: The US supplying weapons to Israel; the support the US provides to other nations, the US involvement in other nations’ affairs; and the basis the US uses to illegally wage a war of aggression against other nations on the basis of dubious reasons and manufactured evidence.

    * * *

    One of the curious assertions has been that Iran and Syria are or are not doing something in Lebanon, and the responsibility they have for Israel’s military response. Although interesting and perhaps true, the support that Iran and Syria may or may not provide to Hamas and Hezbollah is irrelevant: Forces inside the Lebanese government have decided to assert power against Israel. Blaming Ian or Syria doesn’t face the real issue: Local actors are emboldened to strike.

    Conversely, if some argue that because an external force (other than Israel, Hamas, and Hezbollah) are or are not doing something, therefore they deserve some sort of attack, then the US exposes itself to the same charge when it comes to Israel: The US, because it is remotely connected to Israeli action would, under this view, subject the United States to the same standard which the US and Israel may assign to Iran or Syria.

    It is reckless to assert that these conditions warrant a pre-emptive attack. Asserting such a principle invites other nations to do the same: The US has provided support to other nations. Applying the pre-emption principle would give a green light to other nations committing the same abuses against American civilians. This note explores the notion of indirect-party responsibility; and we argue that any standard of conduct imposed on Iran and Syria should also apply to the United States. Until the US assents to this standard, it refuses to discuss issues.

    * * *

    Power: Responsibility and Duty

    The world knows times have changed. The scales of justice and power have shifted. After WWII, the US and the allies imposed rules of responsibility. America incorrectly assumes it can assert the same power in 2006, despite it lacking the power or victory to credibly see that to its logical conclusion: American moral supremacy.

    Using the American construct with Iran – in arguing that anything that is connected is a lawful target for pre-emptive attacks – the issues becomes: How many layers deep does the responsibility lies. Conversely,

  • A. How many layers of responsibility translate into a duty to act;

  • B. How do we define a duty of a third-level party to do or not do something

    The problem is that the US has no moral basis or military lever to lawfully enforce a decree that others comply or not comply. Rather, it its weakened position, the US has asserted an absurd construction of responsibility, and is forced to rely on abuse to enforce what is an imbalanced principle: The selective application of power, without the means to ensure others do or do not assent to that power; nor a moral compass to self-regulate whether that standard is reasonable when applied to itself or others.

    Reckless Management of Combat Resources

    The spark between Israel and Lebanon shows the danger of allocating ones reserves. In this situation, the United States by applying its reserves to Iraq and Afghanistan is in no meaningful position to threaten militarily the other actions. The US has abused power and is stuck. Other nations and actors will exercise power and there is nothing to the United States can do to prevent other nations from:

  • Asserting power

  • Cooperating

  • Doing things to exploit the US weaknesses

  • Lawfully doing what the US has done: Asserting power without any expectation of accountability

    Post WWII Power Paradigm

    Things have changed. The core issue is the United States no longer has the resources or power, as it may have had during WWII, to impose its will around the globe. Since 2001, the US has squandered power, prestige, moral authority, resources, and options. This is a problem for the Republican National Committee.

    By exploiting then squandering power, US leadership in the White House has substantially contributed to the dilemma facing the regional actors in the Middle East. The US has imprudently used resources; and is moving without regard to what might guide prudence: Laws. The US has several problems still chipping away at its already fractured power base inter alia:

  • War crimes committed in Iraq and Guantanamo;

  • Demonstrated willingness to use and apply power without regard to the laws of war;

  • Inclination to imprudently use and exhaust reserve forces;

  • Exploiting an initial pre-text beyond what is reasonable; and

  • Demonstrated track record of incompetently managing a situation.

    * * *

    Precedents and Sept 2001: Imbalanced Application of Responsibility

    Exceptions are one thing. Selectively enjoyment of, and application of exceptions is an abuse of power. The United States hopes to get the world to focus on what Syria and Iraq may be doing in Lebanon; yet the US does not wish for the world to focus on what the United States may be doing through Israel or others around the globe. The issue is the principle of responsibility and the ability to influence previous events; then take responsibility for the subsequent events. Consider 9-11. Take the lesson of Iran-Hezbollah, and attach the same responsibility to the United States.

    If the US is going to argue that because there is a pre-existing relationship, or ability to interact, then what is to be said of the events prior to 9-11: The US was in control of the North American Content, yet failed to prevent the events. Again, the point isn’t absurdity: The point is the US desires to impose a notion of liability and responsibility on the Iranians – for what did or didn’t happen -- but avoid having that responsibility imposed on themselves for the failures over what did or didn’t happen over 9-11.

    What the United States wishes to attach to Iran over what has happened in Lebanon, is a construct the American President does not wish to have applied when confronting the issues of Sept 2001:

  • Recklessness: What did he do or not do;

  • Malfeasance: What control did he have, but not exercise; and

  • Constitutional Duty: What responsibility is he asserted to have had, but did not exercise.

    Regardless your position on Israel, 9-11, or Iran, the point is simply that the same standards of liability and responsibility the US hopes to apply to Iran over Lebanon, is not a balanced construct as how the US wishes to have that same set of responsibility applied to what did or didn’t happen over the events of Sept 2001.
    Bargaining Over Missiles: Cuba vs. Middle East

    In 2006, the United States is in a far different position than it was in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Then, the US decided to make an agreement with the United States: To withdraw missiles from the south of the then-USSR, in exchange for security guarantees in Cuba. The US had a position it could reasonably enforce, both with military action, and then at the bargaining table: To achieve security. Today, in 2006, the US chooses to ignore the lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis: To have peace, you have to discuss options, and change your position from war. The US primary focus was on Cuba; but the US response was a movement of missiles on another Continent.

    Today’s solution in the Middle East may require another multi-continent approach. However, unlike the Cuban Missile Crisis when the US was strong, today in 2006 the US is weak; no longer can the US get something from the enemy by promising something else. Rather, the enemy has no need to bargain with those they perceive to have no intention, nor capability to comply with threats.

    This is the danger of having violated the law, abusing power, and squandering resources. Your enemy no longer takes you seriously, especially when you are. This is the danger the US poses to the world: It continues to want to act alike a bully without the resources, support, nor deference a bully requires to impose threats or get others to cower. Rather, the world is willing to call the US what it is: Untamable. There is nothing to fear when you know the US is weak; there is also little to fear when you now the US is serious about waging war: You already know that the risk is death, whether you do or do not stand up for yourself. The world’s view is that it knows it can collectively stand up to the US threats, and even if it is threatened with death, there is less of a chance that the US will carry that out than before. This is an important change, and emboldens others to stand up. They stand up not because they are fearful or weak; but because they are mindful that they have options and they have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

    In 2006, the US doesn’t have the moral authority nor credible threat of military action as it did during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The US has a responsibility and a problem: To agree to a sent of conditions from a position of weakness. It was foreseeable that once the United States was bogged down in Iraq, the US would be without options. The problem the US has is that it cannot construct options with those it refuses to dialog. The US desires a conflict more than it desires a resolution.

    To resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US had to discuss issues with its enemy – the USSR. Today, the US has another enemy, but one that is not stuck in the quagmire of Iraq or Afghanistan, but free and clear to do what it wants. As with the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US has to decide if it more serious about being a bully, or in securing a just peace. Today, as with the USSR over the Cuban Missile Crisis, if the United States wants peace, it will have to discuss the issues with the Iranians.

    The problem the US has is that it looks as the world not as it is, but as the world says it “should” be: Where the US, as it did after WWII, could dictate terms. The US wants to be treated with deference, as it was after WWII> The reality as that the world doesn’t accept double standards, and now they can do something about it.

    * * *

    Fungible Theater of Operations

    The focus of the conflict is only between Lebanon and Israel. Once the US expands the conflict to include the supporting infrastructure in Iran and Syria, then the Syrians and Iranians may expand their view of acceptable targets to include Israel and nations like the United States which have taken a side. This option has always existed; the only thing that has changed since WWII is that other actors are in a position to not only use power that commands a response, but do so in a way that the US cannot prevent.

    Where power is abused to put down military forces, but that use of force fails, this does not inspire the nation to make peace, but emboldens them to wage wider war. The problem Israel has is that incorrectly assumes that by using force in Lebanon this will inspire the Lebanese government to move forces to its southern border and act in a manner that is with Israel alone in mind. Again, the expectation is absurd and the result could be the opposite: Rather than act as a catalyst for results and action that are in the Israeli interests, the Lebanese may, despite being a fragile nation, use the Israeli bombing as a mechanism to unite against Israel. Lebanon may be fragile, but recall the lesson of Pearl Harbor and Sept 2001: When attacked, people will unite against the attacker.

    Take the Israeli’s (apparent) assumption, and apply it to the United States over the issue of Sept 2001 and Pearl harbor. Once the United States was attacked on Sept 2001 or Pearl Harbor the Taliban and Japanese “should have” expected the American people to unite and overthrow their elected government. The opposite happened: The attacked population rallied to the government cause. Thus, any Israeli argument, however manufactured -- that by attacking Lebanon will force the Lebanese to do what the Israelis want -- is fanciful at best.

    Consider what happened during WWII. UK’s Prime Minister Churchill knew that the Nazi bombing of the military support facilities was draining the needed military support. Churchill believed that if he could get the Nazis to shift the bombing to non-military targets, this would give the United Kingdom a chance to reorganize and use military forces against the German war machine. Churchill knew that Hitler had promised the Germans that Berlin would always be safe. Once Churchill attacked Berlin with military force, Hitler’s response was to reciprocate, attack London, and this took the pressure off the United Kingdom’s military support system.

    Whether the same is going on between Lebanon and Israel remains to be seen. What we do know is that Israel can no longer guarantee the safety of its citizens. Yet, as Hitler did during WWII, the Israelis are quickly responding without considering whether their military objectives are feasible, realistic, or if achieved will support the security of Israel. It’s one thing to go on the offensive against military targets. It’s quite another to take the bait, and attack something that does not deserve to be attacked. Israel’s problem in Lebanon is that it is quickly exhausting what little support in Lebanon it had, just as the US exhausted its moral authority over Sept 2001 and the Taliban.

    * * *

    Reciprocity and Retaliation Against American Civilians

    When making references to Iranian support of Hamas and Hezbollah in attacks against Israel, the US hopes to target those who provide weapons, yet does so without any expectation that the same liability-responsibility attach to the United States over the war crimes Israel has committed in Lebanon. Again, the rule is simple: If the US wants to go after Iran-Syria because of the events in Lebanon and Hamas-Hezbollah’s use of Iranian-Syrian power-support-weapons, then the Syrians-Iranians may go after the US for its support of Israel.

    Consider the accusations leveled against Syria and Iran: What if the world imposes the same standards on the United States as the US would impose on Iran or Syria:

  • Targeting the United States based on accusations without evidence;

  • Refusing to discuss issues with the United States, but making adverse plans to invade;

  • Using excuses to blame the United States, without any matching responsibility for the consequences of those reckless accusations

  • Failing to impose uniformly the standards imposed on the United States.

    This is not merely conjecture or hypothetical, but a realistic possibility. The world is already upset at the United States for war crimes, and senseless use of power. The world (as demonstrated by the missile launches against Israel and the insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan), looks at force as something that is a viable option to compel the United States to contend with, not merely something that is a transitory annoyance.

    * * *

    Proximity: Time and Space

    Let’s consider some general principles. There’s something called the proximity rule. By attaching evil intent to one party, like Iran, as the basis to attack civilians, then the same rule would have to apply to the United States. If Israel can attack illegally target civilians, and Geneva is not enforced, why should other nations remain bound by Geneva and not also attack American civilians.

    There are issues of time limits. Some continue to mention that Iran and Syria are or are not doing something. If the US is going to argue, “Because there exist and undesirable relationship between Iran and Hezbollah; or Syria and Hamas” then that argument may also be applied to the United States in its previous relationship with Saddam Hussein.

    How far back in history is one nation permitted to go before they exhaust what is reasonable. Putting aside the apparent unreasonableness of attaching liability to the Untied States for the actions its proxies may take; consider how far back in history we might go when imposing war crimes liability on a specific corporation. IBM substantially supported the Nazis before and during WWII. Would this mean that the world, forever going forward, could continue to pick at IBM for its material support of war crimes?

    * * *

    Dubious Moral Foundation

    The United States has a moral authority problem. It may be possible the United States and Israel are correct in linking Hamas and Hezbollah’s military support to Syria and Iran. However, when the full picture – the United States’ support of Israel’s war crimes in Lebanon – is selectively ignored, this inspires world resentment of the double standard. It remains to be seen how this double standard is remedied, corrected, enforced, or asserted.

    The problem is the United Sates cannot appeal to a higher principle of “who is or isn’t supporting the war fighters in Lebanon.” The world can do more than simply talk about the ways the US is or isn’t doing the same – they can take action.

    Squandered Sept 2001 Moral Authority

    In 2006, the tables have turned since 2001: Iran, Syria, and others are in a position to do something about US abuses. Unlike Afghanistan of 2001 where local Taliban players were weak and could do very little to oppose American power, so too is the US weak in 2006 and can do little to oppose those they’ve abused.

    Addington’s “failed state”-argument -- as it was applied to the Taliban in Afghanistan as a basis to violate the law and abuse power -- is what the Israelis are doing in Lebanon: Taking the bait of regional instability to abuse power. The same can be said of the United States: The US and Israel are failed states, and devoid of serious compliance with laws and international norms, no different than the charges leveled against the Taliban, and used as the excuse to abuse people in Guantanamo.

    When states fail, does this mean that people who are remotely connected with that land mass are denied rights? Addington argued yes; thus, if that standard were applied to the United States and the abuses of this Administration, the Iranians and Syrians could target Addington’s family in Alexandria in order to get Addington to comply with the norms of civilized society. Is this what Addington desires?

    US Desperately Seeking Moral Authority Or An Excuse To Assert Power

    The US, unable to solve a problem, is quick to create another. Where power cannot lawfully be used, the US is willing to invent circumstances to claim moral justifications for abuse. The track records since Sept 2001 is clear: The legal and moral foundations used as a pretext to assert power have been tenuous, dubious, illusory, and illegal.

    As with Iraq, the Americans have exhausted lawful options to interact with an adversary. Their only option is to invent new excuses. Yet, there is no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, just as there is no evidence of WMD in Iraq. Rather, there are simply assertions and accusations that some actions today may lead to something in the distant future. That is not an imminent threat.

    The issue is that, unlike Iraq and the WMD ruse over Saddam, the US cannot invoke the same construct and expect the world to rally to the US position. The US has exhausted its moral authority, and conclusively so when there remains no evidence of WMD. Where there is no evidence, the charges fall away; and the larger issue is those who make those accusations are similarly discredited. This is the problem the US had with Iran: It cannot make the same baseless accusations against Iran; thus, the US is stuck.

    Some in the Pentagon have been reported to support an Iranian offensive in Iraq against Americans as this would (absurdly) give the United States the needed event to strike against Iran. This is like asking for your neighbor to attack your home, then using that invited attack as the basis to engage in other pointless conduct.

    Cultural Relativism

    In general, anything the United States and Israel do to Syria and Iran is (arguably) a basis for retaliation against Israel and the United States. The US may choose to drum up public support against Iran over the support it may have provided to either Hamas or Hezbollah; but the US would then have to assent to a balanced examination of its support for Israel.

    Cultural relativism is to apply one set of standards narrowly to a particular nation or region; and imply that the rules were judge that nation apply only to that region on the basis of its narrow principles. It would be imprudent to judge the events in Lebanon in terms of Iran and Hezbollah without looking at Israel and the Untied States. The US has a problem on its hands. It cannot manage, contain, reciprocate, nor unilaterally intervene. Rather, it has squandered its power, and can no longer be sure that the potential threat of military force is sufficient to thwart military action by other parties.

    * * *

    Contract Completion

    If the sale of missiles by Syria to Hamas and Hezbollah is wrong, then why wasn’t the original sale the subject of a sanction? Just as it is in 2006 too late to undo the decisions of 2001 (over issues of whether Geneva does or does not apply), so too is it too late to point to Iran and Syria over the sale of technology to Lebanon.

    Rather, the US would have us believe that US arm sales are good, while other arm sales are bad. Yet, the Israelis use military power to engage in war crimes. Does this mean that the United States, as the Iranians are with Hamas-Hezbollah, responsible for the consequences of that use of force?

    * * *

    Primary Actors

    Let’s consider the link between Iran and Hezbollah. Using the US-Israeli construct, they would have the world believe that the Iranian support amounts to Iranian action, and warrants a US and Israeli response in Teheran. Keep in mind that this is exactly the opposite of what the Pentagon had hoped for, and rather than bait the Iranians to attack Americans in Iraq, the US despite its weakened position is about to take the first step in taking military action against Iran.

    The problem is that the Lebanese action in Israel is far too tenuously from Iran for the United states to credibly take military action. Think of it this way: If a burglar commits a crime, do we hold their employer – the one who provides the burglar a salary – responsible for the consequences of the burglary? No, we simply look at the act and who was involved.

    The moment that we attach liability to all other things associated with that illegal action, then we open the issue for public debate. Namely, if we are to question Iran and Syria’s sale of missiles to Lebanon, the issue is why wasn’t this sale brought up earlier; and even if it did take place, was the sale illegal? If the sale was a violation of the law, then the sale, not the use of the missile, should have been the subject of discussion. This did not occur. We can only conclude that the sale/transfer of the missiles, without any consideration of its possible or actual use, was lawful; thus any retroactive claim by either Israel or the US -- that the Iranians have responsibility for the attacks from Lebanon to Israel -- are tenuous.

    The time to have made a stink about the missiles was when the missiles were known to be transferred. The problem the US has is that it is in a weakened position, and the Lebanese are emboldened to use something which the US has not prevented, and wholly lacks any military power to thwart or prevent.

    * * *

    Indirect Actors: Applying That Standard To the United States

    Let’s consider the range of options. Consider the fundamental (flawed) US assertion: Because Iran did something in providing missiles to Lebanon, that Iran is responsible for the consequences of Lebanon using those missiles against Israel. Consider that assertion, without any consideration whether it is true or false. Now consider an analogy: If a parent commits abuse on a child, does this mean that the state should be able to go after the grand parent who provided the poor example to the parent, or refused to stop what they knew could happen?

    Indeed, perhaps there should be methods to impose peer and family pressure on parents to ensure they respect the rights of children. The point is that when this liability is taken to the extreme – and family relationships are taken as something that can be exploited to achieve other ends, we have what we have: American kidnapping Iraqi family members for the purpose of manipulating Iraqi civilians to comply with interrogation demands.

    Once the United States begins to attach liability, and (im)morally claim that anything related to that primary actor is fair game, then we will have abuses against non-actors. Once the United States begins to argue that the Iranians, not Hezbollah and Israel, are the subject for attention, the United States is asking us to shift the responsibility from the primary actors, to something that is secondary, tenuous and not directly connected.

    Thus, the lesson is that the United States Secretary of Defense, when he chooses endorse kidnapping Iraqi family members – to achieve a secondary, unlawful objective -- subjects himself to Geneva War Crimes review. Broadly applied, this is at the heart of the NSA and FISA-violations: Those individuals who are merely talking to those who have been accused (not actually charged), then become targets of subsequent accusations and abuse. Eventually, as we saw with the FBI and NSA files after Sept 2001, the number of potential links far exceeds the resources.

    The only option the government has is to target everyone; in doing so, it achieves nothing. This is Israel’s problem in Lebanon: It’s attempting to go after the tenuous strands, and rather than mobilizing public support in Lebanon, it’s doing the opposite. When attacked, people will rally. Israel may do more to act as a catalyst to modernize Lebanon’s fragile government than any Lebanese politician might hope.

    The issue of right or wrong has less relevance when the primary actors no longer have the power to avoid accountability, or prevent military retaliation. The Iranians and Syrians are not going to conveniently do what the Americans want – engage in action that will justify American action against Teheran or Damascus; rather, they’re going to do what takes advantage of the American’s problem: Powerlessness.

    However, the goal isn’t merely to exploit powerlessness in the Middle East, but to make it known worldwide: The American tiger is not all powerful, and there are limits to what the Americans can do. The US has passed its momentary high point in international power and prestige; anything the minor actors can do to remind the US of its limitations will simply embolden others to do the same. The United States’ problem is that it incorrectly believes it remains a post WWII victor; the truth is that it is a 21st Rogue nation led by incompetent people inside the RNC.

    * * *

    Power: Smaller, Able Actors

    The problem is simple: Smaller actors have the means, support, and desire to assert themselves. Simplistically, this is happening because they can, nothing the US or Israel does will stop them, other options have failed, and there is the perception there exists a moral wrong and others are committed to prevail over the US and Israel. This is not merely a desire of poorly armed terrorists. Israel and the US are now indirectly engaged in state-level warfare against actors that were duly elected to positions of power in the Lebanese government.

    The US helped create the mess it finds itself. Rather than cooperate with its demise, the Iranians and Syrians have asserted power in ways the US cannot stop, nor can the US credibly impose consequences. The United State’s problem is simply that it squandered moral authority and power it might otherwise have to transform the Middle East. The US is, and is perceived to be, powerless:

  • The United States unreasonably rejects opportunities to discuss issues with Iran;

  • The US is making threats from a position of weakness

  • The US doesn’t have the military reserves to carry through with a threat

  • The US threats, if taken to their conclusion, would subject the American civilian population to lawful counter strikes: Once the US ignores the laws of war, and abrogates the Geneva Conventions barring attacks against civilians, other nations – despite restrictions against targeting civilians in retaliation – may choose to similarly abrogate the Geneva Conventions.

  • The United States, because it is stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan puts Iran in a position of power which the Iranians have not fully exploited to their advantage . . . yet.

    * * *

    Diplomacy and Legitimacy

    Some have suggested that talking to them will legitimize them. Fundamentally, there is no merit to this argument. The larger truth is that the US discusses in private what it openly asserts are not legitimate actors. The United States has discussed terms of surrender, cease fire, and other points with the insurgents and the Taliban. Also, between 1776 and 1784, the US revolutionaries were terrorists. They, through victory, commanded legitimacy, but it was not without a doubt. When nations use force without effect, others are emboldened, just as Hamas and Hezbollah are willing, the Lebanese will soon be able: To strike.

    Putting aside reality, the issue of legitimacy is merely an American excuse to deny that one’s power is not absolute. The US invokes the principle of “legitimacy or lack thereof” to nations and actors the US chooses to pretend need not be dealt with. The reality is the opposite:

  • The actors have been elected to office, and remain legitimate representatives of a portion of voters;

  • The actors use power, prompting Israel and the United States to react; and

  • When the US treats these actors as illegitimate, the US refuses to face reality: They are legitimately there.

    * * *

    Incompetent Leadership and Reckless RNC Planning

    The US planning assumptions are not valid. The Problem is that the US is denying an option – whether there will or will not be talks with Iran – as if that were an option or conclusion. Rather, this is not the option, but the starting point: The American analysis fails to accept that they are, and remain, there. Refusing to talk with them does not make there “lack of legitimacy” irrelevant; it merely confirms the obvious: That the US can no longer move or achieve a different agenda, from a position of weakness and irrelevance. The US cannot exclude an option as if it were discretionary. The reality is that the US has no option and this is known to the United States and the world: The US cannot go it alone, despite the double standard it imposes on Israel and North Korea.

    The United States and Israel, regardless military victory, have been dealt a significant setback. The reckless use of force encourages others to lawfully retaliate. Opponents to American and Israeli war crimes -- Syria, Iran, North Korea, and Russia -- refuse to roll over. They have a voice, and they have power. If the US refuses to listen to their voice at the discussion table, they have the inclination and means to assert power on the battlefield. The only option that the US and Israel appear to entertain is the desire to abuse power. The US and Israeli overreaction fuels the opposition. The US refuses to talk, sure to prolong hostilities.

    Some have suggested that the world is nervous about Iran. Even if true, this is meaningless. The US is the larger threat and rogue nation, weak -- arming nations to engage in proxy wars. Unlike Iran, the United States is isolated and incapable of self-discipline. Republicans have squandered American power and resources; and have failed to work with those they would like to pretend do not exist. American opponents are real. They continue to illustrate the Republicans are incompetent, incapable of solving problems, and unworthy of continued public trust to lead or manage American military personnel and combat resources.