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In a recurring theme of this blog, it seems remarkable how on the sidelines of world affairs America sits today. Tom Friedman hit this point hard on Meet the Press yesterday. Brent Scowcroft in a Washington Post op-ed lays out a multi-pronged strategy for bringing peace to the Middle East. While imaginable for the American government, its diplomatic maturity and complexity is unimaginable for the current "yo Blair" administration, one that has a hard time talking to the opposition party in its home country let alone adversaries aboard.
Where the battle in Lebanon takes us next is hard to know. Certainly the death of innocents yesterday - whether hezbollah used them as shields or not - has altered the game. I have been very sympathetic to Israel's actions, believing that it was time to let Iran understand the consequences of their flouting of the international community. Remember that in the early days of the Lebanon battle Sunni Arab states rallied to Israel's cause, pleased by the bloodying of the Shiite's nose. Perhaps Israel's actions have backfired now, causing a rallying for Hezbollah and the extremists. But the current rise of Iran and Shiite extremists cannot be tolerated. This didnt work out as well as it needed to. Something else must be tried.
But what is America's role in all this? Can we possibly take on Iranian-backed extremists, given our investment in Iraq's Shiite-led government? Can we suggest the coming to power, through elections, of extremist political parties with militias in Palestine and Lebanon, is a problem given that these elections were brought about with American urging? Can Bush publically state that rising oil prices are fueling global instability and needs to be tackled head on?
At a time of great global turmoil, America sits on the sidelines, without the credibility, resources, imagination or will to make a difference. And the sidelining of America, in of itself, is contributing to global insecurity and instability.