That’s because Israel’s war on Lebanon has split the American Left in ways even the Iraqi Adventure never did. While initial reactions to Iraq ranged from reluctant support to silence to opposition, reactions to this war are either violent support or violent opposition, with nothing in between.
The split is especially advantageous to the President because the Right is absolutely united on his side and official policy is relentlessly pro-Israel. The war promises to pull his domestic political enemies apart and give him the breathing space he needs to get out of office without ever having his actions investigated.
This is obvious from reading the feed of the Huffington Post, the blog home of the Celebrity Left. (Think of it as a Studio 54 in blog form, with safer drugs and sex because you do them at home.) A quick tour of recent entries on the subject will show you what I’m talking about:
Martin Lewis practically drops a Chamberlain bomb on war opponents, imagining a 1944 England unwilling to attack Germany for fear of harming civilians. Flavia Colgan writes, simply, Don’t Blame Israel. Seth Swirsky says Bush has suddenly become wise, because he knows Israel is winning. Alan Dershowitz claims (falselly) there is a "near-uniformity of negative opinion about Israel" on the site.
Dershowitz is correct that there are writers at the Huffington Post who oppose this war. (These must be the only comments he reads on the subject.) Joseph Palermo calls the policy Kill All the Brutes, suggesting a lack of moral equivalence on the part of war advocates. Philip Slater calls the whole exercise useless, suggesting everyone will be living together in a few decades. Robert Scheer calls Israel "drunk on the drug of militarism." R.J. Eskow calls Dershowitz a liar.
My own thoughts follow.
What is striking in these posts, all taken from the last few days, is the vociferous tone, even among those who are ambivalent. War does that.
This is what makes war dangerous. The result of a war is not usually known while it’s being fought. You would think we had learned that with Iraq.
This is Israel’s Iraq. The question is not, is it moral, or even is it necessary. The question is, will it work. Will Israel be out of Muslim missile range in three years, or five years, or 10?
The answer is no. Missiles will keep getting better, and more powerful. The more Israel angers the Muslim street, the more likely it becomes that some "moderate" Arab dictatorship will fall, and be transformed into an enemy.
More important, Israel will find it just as hard to "police" a "cleared-out" Lebanon as we’ve found it to "police" a "Saddam-less" Iraq. You don’t win a war of ideas by bombing those who disagree with you, especially when the idea on the other side is Dark Age Savagery. Bombing only brings both sides to the same level, and it’s the other guy’s level.
The way to win these wars is through peace. Show them up by making your society work better, and subject the enemy only to that justice you are willing to be subjected to. Take away their support and they wither away.
Until we stop playing the game of the Dark Ages, we’ll keep marching back to the Dark Ages. And what’s true in terms of the war is also true in terms of the politics of the war. The more liberals let themselves be divided, the more they play into the Far Right’s hands.