|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
"It's really a proxy war between the United States and Iran," said David J. Rothkopf, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of "Running the World," a book on U.S. foreign policy. "When viewed in that context, it puts everything in a different light."
The president hopes the crisis will ultimately help him rally world leaders against Iran's nuclear program. Even as the U.N. Security Council today considers a peacekeeping force for Lebanon, it may vote on a U.S.-backed resolution to threaten sanctions if Iran does not suspend uranium enrichment in August.
"There's no question that this is going to stiffen up in the long run the resolve of the Europeans in dealing with Iran," said Henri J. Barkey, a former State Department official who teaches at Lehigh University. "Even if they don't like what Israel is doing," he said, they will recognize that Iran "is a menace."
Others are not so hopeful. Outside the White House, the mood among many foreign policy veterans in Washington is strikingly pessimistic, especially as leaders of Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, traditional rivals based in different Islamic sects, began calling for followers to take the fight to the enemy.
"An opportunity?" Haass said with an incredulous tone. "Lord, spare me. I don't laugh a lot. That's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. If this is an opportunity, what's Iraq? A once-in-a-lifetime chance?"
Over the past few years, Pakistan has been hard at work building a powerful new plutonium reactor that when completed will be able to produce enough fuel to make 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year.
This is happening at the same time that the Bush administration is pushing hard for final Congressional approval of a nonmilitary nuclear cooperation deal with Pakistan’s rival, India, that would in fact enhance India’s bomb-making capacity. The deal would enable India to free up its own stocks of nuclear fuel to the extent that it could expand its nuclear weapons production from about seven warheads a year to perhaps 50.
Yes, Virginia, the world is going mad.
Pakistan’s initiative, which in a few years could increase its bomb-making capacity twentyfold, was first reported last week by The Washington Post. Experts at the Institute for Science and International Security, after analyzing the program, concluded that “South Asia may be heading for a nuclear arms race that could lead to arsenals growing into the hundreds of nuclear weapons or, at minimum, vastly expanded stockpiles of military fissile material.”
Common sense should tell you that thundering along the road to ever more nuclear weapons in ever shakier hands is madness, the global equivalent to driving drunk at ever higher speeds. Does anyone think China will sit quietly by as India and Pakistan develop the capacity to outpace it in the production of nukes?
Does anyone doubt that at some point, if the spread of nuclear weapons is not vigorously suppressed, a bomb will end up in the hands of a freak who has no other intention in the world than to use it?
Jon B. Alterman, a Middle East specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, outlined "not even the worst-case scenario, but a bad-case scenario: South Lebanon is in shambles, Hezbollah gets credit for rebuilding it with Iranian money, Hezbollah grows stronger in Lebanon and it's not brought to heel. The reaction of surrounding states weakens them, radicalism rises, and they respond with more repression. None of this is especially far-fetched. And in all of this, the U.S. is seen as a fundamentally hostile party."
All of this is far too gloomy for administration officials, who see such dire forecasts as the predictable reactions of a foreign policy establishment that has produced decades of meaningless talks, paper peace agreements and unenforced U.N. resolutions that have not solved underlying issues in the Middle East.
"Some of the overheated rhetoric about how the United States can't work with anybody, we've lost our leadership in the world, is just completely ridiculous, and this crisis proves it," said the senior administration official involved in the crisis. "We are really indispensable to solving this crisis, and you're not going to solve this problem merely by passing another resolution."
While the diplomats work, the Pentagon is studying the possible impact on an already-stretched U.S. military. Commanders have diverted the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group from a training mission in Jordan where they were available as reserves for Iraq. Now they are on ships in the Mediterranean Sea to help with humanitarian efforts, and another unit has been put on alert as backup for Iraq.
The Pentagon has done contingency planning for U.S. troops participating in a multinational peacekeeping mission, but Bush aides have all but ruled out such a scenario. A more likely option, officials said, would have the United States provide command-and-control and logistics assistance.
Peter W. Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said that officials are studying the possibility of putting troops in Lebanon but that it is too early to comment on what such a force would look like. "The concept is still under development, and discussion of any potential U.S. participation would be premature."