Anyone who follows the trail of Pat Buchanan notices that he, whether consciously or not, is anti-Israel. In his writings and many TV activities, one such currently being the long-running McLaughlin Group, he leaves this impression indelibly. He also leaves an unmistakable impression that one of his favorite people to hate is President Bush, whom he ran against in 2000 as the Reform Party candidate (teamed with an African-American lady even farther right than he), after a bizarre dustup over who should get that privilege, terribly important since federal money depended on the winner. He also attempted to get the republican presidential nomination in 1992 (against the elder Bush) and against Dole in 1996. Though there’s much to admire in Buchanan’s overall conservatism (maybe closer to libertarianism/isolationism), he is often off-base, with respect to reality. Here are some thoughts by Buchanan in a recent column, with some responses:
**B: When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert unleashed his navy and air force on Lebanon, accusing that tiny nation of an "act of war", the last pillar of Bush's Middle East policy collapsed.
~C: No president since the sanctioning of Israel as a nation has had a Middle East policy other than respecting the right of Israel to exist and protecting that right. Having a constant Middle-East policy otherwise is impossible, since the Arab nations are not democracies and exist at the whim and governance of whoever has risen to the top, usually through something like assassinations. After 9/11, Bush and Congress pummeled Afghanistan in order to get at the Taliban in order to bring down Al Qaeda. The current Lebanon situation is identical to that of Afghanistan. The terrorists (Hezbollah) strike from Lebanon, with impunity from the Lebanese government, whose army is not used to root out the terrorists (couldn’t anyway – too weak). This is the 1980s redux, when Israel went into southern Lebanon to protect its north. Of course, if memory serves, Buchanan was also against the Gulf War, when, because of this nation, Saddam was ousted from Kuwait and actually prevented from taking over the oil-rich Middle East, his actual aim.
**B: First came capitulation on the Bush Doctrine, as Pyongyang and Tehran defied Bush's dictum: The world's worst regimes will not be allowed to acquire the world's worst weapons. Then came suspension of the democracy crusade as Islamic militants exploited free elections to advance to power and office in Egypt, Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, Iraq and Iran.
~C: The jury’s out on all counts. Neither Rome nor this nation was built in a day, so time will tell. Democracy may not be possible anywhere in the Middle East, but it’s too soon to tell, especially given the volatile nature of the Arab mind and the accessibility to weapons.
**B: Now Israel's rampage against a defenseless Lebanon -- smashing airport runways, fuel tanks, power plants, gas stations, lighthouses, bridges, roads and the occasional refugee convoy -- has exposed Bush's folly in subcontracting U.S. policy out to Tel Aviv, thus making Israel the custodian of our reputation and interests in the Middle East.
~C: Long after Israel pulled out of Lebanon in 2000, the Syrian Army stayed until last year. It needs to be remembered that there has never been a Palestinian state. When Palestine was partitioned by the UN in 1947, the Israelis accepted the some 8,000+ square miles they were allowed and were accepted as a nation by the UN in 1948. The Palestinians accepted nothing, formed no government, and made themselves into perpetual refugees living, often in squalor, on handouts from Arab nations – think Arafat and his ilk. All Palestinian organizations (PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc.) are terrorist groups representing no nation, but supported by Arab nations that attacked Israel in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973, during which war the U.S. stopped Israel from occupying Egypt. Israeli enemies, then, are terrorist groups supported by Arab governments, and the only way to ward them away is to attack their domiciling countries.
**B: The Lebanon that Israel, with Bush's blessing, is smashing up has a pro-American government, heretofore considered a shining example of his democracy crusade.
~C: Pure boilerplate…something that might be expected of Howard Dean. Bush has blessed nothing, and the government Buchanan claims is pro-American has allowed Hezbollah to function freely in terrorizing citizens of a U.S.-friendly nation so small it is but a speck in the midst of its Arabic/Islamic enemies.
**B: Olmert seized upon Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers to unleash the IDF in a pre-planned attack to make the Lebanese people suffer until the Lebanese government disarms Hezbollah, a task the Israeli army could not accomplish in 18 years of occupation.
~C: Too simple by half. Olmert, unlike President Carter in 1979-81, would not accept hostage-taking. Hezbollah is not a nation, as Iran was in Carter’s day, so Olmert had to deal with the captors as terrorists, disrupting their supporters in the process – no alternative, as was the case in Afghanistan. Carter chose not to spring the hostages from a nation, but let them rot for 14 months. Either Lebanon will rid itself of Hezbollah or it will be destroyed again, as was the case in the early 80s.
**B: Israel instructed the United States to terminate all aid to the Palestinian Authority, though Bush himself had called for the elections and for the participation of Hamas. Our Crawford cowboy meekly complied.
~C: This is what is known as the Covenant of Hamas: The 1988 Hamas Covenant (or Charter) states that the organization's goal is to "raise the banner of God over every inch of Palestine," in order to establish an Islamic Republic. Enough said! The “meekly” comment is juvenile.
**B: The predictable result: Fatah and Hamas fell to fratricidal fighting, and Hamas militants began launching Qassam rockets over the fence from Gaza into Israel. Hamas then tunneled into Israel, killed two soldiers, captured one, took him back into Gaza, and demanded a prisoner exchange.
~C: It’s amazing that Buchanan said this, since it destroys whatever point he was trying to make. Israel can hardly stop two terrorist groups from terrorizing each other, as the Sunnis and Shi’ites do in Iraq. In any case, the groups could have slaughtered each other without slaughtering Israelis in the process.
**B: Israel's response was to abduct half of the Palestinian cabinet and parliament and blow up a $50 million U.S.-insured power plant. That cut off electricity for half a million Palestinians.
~C: Was Israel supposed to sit idly by while the rockets fell and do nothing? Again, if the Palestinian cabinet and parliament amount to a government that supports terrorists, these entities have to expect retaliation.
**B: Let it be said: Israel has a right to defend herself, a right to counter-attack against Hezbollah and Hamas, a right to clean out bases from which Katyusha or Qassam rockets are being fired, and a right to occupy land from which attacks are mounted on her people. But what Israel is doing is imposing deliberate suffering on civilians, collective punishment on innocent people, to force them to do something they are powerless to do: disarm the gunmen among them. Such a policy violates international law and comports neither with our values nor our interests. It is un-American and un-Christian.
~C: Buchanan rages, but offers no solution, knowing full well that the enemy is not on a battlefield, but in the shops and neighborhoods. Trying to make a religious issue out of the whole affair is disingenuous.
**B: Democrats attack Bush for crimes of which he is not guilty, including Haditha and Abu Ghraib. Why are they, too, silent when Israel pursues a conscious policy of collective punishment of innocent peoples?
~C: Simple. Democrats (at least in leadership) don’t give a fig about Israel or the Middle East. Presently, they’re almost exclusively engaged in November politics and an almost incomprehensible hatred for the president.
**B: Britain's diplomatic goal in two world wars was to bring the naive cousins in, to "pull their chestnuts out of the fire."
~C: It is hard to imagine anything this disingenuous. Britain was mainly interested in survival, and the goal was far too sanguinary to be just “diplomatic.” FDR knew full well, notwithstanding any other British motive(s), that the USA, in foregoing the European WWII action, leaving Britain to fall, would be left to fend for itself in a war that could reach its shores, even then, in the 40s. Remember…France quit the war in 1940.
**B: Israel and her paid and pro-bono agents here appear determined to expand the Iraq war into Syria and Iran, and have America fight and finish all of Israel's enemies.
~C: It’s only because of this country’s action in 1973 that Israel did not decimate much of Egypt. The Israelis needed no help or permission from this country when they completely obliterated Iraq’s nuclear program in 1981 in a brief moment on a quiet afternoon. Syria and Iran, in and of themselves and for perfectly obvious reasons, have been threats to the entire world for some time without Israel being any part of the equation. Israel has the power and technology right now to wipe out all of its neighbors in an afternoon, and would do so before being enslaved and without a by-your-leave from this or any other country.
Buchanan has his reasons, and he may fancy himself to be the voice in the wilderness. He isn’t.