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Ending the Neoconservative Nightmare

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I would encourage all to read the essay by Daniel Levy, a respected
Israeli negotiator, in Haaretz titled "Ending The Neoconservative
Nightmare
". In fact it is well worth the effort to reach out and follow
the intelligent debates in the Israeli media, as we continue our
discussions here.

There is a symmetry between the mistakes the Bush Administration made in
Iraq and the mistakes of Israeli military strategy in Lebanon. I would
emphasize right up front, that the concerns that I and others have
raised from the start of this operation are now widely and increasingly
held in Israeli intelligence and military circles.

Because it is sensitive, to restate my personal opinion: I supported
military action to remove the imminent threat of Hezbollah attacks; I
supported the Israeli right to do it, and the decision to do it.
However, I opposed the overreliance on aerial power and heavy
bombardment which are not the effective
manner of conducting counter-insurgency
and asymmetrical warfare, because they
result in a heavy toll in world opinion, they cause too many preventable
civilian casualties without a correspondingly appropriate gain in
military advantage.

What I would have done, and advocated very early in this conflict, was
that instead of the tactics I predicted would be ineffective, the
Israelis should have given 72 hours notice to civilians in Southern
Lebanon, then moved in with special forces supplemented with a far
larger ground force, to clean out a 10-20 mile zone of safety followed
by a multinational force.
So, while I opposed the invasion of Iraq per se, from the point of view
of someone generally aligned with a centrist Sam Nunn view of defense, I
supported the Israeli move against Hezbollah but strongly dissented from
the way it was executed.

The mistakes of the Bush Administration in Iraq, and the mistake of the
Olmert strategy in Lebanon, result from the fundamentally flawed
neoconservative vision of when and how to wage war.

They both proceeded, without regard to the opinion of the democratic
world and without regard to the opinion of the people affected by the
conflict. They both proceeded without a clear strategy to win; they both
proceeded with the combination of "shock and awe" bombing without
adequate numbers of troops for the mission. They both indulged an
"occupation mentality" that contradicts the movement of history, the
logic of counter-insurgency, and the need for policy to be supported and
sustained.

There is now an arc of chaos and civil war from Afghanistan, which has
deteriorated; through Iraq, which has deteriorated to dangerous levels;
to the West Bank and the broader Palestinian-Israeli issues, which have
been neglected by obsession with Iraq and intransigence without serious
diplomacy for the first time in generations; to Lebanon, who's cedar
revolution for democracy is now threatened by devastation to the
Lebanese infrastructure, the alienation of the Lebanese people, and the
possible return to factional chaos; through Somalia, which is now almost
completely neglected today and is a breeding ground and training camp
for terrorists.

We have seen the result of the neoconservative narrative executed with
political brilliance and catastrophic misjudgment; and the result is the
neoconservative nightmare that is now imposed on all of us, on people
through the region, only hurting the hopes for freedom and democracy and
helping those recruiting new terrorists who thrive on mistakes such as
these.

What I have tried to contribute, as have others, is an alternative
narrative that combines these elements:

1. The support of the use of force when necessary; greater use of
special forces and more mobile and politically savvy branches of the
service, and the reliance on the Powell Doctrine. In the Powell
Doctrine, when force is necessary, we do not fight wars on the cheap
with promises of easy victory and insufficient force. We do what is
necessary, with the force size that is necessary, preferably with strong
allied troop and financial contributions following the model of Bush I
in Iraq 1.

2. A panoramic diplomacy from day one,
putting the full force and power of American diplomacy behind the broad
search for solution to the issues that most deeply define the conflict.
We have not had any substantive commitment to fundamental diplomacy from
the Bush Administration since the President assumed office; nor have we
had any serious and meaningful contribution from Democratic leaders or
the Democratic national security establishment. There are leading lights
with credibility and experience from both parties, who should have been
engaged in this mission and must now be engaged.

3. A fundamental commitment to freedom
and democracy using economic, political, social and military components.
In Lebanon it is unconscionable that following the cedar revolution
there was not dramatic, overarching American, European and Gulf State
assistance to the Lebanese democratic infrastructure and the people who
build it.

It is equally disastrous that there was not major military assistance
and training to the Lebanese military. In Afghanistan there should have
been far more support for indigenous democratic structures and there
should never have been blood deals with war lords and drug dealers. In
Iran, while I oppose a military attack for the same military reasons I
opposed the invasion of Iraq, there should be strong and decisive
support for advocates of democracy in Iran, especially through neutral
nations and NGO's to women, workers, young people and others.

4. We have to recognize the human dimension to war, and be extremely
careful to avoid tactics that create pain and rage among the people we
seek to enlist against terrorism and for freedom. Special Forces
understand this; many leaders of the Marine Corps and Army understand
this.

Yet the neoconservatives disastrously hold this in contempt, with
results now obvious. We have to recognize as well, that there are human
dimensions of peace. Foreign aid is not a dirty word; one of the most
effective tactics of Hezbollah is their contribution to
health care and schools, which does not
justify their crimes, but does explain much of their popularity.

I recommend the essay by Daniel Levy in
Haaretz, and on this, he is right: we must end the nightmare of the
neoconservative narrative, and recognize that to do so, we must offer a
stronger, tougher, wiser and more generous narrative of our own.