ISRAEL IS NOT INDIA. I would join with Jonah Goldberg's criticism of today's Sebastian Mallaby column. That India has shown impressive restraint in responding to its rival Pakistan doesn't necessarily offer a template or commentary on the Israel-Hezbollah situation. Israel's calculus in attacking a non-nuclear, largely diffuse enemy that's incapable of matching their military strength is rather different than India's decision to refrain from courting nuclear war against a large state. That's not to say Israel's actions are right or wrong, but it's a specific situation with its own history and context that deserves to be analyzed as such.
The president's favorites don't have to be conservatives. Blair dislikes American economic policy. Merkel has urged that Guant�namo prison be closed. Rasmussen has worried aloud about abuse at Abu Ghraib prison and possible murders at Haditha in Iraq. But, an aide says, "the president is looking for people who see the world as he sees it." That means, at a minimum, they support his post-invasion policy in Iraq and regard the spread of democracy as important.
CASH, INFLUENCE, AND CONTROL. I don't have any special insight into the interrelationships between Syria and Iran on the one hand and Hamas and Hezbollah on the other, but I think it's worth saying that this notion out here that Syria and Iran actually control the latter two groups seems to lack a serious evidentiary basis. Undeniably, the two states give money and weapons to the two non-state actors. And, clearly, this affords Damascus and Teheran some degree of influence over Hamas and Hezbollah. But one needs to put this sort of relationship in perspective. The U.S. government gives money to Egypt, which gives us some influence over the government in Cairo. But we don't control Egypt in the sense of micromanaging Egyptian policy decisions.
THE OTHER MIDDLE EAST MESS. In case Israel's attempts to level Lebanon had temporarily lifted your depression on all issues Iraqi-related, The New York Timesreports that Sunni calls for American withdrawal have quieted as fears of mass slaughter at the hands of rampaging Shiites have deepened.
WHAT INFRASTRUCTURE WHERE? It's worth noting that Israel's target choices are a bit trickier to evaluate than Matt lets on. While it's true that "they're not just attacking armed Hezbollah personnel; they're dropping bombs on offices in urban areas with all the attendant devastation that entails," it's not true that they're just hitting the Chase Western on the corner of Jihad St. and 14th. Most of the rockets are being launched from shell civilian and urban residences, and it's neither new nor unexpected that Hezbollah's infrastructure is tucked away in the most civilian-heavy portions of the country.
WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH GAZA. Among many other things, it's run by thugs, gangs, and militias who have no more concern for civilian Palestinians than they do for Israelis. The Washington Post makes that pretty clear in this story about the Israeli ground re-invasion of Gaza:
Mariam el-Selgawi, a neighbor who fled her home with her eight children and elderly in-laws, said she knows why the Israelis are back.
WEEK TWO. I'm lacking in deep thoughts on the situation at the moment, but it occurs to me that folks defending recent Israeli attacks on Lebanon seem to me to be defending something that's happening in an alternate reality rather than the actual events on the ground. Repeating the mantra that Israel is aiming to crush Hezbollah doesn't change the fact that, in practice, this isn't what Israel is doing. For one thing, they're not just attacking armed Hezbollah personnel; they're dropping bombs on offices in urban areas with all the attendant devastation that entails.
THUMBSUCKERS BEWARE: NOVAK'S NAMING NAMES.Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak gave quite the unconvincing performance yesterday on �Meet the Press.� As Novak answered question after question from anchor Tim Russert about his role in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson and the subsequent investigation by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, the Prince of Darkness (as he is known in these parts) proved himself more dottering than wily, contradicting himself, and giving weak and multiple explanations for why he gave up his sources to the special prosecutor. Novak's excuse? Well, the prosecutor already had their names. How's that for standing on principle?
The NYT had a good piece this morning reporting on how the medical supply industry pays top hospital executives thousands of dollars for advice on how to market their products. This is what you expect to happen when government patent monopolies allow these firms to sell their products at prices that are several hundred percent above the free market price.