UH-OH. The past...

UH-OH. The past 36 hours have had a bit of a clash of civilizations feel to them, what with Russia killing Shamil Besayev, India pointing the finger at Pakistani "militants" for yesterday's bombing in Bombay, and Israel invading Lebanon after Hezbollah captured some soldiers. Meanwhile, Yossi Klein Halevi informs me in The New Republic that:

The next Middle East war--Israel against genocidal Islamism--has begun. The first stage of the war started two weeks ago, with the Israeli incursion into Gaza in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and the ongoing shelling of Israeli towns and kibbutzim; now, with Hezbollah's latest attack, the war has spread to southern Lebanon. Ultimately, though, Israel's antagonists won't be Hamas and Hezbollah but their patrons, Iran and Syria. The war will go on for months, perhaps several years. There may be lulls in the fighting, perhaps even temporary agreements and prisoner exchanges. But those periods of calm will be mere respites.

The goals of the war should be the destruction of the Hamas regime and the dismantling of the Hezbollah infrastructure in southern Lebanon. Israel cannot coexist with Iranian proxies pressing in on its borders. In particular, allowing Hamas to remain in power--and to run the Palestinian educational system--will mean the end of hopes for Arab-Israeli reconciliation not only in this generation but in the next one too. . . .

The ultimate threat, though, isn't Hezbollah or Hamas but Iran. And as Iran draws closer to nuclear capability--which the Israeli intelligence community believes could happen this year--an Israeli-Iranian showdown becomes increasingly likely. According to a very senior military source with whom I've spoken, Israel is still hoping that an international effort will stop a nuclear Iran; if that fails, then Israel is hoping for an American attack. But if the Bush administration is too weakened to take on Iran, then, as a last resort, Israel will have to act unilaterally. And, added the source, Israel has the operational capability to do so.

This is sort of mind-boggling. Let me just go on the record as saying that as bad an idea as bombing Iran may be, doing so as part of a wildly impractical scheme for Israel to launch a general Middle Eastern war is significantly less appealing.

Meanwhile, I totally understand why establishment liberal foreign policy types don't like to talk about Israel, but things are getting to the point where I don't think total silence in the face of dramatic goings-on is very viable.

--Matthew Yglesias

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