Rice said the new approach reflects growing Arab concern about Iran's attempt to project power through its proxies: "After the war in Lebanon, the Middle East really did begin to clarify into an extremist element allied with Iran, including Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. On the other side were the targets of this extremism--the Lebanese, the Iraqis, the Palestinians--and those who want to resist, such as the Saudis, Egypt and Jordan."David Ignatius is a relatively reliable stenographer to the court du dauphin des États-unis. So this is what the governing elite thinks about the Middle East.
Several tempting questions: What is the difference between "the Lebanese" and Hezbollah? What is the difference between "the Palestinians" and Hamas? I know that the American habit is to presume innate illegitimacy in any election of whose results we disapprove, but at some point, on some level, even wishing away all the moral objections to American imperialism in the Middle East, there remains an apparently insurmountable practical impediment to our rule and hegemony in the region: We cannot and will not accurately identify our allies and enemies there. This is where the imperial rubber meets the Appian Way, such as it is. If you wish to conquer the barbarians, and doubly so if you wish to rule them, you must at very least learn to discern which tribes are your enemies and which are your friends, and how firmly each is tethered to their side in that fight.
Put aside the question the question of which party is responsible for the most recent Israeli-Lebanese war. Put aside the question of who attacked whom, or of which side kidnapped the other's citizens or soldiers first. There remains a singular reality. Hezbollah is the most popular political party in Lebanon. It is the most popular entity in Lebanon. It was the most popular prior to the Israeli campaign, and no matter how many bouquets and scrims and garlands and fancy lights the American government throws between its perceptions and the Lebanese reality, it's a plain and simple fact that no people will perceive the aerial bombardment of their territory by a foreign country as an effort to eradicate some select group therein. Imagine that France began bombing the plains states in order to wipe out the Republican Party. There you have an accuarate analogy for Israel's policy in Lebanon, and from there you can extrapolate a response. Hezbollah is more popular than ever. It is not a foreign influence in Lebanon. It is not a cancer on the Lebanese body politic. It is Lebanon, and the United States and Israel made it so.
Hamas, likewise, is the predominant political entity among Palestinian peoples. It isn't obligatory to like it, but it is obligatory to recognize it. They didn't acquire parliamentary majorities by rigging Diebold machines or taking closely contested election results to court. They routed Fatah. They represent--at least--a near-majority opinion of Palestinians.
If Hezbollah and Hamas are "extremist," then the Palestinians and the Lebanese are extremist. (Martin Peretz rubs his hands together and gloats: Told ya so!) Our other purported allies in the region are semi-theocratic hereditary monarchies, and the notion that hereditary rule in the twenty-first century is anything other than "extreme" would be laughable were we not governed by a surnamed Bush. The Saudi monarchy is regarded by many Muslims as a coterie of apostate, degenerate, luxury- and license-besotted deviants, but they've managed to hang onto power by telling their restive, under-employed young men that the United States is even worse. Osama bin Laden, our once and future Hitler, detests the House of Saud for "inviting" the American military onto the Arabian peninsula even more than he detests the American military for taking them up on the offer. This notion of supporting the Saudi and Jordanian monarchies while working to undermine the popularly-elected popular movements in Lebanon and the Occupied Territories is laughably, farcically absurd. Needless to say, David Ignatius believes that "Rice's realignment idea has the virtue of offering a basis for discussion and careful thinking about a region perched on the edge of a volcano."
Colonialism is one of the great evils in this world, and I am of the belief that imperial projects are necessarily doomed in the long run and morally unacceptable regardless, but even so, there is a perverse embarrassment in recognizing what a lousy, second-rate conquerer our nation is; there is a sort of historical shame in recognizing that we are the laziest, stupidest, most incompetent bunch of world-shapers since Mussolini first stuffed his shirt and marched on Rome. Barring those goofy fascisti, I can't think of a preeminent power so goddamn bad at being powerful. The governors of our nation want to rule the world, yes, but they'd rather tell themselves pleasant lies about the natives and go on drinking Claret and eating tea sandwiches at the club.