In a departure from almost 60 years of American Middle East policy, the Bush administration hasn't intervened to stop the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah or made a serious effort to negotiate a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians...
U.S. presidents stepped in to stop fighting between Israel and Egypt, Israel and Syria and Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and to end an Israeli siege of Beirut.
"If you had a flare-up, you got both the sides to stand down and find a diplomatic solution," said Ellen Laipson, president of the Henry L. Stimson Center, who served in national security positions under Clinton and the first President Bush. "I think this administration has gone out of its way not to get involved in Arab-Israeli things. They're now scrambling to figure out what to do."
The White House's inaction on the Israeli-Hezbollah and Israeli-Palestinian issues, however, is consistent with its belief that the goal of American Mideast policy shouldn't be keeping the peace but transforming the region by destabilizing, defeating or overthrowing groups and regimes that practice or support terrorism and are hostile to Israel.
"That's the big idea that was behind the invasion of Iraq, it's the reason they won't talk to Syria or Iran or Hamas, and now it's the reason they're giving the Israelis time and space to try to destroy Hezbollah," said a veteran U.S. diplomat who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because "if you print my name, it'll be the end of my career."
The trouble with the policy is "it won't work," said the official. That view was shared by a half-dozen other current and former foreign policy and intelligence officials, all of whom requested anonymity for the same reason.