From Juan Cole:
That this war was pre-planned was obvious to me from the moment it began. The Israeli military proceeded methodically and systematically to destroy Lebanon's infrastructure, and clearly had been casing targets for some time. The vast majority of these targets were unrelated to Hizbullah. But since the northern Sunni port of Tripoli could theoretically be used by Syria or Iran to offload replacement rockets that could be transported by truck down south to Hizbullah, the Israelis hit it. And then they hit some trucks to let truck drivers know to stay home for a while.
That is why I was so shaken by George W. Bush's overheard conversation with Tony Blair about the war. He clearly thought that it broke out because Syria used Hizbullah to create a provocation. The President of the United States did not know that this war was a long-planned Israeli war of choice.
Why is that scarey? Because the Israeli planning had to have been done in conjunction with Donald Rumsfeld at the US Department of Defense. The US Department of Defense is committed to rapidly re-arming Israel and providing it precision laser-guided weaponry, and to giving it time to substantially degrade Hizbullah's missile capabilities. The two are partners in the war effort.
For the Bush administration, Iran and Hizbullah are not existential threats. They are proximate threats. Iran is hostile to US corporate investment in the oil-rich Gulf,, and so is a big obstacle to American profit-making in the region. Rumsfeld is worried about Iran's admission as an observer to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is to say, that he is worried about a budding Chinese-Islamic axis that might lock up petroleum reserves and block US investments. If Chinese economic and military growth make it the most significant potential challenger to the Sole Superpower in the coming century, a Chinese alliance with the oil-rich Muslim regions, including Iran, would be even more formidable. The Shanghai group has already pulled off one coup against Rumsfeld, successfully convincing Uzbekistan to end US basing rights in that country.
Rumsfeld also believes, contrary to all available evidence, that Iran is actively destabilizing Iraq and is conniving with Syria and Hezbollah to do so.
(In fact, the Iraqis had shaped charges in their depots and did not need to learn about them from Iran or Hizbollah). At some points, the Pentagon has even tried to blame Iran for the radical Sunni Arab violence in Iraq, which makes no sense at all (and thus that propaganda campaign has been put on the back burner).
Rumsfeld is so eager to stop what he believes is an Iranian nuclear weapons program that he reportedly has considered using tactical nuclear weapons against it preemptively. After all, a nuclear-armed Iran would forestall American gunboat diplomacy in the oil-rich Gulf.
Iran also supports Syria, and Rumsfeld believes that Syria is helping destabilize Iraq, and is also a patron for Hizbullah.
Clearly, if one could get rid of Iran and Hezbollah, in Rumsfeld World, Iraq is much more likely to turn out a delayed success than an absolute disaster. And then the stalled-out rush to Bush's vision of "democracy" (i.e. Big Private Property) in the region could proceed. In fact, the instability in Iraq mainly comes from Sunni Arab guerrillas, who hate Iran and it is mutual.
The Bush administration's perceived economic and geopolitical interests thus overlap strongly with Israel's perceived security interests, with both benefitting from an Israeli destruction of Hizbullah. It is not impossible that the US Pentagon urged the Israelis on in this endeavor. They certainly knew about and approved of the plan.
What is scarey is that Cheney and Rumsfeld don't appear to have let W. in on the whole thing. They told him that Bashar al-Asad of Syria stirred up a little trouble because he was afraid that Iraq the Model and the Lebanese Cedar Revolution might be such huge successes that they would topple him by example (just as, after Poland and the Czech Velvet Revolution, other Eastern European strongmen fell). (Don't fall down laughing at the idea of Iraq and Lebanon as Republican Party success stories; people in Washington, DC, coccoon a lot and have odd ideas about the way the world is.) So, Bush thought, if that is all that is going on, then someone just needs to call al-Asad and reassure him that we're not going to take him out, and get him to rein in Hizbullah. And then the war would suddenly stop. No one told Bush that this war was actually an Israeli war of choice and that al-Asad had nothing to do with it, that, indeed, it could only happen because al-Asad is already irrelevant.