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Slamming doors and making wars
Media General News Service


August 02, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Everywhere you hear doors slamming.

No to Middle East peacekeepers, no to more trade globalization, no to ceasefires.

Down went the World Trade Organization expansion, and with it the hopes of the developing world to get a better shake from the free market.

The European Union was quick to blame the United States for the collapse of the talks. In the famous coinage of Jeane Kirkpatrick, "blame America first" was in the air. The same French-inspired agricultural interests who regard McDonald's and other processed foods as their lifelong enemy sabotaged this treaty, although there were reports of congressional logrolling that tied the U.S. negotiators' hands when it came to all the big cash crops.

Mainly, this was all about U.S. and European squabbling. That carries over, unfortunately, into the security sphere, where the Middle East is now crying out for help from the world's most powerful alliance. The Middle East can save its breath, because NATO is also the world's unhealthiest political alliance.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried to patch something together in Rome. A ceasefire and a Lebanese buffer zone patrolled by a well-armed force that can keep Hezbollah guerillas under control is what's needed.

But who wants to contribute to it? The Israelis' accidental destruction of a U.N. outpost, killing four observers, was not helpful. Italy's prime minister said he would send peacekeepers to southern Lebanon despite it, but the French said they would need an invitation from Hezbollah first. Germans said much the same.

Americans are so tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan they can't go anywhere else. Likewise, the British.

What's your excuse?

Rice and Bush remained unwilling to call for restraint on the Israelis while the U.N. resolution requiring Hezbollah's disarmament remains un-enforced.

With NATO's Afghanistan mission already going down in flames, it is highly unlikely that this organization will jump into another fiery peacekeeping pit. And - unless Hezbollah suddenly lays down its arms - the United Nations is not equipped or trained to do the kind of peacemaking operation that will be required along the border.

Out of this welter of confusion, violence, blood and chaos, the administration is pleading for everyone to keep their eye on the prize - the spread of democracy to the Middle East.

Some prize.

Dr. Rice got into the broken spirit of things by attacking "those who wish to strangle a democratic and sovereign Lebanon in its crib."

Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, even Saudi Arabia and Egypt are beginning to walk democratic steps, weak, broken and bandaged.

This sort of emergency room democracy has produced governments of Hezbollah and Hamas, both voted into office by democratic ballots despite their terrorist creed and a mission to destroy Israel. The new Iraq government that Americans paid with blood to install now supports not only Hezbollah but at times seems in league with its terrorism-supporting neighbor, Iran.

President Bush did not seem comfortable last week standing next to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has called for an Israeli ceasefire while Bush has insisted the Israelis have a right to defend themselves against Hezbollah rocket attacks. His aides say such differences show what a healthy democracy Iraq has become.

Popular opinion now appears to be directly colliding with longstanding U.S. national interests, including Israeli security and perhaps the geographic integrity of Iraq.

There was a gritty determination about al-Maliki as he spoke at Ft. Belvoir, Va., of the 67 members of his family who been executed under Saddam Hussein and the shared sacrifice he and Americans had made in Iraq:

"Terrorists still carry out, on a daily basis, these crazy actions against innocent civilians: their suicide bombs, their car bombs against the innocent civilians who have nothing to do with the conflict in Iraq. They want to kill democracy, as they kill humans. But they will definitely fail."

It sounded great. But out of the same mouth just days ago came what seemed to be heavy criticism of Israel and a dead silence about Hezbollah, a terrorist organization that was responsible for killing 241 U.S. servicemen in their barracks in Lebanon in 1983.


John Hall is the senior Washington correspondent of Media General News Service.
E-mail jhall(at)
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Scripps Howard News Service.

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