Monday, March 03, 2008

What are the Americans saying, and to whom are they saying it?

What are the Americans saying, and to whom are they saying it?
By The Daily Star

The deployment of the USS Cole and two other warships to waters near Lebanon is just the latest in a long line of misguided moves by US President George W. Bush. Given the painful history associated with US naval shelling of Lebanon - and the attacks on American targets which that shelling helped to make inevitable - sending ships now can only undermine the stability that Washington claims to support. And the manner in which the move was made public, by an unidentified official who offered only a vague explanation of its purpose, has served only to intensify suspicions. The movements of US naval assets in this part of the world are not a secret for very long: Several players - including the Egyptians, the Israelis, the Syrians and even the Russians - employ a variety of means to keep tabs on the superpower as it keeps tabs on them and other actors. What makes this deployment different - and highly provocative - is that the Americans made a point of announcing it in the way they did. They apparently intended to "send a message," but no one knows what it contains or who the recipient should be. This can only cause several state and non-state powers to assume the worst about US intentions and prepare themselves accordingly.

It is truly tragic that the United States has failed for generations to be a moderating influence in the Middle East. Even its long alliance with Israel would not have been so problematic (for all concerned) if only Washington had used its position to demand better behavior of the Jewish state instead of being a co-conspirator in the crime spree that has been that country's history. We know, therefore, that the increased presence of the US Navy in the Eastern Mediterranean is not a sign that America intends to protect the people of the Gaza Strip, for example, as they undergo yet another round of senseless destruction at Israeli hands. But that is all that can be discerned at this stage, opening the stage for every possible interpretation of the American move, none of them conducive to either stability or US interests and all of them made more plausible by earlier examples of the Bush administration's boneheaded attempts at Machiavellianism. Are the Americans here because they expect clashes to erupt between Lebanon's government and opposition, or because they want them to? Have they come to lend the Cole's sophisticated air-defense capabilities to help shield Israel against rockets from Gaza? Do they plan to provide a similar service to limit the effects of retaliation from Iran, Syria or Lebanon because the Jewish state is planning to attack one or more of them?

The answers to these and similar questions are clear to some, far less to others - and therefore a good reason for the Americans to be more forthcoming. Their track record means that no potential target can afford to discount the possibility of US military action that would only compound the region's many problems. That will make the wrong people nervous and increase the likelihood of rash actions designed to pre-empt a US strike - a doctrine employed so disastrously and duplicitously by the Americans that they will have little standing to complain if it is turned against them.

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