Top Videos
2008 Polls NationalIowaNew HampshireGeneral Election
GOP | DemGOP | DemGOP | DemHead-to-Head

Send to a Friend | Print Article


A Lasting Peace

The Journal Editorial Report

Paul Gigot: This week, on "The Journal Editorial Report," continuing coverage of the crisis in the Middle East. Cease-fire efforts are stalemated as the conflict sees its deadliest fighting yet. Plus, an in-depth look at Syria's role in the violence, and its potential part in a future peace. And six years after his run for the vice presidency, Joe Lieberman battles a fellow Democrat to keep his Connecticut Senate seat. Will a visit from Bill Clinton give him a boost? But first, these headlines.

Gigot: Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot. Israel's two-front conflict saw its heaviest fighting so far, as a meeting of the United States, European and Arab countries failed to agree on a plan to end the violence. After meeting with world leaders in Rome, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Wednesday warned Syria that it was time to make a choice about what role it will play in resolving the current conflict.

Rice: The question is whether Syria, which has obligations under Resolution 1559, intends to exercise those obligations in a way that leads to a fully sovereign Lebanon that can indeed control all of the means of--all of the armaments in its country. That is the question for the Syrian government.

Gigot: Does the road to peace run through Damascus? Joining me now from Beirut is Michael Young, opinion editor at Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper. Mr. Young, welcome.

Young: Thank you.

Gigot: Is Hezbollah weaker or stronger, in you view, now than it was two or so weeks ago when this fighting began?

Young: Well, I think it is weaker in the sense that militarily it has been forced back from the border area. But this is not really a military conflict as much as, I think, a political conflict. You have hundreds of thousands of Shiites who are on the streets, essentially refugees. The party's bases have been attacked, but--and its network of--its military network, but also politically it has taken quite a beating in Lebanon. That does not mean, however, it has lost the battle. It can win the battle if its military forces remain more or less intact at the end of this.

Gigot: Let's talk a little bit about Syria, because you've watchd Syria in its role in Lebanon for a long time. What is the Syrian role, and how crucial is that role in supporting Hezbollah?

Young: Well, the Syrian role in Lebanon is to, at this point, to rearm the militia. Arms, from my reports, are continuing to cross the border to resupply Hezbollah. Now, the Syrian role more generally, or what the Syrians would like their role to be, is to be a mediator in this conflict, so that they can essentially gain from the American side, while at the same time defending themselves or gaining cards on the Arab and the Iranian side, which essentially means they would like to put themselves in a position where they can get political cards without having to make any concessions.

Gigot: So the Israeli attacks, militarily, on the roads and the airport and things, are not--and other transit routes--are not cutting off the arms supplies? Is that what you're saying?

Young: Well, my understanding is that the arms supplies are continuing. And indeed the Israelis, while they have said that they've attacked arms convoys, you know, that's a very porous boarder, and my suspicion--and what I've heard, as I said--is that arms are continuing.

Gigot: Well, a year ago the Syrian army, to great international fanfare, left Lebanon under international pressure as a result of the investigation into the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. But that investigation seemed to have vanished. We no longer read about it. What happened to that probe, and is it still a factor politically?

Young: Well, in fact the probe has not vanished at all. If anything, it has gone into high gear, because after a number of reports nothing has come out to contradict the initial finding, the first committee report, that Syria had a role to play, alongside its Lebanese allies, it seems, in the assassination of Hariri. And so the Syrians are indeed quite worried that this report will come out. It is scheduled to come out at some point next year, and some observers argue what's taking place is at least partly today--the fighting in Lebanon was provoked at least partly to derail the emergence of information from that investigation.

Gigot: So this fighting may be an attempt by Syria to overwhelm, politically, the reality of that report and to reassert its role within Lebanon. Is that part of Assad's thinking here?

Young: Well, perhaps. It may be a little bit more complicated. I think this fighting is many things, but initially the Hezbollah's abduction of two Israelis was, I believe, part of a larger process in which Syria was trying to reassert its power in Lebanon and marginalize the Lebanese government. And that kidnapping, by showing how irrelevant the Lebanese government was, was a step in the direction, as I said, of marginalizing the government. And of course if you marginalize the Lebanese government, in a way you are marginalizing also the investigation of the Hariri's murder, because the Lebanese government is the one propelling that forward.

Gigot: Here in the United States, there's a lot of talk now that the United States needs to go into direct one-on-one talks with Bashar Assad, and that that's the only way that this conflict can end in an satisfactory way, and this--using the Egyptians and Saudis as intermediaries just won't work. The needs to talk one-on-one. What do you think of that idea?

Young: Yes, I saw that Leslie Gelb wrote something along those lines today. I think that the people who argue this line have no memory, essentially. The fact is that Hezbollah was--its military force was built up under Syria. The notion is that you isolate Iran by talking to the Syrians. But the fact of the matter is the Syrians have no intention of breaking with Iran. What they will do is try to draw as much as they can from the Americans. And what they will specifically draw is they will ask for, I believe, an end to the investigation of Hariri's murder. They will ask for a return to their influence in Lebanon. And they will certainly not give up on Iran, and they will certainly not give up on Hezbollah, because once you did that, well, what's the relevance of Syria? In other words, once they've given up the one card that they can offer you, namely neutralizing Hezbollah, they are irrelevant. So I don't quite understand what these proposals are--where they're supposed to lead.

Gigot: Well, what you're saying is that you don't believe you can give--the United States has as much to give Syria, other than just handing them a large political victory here for having sponsored Hezbollah.

Young: Certainly, number one, and the fact of the matter is the United States--this notion that you can isolate Iran by breaking Syria away from them is ludicrous. The Syrians feel very vulnerable. They will not give up on their Iranian alliance. Paradoxically, I would be much open to opening lines to Iran to isolate Syria in Lebanon. That's where I think you should investigate. After all, the United States has considered the idea of dealing with Iran on Iraq. Perhaps you can bargain in Lebanon to isolate Syria, but you're not going to isolate Iran by dealing with Syria.

Gigot: All right, Michael Young, fascinating insights. Thank you very much for being here.

Young: Thanks for having me.

Gigot: When we come back, Israel suffers its bloodiest day yet, as Hezbollah fighters dig in for the long haul. What does Israel need to do to achieve its military goals? Plus, will Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman's support for the Iraq war cost him his Senate seat? We'll look at growing Democratic divisions over national security when "The Journal Editorial Report" continues.

Gigot: Welcome back. Israel's government decided late this week against expanding its offensive against Hezbollah, but called up at least 30,000 troops to begin training for duty in Lebanon. This, as days of aerial bombardment and intense ground fighting have been unable to stop Hezbollah's rocket attacks. What does Israel need to do to achieve its military goals? Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor Dan Henninger, foreign-affairs columnist Bret Stephens, and OpinionJournal.com editor James Taranto.

Bret, from Israel last week you told us you didn't think Israel could continue on its present course and achieve its military goals--that is, just with a bombing campaign. Is that what we've been watching this past week, that that has in fact been coming true? They just are not winning?

Stephens: I think that's right. I think with an aerial campaign you always reach a point of diminishing returns, and Israel is very close to that. You also run the risk of a bomb going astray and having a public-relations catastrophe on your hands that could bring international calls for an immediate cease-fire, in which case Israel meets none of its military goals. The most distressing thing in my view was the decision by the Israeli cabinet this week, A, not to have a major ground invasion and to content itself with limited security zone in southern Lebanon, and secondly, and more importantly, is to tell the Syrians explicitly that they are not going to be targeted.

I think there was a lot of value in having--at least for Israel, in having a policy of ambiguity towards the Syrians to at least put them on notice, make them nervous about where this campaign might go. They might have been able to put the kind of--put pressure on Hezbollah to rein in, to release the soldiers, and to end the war.

Gigot: It does look, Dan, as if the public opinion in the Arab world is shifting. I mean, you had originally the condemnation of Hezbollah by Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and now it is changing as these images of the bombing in Lebanon continue. How--is this damaging Israel's position and putting pressure on the U.S. to rein in Israel?

Henninger: In a sense I think it's damaging Israel's position. But you know, it's a familiar scenario that is being played out. You have an event like this, a war, a lot of terrible images on television, which create pressure on national capitals and leaderships to want to do something about it. I think we should really roll back to the initial position, which was, there was lack of support in Arab capitals, and indeed in European capitals, for Hezbollah. I think that's the real position. If the leaders, if Bush and Condi Rice, the Israelis, and indeed the Europeans hold tough, I think there's a chance here to gain some ground against the Hezbollah problem.

Gigot: But that means Israel has to prevail against Hezbollah, militarily and establish the military facts on the ground.

Taranto: Yeah, that's the only way to complete this successfully, if Israel stops now--a cease-fire now would mean Israel stops trying to defend itself, and that would hand Hezbollah a victory.

Stephens: I think that's exactly right, because this war isn't so much--it's partly military, but it's also psychological. Hezbollah has to be seen to be defeated. They have to be seen to be rolled back from the border with Israel. Nasrallah's prestige has to--Nasrallah has to make a sort of concession of defeat. And if that doesn't happen, if Nasrallah is allowed to sort of come up, you know, standing, to a cheering crowd, nothing Israel can say or do, whatever the casualty figures are, nothing Israel will do will convince the Arab world that Nasrallah hasn't had a major victory here.

Gigot: All right, let's talk about Syria, James. I want to quote from the Les Gelb article that Michael Young mentioned in our interview. The former head of Council on Foreign Relations said, "The administration"--the Bush administration--"cannot have the stable cease-fire it wants without Syria." We need one-on-one talks with the U.S. and Syria: What do you think about that?

Taranto: Well, maybe that's the case somewhere down the road. But I think first of all, we can't have the stable cease-fire that we want without Hezbollah being defeated. This is no time to go wobbly.

Henninger: One other quick point here. There's something else going on in the Middle East right now: the Iraq war--and Syria and Iran have both been feeding troops into Iraq and is one of the primary reasons we're having such enormous problems pacifying Iraq. To hand Syria a victory now, in the expectation that they're going to help us on that front, is a pipe dream.

Gigot: Bret, in the late '90s the Turks knew that Syria was harboring Kurdish terrorists. And they said, Look, if you don't turn this fellow over, we will start turning you over. And the Syrians began to change. Do we need--does the United States or Israel both need to make that same message?

Stephens: The Syrian regime, Bashar Assad, understands that he is basically--it's an weak regime. And the Turks were able to get [Abdullah] Ocalan delivered, this Kurdish terrorist, very quickly, by threatening to invade Syria. You don't have to invade Syria to make the Syrians deliver Hezbollah, but you have to threaten them in a way, and deliver a credible threat that makes them think twice about what they're doing.

Gigot: All right, Bret, last word. Thanks. When we come back, former president Bill Clinton rides into Connecticut in a bid to save Sen. Joe Lieberman from a primary defeat. Will the senator's support for the war in Iraq end his political career? That and our "Hits and Misses" of the week, when "The Journal Editorial Report" continues.

Gigot: Bill Clinton took a campaign swing through Connecticut this week, stumping to save an old friend from defeat. The former president hit the trail for embattled Sen. Joe Lieberman, urging Democrats to put aside their opposition to the war in Iraq when they head to the polls on Aug. 8. Lieberman is facing a fierce primary challenge from millionaire businessman Ned Lamont, who is attacking the former vice presidential nominee for his support of the war and his perceived closeness to President Bush. A recent poll showed Lieberman trailing Lamont among likely Democratic voters, 51% to 47%.

James, you recently interviewed Ned Lamont. Why should voters outside Connecticut care about the outcome here?

Taranto: Well, because it says a lot about the future of the Democratic Party, and let me go back to 1972. Nineteen seventy-two was the year in which Ned Lamont turned 18, and he told me that he cast his first vote that year, for George McGovern, because he was against the war.

George McGovern had great appeal to teenage antiwar activists. He got 37.5% of the popular vote in November and carried one state. If Lamont wins the primary, even if he loses the general election to Lieberman, who will run as an independent if he loses the primary--if Lamont wins the primary, this will be seen as a great victory for the radical antiwar wing of the Democratic Party, and it could spell big trouble in 2008.

Gigot: Just on that point, Bret, let me read a quote from, I know your favorite magazine, The Nation, the left-wing magazine, this week. Quote, "If Connecticut Democrats reject Lieberman, Democrats in Washington, including 2008 presidential prospect Hillary Clinton, will have to take notice," end quote.

Stephens: Well, I think that's absolutely right. I think what you're looking at here now is kind of a tipping point, and political parties and their histories have these tipping points: '64 for the Republicans, '72 for the Democrats, '92 for the Democrats, when Bill Clinton was elected and they put away--they supposedly put away for good everything that Ned Lamont, George McGovern, that Howard Dean stands for.

Now the empire strikes back, and you have these guys resurgent and possibly victorious. But what I think what James says is absolutely right. If Ned Lamont wins in 2006, the prospects for the Democratic Party are going to be much bleaker--and for Hillary--much bleaker in 2008.

Gigot: Dan, Bill Clinton back in town--what was that all about?

Henninger: Yes, well, Bill Clinton was the counterweight to what these two guys have just said. It was an incredibly Clintonesque experience, and much was made of the fact that he was there. This, though, was what he said, quote, "I'm for Joe Lieberman for reasons that have to do with yesterday, and more importantly for reasons that have to do with tomorrow." Whoa! Then he went on to say that they don't agree on Iraq. This was a wink-wink signal to the left in the party. I think he was up there protecting one point in the famous Clinton political triangle.

Gigot: And that is--but it also, paving the way or helping to make it--

Henninger: For Hillary.

Gigot: For Hillary, who has taken a relatively pro-war stance within the Democratic Party. And yet she is being attacked really--

Henninger: Yeah.

Gigot: --hard from the left.

Henninger: She's in the hard place now, in the Lieberman camp.

Gigot: And it's fascinating. You watch John Kerry, you watch Russ Feingold, other potential candidates in 2008--they're all going nowhere near Joe Lieberman.

Taranto: It's also interesting--on the Clinton point, some of Lamont's supporters have recently begun saying that the real reason they can't stand Lieberman is because of the speech he gave in 1998 criticizing Clinton for his behavior with Monica Lewinsky. Well, I don't remember anyone criticizing Lieberman for that then. They've suddenly discovered that they're angry about this seven years after we're all supposed to "move on." And I think the reason is that they're trying to paint Lieberman as a bad Democrat. And this Clinton appearance may well end up helping Lieberman.

Gigot: Not a lot of time, Dan. Was Lieberman smart to say he'll run as an independent if he loses the primary?

Henninger: Yes, because it's a very independently minded state. I think he would he win as an independent.

Gigot: What do you think? Is Lieberman going to win the primary, James?

Taranto: I think he will win the primary, but I make this prediction with much less confidence than I make most of my predictions.

Gigot: That's right. You're very--

Stephens: Ninety-nine percent.

Gigot: You have a great deal of confidence. But I would have predicted Lieberman a while ago, and now I'm not so sure. He could lose.

All right, we have to take one more break. When we come back, our "Hits and Misses" of the week.

Gigot: Winners and loses, picks and pans, "Hits and Misses." It's our way of calling attention to the best and the worst of the week. Item one: Some towns in England are looking to ban one warm-weather fashion trend. Dan?

Henninger: Well, it looks like decorum is making a comeback. During the heat wave in England, apparently the streets and malls and shopping centers were full of guys who looked like they had spent most of their lives in the pubs drinking beer. And this so grossed out some of the town fathers that they began to pass a law saying that men who appear in public places like shopping malls have to keep their shirts on, because these hirsute fat boys were simply grossing people out. Now, I think this could be the beginning of a wonderful trend. We've maybe hit, so to speak, bottom in terms of personal comportment and behavior. And this sounds to me like one British import, maybe the best British import since the Beatles, that the United States ought to look into.

Gigot: Yeah, I'm afraid they were adopting American export in some of those clothing trends. All right, next, a Nobel Peace Prize winner voices some not-so-peaceful sentiments about President Bush. Bret?

Stephens: Well, you probably don't remember Betty Williams, who won a Peace Prize in 1976 as a nonviolence activist in Northern Ireland. But she popped up again in Brisbane, Australia, where she was talking to a group of schoolchildren, and told them that we would love to kill George Bush. To this she received a huge round of applause from the schoolkids.

Now, you're probably thinking, Hang on, she's a Peace Prize winner. How could she be expressing these extremely violent sentiments? But then when you think about who exactly wins the Peace Prize, it becomes a little more clear. You're talking about Lu Duc Tho from North Vietnam, Yasser Arafat from the Palestinian Authority; you've got Kofi Annan; you've got Jimmy Carter. You think, you know something, she's right where she needs to be.

Gigot: OK, Bret. Finally, a solution to the problem of illegal immigration, compliments of Michael Dukakis. James?

Taranto: Yes, Paul. For our younger viewers, Michael Dukakis ran for president as a Democrat in 1988. He had an op-ed piece this past week in which he argued that raising the minimum wage would make menial jobs more attractive to Americans and thereby discourage employers from hiring illegal immigrants.

I have three problems with this. First, raising the minimum wage kills jobs at the margin, or pushes them off the books. Second, it's not clear where all these Americans would come from to take these menial jobs, given that the country is near full employment. And third, I remember Michael Dukakis's 1988 nomination speech, and he proudly proclaimed himself the son of immigrants. Well, I'm the son of immigrants, too, and it makes me sad to see Michael Dukakis pandering to nativist sentiment in order to sell bad economic policy.

Gigot: All right, James, thanks. That's it for this week's edition of "The Journal Editorial Report." Thanks to Dan Henninger, Bret Stephens and James Taranto. I'm Paul Gigot. Thanks to all of you for watching, and we hope to see you next week.


Email Friend | Print | RSS | Add to Del.icio.us | Add to Digg
Sponsored Links