Doom and gloom
That's what I find from the political right on the progress--or lack of progress--of Israel's campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon. On National Review Online, Michael Ledeen proclaims: "It is the 1930s again."
I think, as I recently wrote, that we have been given an extraordinary opportunity by our enemies. I am disturbed at the lack of appropriate response, which in my opinion involves taking the war to Syran, mostly by political means. About a week ago a surprising number of Arab leaders said as much. I took it as a public plea to Washington to act vigorously, and an expression of the unspoken assumption that Israel would quickly destroy Hezbollah. Neither has happened, and so they are once again appeasing their own worst enemies, as are various Iraqi officials.
Taking a similarly bleak view, also on National Review Online, is former Defense Department official Mario Loyola. His solution:
The only thing that has any hope of bringing light to the end of the tunnel is a robust Security Council resolution under Chapter VII that requires Iran to stop supplying weapons to Syria, and requires Syria to stop supplying weapons to Hezbollah. The Ccouncil should demand of Syria a transparent accounting of the weapons shipments it has received from Iran, as well as a comprehensive declaration of Syria's missile production infrastructure, with full details of its inventories and disposition of missiles. Syria must then be required to admit U.N. inspectors at all of its military and civilian airports, as well as its missile production facilities. And finally, the resolution should authorize the use of all necessary means, including the use of force, to enforce its terms.
And here is Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal (and formerly of the Jerusalem Post).
Ledeen, Loyola, and Stephens believe that Israel's campaign against Hezbollah has not been militarily effective. On americanthinker.com, writer J.R. Dunn indicts Israel's government, and particularly Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, for incompetence. Here's how he begins:
Make no mistake - Israel's July 29th retreat retreat from the village of Bin Jibeil marks the most serious defeat of western arms to date in the war on terror. Whatever occurs from this point on, the retreat (and it is a retreat; there is no other way to spin it. It is not a strategic withdrawal, it is not a redeployment, it is not a retrograde advance. The Israelis left and the Hezbollah are still there. That is called a 'retreat'.) marks the end of this campaign, a fact only underlined by Israel's decision to suspend its airstrikes after the Qana raid, which apparently killed a large number of civilians. There is little or no chance of any meaningful resumption of operations from this point on. This war is over, and Hezbollah has won.
But this piece was written before the Israeli government announced early Tuesday that it was starting a ground offensive and rejecting a cease-fire. Is it too late? Certainly Israel has seemed to be on a zigzag course--renouncing ground operations, suspending the air campaign for 48 hours, then announcing ground operations. I'm not at all sure I agree with Dunn's analysis. But it's chilling nonetheless.
In for the long haul
I've just finished reading William Hague's William Pitt the Younger. Hague was the leader of the Conservative Party from 1997 to 2001, at an unusually young age; he is now shadow foreign secretary. He notes in his introduction that he was urged to write the book by Roy Jenkins, the former Labor cabinet minister who in several books maintained the admirable British tradition of one statesman writing biographies of others. I doubt that more than 1 in 100 well-educated Americans could tell you who Pitt was. Yet he was one of Britain's most important leaders and quite possibly the most brilliant. He was also, by a wide margin, the youngest prime minister (actually, this title wasn't used at this time) and, after Robert Walpole (1721-42), the longest serving. Pitt's father, the original William Pitt, headed Britain's government during most of the Seven Years War (1756-63) and was credited with the strategy that produced huge victories for Britain in Canada, India, Europe, and the West Indies. The elder Pitt opposed the British policy toward the American colonies; he collapsed during a speech in the House of Lords in 1778 and died soon after. Pitt the Younger was elected to Parliament in 1780 at 21; his first seat was Appleby, a pocket borough controlled by the regional magnate Sir James Lowther, in which Pitt never set foot. In 1784 he was elected from Cambridge University, which like Oxford University had two seats in the House of Commons until the 19th century. In 1782 he became chancellor of the exchequer at 23; in 1784 he became prime minister at 24. He served as prime minister from 1783 to 1801 and then again from 1804 until his death in 1806. He lived most of his adult life in No.10 Downing Street. He was 46 when he died. Only two men younger than that have become prime minister since, the Earl of Liverpool (a Pitt protégé) in 1812 and Tony Blair in 1997.
I could go on about Pitt, but I want to concentrate on one characteristic that Hague focuses on: Pitt's insistence on coming up with long-term solutions to short-term crises and setbacks. Here's a passage from Pages 542-43 of the British edition:
He spent the new year  constructing a response to a fresh peace overture from Napoleon. The British response stated that negotiation could only take place in consultation with other Continental powers--meaning in particular the Russians. It was followed by the despatch to Leveson Gower [the AAmbassador to Russia] on 21 January 1805 of a state paper which became a cornerstone of British foreign policy, much of which was drafted in Pitt's own hand. In advocating 'At the Restoration of Peace, a general agreement and Guarantee for the mutual protection and security of the different Powers, and for re-establishing a general System of Public Law in Europe,' the paper built on Pitt and [William] Grenville's ideas from the 1790s for a comprehensive solution to the European wars, and was the basis, long after Pitt's death, for the British negotiating position at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. There would be a new system of 'Solidarity and Permanence' under which the main powers would protect each other against aggression; Britain and Russia would 'take an active Part' in maintaining the peace; France would be reduced to her original frontiers while the ability of the small states on her borders to resist aggression--would be enhanced--Sardinia, Austria, Prussia and Holland would all gain territory in place of helpless smaller states, with Dutch independence fully re-established.
Pitt's "Memorandum on the Deliverance and Security of Europe" has become a famous illustration of the idea of "balance of power." In proposing considerable territorial rearrangement he showed "no special tenderness to nationality," but typically sought a lasting and all-embracing solution to the problems which had plagued him.
Pitt's strategy was carried forward by his protégés Lord Castelreagh as foreign minister and his protégés and successors as prime minister: the Duke of Portland, Spencer Perceval, the Earl of Liverpool, and George Canning, who held office from 1807 to 1828. His system prevailed at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and preserved the peace of Europe for a century, as Henry Kissinger notes in his 1994 book Diplomacy (Pages 75-77): "The Congress of Vienna ... established a century of international order uninterrupted by a general war." Pitt's farsightedness and ability to come up with long-term solutions is all the more remarkable because he faced setbacks and difficulties far more daunting than anything the United States currently faces in the Middle East. The military power of Revolutionary and Napoleonic France dominated Europe from 1792 to 1815. British allies on the Continent were repeatedly unreliable and ineffective. Britain's freedom from invasion was guaranteed only by the Royal Navy--strengthened by reforms Pitt made in the 1780s and 1790s. Adm. Horatio Nelson met with Pitt at No. 10 before sailing out to fight the Battle of Trafalgar, as Hague describes (Page 561):
Six weeks before the Battle of Trafalgar, and both nearing the end of their lives, the long-serving prime minister and the renowned admiral sat together and discussed how to defeat the enemy force at Cadiz. Nelson promised Pitt a victory not mere "honourable to the parties concerned," but one that would "bring Buonaparte to his marrow bones." Afterwards he told his family that "Mr. Pitt paid me a compliment which, I believe, he would not have paid to a Prince of the Blood. When I rose to go, he left the room with me and attended me to the carriage."
Pitt's farsightedness reminds me of George W. Bush's attempts, even in adversity, to forge long-term solutions rather than short-term patchwork. It has been on display in the past three weeks as Israel has responded to attacks by Hezbollah. There are many points of similarity between Pitt and Bush. Both had fathers who held their executive positions before them, and both faced circumstances different from those their fathers had faced and responded with different policies, designed to provide long-term solutions. Both were bitterly and vituperatively opposed by the political opposition and much of the chattering class of the day. Both were criticized for violating civil liberties as their countries faced unprecedented dangers--attacks from revolutionary France and Islamofascist terrorism. Pitt died shaken by the news of Napoleon's victory in the Battle of Austerlitz; Bush will surely leave office with the work he had undertaken not yet completed.
There are differences, of course. Pitt was known for his eloquence in debate in the House of Commons; Bush is capable of eloquence in set speeches but not in unscripted statements. When he was a young man, Pitt's doctor advised him to drink a bottle of port a day. He drank that and more, which helped kill him at 46, while GeorgeW. Bush famously gave up alcohol at 40. Pitt was almost certainly homosexual and seems to have had no intimate relationships; Bush obviously is sustained by a happy marriage to a strong and wise woman. Pitt had the ability to translate passages from Latin and Greek instantly, and could embroider his orations with Latin extemporaneously; Bush reads more history than most people think but would surely not describe himself as a scholar.
But I come back to what I think they had and have in common: a steely character and an ability to persevere on a long-term course despite harrowing setbacks. Both came to power in part because of their fathers and because their lineage gave people--GeorgeIII and members of Parliament in Pitt's case, American voters in Bush's--confidence in their character. And, in my view, that confidence has proved to be deserved in both cases.