Gaza seems to be descending towards a civil war, Lebanon lurched closer to conflict with the killing today of MP Walid Eido and ongoing clashes at the Nahr El-Bared camp, and the Iraqi civil war, already long underway, took another desperate turn with the re-bombing of the Shia mosque at Samarra.
Each of these situations has its own complex circumstances and particular set of actors, causes, and dynamics. They cannot be neatly filed under one common rubric -- say extremists vs. moderates, or Iran vs. the US. Yet it is possible, perhaps, to discern at least one unifying theme: each of these conflicts is, in part, the pushback against the neocon transformationalist agenda for the Middle East. I am not suggesting that the US is solely responsible for the woeful state of the region, but the contribution of a mistaken and rigid ideological dogma applied to the region has been dramatic and devastating.
On Iraq, the case hardly needs to be made -- it is self-evident. On Lebanon, the isolation of and regime-change rhetoric towards Syria exacerbated an already tense situation, and has clearly failed to "correct Syrian misbehavior." In Gaza, the Bush administration policy of "no meaningful peace process under our watch," combined with support for Israeli unilateralism and, most recently, the destabilizing of the PA government, are all crucial to understanding the current Fatah-Hamas debacle.
Read this report by just-deported UN Envoy de Soto for a clearer picture of what's going on.
On paper, at least, two possible US strategies might have been considered. One would be an assessment that the US-favored side could win an internal clash and would, therefore, be supported, funded, and armed toward that end. The other point of departure would be that a political accommodation and compromise between rival factions would ultimately be necessary, and that the best thing any US intervention might hope to achieve would be to strengthen the hand of its ally in advance of domestic political negotiations.
Given the apparent rigid opposition of the Bush administration to a political compromise between Fatah and Hamas, its rejection of the Mecca deal, and the embargo on the Unity Government -- it is apparently safe to assume that the second option was rejected. However, the first option, even ignoring considerations of the desirability or ethics of such an approach, simply makes no sense in the Gaza context. Currently Hamas clearly has the upper hand militarily, and that was predictable. But even if Fatah were in a stronger position, a military victory, if at all possible, would likely have come at a massive price in human terms but also in terms of social disintegration, and a likely after-effect of increased radicalization. So the US was encouraging a military confrontation that its favorite could not win, and was further muddying what would anyway have been a very difficult political accommodation.
Again, this is not to place the blame for the current mess all at the door of the Bush administration, but just to point out that US policy is playing a role, and a dreadfully negative one. In many ways, a very similar assessment can be applied to Lebanon, but more of that in a future post.