When I saw today that the Bush Administration is pushing for Israel to end its bloody air raids on Gaza, I thought immediately of TIME.com amigo Tony’s analysis from two years ago, in which he said that Israel has depended on the U.S. to function as the “Don’t hold me back” friend that jumps in and breaks up the fight before it gets too serious — the role the U.S. is playing right now.
The timing of this matters, in that America needs to jump in right after Israel has smashed everything but before the failures of fighting a guerrilla opponent start to appear. In the Lebanon war, rather than pulling the Israelis back, the U.S. urged them to fight harder. The result was a stalemate, but because it was a stalemate against the Israeli army, it was a victory for Hezbollah. Right now Israel is at that point: they’ve killed hundreds of Palestinians and angered the Muslim world again, but they haven’t sent in the ground troops yet to get stuck in the same Gaza quagmire that they left behind in 2005. In summary, the Bush people learned the hard way — at least they seem to have learned at all this time — and don’t want to repeat the same mistake.