So now that World War III is starting, how is it going to end?
There have been skirmishes since the late 80's, but it really blew up the past couple months. Once the Israeli fighters buzzed the Syrian President's summer home, there was really no turning back.
Within the past several days, we have the Israeli army crossing the border into Lebanon, and the opposing forces capture two soldiers. Israel calls that an act of terrorism. What? You invade a country, 2 soldiers get captured and you consider that a kidnapping and act of terrorism? And you say the other side is engaging in an act of war? Huh? Capturing invading soldiers is not terrorism. It's the civilized thing to do. The alternative on the field of battle is to kill them.
That's not to say Hezbollah isn't a terrorist organization. Of course they are. But this incident is different. What do you expect when you invade another country?
And now the Israeli government is insisting that Lebanon release the soldiers. Lebanon doesn't have them. Lebanon's government can't make Hezbollah pisk up gum wrappers, let alone control its prisoner policy.
So now, Israel will bomb all of Lebanon's major infrastructure. And blockade the ports. And bomb all areas of the county; not just the strategic south. And destroy the airports. Basically make it impossible for Lebanon to function as a country or economic entity. Because having a poor, ineffective nation with a weak central government on your border is good for national security?
Meanwhile, Hezbollah is launching rockets into Israel in response. They are launching more than ever and instilling fear and anger through out the country.
Up until last year, Lebanon was controlled by Syria, a long time Israeli opponent. Now, Lebanon has a Syria-free government, albeit a very weak one. Were I running a country, I might think this is a great opportunity to strengthen ties and work with the new government and the people of that government to oust Hezbollah from the region.
Maybe there was a good faith effort that didn't work out and that the media ignored. It wouldn't be the first time.
So now, Israel has decided to do whatever it can to unseat this weak government in the hopes the people will come to Israel's defense? It's far more likely that the people will ask for Syria's help once again.
And recently the Bush administration has come out in support of Israel.
So now, Israel is in Lebanon, and been violating Syrian airspace. Forget famished North Korea's pathetic cry for attention and attempt to launch a missile. Forget Chinese posturing over Taiwan. Forget even the Pakistan-India conflict (though they valiantly tried to bolster their bid to host the next world war this weekend over the train bombing -- good effort guys). World War III is starting on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean.
What's next? Well, look for the US to deploy a carrier fleet to waters off the coast of the Mediterranean to assist in the evacuation of US personnel. They will stay there -- even if Israel decides to torpedo another US warship like they did in 1967. Over the course of the year, we may see the administration tout troop reductions in Iraq. They won't come home, however. They will be redeployed to England , Saudi Arabia, Germany, Italy, or other bases near the Mediterranean.
Israel will continue its bombing of Lebanon, and will reoccupy the southern part of the country. They will probably move on Beirut and either destroy or try to take control of the entire county. Meanwhile, tensions will erupt even more in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel will close the borders, but terrorist strikes from the occupied territories will increase. Israel will crack down harder than before, as hardliners use the escalating war as a reason to crush the Palestinian movement altogether.
Meanwhile Hezbollah, taking heavy hits will call on more support from Syria and may strike at invading Israeli troops from Syria. The question is whether or not Syria will allow this. If Israel pushes too hard in Lebanon, Syria will think it has no choice and will allow Hezbollah to operate from within its borders. Syria will try to assemble a coalition to oppose Israel.
Once Hezbollah starts operating from within Syria, Israel will likely strike within the Syrian borders. Syria will respond by attacking Israel and sending troops into Lebanon. Syria may use this opportunity to reclaim the Golan Heights.
So now we have Israel at war with Syria in Lebanon, while taking strong military action in the occupied territories.
The US will call for calm, and insist that Syria stop its aggression and eliminate all terrorists.
If thing go badly for Israel, the US will provide support. At first, that will be weapons, food, fuel, and cash. That will escalate into intelligence and then air support.
Eventually, the US will put troops on the ground to help protect Israel itself, though not to fight in Lebanon. They will instead be sent ot the occupied territories to quell open revolt, and prevent a Jordanian or Egyptian incursion into Israel.
Once there are US troops on the ground, Iran will get involved. Iran may already have missiles capable of hitting Israel, and won't hesitate to use them. The Iranian president has already called for Israel to be wiped off the map and will see this as a great opportunity. Iran will also either send troops into Syria "to help" a neighbor, or they will send troops the other way -- into Iraq -- to get rid of the US presence next door.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia will be having all sorts of problem. Remember, Bin Laden initially didn't have a problem with the US directly -- he and his supporters originally just wanted foreign troops out of Saudi Arabia. Then he moved on to a world wide terrorist jihad. Nearly all of the 2001-09-11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. The government faces strong opposition from within and rigid government control is all that's kept the current leadership in power.
What happens in Saudi Arabia is key. The people will demand the Saudi's oppose the US and Israel. The Saudi government knows that doing so will cut off support from the US. But failing to do so will most likely lead to open revolt in Saudi Arabia.
Then the Bush administration needs to decide what to do -- send troops to help the Saudi government quell the rebellion, support an even more brutal and oppressive regime, allow the revolt to go forward and hope the new government is too weak to join the overall fight, or just send troops to protect the oil fields and US interests.
In the meantime, what happens in Pakistan? Pakistan in another US ally not governed by a democratically elected government. Can Musharraf hold on to power, and his support of the US despite strong local opposition?
While all this is going on, we can probably also expect Al Qaida to step up its attacks and efforts. Probably within Saudi Arabia, but also within US allies around the world.
We will have Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and the US in combat. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan will be fighting off coup attempts. Iraq will become more chaotic. I have no idea what Egypt or Turkey will do, but they will be major players. Any hope for peace may be there.
And of course both Israel and Pakistan have nuclear weapons.
Given the European Union's inability to agree on foreign policy, I don't see it doing much. France will berate the US. Britain may provide some token support. Germany may send troops to back up Israel but I doubt it. Germany's history makes that really complicated.
All of this will destroy the oil market. The South American suppliers oppose US policy too strongly to make up for the drop in supply. The Nigerian government is beset by its own problems. Oil could realistically hit $150-$200/ barrel or more within a year.
And remember why oild prices have skyrocketed in the past few years? It's not Iraq, and it's not greedy oil companies. It's China. China has undergone ridiculous growth in the past few years and is consuming more oil than ever before. China needs the supply to continue. If the supplies get disrupted, or Saudi Arabia shuts off the tap, what will China do? It's a big question. If the US is not in Saudi Arabia, will China send in troops? It's possible.
Regardless, it's going to get ugly. We've seen more than 2,000 US soldiers killed in Iraq since the Gulf War began. A wary in Israel, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia could easily see US casualties in the tens of thousands.
To prevent it from getting worse, the US needs to stop encouraging Israel. Israel and the Palestinians need to finish the two state solution this year. Syria needs to go after Hezbollah in Lebanon itself. A UN controlled (Bwah hah hah ha ha ha ah ) demilitarized zone needs to be established in southern Lebanon.
None of this is easy; war has gone on for thousands of years in this part of the country. The world community has made a lot of mistakes here over that past 40 years. It's time to stop and back down.
No one is going to win this. Not Hezbollah. Not Israel. Not Lebanon. Not Syria. Not the US. Not Iran. Not Turkey. Not the Palestinians. Not Saudi Arabia.
No one is going to win. It's too late for that.
The only question now, is how much do the nations and organizations involved want to lose?