The heaviest military engagement in the Middle East since the 2006 proxy war in Lebanon is now being fought in and around Gaza. This operation has been very carefully planned and was timed to occur at a point when public attention in Europe and the United States is minimized because of holiday celebrations. Indeed, President Bush is unwilling to break from his vacation on account of the lethal events–a step which would only focus unwanted public attention on his administration and its relationship to these developments. So I wish to speculate: to what extent is the Bush Administration, rather than the administration of Ehud Olmert, the author of these plans?
Consider that the Bush Administration was deeply embarrassed by Hamas’s successes in Gaza. Recall that they were enabled by the blind faith that the Bush team reposed in democratic process to cure the woes of the Middle East. Hamas took the opening that the Bush team provided and waltzed to power. And as David Rose documented in a solid piece in Vanity Fair, Condoleezza Rice sought to make up for her own miscalculations by arming opposing factions in Gaza, setting the stage for bloodshed that cost hundreds of lives.
Hamas’s position in Gaza has been viewed as one of the more severe blemishes on Rice’s foreign policy record, and she and White House Middle East policy manager Elliott Abrams have reportedly been eager to accomplish changes before leaving office. With only three weeks remaining, there’s little time left. And the Israeli tactics employed in Gaza look suspiciously like an Elliott Abrams plan, complete with a test-run for the latest U.S. bunker-busting weaponry, deployed to “take out” those tunnels that Hamas has reportedly burrowed. Internal Israeli assessments of the failed 2006 proxy war against Hezbollah in Lebanon also suggested that the war had been planned and pushed through by the Bush Administration, with Elliott Abrams in the key planning position, over the opposition of senior Israeli military planners.
Are we witnessing a repeat of administration manipulations in Bush’s last days in office? And could the true purpose of this whole exercise be to hamstring the incoming Obama administration as it moves to implement a new Middle East policy?
On today’s MSNBC Morning Joe, Zbigniew Brzezinski is asking the same question