This summer saw a hotly debated military confl ict in the Middle East between Israel and Hezbollah (a radical Islamic movement group in the region). The confl ict was triggered by Hezbollah’s kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, and the aggressive attacks on Lebanon by Israel had many people fearing the start of a regional confl ict. It seemed to me that the kidnapping was more an excuse to commit troops and further destabilize one of the worlds most volatile regions.

I want to start with this definition because the concept of realism is one that is close to the heart of our First Diplomat, Condi Rice. The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics defi nes realism in the following way: “Realists see power as the driving force on all political life…. Because relations between states are power driven… realism emphasizes the competitive and confl ictual side of international relations.”

From a realist perspective, what Israel did in stamping out its authority in the region via the days of missile attacks on Lebanon and Gaza (consequently on Hezbollah and Hamas) were a means of telling the leaders of the region that the Israeli government will not be soft on the aggressive actions taken by their neighbors.

Realists would say that these actions will not lead to an all out war. A destabilized (at war) region is not in Israel’s best interests. It does little for Israeli power in the long run. Thus, if we are realists we expect Israel to eventually pull back its attack once it has deemed that everyone understands who isthe most powerful state in the area.

However, I am not a realist. At times, yes, action and motivation are just that clear cut, but not always. Consider the fact that Israel targeted more than the Hamas/Hezbollah structures and regions. Places like the Beirut airport and the costal regions were subject to attacks and sanctions. The recent political developments in Lebanon prior to last summer have led many to think that the nation is stabilizing, claiming its independence and

taking concrete steps towards democracy. If this is correct, then we can assume that Lebanon would become an ally to the West, and thus to Israel. What would the benefit be in challenging this fragile government?

If Lebanon had committed troops to the Hezbollah-controlled south then there would have been a serious risk of civil war erupting in Lebanon. Already Hezbollah was gaining support due to Israeli action; they could have turned the Lebanese troop commitment into a move against Islam, the dominant religion in the region. Civil war would also give Syria the opportunity

to claim “regional stability” to get involved and act in Lebanon. Surely the West understands that civil war in Lebanon means a weakened foothold in the region.

So where does one go from here without getting into conspiracy theory? A liberal would posit that International Relations is run on economic interests, but again, I fail to see the tangible benefi ts of destroying the ports of a potential market. Attacking the infrastructure in Lebanon will mean the country is less well off, thus less able to trade, and make money for all involved.

It can’t be that the idealists have it right either. Certainly this confl ict was not a moral issue. While the kidnapping was immoral, the attacks on Beirut made little sense considering the Lebanese government is separate from Hezbollah. So we return to the realist argument. Perhaps what is most important to Israel is that it makes a show of force, thus creating an illusion of safety for its citizens.

Yet I can’t imagine that from where Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is sitting now, beleaguered, under investigation and unpopular at home, this move has had much benefit. His little “power play” has caused increased instability in the region and hostility towards Israel. While it might not get him removed from offi ce, it must at least be a bit more clear that 40 years of this action/reaction relationship with the region has done little to bring stability and lasting peace.

David Brown is a Columnist and political science major at USM.

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