Friday, July 21, 2006

The Rapture President

This Washington Post article, via Atrios, comes as close to telling that the reason Bush is twiddling his thumbs about the Israel-Hezbullah conflict is Rapture:

One former senior administration official said Bush is only emboldened by the pressure from U.N. officials and European leaders to lead a call for a cease-fire. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan demanded yesterday that the fighting in Lebanon stop.

"He thinks he is playing in a longer-term game than the tacticians," said the former official, who spoke anonymously so he could discuss his views candidly. "The tacticians would say: 'Get an immediate cease-fire. Deal first with the humanitarian factors.' The president would say: 'You have an opportunity to really grind down Hezbollah. Let's take it, even if there are other serious consequences that will have to be managed.' "


Those who know Bush say his view of the conflict was shaped by several formative experiences -- in particular the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which made fighting terrorism the central mission of his presidency. Another formative experience was a helicopter ride over the West Bank with Ariel Sharon in 1998, when Bush was Texas governor -- a ride he later said showed him Israel's vulnerability. The cause of Israel has been championed by many of the evangelical Christians who make up a significant chunk of the president's political base.

Bush and his team were also deeply skeptical of the Middle East policy of the previous administration, and of what they see as an excessive devotion to a peace process in which one of the protagonists, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, was not seriously invested. Explaining the reluctance to push quickly for a cease-fire, one senior administration official who was not authorized to speak on the record indicated a belief that premature diplomacy might leave Hezbollah in a position of strength.

"We don't want the kind of truce that will lead to another conflict," said this official, who added that, when the time comes, "you will see plenty of diplomacy."

Fred S. Zeidman, a Texas venture capitalist who is active in Jewish affairs and has been close to the president for years, said the current crisis shows the depth of the president's support for Israel. "He will not bow to international pressure to pressure Israel," Zeidman said. "I have never seen a man more committed to Israel."

That last sentence reminds me of the joke about a breakfast of bacon and eggs: That the chicken is involved but the pig is committed. Not that the joke probably has anything at all to do with the topic of this post. Or perhaps it does. You decide.

If my choices are to believe that we have a president whose bags are packed for Rapture or a president who waits until enough children have been exploded or burned before acting for a ceasefire, which of the two would I pick? Choices, choices. But the alternative explanation for Bush's lethargy is that he's giving Israel a chance to destroy Hezbullah before acting. The idea is that this would reduce future levels of terrorism. That idea has not worked very well during earlier rounds of history.