America Faces Israel Scenario - By Mark Ames.

A reporter for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, traveling with the US forces as they pushed up from Kuwait towards Baghdad, compared the American soldiers' shocked and bewildered reaction to unexpected Iraqi resistance to the opening phase of the war in Lebanon, where seemingly invincible IDF troops met unexpectedly fierce resistance in 1982.

The comparison is significant for a lot of reasons. Israeli eventually lost that war and was driven out of Lebanon. The goal to drive out Yasser Arafat and his PLO from Lebanon also failed; within fifteen years, Arafat had taken over parts of the occupied territories. Lebanon was not only a military defeat, it shattered Israel's brief Golden Age, its paradigm of moral righteousness and military invincibility. Specifically, it brought terror to Israel in a way never dreamed of before the invasion. It brought the suicide bomber, courtesy of the Shiite Hezbollah.

The Lebanon war, although battle-by-battle a victory for Israel, was a PR disaster. The Israelis bombed Beirut, killing thousands of civilians in their drive to oust Arafat. Whereas before much of the world admired Israel for its Holocaust beginnings and its idealistic struggle to create a lasting social-democracy in a sea of brutal autocracies, now the world saw Israel as brutal, militaristic and the inverse of the ideals that had once won it so much sympathy.

Israel became increasingly isolated from the world, including the West. At the same time, its military vulnerability inspired the once-docile Palestinians living under occupation to rebel like never before. Today, Israelis are easily the most isolated citizens of a democratic government in the world. They have problems traveling to most countries in the world. They are not safe wherever they travel. They are not safe on their own streets, in their buses or cafes. Most of the world's public opinion is strongly against Israel's policies towards the Palestinians. The more Israel has become isolated, the more it has swung to the right, voting for policies that further isolate it, which in turn further fuel support for the far-right. At the same time, small chinks in Israel's military armor exposed in the Lebanon war, however slight, were an inspiration to terrorists on a scale Israel had never had to deal with before. The result: Palestinian suicide terror, which led an increasingly isolated and right-leaning Israeli public to lurch even farther to the right. The farther right, the harder the crackdown. The harder the crackdown, the more sense of injustice, which fuels more terror, and at the same time, more public scorn from the international community.

This vicious cycle of increasing isolation and militarism, the Israel Scenario, is exactly where America is headed. Military superiority exhibited in Afghanistan and in the generally successful war against Al Qaeda, along with world sympathy following 9/11, gave the Bush Administration hawks far too much confidence in their invincibility (mirroring the position Israel was in on the regional and world stage before Lebanon). The Bush Administration has since managed to make America the most loathed, isolated democracy in the world-after Israel. Americans in all parts of the world are reporting increasing harassment, while in entire regions it is too dangerous to even travel.

Now the military part of the equation is unfolding: sucked into a quagmire that was supposed to be easy, the US has already faced its first suicide bomber and thousands more are promised. TV images of the victims of American bombing are beamed around the world, further increasing anti-American rage. Even though the war is technically being won so far by the US, the first chinks in its armor were revealed after more than a decade of awesome invincibility. The Arabs are overcoming their fear and disunity. In response, Donald Rumsfeld has already announced that Syria may be targeted next. Syria: which controls Lebanon and the Hezbollah, who introduced the art of suicide bombing to the Arabs, including the Iraqi officer who blew up four American soldiers on Sunday.

The enemies of both America and Israel use terror to instill fear in the hope that they will either force their enemies to change their policies, or destroy them. As a rule, terrorists work to radicalize both the aggrieved population and the perceived oppressor. The oppressor is forced into becoming ever more brutal, and through its brutality, the local population (in this case the Iraqis) becomes further radicalized until the situation becomes unbearable for the occupier. This is what drove out the Israelis from Lebanon.

But it is the broader effect in the home country that is more frightening. I remember the first time I went to Israel how surprised I was by the lack of enthusiasm most of the young Israelis I met had for Israel. They were tired of war, tired of isolation. They wanted to lead normal lives, not to be pariahs of the world. That was in 1991, during the first Intifadah. The salad days by comparison. When I returned to Israel last May, the deterioration was incredible. Now the Israelis barely venture outside of their homes. They live in a constant state of siege. Moreover, they have lost all moral legitimacy in the eyes of basically every country on earth except for America. Most of the world views them as something between an apartheid regime and the Gestapo, the very inverse of everything Israel was supposed to stand for. Israelis and their supporters defensively label their critics anti-Semites; the isolation is furthered, the positions even more hardened.

Wherever you stand on the issue, if there's one thing America does not and should not want to become it's Israel. Isolated, loathed, fearful, under siege...

Or does America want that? Put it this way: why does the Bush Administration seem to have such an unusually cozy, warm relationship with Sharon? As Israeli prime ministers go, he certainly stands least for the liberal values that America was founded on. Sharon was always considered an anathema to mainstream American politicians.

The far-right always prospers from the fear promoted by terror and the war against terror. Without terror, fear, a state of siege and isolation, Sharon and his coalition of racist freaks could not count on staying in power. On the other hand, without Sharon and his ethnic cleansing ministers, the terrorists would have a hard time growing their own power base. The two complement each other. Even economic decline under Sharon hasn't dampened his support, in the same way that America's economic decline hasn't hurt Bush, so long as fear keeps his support strong.

Bin Laden creates the fear that heats the Bush Administration's popularity. The Bush people have become addicted to that fear, and addicted to feeding it to its citizens. When America grossly mishandled the diplomacy leading up to the Iraq War and wound up isolated, Americans, like Israelis, lashed out at former allies, accusing them of being "anti-American." Boycotts started. The more isolation, the more the population finds itself in bed with the Bush Administration.

It's no coincidence that the Bush Administration is leading America into the Israel scenario. The strategy was designed, literally, by Americans working for the Israeli right.

The leading architects of the new war in Iraq - Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser - were hired in 1996 by Sharon's Likud government (then headed by Benjamin Netanyahu) to devise policy papers under the auspices of the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. The policy paper the three helped pen, titled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," recommended exactly the current administration's policy: "Israel can shape its strategic weakening, containing and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq...Iraq's future could affect the strategic balance in the Middle East profoundly." The paper went on to advocate breaking off peace talks with Arafat, launching "hot pursuit" strikes into Palestinian territory and "reestablishing the principle of preemption." It was too much for Netanyahu; he rejected it.

Today, Richard Perle, until recently the chairman of the Pentagon's highly-influential Defense Policy Board, is widely acknowledged as the prime architect of the war on Iraq. Feith is undersecretary of defense for policy and Wurmser is a State Department special assistant.

What they couldn't sell to Netanyahu, they pushed on Bush, who bought it hook, line and sinker. Under Sharon, parts of the plan have been implemented; the big jobs - the conquests of Iraq and Syria - have been left to America.

The Israel Scenario is already here for Americans. As anyone who has traveled to Israel and witnessed its dark slide into increasing isolation and siege will recognize, America's descent has just begun. It can get a hell of a lot worse. And it will. Which isn't so bad, so long as you're part of the American Right.