Doing More Harm Than Good in Lebanon

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I have lived in Lebanon for two years. I celebrated the withdrawal of the Syrian army and, before being evacuated recently with other Americans, I suffered the city's destruction by the Israeli army. I'm not interested in the politics of pro-Israeli policy, but I will say: To me and residents around me, it felt undeniably as though Israel was targeting civilian areas without heeding humanitarian guidelines.

This conflict will have lasting effects because, in the minds of the Lebanese, the United States' name is attached to all Israeli military action. Anti-American sentiment is rising in a country that has tended to be pro-American. People are convinced that the United States wants to see Lebanon destroyed, and they feel deceived by the empty pledges of support the United States has made in the past. We need American diplomatic intervention.

I spent more than a week bracing myself amid constant air raids, which have driven civilian casualty levels to 20 times those in Israel. Death and destruction will breed only more radicalism and hate, defeating the Israeli goal of disarming Hezbollah.

I can't help wondering: What makes the Israeli government so sure it will not create another dynamic, breeding more terrorism for years to come?

Winning over the hearts and minds of people is necessary to finding a sustainable solution to the conflicts in the Middle East. Military might cannot achieve this.

JOHN ORAK

Washington


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