Agree to Disagree

From Holden:

Yesterday Pony Blow explained the Assministration’s thinking on a cease-fire between Lebanon and Israel: they don’t want one just now.

Q On Lebanon, there seems to be two tracks that have emerged. There are those calling for an immediate cease-fire; there are those calling for a sustainable cease-fire. And the sustainable camp says there’s a risk — if you just call for an immediate, you’ll be back here in three weeks or three months. Isn’t it worth the risk if you stop innocent Israelis and Lebanese from being killed; isn’t it worth taking that risk while you try to bang out something more sustainable?

MR. SNOW: The question is whether that’s a fool’s errand, Jim. The idea that you suspend — number one, there’s a notion that somehow both sides are going to suspend, and we remain deeply skeptical that Hezbollah is going to abide by any such agreement. But the more important thing is, sustainable really does matter, because as we’ve seen in some places, if you allow terrorists to proclaim victory and to continue to take root within a country, you actually encourage further misbehavior. There’s no place on the record where as a result of a negotiation a terrorist organization has said, okay, we give up, great treaty.

So instead I think the most important thing is to put into place conditions where you’ll have a sustainable cease-fire. What does that mean? It means that Hezbollah not only returns the soldiers, not only returns the rockets, but either decides or lacks the capability to weaken the government of Lebanon by operating independently of that government and serving as a rogue force that is capable of not only seizing territory, destabilizing within Lebanon, threatening the Lebanese government, threatening the Lebanese people, but also threatening the peace of the region.

So the sustainable cease-fire is one that is not going to enable Hezbollah to declare victory, but instead will allow the people of Lebanon to look forward to peace and prosperity.

Of course the Assministration’s position is at odds with that of the rest of the world (save Israel), including Iraqi PM Nouri Kamel al-Maliki. The tension between these two approaches to “peace” were evident in today’s presser with Bush and the Prime Minister.

Bush:

I told him I support a sustainable cease-fire that will bring about an end to violence, and I talked about the importance of strengthening the Lebanese government and supporting the Lebanese people.

Maliki:

I also discussed with the President the issue of Lebanon in all seriousness, in a way that matches the importance of the size of destruction that happened to the Lebanese people as a result of the military air and ground attacks. And I also emphasized the importance of immediate cease-fire, and call on the international community to support the Lebanese government and support the Lebanese people to overcome the damage and destruction that happened.

Bush:

And so Condi goes with the following messages: We support the Siniora government; we care about the people; we will help to get aid to the people; and that we want a sustainable cease-fire. We don’t want something that’s short-term in duration.

Maliki:

Here, actually we’re talking about the suffering of a people in a country. And we are not in the process of reviewing one issue or another, or any government position. The important thing here is what we are trying to do is to stop the killing and the destruction, and then we leave the room and the way for the international and diplomatic efforts and international organization to play the role to be there.

And finally, a good question for the Chimp.

(For President Bush) — humanitarian aid to Lebanon. Yet there’s also reports that your administration are speeding up delivery of laser-guided missiles to Israel and bunker-buster bombs. And do you see this — if this is true, do you see it as contradictory? On one hand, you allow Israel to kill people, and civilian, in particular, and on the other hand, you’re trying to aid the very people that have been suffering and killed as a result?

PRESIDENT BUSH: No, I don’t see a contradiction in us honoring commitments we made prior to Hezbollah attacks into Israeli territory. And I — like the Prime Minister, I’m concerned about loss of innocent life, and we will do everything we can to help move equipment — I mean, food and medicines to help the people who have been displaced and the people who suffer.