Paul Greenberg

At this point Israel's most dangerous adversary is not Hezbollah, but time. Can the Israelis achieve their military objectives before Hezbollah is saved by the bell, - or, rather, by a cease-fire? Washington is about to seek one, but slowly.

Once again we are about to witness some shuttle diplomacy in the Mideast, and, if the American secretary of state is as smart as she doubtless is, we're going to see more shuttling than diplomacy - at least for the next week or two, or however long it takes to push Hezbollah back from Israel's border.

Hezbollah, however, has other ideas. Indeed, it has a whole different concept of what's going on. Convinced it is winning, it may cooperate in its own slow attrition by stalwartly refusing to retreat, disband or hand over its hostages. Syria and Iran may be prepared to fight to the last Hezbollah fighter - a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Hezbollah may think it can go on lobbing those made-in-Iran missiles from now till doomsday - but in the Middle East doomsday is always just around the corner. For any or all the warring parties.

Hezbollah's strategic calculus could yet prove sound if the Israelis and Americans cave. But its leader, Hassan Nasrullah, may be making a slight miscalculation, much like Gamal Abdel Nasser's in 1967 when he blockaded the Jewish state and dared the Israelis to do something about it. Which they did.

It's going to be interesting to see if Hezbollah's assessment of the balance of forces is right. Interesting but terrible. Because, as this conflict's end game is played out around the polished table of the U.N. Security Council and diplomats with clean fingernails and muted voices negotiate the exact language of solemn resolutions - word by meaningless word - it may be all too easy to forget that the chess pieces are bleeding.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.