Paul Greenberg

What's going on behind the ever-shifting scenes in the Mideast? The only thing clear at this confused point is that it's awfully crowded back there.

At the United Nations, diplomats try to hammer out a cease-fire that would end this war without leading to another. It's been nearly two years now since U.N. Resolution 1559 was passed declaring that all militias in Lebanon, including Hezbollah's, would be disbanded. The current resolution in the works will also prove meaningless if it's not enforced.

Every time John Bolton appears before the cameras, some of us do feel more hopeful. Our man at Turtle Bay actually got the French to agree to some common objectives, like keeping Hezbollah away from Lebanon's border with Israel - instead of rewarding it for starting this whole conflagration.

According to this draft resolution, Hezbollah would even be disarmed. But, besides the Israelis, who's going to bell this tiger? Like its geography, the diplomacy of the Mideast is full of mirages.

If the past is any guide, and it isn't always, the eventual cease-fire (there will be one, won't there?) will reflect the lines on the ground. Once the rockets' red glare and the bombs bursting in air have revealed whose flag is still there, there may be a chance not for any real peace (that may be too much to hope for) but a cessation of hostilities - rather than the usual pause for re-supply and reinforcements.

A clearer view of what has happened these past few homicidal weeks will have to wait till a Michael Oren (author of "Six Days of War") or an Abraham Rabinovich (who wrote "The Yom Kippur War") writes a comprehensive review of this latest unpleasantness, which doesn't even have a name yet. (I nominate Hezbollah's War.)

Like the shifting lines of battle, history is subject to contention, too. One can already see the historical narrative of each side forming, never the twain to meet. But the world isn't waiting on the historians before reaching some judgments on its own:

In Israel, the inevitable review of political and military strategy has begun. Israel is full of armchair generals, not to mention the real ones in that country's previous wars. They've started to chime in, too. An official investigation, and its report, is sure to follow. Not to mention the courts-martial. (How could the advanced Israeli warship that was struck and disabled by a radar-guided missile not even have had its main sensor turned on?)

Israel's coalition government, which seems to have taken ages to apprehend the seriousness of the threat, will doubtless have to weather numerous questions once this long cruel war is over, not to mention motions of no-confidence.

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.