Those who do not study history...
Israel is almost heroic. There can be no doubt that the events of the last 3 weeks were inevitable and can be argued as being long overdue. The mythical "Land for Peace" concept has been proven to be a fluffy bit of rhetoric, comforting only to those who are naive, evil, or not paying attention.
In 1971, Lebanon gave cover to the PLO and a young Yasser Arafat. Over the course of the next decade they increasingly threatened Israel, using the now-tired tactics of rocket attacks, truck/car bombs, hijackings, and kidnappings. UN resolutions flew like confetti to no effect.
Embroiled in its own civil war, the government of Lebanon was tacitly supportive of the PLO, providing no infringement whatsoever on its activities. In 1982 Israel had their fill of it and attacked. They surrounded Beirut for 2 months and surely would have prevented many future problems. The UN Security Council proposed a ceasefire resolution that essentially was a slap to Israel, forcing the IDF to withdraw without penalty to the PLO. Then, as now, the US vetoed the measure on the grounds that it recognized the PLO as a viable political entity. The siege and violence continued.
After a few weeks, a negotiator was successful and the ceasefire happened. We convinced Israel to stand back and allow the Arafat thugs to leave unmolested with a multinational force made up of US, French, and Italians to guard against outbreaks of violence and for protection of civilians. Israel promptly occupied the area and set up new leadership.
Syria had the new president assassinated within a matter of weeks and the civil war started anew. The various factions, including PLO and Syrian troops, constantly violated treaty conditions amongst themselves and with Israel. A treaty in 1983, the May 17 Agreement, appeared to bring peace between Israel and Lebanon, calling for an Israeli withdrawal that was conditioned on the departure of Syrian troops. The IDF withdrew from the Beirut area but remained in the south (in deviance of UN resolution 425) until 2000. The Agreement appeared to many Arabs as a surrender and further weakened Lebanon's governing power.
Later that year attacks on US and western interests began. April 18, 1983 saw the bombing of the US embassy in Beirut, killing 63. October 23, 1983 was the date of the massive truckbomb attack on our Marine barracks, killing 241 Americans and 58 French servicemen. Many other attacks were documented in this time, but none as horrific as these two.
In February 1984 the Lebanese military collapsed and everything was up for grabs. The US Marines were in the process of preparing their pullout. Lebanon's government cancelled the May 17 Agreement under pressure from Syrian and radical muslim forces. Anti-US attacks continued, including a second bombing of the US embassy in Beirut on September 20, 1984, killing 9 (incl 2 servicemen).
During this time Hizbullah appeared as a splinter from another radical Shia sect the Amal Movement. With assistance from Iran, it prospered and grew. The civil war intensified, with Syrian-backed Amal striving to remove PLO from its Lebanese strongholds. During this time, Saddam Hussein entered the fray, supporting a new prime minister (Michel Aoun) following the assassination of his predecessor in 1987. Hussein, a Sunni, was working with Christian groups to counter the Shia influence of Amal and Hizbullah. Christian PM in a muslim nation? Yes, the civil war continued to rage.
When they weren't bashing each other, all sides would threaten and attack Israel periodically. This is an area of the world that simply lives to fight -- when they are not fighting their common enemy, Israel, they are fighting amongst themselves, Sunni vs. Shia. Israeli PM Golda Meir wisely observed, "Peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us."
By 1991 the civil war had ground down and a peace of sorts was achieved. The Syrians immediately rushed in and took effective control over the terribly weak government born of the civil war. They continued to rule Lebanon until summer 2005, when the Cedar Revolution effectively ended that occupation and the Lebanese had an independent democracy for the first time. Syria had Lebanon's new PM, Hariri, assassinated in a massive truck bomb attack later that summer.
By this time Hizbullah had established enough power and influence, in no small part thanks to Iran for major funding, to become a political party and a force for social insitutions. Hizbullah members would ride around offering to fix doors and windows for people affected by the destruction of civil war. They fed the hungry and clothed the naked. They bought the goodwill of the everyday Lebanese by capitalizing on misery.
As a result, Hizbullah has become a major force in Lebanon. Imagine if the Democratic Party were to merge with the Crips and the Bloods -- the sense of social engineering that is native to the dems, combined with the lawless use of force and terror seen in the gangs, is an apt comparison to Hizbullah's position in the Lebanese power structure.
In September 2004, the UN drafted Resolution 1559, which called on Lebanon to establish sovereignty over its land, called on Syria to end their military presence in Lebanon and cease interfering in Lebanese politics, and it called on all Lebanese militias to disband. This includes Hizbullah.
Remember, Israel had withdrawn from southern Lebanon back in 2000. Hizbullah had moved in less than 2 months later and started setting up camps and military bases from which they launched over 2 dozen attacks in the next 6 years, including kidnappings, rocket attacks, and terrorist explosives.
Israel has had enough. The Lebanese are unable or unwilling to rope in Hizbullah. They have been suffering attacks physical and diplomatic for far too long. They have decided that "Land for Peace" only gives the enemy more land from which to attack. They have decided that attempting to talk to an implacable enemy who does not even recognize your right to exist, is foolish. They have decided to clean up the mess that Lebanon cannot or will not. They are exemplifying the Bush Doctrine perfectly -- there will be no distinction made between terrorists and the nations which harbor them.
The world opinion is against them regardless of what they do or not do, so they have decided that they don't care what the world thinks anymore. And good for them.
For this they are heroic.
Where they are "almost" heroic is similar to the squishy way in which they are fighting this new war. Air power alone will not do it. They need to send in a full invasion and if necessary declare a new war on Lebanon -- if Hizbullah is part of the government and PM Saniora is thanking Hizbullah for "their sacrifices" then it would seem no distinction can really be made between Hizbullah and Lebanon.
The US is correctly backing the Israelis quietly, clucking about the "need for peace" while allowing the IDF the time they need to get the job done.
Were I GWB, I would have a meeting with Saniora and let him know that the US is considering jumping in militarily -- on Israel's side. He can get Hizbullah reigned in, or we can assist Israel in doing so. He has 10 days.
Like Israel, the rest of the world loves to "Hate" us. So be it. Let's help our friend out. Why let our friend be poked with a stick when we could easily break the stick and the arm of the bully?