Video: U.S. reputation a casualty of war?

By David Gregory Chief White House correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/2/2006 7:30:15 PM ET 2006-08-02T23:30:15

In the war between Israel and Hezbollah, the U.S. may not have any soldiers, but it is in the middle of the fight.

And its goals are in conflict. The administration wants a quick end to the bloodshed but insists first on disarming Hezbollah.

"The last thing that we want to do is to have an unprovoked attack by Hezbollah across the blue line and to have, several months from now, a situation in which they can do that again," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on PBS' “The Newshour with Jim Lehrer” on Tuesday.

But once again the president is at odds with his allies. America is seen as giving Israel a green light to attack, with the bloody results blanketing Arab television.

Has the U.S. squandered its reputation as an honest broker for peace?

"By supporting the Israeli military campaign, we have created a dynamic in which radicals are being empowered and moderates are being weakened," says Flynt Leverett, who worked for the National Security Council under President Bush.

Case in point: Hezbollah's leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who has become radical Islam's new hero.

Critics warn that America's influence, already weakened in the region by the Iraq war, has been eroded further.

"The hatred in the Middle East is being driven deeper and deeper into the fabric of the region," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., on Monday.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The president promised war in Iraq would usher in a new era of stability. Despite obvious setbacks, including Iraq's refusal to condemn Hezbollah, Bush remains committed.

"When democracy spreads in the Middle East, the people of that troubled region will have a better future," said President Bush on Monday in Miami.

Supporters like New Republic editor Martin Peretz argue today's threats require America to take sides.

"This is about the very existence of the state of Israel, and the United States cannot be indifferent," he says.

It's a heated debate about America's role in a region engulfed by war.

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