This war is, first and foremost, an Israeli tragedy. It is also a Lebanese tragedy and, in fact, an international one.

When the Israeli cabinet decided to respond to the abduction of two soldiers by launching a war, it did not take into consideration the fact that no one would stop it. Once started, there would be no element in the world today with the authority to stop it, whose call for a cease-fire would cause the warring parties to lay down their arms. The world of the early 21st century is one of total license, without discipline or authority.

Every time I hear about the "international community" and the United Nations and its Security Council, I exchange my tears for cynical laughter. There is no community without leadership, and no security council without someone or something to set the tone. The one that should be playing that leadership role, the United States of America, is a flimsy reed.

The election of George W. Bush as president of the United States was a terrible calamity for the world and all its inhabitants. We all know the world is a big place, and leading it is too big a job for Bush. He is not the one who can ease its pain. Ever since he was born again and his eyes opened, he views the world as flat. In a confluence of fundamentalist Christian and Texan cowboy traditions, he divides the world into good people and bad people, the sons of light against the sons of darkness. The division is sharp and clear, all black and white, with no shades of gray. What a pity it is that the American president has inherited the earth and not the skies, which are divided so clearly into heaven and hell.

The messenger-president never has and never will have any truck with those not on the "good path" laid down by evangelist preachers and the Pentagon's "new world order" prophets. And so, the only empire on the planet is feuding with half the world. It isn't speaking to North Korea or Iran or Syria or to their satellites and emissaries - Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban and the like.

In his total redemption crusade, Bush is ignorant of how the world does mourn. He tilts at the windmills of evil like some grumpy Don Quixote, and reaps the whirlwind. He is absolutely determined to bring democracy to every country in the world, even if they drown in their own blood. About 100,000 Iraqis have already greased the cogs of Bush's messianic revolution with their blood, and about 1,000 are slaughtered every week. The victims in Afghanistan are uncounted.

The international community is split and torn, divided and polarized as never before in recent history. It refuses to follow Bush's path, but does not have its own. The European Union occasionally seems more clear-eyed, but also more frightened. The global choice is thus a very poor one, between the soft-headed and the soft-hearted.

Only in Israel do people still thrill at the sight of Bush and his Condoleezzian entourage. Maybe they have a plan to save Israel from its enemies, but they have no plan to save it from its big buddy or from itself. The bad guys, meanwhile, have long since stopped being impressed. They do their own thing, as if there was no America and it had nothing to say. Bush can raise his voice a thousand times, and nothing happens: Georgie-boy is in a snit, and if he doesn't want to talk to us then who needs him? The crazies of the world are only uniting and growing stronger. They thumb their noses at his finger-wagging, the scolding of a teacher who is totally out of touch with his out-of-control classroom.

The United States under Bush single-handedly destroyed its deterrent power and that of the free world, including Israel. If the American demon that has taken over Iraq is not so terrible and can be worn down, then just how terrible could the Israeli demon possibly be?

Who would have believed it? Sometimes a normal human being finds himself missing the old world of blocs and the Berlin Wall. True, the fate of humankind in those days depended on the restraints imposed by what used to be called the "balance of terror," but it was a balance nonetheless that mandated serious thought before action. When the terror of the Cold War disappeared, that balance disappeared along with it, and the omnipotent American hegemony became impotent. The world is heating up and spinning out of control. In this unconstrained world, we are the victims-of-the-month.