NEW YORK (CNN) -- We Americans like to think we're a pretty smart people, even when evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. And nowhere is that evidence more overwhelming than in the Middle East. History in the Middle East is everything, and we Americans seem to learn nothing from it.
President Harry Truman took about 20 minutes to recognize the state of Israel when it declared independence in 1948. Since then, more than 58 years of war, terrorism and blood-letting have led to the events of the past week.
Even now, as Katyusha rockets rain down on northern Israel and Israeli fighter jets blast Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon, we simultaneously decry radical Islamist terrorism and Israel's lack of restraint in defending itself.
And the U.S. government, which wants no part of a cease-fire until Israel is given every opportunity to rescue its kidnapped soldiers and destroy as many Hezbollah and Hezbollah armaments as possible, urges caution in the interest of preserving a nascent and fragile democratic government in Lebanon. Could we be more conflicted?
While the United States provides about $2.5 billion in military and economic aid to Israel each year, U.S. aid to Lebanon amounts to no more than $40 million. This despite the fact that the per capita GDP of Israel is among the highest in the world at $24,600, nearly four times as high as Lebanon's GDP per capita of $6,200.
Lebanon's lack of wealth is matched by the Palestinians -- three out of every four Palestinians live below the poverty line. Yet the vast majority of our giving in the region flows to Israel. This kind of geopolitical inconsistency and shortsightedness has contributed to the Arab-Israeli conflict that the Western world seems content to allow to perpetuate endlessly.
After a week of escalating violence, around two dozen Israelis and roughly 200 Lebanese have died. That has been sufficient bloodshed for United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to join in the call for an international security force, ignoring the fact that a U.N. force is already in Southern Lebanon, having failed to secure the border against Hezbollah's incursions and attacks and the murder and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers.
As our airwaves fill with images and sounds of exploding Hezbollah rockets and Israeli bombs, this seven-day conflict has completely displaced from our view another war in which 10 Americans and more than 300 Iraqis have died during the same week. And it is a conflict now of more than three years duration that has claimed almost 15,000 lives so far this year alone.
An estimated 50,000 Iraqis and more than 2,500 American troops have been killed since the insurgency began in March of 2003, which by some estimates is more than the number of dead on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict over the past 58 years of wars and intifadas.
Yet we have seen no rescue ships moving up the Euphrates for Iraqis who are dying in their streets, markets and mosques each day. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has not leaped to Baghdad as he did Beirut. And there are no meetings of the Arab League, and no U.S. diplomacy with Egypt, Syria and Jordan directed at ending the Iraqi conflict.
In the Middle East, where is our sense of proportion? Where is our sense of perspective? Where is our sense of decency? And, finally, just how smart are we?