The Israeli attack on Lebanon horrified me, but nothing prepared me for the sense of dread that has come in its wake.
Despite my opposition to the attack, my view that it was mad anger and senseless aggression, it never occurred to me that the over-armed and over-amped Israeli military would lose.
But they did lose, in too many ways, and in too many ways all too reminiscent of the too many ways that another mighty army, America's, is losing in Iraq.
Yes, we should have never attacked Iraq. Yes, it was obvious from the beginning that our army could get bogged down in an endless guerrilla war. Yes, it was the wrong war for the wrong reasons. Yes, the words "shock and awe" turned my stomach and tied it into knots. Yes, yes, yes.
I opposed both wars on the grounds of peace, of negotiation, of generosity of spirit, of diplomacy, of humanity, of big honking carrots and tiny little sticks.
But I suppose in some small part of my yet-American reptilian consciousness, I assumed the two strongest armies in the world would win.
But now the two strongest armies in the world have been cracked open like eggs. And I am frightened.
In Israel, the civilian population has now been exposed to the active raw hatred of millions of Muslims across the Middle East, while the evil snakes of Hezbollah, still alive and wriggling, claim victory and gather their forces for an endless war.
Clearly, President George Bush saw the Israeli attack on Lebanon as a initial skirmish in the much larger war he hopes to bring to Syria and Iran. When it began, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said we were witnessing, "The birth pangs of the new Middle East."
This week , British journalist Robert Fisk, on the ground in Lebanon, his home, surveying with anger and sadness the bodies and the rubble, writes, "The 'opportunity' which President George Bush and his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, apparently saw in the Lebanon war has turned out to be an opportunity for America's enemies to show the weakness of Israel's army."
I am not a military strategist, so I can't discourse on the uses and uselessness of an organized military fighting against guerrillas. But it seems to me that America taught the world that lesson in Vietnam. If generals are famous for fighting the last war over again, what do these new wars say about their inability to learn? About their inability to protect us?
It was hard not to watch on television the bombing of Lebanon without thinking of Germany arming Franco and his generals in 1936. As the Germans sat in safety with their long binoculars trained on Spain, the Spanish Civil War tested many of the weapons, methods and moralities of the coming European war, intended to make the world safe for fascism.
The analogy only goes so far. For one thing, Hitler and his ilk were on the same continent as their prey.
I am not a military strategist, so I can't begin to understand the thinking of Bush and his administration. Are they merely bullies hiding behind a huge ocean? Are they trying to bring corporate hegemony to the Middle East? Christianity? Armageddon and the hypothetical coming of a hypothetical savior? Are they madmen who just lust for blood, anyone's blood, any country's blood? Are they so weak that they believe they have to dominate the earth to prove they are strong? Or are they so strong they need to dominate the earth just to satisfy some deep authoritarian drive that most of us will never know or understand.
It could be all of the above, for all I know.
No bombs are dropping yet in America, where we are still fat and happy and over-entertained. Bodies and rubble are only concepts, events that happen far away from us. When we had bodies and rubble, as we did in New York City five years ago next month, we worked vigorously day and night to clear the wreckage, to sanitize and erase those profoundly disturbing smells and images from our ground zero sensibilities and our minds.
No, hordes have not yet attacked our precious homeland. We have not yet paid a high enough price in blood for our aggression overseas.
But I've learned a terrifying lesson, and it is this: our armies are not that strong. They are not invincible. They broke in Lebanon. They broke in Iraq. I don't know where they will break next.
Clearly, all the planes and all the bombs in the world - and I can only hold my breath about the nuclear ones, for Bush will certainly want to use them - will not win the coming war.
In the aftermath of this latest excursion, I feel profoundly vulnerable and frightened. We should all feel this way. "Toughness" doesn't work. It never did. It never will. In the end, we are human, we are weak, we are mortal. Our armies cannot protect us. And many more of us will die.
Joyce Marcel is a columnist and freelance journalist in Vermont. A collection of her columns, "A Thousand Words or Less," is available through joycemarcel.com. And write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.