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July 18, 2006

Comments

I think that getting rid of most of the Hizballah's rockets, and figuring out how to keep more rockets from being smuggled into Lebanon would be a reasonable goal for both Israel and Lebanon. It doesn't eliminate Hizballah, but greatly reduces their immediate threat to Israeli cities.

DaveC,

Keeping rockets (which fit into trucks) from being smuggled over the land border between Syria and Lebanon seems difficult at best. And 6 months from now, when Hezbollah has been resupplied and starts all over again, how much will this week's pounding of Hezbollah have been worth?

DaveC: we're going to interdict the flow of materials by ground, sea and air into Lebanon for a period of years precisely how?

the US can't even check more than 2% of the cargo coming into this country.

so Lebanon needs a police force formed of outside forces but under the command of the Lebanese govt. what forces would be acceptable to the Lebanese, the Poles? would the international community really put the forces under local control?

I think the very same thing when I hear these cable news pundits explaining that diplomacy doesn't work and its high time Israel and the West took action. What history have they been following?

Hilzoy, I wish someone like had a cable news TV show instead of blowhards like Bill O'Reily and Glenn Beck or the melodramatic Anderson Cooper.

It saddens me to think that 98% of the population never gets to hear rational, measured and nuanced analysis of the type one finds here everyday (both the posts and comments).

I meant "someone like you"...

Lebanon, not the US nor the international community, has to keep the rockets out. That is difficult, but that is what they have to do.

It turns out that not only is Bush a domestic liberal, but has also become a wussy liberal in foreign affairs.

Live by the bark, die by the bark.

With all due respect, I think this blog is asking the right question. In response to the kidnapping of 2 soldiers, Israel has launched an assault on Lebanon's econony, infrastructure, and people. Its targets have only the flimsiest of connection to Hizbollah, if any at all. The Lebanese blogs (inculding the anti-Hizbollah ones) make for heartbreaking reading

Really, the question to ask is not "How can Israel can best defend itself?" but "How do we save Israel from destroying Lebanon?"

Speaking of little lists, Hugh Hewitt calls Belgravia Dispatch "honorary chair" of "American Appeasement Blogs," and asks for more nominations:

This category is reserved for smart, often eloquent proponents of what sounds like, looks like, and walks like British-style appeasment of the '30s.
Eric Martin also notes fury on the right at Michael Totten.

Save the Lebanon Civilians Petition:
http://epetition.net/julywar/index.php

Alan: thanks. I can only conclude that you missed my TV debut this morning ;)

Alan: thanks. I can only conclude that you missed my TV debut this morning ;)

Oh, you were fine. I totally wanted to pop some of your questioners in the mouth, though. Is it wrong to respond to "You ought to read the Bible" with "So should you, you terrible would-be Christian"?

[Different pop, btw. Just thought I'd clarify.]

Anarch: when I made myself watch it (partly your fault; I seriously wondered whether I had had a Wardrobe Malfunction and not noticed), it was less ghastly than I had remembered (except for the hair.) In particular, the one moment when I couldn't think how to answer (first question; partly I was nervous, but partly I couldn't think what to say to the caller, a paraplegic who said he was counting on adult stem cells to let him walk again, since "I don't know how to say this to you, but that is very, very, very unlikely" seemed all wrong.

At the time, the moment when I couldn't see how to answer lasted for at least five minutes, and the moderator looked at me as if to say: so answer! about a hundred times. In fact, according to the DVD, it was about two seconds. I vastly prefer the DVD to the actual experience.

So you'll be uploading the DVD for online access soon, right?

Conspicuously missing from your list of things tried is something that may very well be an impossibility but nonetheless, the fact of talking with the opponent - not third party diplomacy -but direct talks - is not there. This is true in most conflicts - the U.S. does not deign to have actual relations with Iran, preferring to use, I think, the Swiss as intermediaries. It also began to maintain a distance from Iraq when it decided it might want to overthrow the regime. Humans seem to be fond of standing at a distance and shouting out threats. I am quite certain to hear the objection that one doesn't talk to terrorists but it is also easier to remain an armed camp surrounded by enemies, proclaiming one's virtues, rather than dealing with enemies as opponents who may be approachable. Probably hopelessly naive of me, it is easier to make peace with friends than try to do so with actual enemies. And maybe the aftermath of Hilzoy's third method of dealing with the border might continue to have some pertinence today - just in the results laid out in her precis. But the 35-50% of Lebanese who are Shia, and of whom some significant proportion consider that they are represented by Hezbollah, do not exist because as Hilzoy says, it should just be eliminated. Probably a recipe for yet another failed way to protect the border.

Hilzoy: I think you did really well in the debate. In my opinion, you successfully laid out the critical reasons why this legislation is so important and why the current limits on funding and available stem cell lines are grossly inadequate. The stumble was nothing; most viewers were probably too busy sipping their coffees to really notice anyway.

Thoroughly unimpressed listening to Leon Kass for the second time now.

Add me to the list of those impressed by Hilzoy this morning, and not just the "popping" outfit or the sparkling eyes. She has (you have, H) a good TV presence, especially for someone representing the ethical use of the intelligence.

Partly this is because there is no intemperate rush to articulate a "snap" response - as, e.g., some of us comment on blogs - but instead a measured sense of both listening to the question and respecting the person of the questioner, which is how I'd like to think I would behave if I were a more ethical (intelligent?) person. To that extent the pause, if anyone noticed it, would have only augmented the judicious demeanor.

Partly it's just because, damnit, she is (you are) right.

This commentary brought to you in part by the fershlugginer alarm company that woke me up from a sound sleep shortly before your broadcast with a (bogus) notification that something was wrong with the outside bedroom door! (I got back to sleep once C-SPAN had moved on to duller participants.)

As I understand it, Hizbollah is too large and powerful a presence in Lebanon to disarm or use the state's legitimate violence to control. I mean, at whatever Gary, 30 per cent of the Lebanese people and gov't, it doesn't make a lot of sense to tell Lebanon to oppose Hizbollah. Whatever is in opposition to Hizbollah would no longer be "Lebanon".

I guess I missed hilzoy. Were we notified? C-SPAN? Sorry if I missed it, although I have some weird attitudes. Maybe she is more useful to me as in abstracted argument than an objectified spokesperson.

How big is Hezbollah?

Its core consists of several thousand militants and activists, the U.S. government estimates.

[...]

Does Hezbollah play an active role in the Lebanese politics?

Yes. After the 2005 elections, Hezbollah won eight new seats, giving the group twenty-three seats in the 128-member Lebanese Parliament. In addition, Hezbollah has two ministers in the government, and a third is endorsed by the group.

Lebanon:
Population:
3,874,050 (July 2006 est.)

[...]

Legislative branch

unicameral National Assembly or Majlis Alnuwab (Arabic) or Assemblee Nationale (French) (128 seats; members elected by popular vote on the basis of sectarian proportional representation to serve four-year terms)

[...]

elections: last held in four rounds on 29 May, 5, 12, 19 June 2005 (next to be held 2009)
election results: percent of vote by group - NA; seats by group - Future Movement Bloc 36; Democratic Gathering 15; Development and Resistance Bloc 15; Loyalty to the Resistance 14; Free Patriotic Movement 14; Lebanese Forces 6; Qornet Shewan 5; Popular Bloc 4; Tripoli Independent Bloc 3; Syrian National Socialist Party 2; Kataeb Reform Movement 2; Tachnaq Party 2; Democratic Renewal Movement 1; Democratic Left 1; Nasserite Popular Movement 1; Ba'th Party 1; Kataeb Party 1; independent 5

More:
The civilian wing participates in the Parliament of Lebanon, taking 18% of the seats (23 out of 128) and the bloc it forms with others, the "Resistance and Development Bloc", 27,3% (see Lebanese general election, 2005). It is a minority partner in the current Cabinet.

[...]

Hezbollah has a military branch known as Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya ("The Islamic Resistance"), and is the possible sponsor of a number of lesser-known militant organizations, some of which may be little more than fronts for Hezbollah itself. These organizations include the Organization of the Oppressed, the Revolutionary Justice Organization, the Organization of Right Against Wrong, and Followers of the Prophet Muhammad. [citation needed]

Its strength has been variously estimated as "several thousand" [38] and "several thousand supporters and a few hundred terrorist operatives"[39].

More here.

Note on the Gary's "more here" link. The navy site spells the name Hizballah and Gary was all over my case for using that spelling in a previous comment. Score a point for DaveC. I'll take 'em where I can get 'em.

"Gary was all over my case for using that spelling in a previous comment"

No, DaveC; "Hizballah" is a perfectly valid spelling (transliterating Arabic into English allows for various valid different systems, given the different alphabets).

Here is exactly what I wrote:

Also, incidentally: "Your search - "Jemahh al Islamyah" - did not match any document" says Google. I'm guessing you mean Jemaah Islamiya. I've also never ever seen a reference to "HizbAllah" with a capital "A."

You're way too pendantic!

I meant your way to pedantic.

I think hilzoy is dead on regarding a long term fix to Lebanon and how to deal with Hezbollah.

Short term; I've got to think though that a big part of why Israel is overreacting is to catch the rest of the world's attention. They really can't do anything to Syria and Iran so when Iran/Syria get Hezbollah to escalate why not share their pain with the rest of the region and pin the blame on Iran?

With the right attention, Chinese and Russian support for Iran could erode allowing a tougher line on Iran. If I where Israel Lebanese missles would be bad but Iranian nukes would leave me terrified.

DaveC: Lebanon, not the US nor the international community, has to keep the rockets out. That is difficult, but that is what they have to do.

So, you're saying you agree with Hilzoy: what Israel and the US and the rest of the international community need to do is to create "a strong and stable Lebanese state with a monopoly of force within its territory".

I mention this just because it sounded like you were trying to disagree, and you might not have noticed that you appear to be shouting in agreement.

"With all due respect, I think this blog is asking the right question. In response to the kidnapping of 2 soldiers, Israel has launched an assault on Lebanon's econony, infrastructure, and people."

There is the little matter of rockets being shot at Israeli cities on a constant basis. How many would have to hit San Diego before we invaded Mexico? Two? Three? One?

The problem is the rockets. The soldiers were the flashpoint, but the problem is the rockets. Any solution that doesn't deal with the rockets isn't much of a solution.

If it is the case that no one can control the flow of rockets into Lebanon, you have to

A) get Syria and Iran to stop
B) if Lebanon can't control them, move the border far enough that they can't hit Israel's cities and people found in the inbetween zone get killed.

There is theoretically C) have peacekeeper who are willing to kill Hezbollah fighters stationed at the border.

The problem now is that the choice Israel is being asked to accept is effectively "lie back and enjoy it". I'm not sure that is any more appealing for Israel than it is in the other context.

So, you're saying you agree with Hilzoy: what Israel and the US and the rest of the international community need to do is to create "a strong and stable Lebanese state with a monopoly of force within its territory".

Absolutely. And since the international community is not in fact doing so, Israel is forced to fight a war via the normal war-like means.

hilroy, I missed your C-SPAN moment, too! I wish I could have seen it. I took the liberty of looking you up though (since I'm a new here) and found that you've written a very well-received and fascinating book! I intend to read it. Also, I knew I sensed a kindred shy spirit in you. (I'm only "garrulous" in print.) I can't tell you how much I admired your bravery in going on C-SPAN.

As for your thoughtful post, I've been obsessing over this very topic all day (since our discussion last night) trying to weigh everything and make pros and cons in my head and so I appreciate your efforts. The more I learn about the Middle East situation, the more I admit I don't know.

Your focus on Lebanon's health and strength is on target, I think. It's unfortuate that its government make-up has such an inherent weak spot, as Gary has pointed out. I believe it's in their constitution that they must have a Christian President, a Sunni Muslim Prime Minister and a Shi'a Muslim Speaker of the Parliament. It sounds good on paper, but it reminds me of the Roman triumverate. It didn't work. I'm not sure if one ever has. (Any history buffs out there?)
Also, the assassination of a man like Hariri shows that Lebanon hasn't been as healthy as it had appeared. What a terrible loss that was.

I agree with Sebastian that Israel is taking advantage of this situation to perform a little surgery while it can. It's trying to be precise. Maybe this is the reason why the bombing seems a little indescriminate sometimes? And this is the guy in charge of it all.

I've found this article on the Arab-Israeli conflict to be very informative. I'm not going to try for any wisdom here.

But this - Iran to Hizbullah: Curb attacks on Israel - was interesting and maybe hopeful? (Said with some skepticism)

Sebastian: The problem is the rockets. The soldiers were the flashpoint, but the problem is the rockets. Any solution that doesn't deal with the rockets isn't much of a solution.

I agree. But given that missiles are being fired from both sides - Israel had for years a habit of committing assassination by rocket, indifferent to how many innocent bystanders they killed - it's not much use just telling the Palestinians to "lie back and enjoy it" when Israel rockets them.

And since the international community is not in fact doing so, Israel is forced to fight a war via the normal war-like means.

Israel and the US are part of the international community, Sebastian. They're neither of making any attempt to deal with the problem in any useful way: instead, Israel is choosing to escalate the situation into full-blown war, apparently indifferent to the fact that they are busily engaged in cutting off the branch they themselves are sitting on. Israel is the aggressor here: Lebanon did not attack Israel.

Sebestian,

Do you realize those rockets were launched in response to the Israel's bombing of civilian areas? That's always been part of the rules of the game between Hizbollah and Israel: Hizbollah launches attacks against Israeli civilians only after Israel attacks Lebanon's civilians.

The need to protect Israeli cvilians from Hizbollah reprisals is all the more reason for a ceasefire.

Peter H, in fairness, I think both the Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians have been going on for so long that it is usually pointless trying to pick out a "who started it" for any particular incident.

The attacks on Lebanon are a clear escalation of the situation, however, and an escalation in which Israel is the aggressor.

Jes,

"The attacks on Lebanon are a clear escalation of the situation, however, and an escalation in which Israel is the aggressor."

And the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers is what? Background noise? Normal operations? Part of everyday life?

Dantheman: And the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers is
not an act of war by the government of Lebanon against the state of Israel.


To put it another way, Dan: the US has kidnapped five Bosnian citizens and one Algerian with right of permanent residency from Bosnia in October 2001. Does this, in your view, justify Bosnia attacking the US?

Jes,

"And the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers is
not an act of war by the government of Lebanon against the state of Israel."

Even if correct (more below), that is irrelevant to your prior comment, which is whether it was an escalation in hostilities in which Israel was the aggressor. The kidnapping of the soldiers was a prior escalation of hostilities in which Hezbollah was the aggressor. Your elision over it speaks volumes.

However, either the actions by Hezbollah (which is, after all, a part of Lebanon's governing coalition) can be attributed to Lebanon's government, in which case your statement is plainly false, or the government of Lebanon is failing to exercise its responsibilities to control its own citizenry and keep them from attacking neighboring countries, which is also an act of war on the part of Lebanon, and your statement is again false.

"the US has kidnapped five Bosnian citizens and one Algerian with right of permanent residency from Bosnia in October 2001. Does this, in your view, justify Bosnia attacking the US?"

Possibly. I need more information, such as what was the Bosnian government's role in this? Did the government have prior warning and agreed to it? Were they persons who had international warrants out for their arrest?

hilzoy, I think you're dead on here. As the resident warmonger, if I thought Israel actually could eliminate Hezbollah, I'd be cheering them on. But since that's not possible short of basically slaughtering most of the people in southern Lebanon (to be clear, I'm against that), then this strikes me as akin to kicking over a hornet's nest. The hornets may have to spend some time rebuilding, but you're going to get stung for your troubles and, in the end, the hornets will still be there.

Actually, this is worse than that, since in addition to damaging the hornet's nest, Israel is also trashing their neighbor's house.

This may be of some marginal emotional satisfaction, but I have a hard time seeing any outcome of this battle that redounds to Israel's benefit.

"They could be a normal country with normal problems, and they know it."

Sure they know, but the exact same forces that prevent Israel from concessions keeps them from concessions. Even if they could do something about Hizbollah, doing something about Hizbollah because someone decided to brutally punish you until you did... well, let's just say politicians who caved in to such pressure wouldn't get reelected. At best.

Dan: Even if correct (more below), that is irrelevant to your prior comment, which is whether it was an escalation in hostilities in which Israel was the aggressor. The kidnapping of the soldiers was a prior escalation of hostilities in which Hezbollah was the aggressor.

Indeed. But kidnapping by Hezbollah did not justify making war on Lebanon: indeed, making war on Lebanon, as Hilzoy carefully points out, actually ensured that Israel was less likely to get what they claim they ultimately want - an end to hostilities from Hezbollah. Attacking Lebanon strengthens Hezbollah, not weakens it: strengthening the government of Lebanon would have enabled Lebanon to act effectively against Hezbollah.

I regret my comment about the Bosnian kidnapping (Dan, if you're interested, you can find out more about it by googling on Algerian kidnapping Guantanamo) because the kidnapping of nationals by the CIA is not quite relevant to the kidnapping of nationals by a terrorist organization. Nevertheless, I would not think it justified for Bosnia to attack the US and kill American civilians until the US agreed to hand back its citizens - no more than I would have thought it justified for the UK to attack the US and kill American civilians when the US was still holding British kidnap victims. Killing of innocent civilians is not an appropriate response to kidnapping, not even when a government agency is responsible for the kidnapping, still less so when a terrorist organization is responsible.

Jes,

I am curious, while we are in general agreement that this current fight is in no one's interests, were it the case that Israel had attempted negotiations, UN interventions, and all other options first without success, what would you permit them to do to attempt to retrieve their missing soldiers? This is not intended to be a trick question in any form, just pure curiosity.

The hornets may have to spend some time rebuilding, but you're going to get stung for your troubles and, in the end, the hornets will still be there.

I think Israel's running a somewhat bigger risk in this bombing than just being stung. I'm not sure it would be worth backing Hezbollah into a corner, even if it were possible.

Everyone here seems to think that the best possible solution would be an effective Lebanese government that is able to disarm Hezbollah (and I agree). But every indication is that Hezbollah has no intention of ever fully disarming voluntarily.

This implies that what we are essentially pushing for is a renewed Lebanese civil war, which would inevitably take on a sectarian character. At the very least, it would be the Lebanese Shiites vs. the rest of the country. And the Christians, Sunnis and Druze don't exactly have the best record of cooperation.

So my question is, what steps can Israel and the West take to help bring about a dominant central government and a disarmed Hezbollah? My two cents: Israel should cease attacking areas of Lebanon not under Hezbollah control, but should continue its campaign against Hezbollah at least until the majority of H. fighters have been killed or driven into Syria. Israel should then withdraw while the Lebanese Army moves in behind it. Meanwhile, the US and Europe should offer cash money to the Lebanese government and the following deal: You keep Hezbollah down, and we'll keep Israel out.

That solution is probably totally unworkable, but it's all I can come up with.

Andrew: I am not the resident warmonger, but I am not the resident pacifist either. I tend to think that wars are awful in their own right, and tend to have horrible unpredictable consequences, but I also think that there are times when going to war is the right thing to do. In this case, I agree with you about the hornet's nest, and would only add: suppose that the hornet's nest is built on your neighbor's house: then attacking your neighbor's house will tend to make your neighbor less willing to deal with the hornets once and for all, so any strike on the hornets needs to take that effect into account; and striking your neighbor's hornet-destroying equipment (e.g., the Lebanese army) is downright stupid.

Jes,

I love the sound of goalposts moving in the morning (as it still is here). You have now gone from Israel was the aggressor party to Israel was the only state which was the aggressor and then to Israel was not the aggressor, but its actions were not the wisest way to accomplish its goals.

Further, you totally ignored Lebanon's culpability in preventing Hezbollah (whether acting as part of the Lebanese government or not) from attacking a neighboring country. Nice job.

I am not the resident warmonger

I should hope not. I'd feel like I wasn't doing my job.

I tend to think that wars are awful in their own right, and tend to have horrible unpredictable consequences

I think you're 100% correct on this. I am a fan of William T. Sherman's famous comment about war: "I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for more blood, more desolation. War is hell." And I suspect war has gotten worse since his day in many ways, given the impressive means of delivering death we've developed in the intervening 140 years.

I have to believe that the Israeli military has some objective to this campaign, but I'm damned if I can puzzle it out.

I have to believe that the Israeli military has some objective to this campaign, but I'm damned if I can puzzle it out.

Just a suggestion, but maybe what they're doing is just the easiest thing for the military they could come up with. Using air power is easier than ground power, and big stationary targets are easier than finding hidden rocket emplacements.

Dantheman: You have now gone from Israel was the aggressor party to Israel was the only state which was the aggressor and then to Israel was not the aggressor, but its actions were not the wisest way to accomplish its goals.

Moving goalposts? I thought I was trying to clarify what I meant. To clarify still further:

1. The Israeli military and Palestinian terrorists have been attacking Palestinian and Israeli civilians for so long and so often that for any individual attack on civilians committed by either one, it's usually futile trying to pick out one as an aggressor.

2. Attacking another country, however, as now when Israel is making war on Lebanon, is an escalation in hostilities, and has created a situation where Israel is plainly the aggressor.

3. And attacking Lebanon is, as Andrew and Hilzoy both agree, entirely futile anyway, if the goal is to stop Hezbollah.

Further, you totally ignored Lebanon's culpability in preventing Hezbollah (whether acting as part of the Lebanese government or not) from attacking a neighboring country. Nice job.

Further, you totally ignored the point that Hilzoy made in her original post, and weirdly Andrew agreed with her, that the Lebanese government is not able to prevent Hezbollah from attacking Israel, and if Israel wants the Lebanese government to stop Hezbollah, their goal should be to strengthen the Lebanese government, not attack it.

Unless I've completely misread, Israel has attacked and destroyed numerous rocket launchers, along with their crews.

Slarti: Unless I've completely misread, Israel has attacked and destroyed numerous rocket launchers, along with their crews.

I don't know which news reports you've been reading: according to the BBC "More than 275 Lebanese - mostly civilians - have been killed since [Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid a week ago.]".

The latest Israeli air strikes hit targets in the east and south of Lebanon.

Residents in Srifa said at least 10 members of one family died, and reports suggest many more were killed in other houses.

At least six people died in the southern town of Nabatiyeh, while civilian deaths were also reported in other parts of the south and near Baalbek in the east.

Further:
Tens of thousands of people - including many Lebanese families - have fled across the border to Syria.

Relief agencies say there is a growing need for water, sanitation and medical facilities for more than 500,000 people displaced within Lebanon.

maybe what they're doing is just the easiest thing for the military they could come up with. Using air power is easier than ground power, and big stationary targets are easier than finding hidden rocket emplacements.

That's not an objective, that's just blowing things up for the purpose of blowing them up. I can't prove that they're not doing that, but I think it far more likely that they have some objective these attacks are arranged to reach. But I'm mystified as to what it might be.

"I don't know which news reports you've been reading"

Reports that discuss attacks on rocket launchers, obviously. Those reports don't make the existence of other, different reports of other events impossible, of course.

The report I am referring to can be found here, among many other places.

The attacks on the Lebanese army (while also demanding as one of the terms of resolution that the Lebanese army deploy in southern Lebanon) strikes me as so blatantly contradictory, that I think we have to question what is really going on here. Frankly, the strength of the Lebanese army lies in its heavy assets. The strength of Hezbollah lies in its maneuverability. So bombing the roads to southern Lebanon is going to harm a conventional army to a greater degree than its paramilitary adversary. I just don't understand.

Slarti, I'm sure they've got some launchers. Most of their targets seem to be more of the following:

Targets

If that's true, I don't see a military objective in those, unless it's destruction of the economy.

Jes,

"2. Attacking another country, however, as now when Israel is making war on Lebanon, is an escalation in hostilities, and has created a situation where Israel is plainly the aggressor."

Again, you are eliding over Hezbollah crossing the border and capturing soldiers, which occurred first. Unless you have a definition of aggressor wildly different than all other users of the English language, this would make Hezbollah and not Israel the aggressor.

"Further, you totally ignored the point that Hilzoy made in her original post, and weirdly Andrew agreed with her, that the Lebanese government is not able to prevent Hezbollah from attacking Israel, and if Israel wants the Lebanese government to stop Hezbollah, their goal should be to strengthen the Lebanese government, not attack it."

Funny, last time I posted a comment you had not raised that point in our discussions. At yet, you expect me to use my psychic powers to know that you are making the point and therefore I need to respond to a point you had not raised. I will disagree with them (and if you are taking that position, you) that the Lebanese government is unable to prevent Hezbollah from engaging in acts of war against neighboring countries. Therefore, while that may be their position, it is not mine.

Dantheman: Again, you are eliding over Hezbollah crossing the border and capturing soldiers, which occurred first.

Again, you seem to be completely ignoring the fact that Lebanon is not Hezbollah, and Hezbollah is not Lebanon. Your argument would make sense if, and only if, that were so.

Funny, last time I posted a comment you had not raised that point in our discussions.

I raised that point in my first comment on this thread: my comment at July 19, 2006 at 03:07 AM.

weirdly Andrew agreed with her

Why is that weird?

Why is that weird?

It was meant to be a half-humorous reference to the fact that you and Hilzoy don't appear to be natural partners, friends, and allies in any argument, but nevertheless, there you are, agreeing away like mad.

I could have phrased it better, though. Sorry.

I'm still trying to figure out what difference makes me a flaming liberal and Andrew more of a conservative. This might just reflect the fact that we've been writing about foreign policy, though.

"Again, you seem to be completely ignoring the fact that Lebanon is not Hezbollah, and Hezbollah is not Lebanon. Your argument would make sense if, and only if, that were so."

Not at all. First, last time I checked, there was no rule that only states can be aggressors. Please point me to one, if it exists.

Second, as noted before, Hezbollah is part of Lebanon's government. While it has been convenient for Lebanon to pretend that they have no control over it, they do, with potential actions ranging from kicking them out of government now, to requiring Hezbollah to disarm when the government was formed as a condition for being in government (which was required by UN resolution), to positioning its army to prevent Hezbollah forces from crossing the Israeli border. While they have chosen not to do so, it does not mean they could not have.

Jes,

No apology necessary. It's a cute comment, actually. Just confused me. (Which, I should note, isn't terribly hard.)

Hilzoy,

Maybe I should write a post on the minimum wage. That should get things spinning nicely. ;)

Dantheman: First, last time I checked, there was no rule that only states can be aggressors. Please point me to one, if it exists.

Now you're moving the goalposts.

Jes,

"Now you're moving the goalposts."

Only if you define moving the goalposts as something one says in every post on the subject. For the rest of us, not really.

"not an act of war by the government of Lebanon against the state of Israel."

Very carefully put.

It is an act of war by the group which controls a huge part of southern Lebanon. It is an act of war by a group which is supplied only through ports (sea and air) of Lebanon and borders of Lebanon. It is a group composed largely of Lebanese nationals. If you claim to be a government which controls a certain area, you can't allow a huge militia to attack a bordering country and expect not to take damage when that country fights back.

"The Israeli military and Palestinian terrorists have been attacking Palestinian and Israeli civilians for so long and so often that for any individual attack on civilians committed by either one, it's usually futile trying to pick out one as an aggressor."

I reject this formulation. First we are talking about Hezbollah which until it kidnapped the soldiers had much less to complain about. Second the reason so many civilians die in Israeli attacks is because Hezbollah doesn't follow the rules of war in distinguishing themselves from non-combatants and it doesn't separate its military structures from civilian structures. (And that is putting it nicely. In reality they intentionally place their installations in houses with civilians.)

For example, if they were supplied by a military airfield, Israel could just bomb the military airfield while leaving the civilian system intact. But by mixing the two, Hezbollah makes the civilian structure a target.

That isn't true of Israel. The soldiers and military installations are distinguishable. But they aren't targeted. The civilians are targeted.

Dantheman: If I point out - repeatedly - that Hezbollah and Lebanon are not identical, and that attacking Lebanon is an act of aggression by Israel because Lebanon is not the aggressor, it is moving the goalposts to say "Ah yes! But there's no rule that only nation-states can be aggressors!" Now since you don't appear to want to respond to what I'm actually saying, I'm done.

Sebastian: The soldiers and military installations are distinguishable. But they aren't targeted. The civilians are targeted.

If you check out the documented facts of the situation, Sebastian, you will find that you're just plain wrong. Israeli security force personnel killed by Palestinians (between September 29th 2000-and July 15th 2006): 225 in the Occupied Territories, 86 in Israel itself, total 311. Israel civilians killed by Palestinians: 234 in the Territories, 462 in Israel, total 696. So just over 30% of the total Israel casualties since September 2000 have been members of the Israel security forces: legitimate targets, if we call this war.

Or, to put it in another light: 723 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli security forces in the Occupied Territories since September 2000, which is more than the total number of Israeli civilian casualities either side of the border.

If you look at the grim statistics, Sebastian, or spend time reading the detailed lists on B'Tselem, it becomes appallingly clear that it is now impossible to pick out any one incident in the conflict and say "That side started it that time!" It's pointless: there are over 3000 stories of bereavement on the Palestinian side, over 1000 stories of bereavement on the Israeli side. Will Fatma Fadel Bashir Jadallah's family forgive Israel for killing her any more readily than Lily Yunes's family will forgive the Palestinians for killing her? Can you really say that Fatma's family don't deserve to feel as heartbroken as Lily's family do? Can you weigh grief on scales of justice?

Both sides have done unacceptable things to each other. Israel's done worse, both numerically and proportionally, because Israel has superior firepower. But the civilians on either side didn't deserve to be attacked.

Jes,

If I point out repeatedly that Hezbollah is the agressor by any reasonable reading, and you repeatedly state that no, Israel is, I can only conclude that you are so determined to blame Israel that you are unable to stop repeating the same misguided points indefinitely.

The closest parallel to this situation I could think of is the Pancho Villa Expedition, where Pancho Villa's forces (who were otherwise fighting the Mexican government) conducted a raid into US territory in 1916, killing several US citizens. The US treated this as an act of war, and sent a 12,000 man force across the border to capture Pancho Villa. The US was considered within its rights to do so (not that Europe was in any position to demand this stop, as it was preoccupied).

Similarly, Israel's actions in Lebanon are within its rights. Whether it is a wise action to take or not is a whole different subject.

Stepping very carefully around the I/P landmine and moving on to the current situation in Lebanon, I don't see how anyone can deny that Hezbollah is the aggressor in this situation. Israel did withdraw from southern Lebanon in 2000, after all. The Shebaa Farms area is not internationally recognized as being a part of Lebanon, but even if it were, would that have been a legitimate excuse for Hezbollah continuing to send rockets and raids into Israel proper?

"Sebastian, you will find that you're just plain wrong. Israeli security force personnel killed by Palestinians (between September 29th 2000-and July 15th 2006): 225 in the Occupied Territories, 86 in Israel itself, total 311. Israel civilians killed by Palestinians: 234 in the Territories, 462 in Israel, total 696. So just over 30% of the total Israel casualties since September 2000 have been members of the Israel security forces: legitimate targets, if we call this war."

Your statistic doesn't prove what you want it to prove. First, I think we were talking about Hezbollah. Second, the fact that Israeli security people have died doesn't explain why lobbing an only roughly targeted rocket toward a city counts as targeting the military.

It doesn't explain how targeting a restaurant with a suicide bomber counts as targeting the military.

have to believe that the Israeli military has some objective to this campaign, but I'm damned if I can puzzle it out.


________________________________

There is a well known military doctrine: When you don't know what to do, you do what you know. The IAF is superb at blowing things up, so they blow up as many things as they can

What does blowing up milk factories and hitting Tripoli (in North Lebanon) have to do with stopping Hezbollah.

I dint know, I'm genuinely curious Holdsclaw and all Israel defenders, chime in.

BTW, I support Israel for responding to the initial attack by Hezbollah, so please dispense with the usual antiSemetic boilerplate accusations. TIA

Sebastian, your claim was that Palestinian terrorists do not target Israeli military; my point was that in fact they do, though they also target Israeli civilians. So do the Israeli military target both terrorists and civilians. My point in this long argument was that it is impossible to argue in the usual run of the intifada which side started which incident; you can only pinpoint an aggressor when one side escalates the situation to a new level - as for example, Israel attacking Lebanon.

ThirdGorchBro: I don't see how anyone can deny that Hezbollah is the aggressor in this situation.

But Lebanon is not, and Israel has started to make war on Lebanon, not on Hezbollah.

What does blowing up milk factories and hitting Tripoli (in North Lebanon) have to do with stopping Hezbollah?

Maybe that’s where they get their yoghurt from? I was intrigued by this comment from Bruschetta Boy (Daniel Davies?):

Parenthetically, I note that as Israeli politics has got more right-wing and more directed toward Bush's America since 2000, the conduct of its military has got stupider, more belligerent and less successful. If anyone can think of a version of "dogs get to look like their owners" that doesn't sound quite so anti-Semitic in analogy, I am in the market.

There is a well known military doctrine: When you don't know what to do, you do what you know.

Well known according to whom? I've been associated with the United States Army since 1988 and I've never heard any such thing. The doctrine I've always trained on was to make sure you know the desired end state before you even begin making your plan, or else you're wasting your time.

Sorry, Andrew, I was being snarky.

However, there are quite a few generals in the past that did follow this adage.Reference WW1, where plenty of generals " just knew" that human wave attacks would succeed against those pesky machine gun nests, if pressed hard enough...

Carib,

But they still had an objective. They just had a lousy grasp of the tactical situation. And they didn't understand history, as the American Civil War presaged the carnage of WWI.

Andrew,


OK. THats fine. The question still remains,How the heck does anyonejustify some of the targets the IAF have picked.I note that the "Israel defenders" on this site haven't responded....


MY TAKE? I think the military tail is wagging the political dog and that the IAF are bombing targets because well... they can.

I think OLmert needs to grow a pair, call in the generals and say,
" you are only going to bomb targets in Hezbollah land and you are not going to bomb any thing in Beirut or points north unless ABSULUTELY MILITARILY NECESSARY and on MY say so!"

War is after all the pursuit of political objectives by other means and Israel is taking a political beating by hitting militarliy useless targets like milk factories.

Carib,

As I said, I'm at a loss to explain the Israeli strategy. I'm still think there is one, however. I just fear that it is ill-conceived.

Jes: "So do the Israeli military target both terrorists and civilians."

That word, "target" -- I do not believe it means what you think it means.

Generally speaking, Hezbollah has missiles and assets squirreled away all over Lebanon and all over Beirut, and most of all, surrounded by civilians as much as possible.

I'm sure that inevitably some of what Israeli intel thinks is a Hezbollah target also, on occasion, turns out to be wrong.

But the seeming scattershotness is not random, nor without point, but are a matter of being targets being chosen according to what they believe to be good intel.

Whether it's a good idea to take such risks in many cases is utterly debatable; whether a given target was a horrible idea, or a defensible idea, would depend on knowledge of the specifics we do not have.

I don't claim to have psychic knowledge that "milk factory" has weapons there; it might be equally useful to not claim on the basis of psychic knowledge that one knows for sure it does not.

I'm not saying anyone needs to give Israel the benefit of the doubt; I repeat that it's many aspects of what Israel is doing are entirely legitimately arguable. I'm just saying that it might be useful to work from knowledge, not assumptions. And when we don't have knowledge, possibly waiting until we have some, before we type a lot, might be more useful than typing a lot with little knowledge, but many assumptions.

Moral outrage doesn't actually accomplish anything.

Andrew,

To be honest, I dont think ANYONE -Including Our Fearless Decider-knows what the right strategy is, so I'm willing to cut Israel a little slack on this.
But the more the casualties mount up, the less slack Israel will get, even from its friends.

But the seeming scattershotness is not random, nor without point, but are a matter of being targets being chosen according to what they believe to be good intel.

-------------------------------

Gary,
I hate to say this, but you sound for a moment there like Billy Kristol justifying the Iraq War...:-)

"Moral outrage doesn't actually accomplish anything."

au contraire.

The right wing has made an art form of moral outrage, and turned it into a lot of ginned-up resentment and uproar, and converted that in turn into a lot of voter registration and turn out, and finally turned that into the largest asset-stripping operation in history.

The US population is now $9 trillion dollars poorer.

That's not accomplishing something?

"That's not accomplishing something?"

And, indeed, being as stupid and quasi-fascistic as they've been is obviously the model to emulate.

This is not the first time the divide over that argument has come up.

Myself, I do not chose to take George W. Bush's followers as my model to emulate.

"But the seeming scattershotness is not random, nor without point, but are a matter of being targets being chosen according to what they believe to be good intel."

And the further point should be made that this is in distinction to the actual scattershotness of pointing a missile in the general direction of a city and firing it.

Scattershop example here.

were it the case that Israel had attempted negotiations, UN interventions, and all other options first without success,

UN Force In Lebanon and how they responded to a previous kidnapping by hizballah.

"And the further point should be made that this is in distinction to the actual scattershotness of pointing a missile in the general direction of a city and firing it."

I intended to partly make that point with my comment in Charles' thread about Hezbollah missiles killing Arab Israeli children

There's no doubt, however, let me emphasize, that Israel makes mistakes:

The shelling destroyed two trucks carrying construction drills that were probably mistaken for rocket launchers.
There's no doubt there have been other mistakes, tragic and terrible ones, and there will go on being such mistakes.

Ditto in Gaza. Israel strives mightily to minimize them, but they're perfectly human and fallible, and sometimes are particularly fallible, or use bad judgment. And the larger issues of how much accidental civilian death should be tolerated is utterly valid. As are the yet larger issues.

I'm in no way trying to argue that Israel is morally scot-free, or 100% in the right, end of discussion.

I don't know that they're doing the Most Right Thing right now. I'm not in a position to know, one way or another. And, naturally, this greatly bothers me.

I also don't know for sure that what they're doing is clearly wrong, either. If I did, I'd certainly say so; I'm hardly shy about ripping the Israeli leadership when I think they're entirely wrong (as in, for instance, the appalling decision of Sharon and the leadership to fully invade Lebanon in 1982, leading to the horrors of Sabra and Shatilla, which I said then and ever since made Sharon a war criminal, and that he should have been imprisoned thereafter and stayed there for the rest of his life).

I'm somewhat inclined towards giving the leader of Labor, lifetime peacenick, Amir Peretz, and the Kadima leadership, which has led the way in withdrawing from Gaza, subsequent to the withdrawal from Lebanon, the benefit of the doubt, but I certainly don't give them carte blanche, or assume they must be right in all things.

All I am doing now is trying not to leap to conclusions.

DaveC, UNiFiL is a joke and always has been; you needn't belabor the point untils someone is, you know, actually arguing with you (in which case, if I'm around, I've got you covered on that one).

"UNiFiL is a joke and always has been; you needn't belabor the point untils someone is, you know, actually arguing with you"

The point is worth mentioning a couple of times, since a semi-serious response was that we should have the UN act as peacekeepers inserted in between the two parties. (I believe I read that Italy wants the UN to quadruple the number of troops--i'm underwhelmed considering the history.)

I would think that the problem with UNIFIL isn't necessarily that it's a UN force per se; it's that its rules of engagement are sufficiently constraining that it can't actually do anything. Whether any rules of engagement that would be adequate to really policing the border could get through the UN I don't know, but that's what I'd be looking at. (As well as things like: where the forces would come from, how well they were likely to work, and to work together, etc.)

I definitely think that the UN shouldn't get involved with troops if its mandate is just to keep the parties apart. If its mandate is to disarm Hezbollah it could be useful. Otherwise, not so much.

"I would think that the problem with UNIFIL isn't necessarily that it's a UN force per se; it's that its rules of engagement are sufficiently constraining that it can't actually do anything."

Sure. The question is whether any new force, or beefed up force with a different mandate, under the UN, and national instructions, would be capable of acting differently, and being effective, and effectively fighting.

That's a pretty huge question. I'd love to see it answered positively, but I have to say that, without being a conservative, and with a history of speaking up endlessly for the virtues in many cases of UN forces being generally under-rated by U.S. conservatives, that that remains a pretty huge open question.

An effective and meaningful force would have to be able to actually fight Hezbollah when attacked or interfered with, and would have to do the same with the Israeli Defense Forces.

That's a pretty big mandate to swallow, and I'm not terribly optimistic that it's possible any time soon.

And anything less would wind up as much of a joking tragedy as UNiFiL, I'm afraid.

But a real force is apt to be pulled into a new Lebanese civil war, or maybe even a regional civil war. How to respond when Hezbollah resists all out, or Syria does, or Israel does?

Quagmire, or withdrawal, or what?

Idealism, it's damn sure, won't carry the day.

A UN force isn't going to be effective fighting Syria, or Israel, if either presses hard, that's for sure. And I'm doubtful a UN force would be given instructions to conquer Hezbollah, to put it mildly.

But some or at least one of the above, would be necessary, if one force resists sufficiently.

So what happens when that happens?

Sanctions won't do the trick.

UN forces can be effective in peacekeeping. The only demonstrable time they've been peacemakers was in Korea. The Security Council of today won't do that again, and anything less won't do.

So, the problem seems to remain.

Though maybe I'm just pessimistic tonight, and will see happier ideas tomorrow, or the next day.

Can this be true?

(Of course, given the US government's firm belief that Israel is only killing Hezbollah terrorists, I'm surprised Americans are being evacuated at all: as innocent civilians, they should be absolutely safe in a country being attacked by Israel, just as they would be in a country being attacked by the US. Hardly like being in a war zone at all, right?)

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