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July 27, 2006

Comments

Aren't you assuming that there will be zero significant degrading effect on Hezbollah, and zero significant deterrent effect against future more deadly attacks, and zero galvanize-the-world-to-do-something-useful-for-once effect?

I would ideally like an estimate of Israeli casualties over the next say ten or twenty years under the grin-and-bear-it scenario vs the pull-out-tomorrow-and-look-weak scenario vs the degrade-Hizbollah-for-a-month-or-so/ suffer-the-awful-PR/ maybe-get-the-world-involved scenario, or perhaps just the ratios.

"The [devil] made me do it!"

Only now its terrorists cast in the devil's part.

What is so exasperating about the Israeli response is that it wrongly relies on overkill against innocents to make its point. But then, the terrorists made them do it.

No they didn't. The Israelis chose overkill, and the US has supported it.

And please don't tell me again about how bombing airports, bridges, roads, infrastructure, etc. is "degrading Hezbollah." Its a lie when spoken by those who know what is being done, and willful blindness by those who are simply repeating the lines of the liars.

Think counter-insurgency doctrine as the primary way to combat Hezbollah, and then think about the utility of the actual tactics being used in such situations.

Well, the missiles aren't built by Hezbollah. Can we apply pressure to stop Iran from giving them to them?

"Its a lie when spoken by those who know what is being done, and willful blindness by those who are simply repeating the lines of the liars."

Think you want "it's" above, and probably a bit of specificity in your "those"s, and maybe a bit of data too.

rilkefan: strange to say, I was just writing an update to address that very point. I suspect it will not make a big difference, and might make the number of attacks worse. I do not, however, argue for the latter point (which turns on: increased fury), since it's unnecessary for my conclusion.

Seb: Not if we won't talk to them. And I suspect that we are too distracted in any case.

Plus, we're currently using up a lot of our pressure in order to get them to give up their nuclear program. At least, I hope we are.

"Can we apply pressure to stop Iran from giving them to them?"

Maybe if we'd been willing to talk to Iran a few years ago when they appeared interested in better relations with us we wouldn't be stuck trying to put pressure on them on top of the pressure to stop their nuclear program. Uhh, and if we weren't devoting most of our army to holding back the civil war in Iraq, and if we had the world's respect, and ...

hilzoy, rather surprised you were able to get a coherent thought out of my comment. I was trying in part to address the (to me entirely unknowable) future risk to Israel from a Hezbollah with more sophisticated weapons.

Also note your update assumes I think no change in the infrastructure in Southern Lebanon and along the arms supply chain, and whatever organizational chaos will need to be overcome [posting rules violation concerning Nasrallah elided].

First, nothing in my reading of history leads me to believe that when you're fighting an insurgency with serious popular support, and a source of weapons and funding just across a long and porous border, killing a lot of people actually helps.

Serious popular support? Well, that's all she wrote, then. Israel should have declared war outright, if that's true.

I agree with Slarti, the serious popular support argument can only go so far without opening the door for an argument that it is appropriate to go to war with Lebanon proper.

Would going to war on Lebanon proper likely be a better approach?

I just spoke to my family in Lebanon. There are apparently thousands of refugees huddled into the villages of the north. Christian Arabs, Druz, and Sunni Arabs all tend to have greater mobility than the Shia. If this continues much longer, many will just leave. Lebanon keeps the peace by being fairly Balkanized. But a great displacement will change that. Greater infighting -- and by now non-Shia Lebanon detests Shia Lebanon -- will cause even greater depopulation. This will cause just the outcome -- greater Iranian influence in Lebanon -- that I thought everyone was afraid of.

At this point I want to know, why is this happening? When all this is so flagrantly in opposition to Israeli interest? This is not a case where only leftists are standing up to question the efficacy of this. The only support comes from people who aren't thinking about it clearly. I'm used to states behaving idiotically, but this is extreme.

Sebastian, Slartibarfast: not on your life. the degree of support for Hezbollah is immaterial. states do not have the right of boundless escalation. a border raid is not justification for full-scale war.

pay attention to what is said: 'serious popular support' does not imply pervasive Lebanese popular support. half of Lebanon loathes Hezbollah, but of course Hezbollah exists where it has support, and in those places it would be hard to eradicate.

hilzoy, your argument that "we are not living in a world in which any state of affairs we might want is achievable" cuts against your argument just as strongly as it cuts for it. No democratically elected government in the world (and very few non-democratic ones, as well) can survive if it takes no action to protect its citizens when they are attacked. Simply sitting there and taking the rocket attacks is not an option, and no one should think that it is. Reality doesn't work that way.

This is why the situation is complicated. There are no good options for Israel at the moment. I agree that they have chosen some particularly poor ones the last couple of weeks, but pretending that any electorate would settle for much less is just as fantastic as thiking that Israel can wipe Hizbollah out.

.
Ara, I am very curious about how the Lebanese are reacting to this, but I have so many questions that I don't even know where to start. If you have the time would you just post your thoughts about how this will effect Lebanon over the next few years? (I know yu said that Iran's influence will increase, but I am curious about more detailed stuff like Hezbollah's role in the government, the amount of sympathy from other parts of society etc.) Also how do you see Hezbollah's role in Lebanon? Some Americans talk about them as if they were a parasite or infection, kind of like the Taliban in Afganistan. Is that how you see them, or are they another faction within Lebanese society, rooted and permenent? Or something else?

"half of Lebanon loathes Hezbollah, but of course Hezbollah exists where it has support, and in those places it would be hard to eradicate."

Half of Lebanon might like to eradicate Hezbollah, but probably not quite badly enough to go civil war and die and fight over. Sebastian asks a lot from the Lebanese, that the lawyers and shopkeepers die to protect Israel.
...
As far as Iran providing weapons, well of course having lived thru the Cold War, when int'l weapons production and distribution was ten times what it is today (5 times? this is not an important figure).

It wasn't just the antagonists who sold or gave weapons to clients. I remember the French selling Mirages to whomever would buy them. Sometimes it is just a matter of supporting local industry. We can'teven work with NPT, let alone rockets or anti-tank weapons. Unless you are willing to go to WWIII.
...
The psychological or political aspects of accepting a certain low level of terrorism or violence are interesting and undetermined.
Has anyone lost a job over the Anthrax event?
Catching serial killers is very very hard. Societies accept certain levels of unjust or unpredictable or uncontrollable deaths, tho grudgingly. Perhaps a public discussion of terrorism will make a grudging toleration of a constant low level of casualties.

Did the 3000 WTC lives demand the cost we have paid so far? 10k+ American casualties so far, and no one really knows how many WTC level attacks would have occurred w/o a GWOT. Certainly no one I know has seriously demanded a war with Pakistan to get Osama. Cost/benefit calculations not only need be done, but actually are being done.

The politics are, of course, hellish.

Would going to war on Lebanon proper likely be a better approach?

They're already going to war on Lebanon; they simply have chosen not to say so publicly. In words, anyway. So my thinking is that a statement of purpose in the form of a declaration of war might be in order.

This is not to say that I think Israel should be being more aggressive; I really do not have any recommendations as regards course of action. But at least the purpose would be clear: to deny Hizbollah the use of Lebanon, with or without the cooperation of the elected government of Lebanon.

Oh, and to deny Syria and Iran access to Lebanon.

Again, no clear picture on this, but I do think that a key action to be taken by Israel is to allow UN and other relief efforts supervised access to the population.

No democratically elected government in the world (and very few non-democratic ones, as well) can survive if it takes no action to protect its citizens when they are attacked. Simply sitting there and taking the rocket attacks is not an option, and no one should think that it is. Reality doesn't work that way.

Not quite true, or India would be nuking Pakistan right now, or South Korea bombing North Korea.

Protecting your population does not ALWAYS equal nuclear attack, Tim. So, false dichotomy.

Exagerration, maybe. My only point is that nations will take attacks and take no military action, if there's no action that doesn't make it worse. If you believe the opposite then you probably should say farewell to Kurdistan, among others.

My only point is that nations will take attacks and take no military action, if there's no action that doesn't make it worse.

Nations certainly have the right to do nothing when they so choose, but that doesn't negate their right to defend their own population as they see fit.

Slart, the phrase 'right to defend their own population as they see fit' seems to me to be stretchable to Iran's Lebanon/Israel policy. I don't like saying that Iran's support for the killing of innocents is within its 'rights.'

Really? Iran is defending its population in Lebanon?

I can't wait to hear why you think this is "stretchable"; I have a hunch this might be an argument suitable for Cirque de Soleil.

Said with a smile on my face, just to be clear.

Sometimes I find myself reading my own comments and marveling at how much nastier I read in print than how I felt in typing it. Try to take my comments with that in mind, please.

I do not believe that Israel's actions will stop Hezbollah from firing rockets at Israel.

When I was visiting Israel in 1996, Hezbollah was firing rockets into Israel every day.

But since the liberation of Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah wasn't firing any rockets at all, or almost any anyway. They were trying to get back occupied Sheba farms and they were responding to Israeli planes violating Lebanese airspace.

On July 12 they captured two Israeli soldiers and attempted to initiate a prisoners swap, then Israel responded by bombing and shelling, by systematic destruction of Lebanon and only then Hezbollah responded with their much dreaded rockets. And it's not even clear whether the two soldiers were captured on the Israeli side of the border or in Lebanon.

The first thing to do is getting the facts right, then we can start making arguments.

I have a hunch this might be an argument suitable for Cirque de Soleil.

Or of course the political culture of the United States, where Iran's actions (if done by us to our official enemies) would be considered perfectly normal. In fact, they'd probably be seen as somewhat dovish.

I have no idea what you're talking about, Jon.

Nations certainly have the right...to defend their own population as they see fit.

Slarti,

That's a very, very extreme statement. You'd be amazed at some of the things people see fit to do - genocide for example. I think Jon is suggesting you reconsider.

Jon ought to have suggested that, then. It might just have resulted in me pointing to as they see fit as meaning something like at their discretion, meaning they can choose to defend or choose not to.

In other words, definitely NOT in any manner they choose. That's another conversation entirely.

I have no idea what you're talking about, Jon.

Well...I guess I'll have to be content with the 95% of humanity who would understand immediately.

Kevin, I actually wasn't trying to make your point. I'm just saying something that's incredibly obvious to everyone on earth except for some Americans -- that is, that we continuously engage in comparably aggressive actions that we say (to ourselves and outsiders) are "defensive." Just for instance, we recently invaded a country 8,000 miles away to "protect" ourselves. This is seen as perfectly normal across most of the U.S political spectrum, while those who don't want to attack several more countries in the next few years (as a defensive measure, of course) often come under attack as weaklings.

The same thing holds true on a smaller scale with Israel. For instance, Iran's actions to "protect" itself are a fairly close analogue to Israel's actions in the early eighties to support Islamic fundamentalists in Syria. Together with Jordan they sponsored training camps (wonderfully enough, some in Southern Lebanon) for the Muslim Brotherhood, who ended up killing hundreds of Syrian civilians in various bombings as well as assasinating hundreds more government and military figures.

This is all seen -- in the U.S. and Israel -- as standard and not really worth noticing. (I'd be pretty certain Slartibartfast is unaware of it, for instance.) What *is* worth noticing, and is continually lamented with great wailing and gnashing of teeth, is the Syrian response when they leveled Hama. Sebastian just mentioned it yesterday, I believe. It's now the ultimate symbol of Syrian brutality, and rightfully so. But the ratio of Syrians killed by the Syrian government to the number killed by the Muslim Brotherhood is not that much higher than that of Lebanese recently killed by Israel to Israelis killed by Hezbollah. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they're eventually just about the same.

Anyway, this sort of double standard is the norm in all societies. Right-wing Iranians would be outraged that I'd be comparing what they see as their totally justified, defensive actions in Lebanon to the rapacious aggression of the U.S. Syrian apparatchiks would be furious that anyone would compare their justified, defensive actions in Hama to the rapacious aggression of the Israelis. Etc.

I'd be pretty certain Slartibartfast is unaware of it, for instance.

Ah, so you knew your point wasn't going to make itself. Got it.

Let me know when you're done playing this little game, if you ever are. Until then, I'm done with you.

J. Michael Neal: "No democratically elected government in the world (and very few non-democratic ones, as well) can survive if it takes no action to protect its citizens when they are attacked."

I have never suggested that Israel "take no action". As I said, I supported that number of attacks on Hezbollah that were needed to establish that kidnapping soldiers would meet with a serious response. I take that to include the first day or (at most) two of bombing, which does not, in the least, count as "no action."

Moreover, the point of this post was: is the rest of the bombing an action that will in fact protect Israeli citizens? If not, it cannot count as "taking action to protect its citizens when they are attacked".

Kevin, I actually wasn't trying to make your point.

Fair enough but maybe it was CharleyCarp's point (or maybe not). As to your point, as you rightly say "this sort of double standard is the norm in all societies" so I'm not really shocked. I'm not an American so it doesn't greatly upset me that America does what great powers have done throughout history. What annoys me is that, recently, Americans don't really seem to be doing things as professionally as they used to. That's bad news for all of us, except OBL and a few others.

"Exagerration, maybe. My only point is that nations will take attacks and take no military action, if there's no action that doesn't make it worse."

I think you had best be very careful with your India example. The pressure to attack Pakistan over the last bombing incident was incredibly high (and mitigated mostly by initial confusion about whether or not it was Al Qaeda). That is on one of the initial bombings. Put in a couple hundred more and I wouldn't be so sure at all that India will just take it.

Two military analysts say Israel cannot destroy or degrade Hezbollah's military capacity without a bloody ground assault.

Colonel Pat Lang, a noted military analyst, says that air bombardment cannot defeat or degrade Hezbollah. Tactically it cannot degrade Hezbollah's military capacity, and strategically it cannot force the Lebanese government to disarm them. Israel must attack them on the ground in force or risk defeat. So far Israel has shrunk from doing this because it will be too painful and bloody (see Bint Jbail), so they continue to bomb from afar, destroying villages and killing mostly civilians, but not seriously hurting Hezbollah's military capacity.

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2006
http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2006/07/post.html#more


Right wing military pundit Colonel Ralph Peters agrees, Israel must fight a bloody war on the ground or they will "lose".


CAN ISRAEL WIN?
NOT THE WAY IT'S FIGHTING
http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/can_israel_win__opedcolumnists_ralph_peters.htm


Lang says this:

"In any event, the present IDF effort to "cleanse" the south of guerrillas by fire will fail. The IAF (Air Force) and its associated heavy artillery simply lacks the weight of fire needed to drive this enemy from its prepared positions in the stony ground of South Lebanon. The actual ground maneuver attempted thus far is a joke and typical of the role imagined by "Air Power" advocates for ground forces. "Maroun al-Ras" is a tiny village less than a mile from the Israeli border, and no amount of fancy graphics on TV "gushed" over by retired generals can alter the fact that its capture is an insignificant achievement that has had and will have no effect on the amount of fire going into northern Israel."

.....

"At the strategic level, the IDF under Halutz is following classic "Air Power" theory which holds that crushing the "Will of the People" is the correct objective in compelling the acceptance of one's own "will" by an adversary or neutral. With that objective in mind, all of the target country is considered to be one, giant target set. Industry, ports, bridges, hospitals, roads, you name it. It is all "fair game." In this case the notion is to force the Lebanese government and army to accept a role as the northern jaw in a vise that will crush Hizballah and subsequently to hold south Lebanon against Hizballah. Since Lebanon is a melange of ethnic and religious communities of which Shia LEBANESE are a major element and since many Lebanese Shia are supporters of Hizballah, the prospect of getting the Lebanese government to do this is "nil." "


Colonel Peters says limited incursions won't be enough:

" By trying to spare Israeli lives through the use of airpower and long-range artillery fire instead of ground troops, the IDF played into Hezbollah's hands. The terrorists could claim that Israel feared them. Meanwhile, Israeli targeting proved shockingly sloppy, failing to ravage Hezbollah, while hitting civilians - to the international media's delight.

* The IDF is readying a reinforced brigade of armor and 3,000 to 5,000 troops for a "limited incursion" into southern Lebanon. Won't work. Not enough troops. And Hezbollah's had time to get locked and loaded. This is going to be messy - any half-hearted Israeli effort will fall short."


One might be able to support a bombing campaign if it promised some chance of success, at an acceptable cost in "collateral damage". But Israel doesn't seem to have the courage to do what it would takes on the ground. Seen in this light, the Israeli bombing looks more and more immoral.

The latest from the Israeli newpapers is that Israel will not send in more ground troops. Some cabinet ministers say they will simply level any villages, before attempting to occupy them - regardless of how many civilians remain in them? The civilians probably will all be characterized as Hezbollah by association, and the villages will be characterized as military bases.

Israel said it will bomb 10 buildings in Beirut for every rocket on Haifa. It looks like it will also kill 10 civilians for every Hezbollah soldier it can kill. Israel said there were 750 civilians remaining in the beseiged Lebanese village of Bint Jbail. Are they toast even as we speak?


No democratically elected government in the world (and very few non-democratic ones, as well) can survive if it takes no action to protect its citizens when they are attacked.

Isn't this even more true in respect to Lebanon, as their citizens are indeed being killed in large numbers - as opposed to only 2 Israeli soldiers having only been captured?

And if this is true for Lebanon, what's wrong with Hezbollah militia, which is a part of Lebanon, taking action to protect citizens of Lebanon, just like they did before when their country was invaded and occupied?

It seems to me, if this is the main criterion - taking action to protect one's citizens - then you should be rooting for the Hezbollah and Lebanon rather than for Israel. And if this is not your main criterion, what is it?

"as opposed to only 2 Israeli soldiers having only been captured?"

This is ridiculous. Hezbollah didn't just capture 2 Israeli soldiers. By this thinking you could deny the Holocaust by saying "Was it really genocide to kill just one Jew? Just one more? Just one more than that? People get killed all the time. Just one more? Just one more?"

How does a border skirmish amount to a holocaust while the wholesale destruction of a small country including killing hundreds of people is an act worthy of defending and justifying? Don't be ridiculous, please.

Really? Iran is defending its population in Lebanon?

Um, why not? We're defending our population in Iraq. Aren't we?

Flypaper?

"Fight them over there so we don't have to fight them here?"

It was . . . let's see . . . Invastion Justification No. 36(a)(ii). You might have to flip back a few pages.

I have generally stayed out of this conversation because I have little to add, but I have enjoyed it immensely through all the different posts and threads.

I only jump in here to note that abb1's first comment illuminates the second. If indeed, things are getting incrementally better with Lebanon and if, as NPR suggests, there was beginning to be a serious discussion in Lebanon about whether, when and how Hezbollah should be disarmed, then painting fazirly minor (in the context of the nation state as a whole, but still equally terrible in a human context) incidents as isolated and overlookable.

The more I watch this develop, the more I wonder if this really was a militia in its last throes who managed to provoke the response that will justify its continued existence for many many decades. More than anything, it just strikes me as tragic that Israel finally lost its cool when holding off or responsing in the limited manner hilzoy suggests could have accomplished so much more.

There is no justification for this amount of civilian bloodshed. Period. I'd just like to post my online petition here in case there are those that want to go beyond discussion and begin to act.
http://www.ceasefirecampaign.org/
Please sign this petition and ask your friends, family and colleagues to do the same.

I wonder if this really was a militia in its last throes who managed to provoke the response that will justify its continued existence for many many decades

According to Bill Roggiio, no.

According to Bill Roggiio

I have two i's and I still did not see that it should be Bill Roggio.

Btw, I was suprised to find out at Lenin's Tomb that one of the Lebanese prisoners the Hez are trying to exchange is a Jewish Hez member, apparently sent to Israel to spy for the Hez. So, not everything is always as black and white as it seems.

Slarti: It's not clear to me that Roggio's post shows that Hezbollah was not -- well, not "in its last throes", but in decline. If it were having problems, those problems would, I'd think, not be about its military effectiveness, but about the question: why should Lebanon continue to tolerate an armed militia within its borders at a time when Israel had withdraw, the borders were relatively quiet, and there seemed to be no more need for it? Its problems, that is, would have been political and not military.

This would of course not have been anything like a slam dunk -- the Lebanese army could not have disarmed Hezbollah, and it would not have gone willingly off into the sunset. However, one can imagine a scenario in which its military wing began to look more and more like an outmoded relic of a former horrible time, its popular support dwindled, and its political wing felt a lot of pressure to disown the militia.

But whether anything like that would have happened is now just academic. Hezbollah's argument was always that Lebanon should keep it around, since it was the only force capable of protecting against Israeli aggression. That argument might have looked a little strained a month ago. If I were LEbanese, it would look a lot more compelling now.

"last throes" meant dying, to me. An organization can still be internally robust even if they're unpopular. Not quibbling your point, just (hopefully) clarifying mine.

Anybody going to take Slarti's straight line?

I'll be crushed if no one does.

This sounds vaguely like the cut-and-run argument for Iraq, Hil.

If Hezbollah is left to its own devices, Lebanon continues to be a failed state in contravention to UNSC Resolution 1559. The militant wing and leadership of Hezbollah stay intact and are allowed to grow their military forces unimpeded. With Israel withdrawing before Hezbollah is significantly degraded and weakened, Hezbollah will declare victory, they will continue to control south Lebanon, they will continue to have thousands of Katyusha rockets and lots of other weaponry, they will continue to have a lethal and well-armed paramilitary force, and they will be rewarded for using the morally depraved tactic of using Lebanese civilians and UN peacekeepers as human shields. In addition, they still have two Israeli hostages.

Iran can also declare victory due to the success of their proxy army withstanding and surviving the Israeli onslaught.

If Israel withdraws right now, exactly what motivation does Hezbollah or Iran have to cease their illegal and immoral activities? I see none.

What motivation does Israel have to withdraw right now? Hezbollah-launched rockets are still flying indiscriminately into populated areas. Each rocket fired is a terrorist attack. When have terrorist attacks ever subsided when the attackee has withdrawn? The Islamist mentality has not worked that way in the past, so why would it work in this instance?

The truly confounding part to all this is why Hezbollah decided to cross into Israeli territory, kill and kidnap soldiers, and then launch missiles in the first place. Perhaps because they thought that the cost would not exceed the benefit? I don't know. In any case, this is not the act of a rational or coherent organization, particularly since they accomplished their mission six years ago when Israeli troops packed up and left Lebanon.

As far as I can see, the best solution remains for Lebanon to regain sovereignty of the entire country. The U.S. could help by funding or providing arms to the Lebanese army. This means that Hezbollah must disarm, either voluntarily or by force. If they don't lay down arms, I don't see how any real peace can happen.

Charle: I don't care what other argument this might sound like. This is not Iraq, and the reasons I am reluctant to withdraw from Iraq have no real analog here.

Each war is itself, and not some other war.

Israel could have retaliated with serious strikes against Hezbollah that would not have raised the question why it stopped, and thus would not have opened the door to Hezbollah claiming to have "won". It has now forfeited that possibility, though if we force them to stop, we can at least make it appear that it's not because of Hezbollah's fighting, but because of us. I think that would be a good thing.

As I said in the original post, though, it's not enough to say: if Israel withdraws now, these bad things will happen. You need to explain why you think that these bad things will not happen if Israel continues to fight. Will Hezbollah stop controlling southern Lebanon? Will it cease to have thousands of rockets? Will it no longer have a lethal and well-armed paramilitary force?

Most importantly, how will your "best solution" actually come about? Who, exactly, will disarm Hezbollah? In answering, bear in mind that the Lebanese army was deliberately kept weak after the civil war, because people were very worried that it would essentially turn into another militia, and also that, like Lebanon as a whole, it has a substantial number of Shi'a. Also bear in mind that our forces are otherwise occupied, that the Europeans seem more interested in a peacekeeping force than in going to war with Hezbollah, and that anyone else is liable either not to be competent to do the job or to ask for a very high price.

And, of course, bear in mind that Hezbollah's level of support will be a lot higher now than it was a month ago, and that no force, Israeli or multinational, is likely to succeed in eliminating the Katyushas entirely so long as this is true.

"But whether anything like that would have happened is now just academic. Hezbollah's argument was always that Lebanon should keep it around, since it was the only force capable of protecting against Israeli aggression. That argument might have looked a little strained a month ago. If I were LEbanese, it would look a lot more compelling now."

Don't you mean that it is the only force capable of provoking Israeli attack? Hezbollah doesn't seem to be protecting Beruit very well so far as I can see. And Israel wasn't bombing Lebanon four weeks ago.

"If it were having problems, those problems would, I'd think, not be about its military effectiveness, but about the question: why should Lebanon continue to tolerate an armed militia within its borders at a time when Israel had withdraw, the borders were relatively quiet, and there seemed to be no more need for it? Its problems, that is, would have been political and not military."

But the key to the argument that Israel's war is with limited-subset-of-a-nation-Hezbollah instead of Lebanon is that Lebanon cannot do anything but tolerate Hezbollah. I think you try to deal with that in:

"This would of course not have been anything like a slam dunk -- the Lebanese army could not have disarmed Hezbollah, and it would not have gone willingly off into the sunset. However, one can imagine a scenario in which its military wing began to look more and more like an outmoded relic of a former horrible time, its popular support dwindled, and its political wing felt a lot of pressure to disown the militia."

Why would this matter so long as Syria and Iran are giving them weapons? Their political support wasn't going to dwindle enough that they couldn't find frightening numbers of people to use those weapons (barring some huge shift in that brand of Islam, which is way outside a discussion about Lebanon). If you are relying on mere politics to disarm, you weren't ever going to have the number of adherents drop enough without a severing of the Iranian and Syrian supplies.

Seb: I was just trying to explain why I thought the article Slarti cited didn't invalidate the point made above.

There is, I think, no good solution to the problem of Hezbollah. That this is so is (I think) because of the ease with which one can import, conceal, and fire the weapons Hezbollah uses against Israel. If they had to use missiles 1000 feet long that required rocket launchers the size of a house, it would be a lot more plausible to think that some military campaign could eradicate them, and that it would be feasible to prevent more being smuggled into the country. As it is, it is much harder for me to see how any such solution is possible.

This is why I think that the ultimate solution has to be political, and in the meantime Israel should strike back to deter further attacks, but limit its strikes so as to achieve the best balance between deterrence and the creation of hatred. Because creating hatred only destroys the only possible basis for lasting peace, other than what Kant called the peace of the graveyard.

"than what Kant called the peace of the graveyard"

Are graveyards now nihilistic? Inquiring minds want to know.

You need to explain why you think that these bad things will not happen if Israel continues to fight.

The bad things could still happen if Israel continues, and they could get worse, but not if the Lebanese government gets its country back. There're no assurances. Since I'm not a military expert, I can't tell you the tactics of forcibly disarming Hezbollah, only that that is the only way to solve the problem. The only workable template for peace for Israel is that the leader of a neighboring country works a deal. Since Lebanon is not a functioning country, no passable deal can be made. It will take a serious ground offensive to do weaken and degrade Hezbollah, and IDF will have to make a concerted effort at their leadership.

If Israel withdraws right now, the situation can't get better because the same players (and their sponsors) are still out there. Most likely things will worsen, judging by Ahmadinejad's talk. After all, he was declared president a little over a year ago, he's made multiple threats, and now he's acting on those threats by his tacit approval of Hezbollah's actions.

I can't understand how the Israeli military expected this attack to turn out well. It's *obvious* that attacking all of these Lebanese civilian sites will make Hezbollah *more* popular, not less; they're the only people defending their nation against a brutal air attack.

It's *obvious* that Hezbollah can blend in with the civilian population, and get resupplied by Iran (via Syria), and that Israel can't destroy Hezbollah, even with troops on the ground.

I'm not used to looking at an Israeli military action and thinking "Boy, *that's* stupid." But that's what I'm saying now.

And our support for it isn't going advance our cause, whatever it is these days, in the ME, either.

I'm not used to looking at an Israeli military action and thinking "Boy, *that's* stupid."

I wouldn't call it stupid, any more than Nasrallah's actions are stupid. Both the Israeli leadership and the Hezbollah leadership are doing what leaders usually do -- acting to increase their own power within their societies. What actually happens to the other people in their societies is generally not a concern of theirs (except rhetorically, where they weep bitter tears and rend their garments).

Generally for people like the Israeli military and Nasrallah, catastrophe for their country is perceived as an opportunity. And so it is in this case. Horrible for Israel and Lebanon, good for them.

So it's appalling, but not stupid.

doing what leaders usually do -- acting to increase their own power within their societies

I used to think I was cynical, but I see now I'm a rank amateur.

I used to think I was cynical, but I see now I'm a rank amateur.

I wouldn't call it cynical, any more than observing that the sky is blue is cynical. It's just the way human societies are. In almost all cases, people who get to the pinacle of leadership spend most of their time thinking about how to increase their power, just as anyone who quarterbacks a team that gets to the Super Bowl spends most of their time thinking about how to increase their conditioning and skills. If you don't do that, if that's not your main concern, you don't get to that position in the first place

This may mean we're all doomed. But maybe not. More democratic and egalitarian societies force would-be leaders to channel their desire to be in charge into more productive directions.

Tanya Reinhart describes the chain of events and motivations behind it: http://www.counterpunch.org/reinhart07272006.html>Burning Lebanon
Israel's New Middle East

Oh, 'killing a lot of people' helps alright. The problem is that you have to kill a LOT of people- not a handful, not a few hundred, but tens of thousands. The Jordanians killed ten thousand Palestinians in the Black September of 1971, and the PLO gave up permanently on trying to establish a state-within-a-state in Jordan. Saddam Hussein killed tens of thousands of Marsh Arabs in the 1980's and 90's, and forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands more, and put down their insurgency against him. From 1981-83, the Guatemalan military killed perhaps 20,000 ethnic Mayans, effectively ending a leftist insurgency there. Indonesia conducted a massacre of 'communists' in 1965 - anywhere from 300,000 to 1,500,000, no one knows - and that was the end of communism in Indonesia. Genocide does work, but you have to be willing to a lot of indiscriminate killing. Not just individuals, but entire families and communities, so that there is no one left to try to take revenge.

There is no way Israel can do this sort of killing. The kind of piddling stuff it is willing to do - eighty people in a mass grave, a dead mother and a maimed child, a blown-up ambulance - this does nothing but inflame rage against it.

You would think that Jews of all people would understand the logic of genocide. And since Israelis are unwilling - thank God - to actually commit genocide, they should understand that they cannot "root out" an insurgency that has popular support, and not even begin to try.

Andrew: I used to think I was cynical, but I see now I'm a rank amateur.

And just when you think Jon (S) has outclassed you, along comes JR with a point straight out of Machiavelli: Never do an enemy a small injury.

I agree that the Hez problem is very difficult. There are a few easy observations one can make, though. If you want a militia to disarm voluntarily, you have to make it believe that its members have nothing to fear from non-members. If you want to disarm it involuntarily, you have to be prepared to occupy the ground, and to conduct a police state like vigilance. The two are obviously irreconcilable, and you can't start down path 2 and ever expect to get onto path 1, without some kind of complete change of facts on the ground.

It seems to me that Israel, by reacting as it has to Hez's provocations, has completely prevented the Lebanese government from following path 1 -- a path I had thought before was a natural outcome of the post-Cedar situation. It also seems to me that the Bird policy -- empowering the Lebanese government so that it can follow path 2 -- is either doomed to fail because the Lebanese polity doesn't have the orientation or strength for it, or would spin off such a degree of unintended consequences as to be even less desirable than the status quo of May 2006. (What would a non-Shia Lebanese police state look like? How friendly would it by to Israel? How stable would it be?)

Worse than the status quo is looking more and more like the probable outcome, as it now seems to me that Israel's prime objective must change: it is no longer to degrade in some cognizable way Hez's ability to conduct border raids, but must now be to restore the reputation of Israeli arms. Otherwise, folks in places like Syria and Iran might end up drawing the wrong inference.

(If folks are seeing echoes of my views on Iraq, that's no mistake. IMO, notwithstanding the rhetoric, the primary goals of our current mission in Iraq are (a) domestic politics of not looking like a 'loser-defeatist' [many people are going to die so that CB and his friends can't call politicians that -- and it appears that he and his friends think these deaths are worth it] and (b) not being seen to have been driven out by AQ. This latter goal is very important for the future, and I expect history to be very unkind to the people who put us into the position of having seriously to consider it.)

A central thesis of your book The Fatefull Triangle, is that although the United States claims to be the friend of Israel, the policy it's persuing will ultimately destroy it.

I think that's true. I think it's even more dramatically true of the people who call themselves supporters of Israel. I should say that this view is shared very widely by the small group of Israeli doves. They put things in terms much more extreme and hars than I would use. For example, take Meir Pail, who's the real member of the Israeli establishment. He's a retired colonel, a well-known military historian, formerly a leading military strategist in the army. He was head of the officer's training school in the Israeli army, so straight out of the establishment. He had an article about a year ago in which he was attacking the American Jewish community. I think he was targetting it too narrowly, but what he said was that, the title of the article was "Zionism and the Danger of Cancer." He said that the danger was coming from the American Jewish community, that what they want is an Israel which is a "war god similar to Mars." They get their psychological thrills from seeing Israel, a superman, stomping on people's face.

He went on to say tht the attitude of the American Jewish community and their monolithic support for these tendencies in Israel and their intolerence of any discussion and debate of them are going to create an Israel which "will be a new development in political history, a combination of the worst features of South Africa and Northern Ireland." He virtually pleaded with the American Jewish community to stop what they call support for Israel, which is, in fact, driving it in this direction. As I say, those are terms much more extreme than I would use, and they come from a mainstream Israeli establishment fiture who happens to be a dove. I think he's much too narrowly focused when he talks about American Jewish community. That's what they tend to see. In fact, the support for that ind of policy in the United States is only very partially based on the American Jewish community. It's far broader than that.


-Noam Chomsky. Language and Politics. (Israel the Strategic Asset, 23 March 1985)

CharleyCarp, Slarti and Jon (S) tangled upthread about Iran in a way that I thought was interesting and worth revisiting.

Using the US as an international standard, can Iran legitimately claim that its support of Hezbollah is in self-defense?

Answer: Well, maybe.

Israel has (i believe) threatened to attack Iran if Israel believes that Iran is close to developing nuclear weapons.

The US, the guarantor of Israel's security, has explicitly stated that it desires regime change, strikes against Iran are discussed openly, and there is some evidence that US forces are already operating secretly in Iran. (See Winds of Change for that one.)

The US has established, by its invasion of Iraq, two relevant principles: (a) pre-emptive war is legal (fight them there so you don't fight them here); and (b) collective responsiblity (you're with us or against us).

As a signatory to the NPT, Iran may lawfully engage in a broad range of research related to enrichment. But The US has established that treaties do not last forever. So Iran may, if it chooses, leave the NPT and lawfully develop nuclear weapons.

Given these points, I believe Iran has a legitimate good-faith argument that it may support Hezbollah as a means of deterring Israeli/US punitive strikes and/or regime change efforts against Iran. I'm not necessarily persuaded, but this is just a first cut.

One hears of the hundreds of thousands fleeing southern Lebanon to get out of the way of Israeli shelling. What is ignored is that:

1) much of this is in response to Israeli warnings directly to the civilian population - because Israel cares about minimizing civilian deaths, unlike those who like to bombard their neighbors' villages and farms without fear of reprisal;

2) about a million Israelis have been forced to flee from the North of Israel because of missile attacks from Lebanon.

It's not a case of big bad Israel fighting poor little Lebanon. It's Israel fighting a Lebanese dissident party which is bankrolled and supplied by Syria and Iran, one which has kept Lebanon under subjugaton for 30 years.

But Israel's PR machine is not as good as the Arab PR machine, esp. since they're busy running a modern technological state, rather than eating petrodollars while the non-royals starve.

thanbo: much of this is in response to Israeli warnings directly to the civilian population - because Israel cares about minimizing civilian deaths, unlike those who like to bombard their neighbors' villages and farms without fear of reprisal;

When the IRA were planting bombs in English cities, a favored tactic was to call the police and warn them that a bomb had been planted. Because sometimes a bomb had been planted, the police always had to respond to those warnings (and I, like many other people, spent hours waiting outside buildings/in railway stations as a result) even though frequently, the bomb warning was merely another terrorist tactic. Judging by reports, the warnings the Israelis are giving are the same kind of tactic: sometimes they bomb without warning, sometimes they give warnings without bombing.

2) about a million Israelis have been forced to flee from the North of Israel because of missile attacks from Lebanon.

Can you link to the news report which said that a million Israelis had fled from the North of Israel? I am fairly certain you have got the figure at least wrong, as the total population of Israel is 6.35M: and I have read of no mass movement of Israelis to get away from the trivial threat presented by Lebanese bombing. Nor indeed have I read of any mass casualties in North Israel caused by Lebanese missile attacks which might trigger a mass movement of Israelis to get away from them. Can you link to the news story where you read about this mass migration within Israel of 1/6th of its population?

Charles revealed the fallacy in the thinking of the supporters of this attack: supposedly this attack will help "Lebanon get their country back'.
Hezbollah is part of Lebanon. It's members are Lebanese. It is not an infection. It is not an alien invasion. It can't be driven out because it has no where to go and it can't be removed militarily without genocide for exactly the same reason that the IRA could not have been removed from Ireland militarily without genocide. And I mean genocide, too. I'm not exaggerating. Did you read Ara's post, Charles? Or Micheal Totten?
There are some invasion supporters who are now coming very close to advocating genocide. The Belgravia Dispatch has a discussion about this.
I think it should be a requirment that everyone who supports a war be required to go fight in it. I'm sick of the people who treat it like a spectator sport and who get so ego involved in winning that they can't see anything else.
This war is the best thing that ever happened to Hezbollah. And no, fighting longer in order to kill even more people will not bring about a sustainable treaty or whatever crap Condi was talking. Isreal has lost in the arean of public opinion and will lose militarily as well. Stupid. Worse than stupid.

lily,

Hezbollah is part of Lebanon. It's members are Lebanese. It is not an infection. It is not an alien invasion.

Great, you have established Hezbollah's kidnapping and rocketing of Israel is Lebanese aggresion.

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