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July 27, 2006

Comments

Many of the statements you make are false. Guerrillas cannot win without breaking the military machine which opposes them and that is what they usually try to do. Consider as examples the Peninsular war, the Boer war, Vietnam, the Irish war of independence - to name just a few.

I'm not certain how to best approach the problem of fighting an asymmetric opponent, but I'm certain that strengthening his strengths and shoring up his weaknesses isn't the ideal way to go about it.

Examine how it has in fact been done. Also, if you want to explore it as a moral issue, try considering cases where you have some sympathy for the underdog. For example, which of the actions carried out by partisans against the Nazis were justifiable? Why or why not?

As it is you are not engaging with the issues raised by the CT post.

These principles lead to a number of secondary issues

Errr, historically, no. Henri Dunant and _Memorie of Solferino_ (1862) led to the establishment of the ICRC (and it expected that war was unavoidable, because countries were supposed to mobilize nurses and staff in peacetime to be ready in war time) which aimed at establishing the neutrality of care givers during war and the Geneva conventions arose from that, so historically, the goal was to protect _participants_ from suffering after being defeated. You are right that it says nothing about justice claims, but that is because it was assumed that God took sides (remember, God's will acting in history was not so far-fetched in 1864 or even in 1916)

I'm not sure if this would have you reexamine your arguments, but you seem to be looking at the rules of war from a modern perspective and this would make that blank conclusion suspect.

You also seem to have cut off the end of the crooked timber post, where Rodin's conclusions are summarized. I note that what is being discussed is jus in bello, which suggests that he is tying them into a much deeper historical thread, relating to things like the Lateran council of 1139 ruling that using crossbows against Christians was worthy of excommunication. (against non-believers, no prob, which is brings to mind that the Geneva protections were null and void in dealing with Moro rebels, or the RAF being used to police post WW1 Iraq). Also, Hague/Geneva turned a blind eye to plenty of tactics designed to deal with civilian populations, including forced relocation and concentration camps (in the original meaning)

I have no idea if the summary is accurate, but here it is:

Rodin proposes to address the problem by strengthening the jus in bello constraints on the strong. In particular he suggests that they be restrained from attacking “grey area” targets (targets that have potentially military uses by serve important civilian functions, such as TV stations, and power plants), that before an attack is authorised they be required to establish with a far higher degree of certainty than at present that a proposed target is indeed legitimate, and, third, that they be made to take “exceptionally rigourous” steps to ensure that civilians are not exposed to collateral harm and also to ensure that the environment in which those civilian live is not damaged and degraded.

Needless to say, if such norms were imposed on coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, on Israeli forces in Palestine or on Russian forces in Chechnya, their operational ability would be severely restricted. But that seems a better response to the asymmetry problem than exempting the weak from the jus in bello requirements would be.

Ah, I see that you reordered the paragraphs, which I missed cause I went to the original and just saw the unfinished sentence. Sorry about that.

you seem to have an unshakeable belief that state-actors are likely to follow the rules of war - this is simply not true, they have broken and break them all the time and their behaviour is rationalized away so routinely that many don't even see it anymore

furthermore, if you approach the problem from a utilitarian pov, you will see that the civilian bodycount on the "guerilla side" is almost always a multiple of that on the "proper army" side, for rather simple reasons having mostly to do with the destruction modern technology can wield

Really, Sebastian, the question you need to address is the other side. Putting yourself in the shoes of the Mujahaddin in Afghanistan or the Contras and discussing what tactics are appropriate yet promising.
...
Kingdaddy of Arms and Influence has written a virtual book on counterinsurgency.
Left column has history, theory, "countersinsurgency is hard" "counterinsurgency is doable".
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Tangential to topic or not, watched some tv show last week based on the diary of a WWI U-boat commander. Appears attacking merchant vessels was ok, under the following rules:sub threatens, surfaces, allows the crew and passengers to disembark, sinks ship. But the British got tricky, and started hiding cannon on their merchant vessels, and sunk a lot of U-Boats who followed the rules. So the Germans stopped following the rules. I presume this rule got tightened, I think merchant vessels in WWII were not allowed to be armed.

But I did wonder about not allowing merchant vessels to defend themselves. It was food for thought.

"you seem to have an unshakeable belief that state-actors are likely to follow the rules of war - this is simply not true, they have broken and break them all the time and their behaviour is rationalized away so routinely that many don't even see it anymore"

So, throw out the rules altogether, eh, since no one is following them? Consider what actions would then be possible, given that scenario. There would be no applicable Geneva conventions to complain about, for example.

So, throw out the rules altogether, eh, since no one is following them?

If you are seriously attracted to that approach, The Head Heeb argued the case against it pretty well.

If you are seriously attracted to that approach

I'm not the one who suggested it. I believe novakant suggested that no one is following the rules right now, so why worry about this new set?

Of course, that might not be novakant's point, but it sure appeared to be to me. I think granting guerilla forces the right to, for instance, use civilian popultation for cover is not something that Geneva signatories are going to fall all over themselves to approve.

Here's some interesting comments on Hizbollah and their military capabilities:

The Israelis have confirmed that Hezbollah is fighting like a professional military. Their units are fighting at the company level at the least (Unit size of approximately 100 men), and perhaps in larger formations. Intelligence also confirms there is specialization within the Hezbollah units, including trained infantry, mortar teams, missile squads, and logistical personal. Iran has trained and organized Hezbollah's army into something far more deadly than a militia force. Hezbollah's core 'active' army is estimated at 3,000 - 5,000, with as many as 50,000 part time militia and support personnel that can be called upon to fight (20,000 is the average estimate).

Intelligence sources also have confirmed that members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Qods Force have indeed been killed during the fighting in southern Lebanon.

It's no surprise that Iran is involved, but it is significant that they've got their own troops over there. Not surprising, but significant.

Oh, link to the above passage (plus more interesting tidbits) is here.

Actually, if you've never been over to the CT blog, there's a huge amount of information that's relevant to the current goings-on in Lebanon. Go to the main page and read as interested. Included there is discussion of what Israel is attacking, and why.

I think granting guerilla forces the right to, for instance, use civilian popultation for cover is not something that Geneva signatories are going to fall all over themselves to approve.

Personally I'm not in favour of giving guerrillas any rights they don't already have. Of course they shouldn't use civilians as human shields, but they are not required to fight exclusively in rural areas just to ease the consciences of their attackers.

Intelligence sources also have confirmed....

Sometimes the words which follow that phrase are actually true, but it's quite unusual. Certainly it wouldn't be surprising if there are Iranians involved. I'm not sure that it would signify very much. Obviously it is not in Iran's interest to let Israel crush Hezbollah without a very hard fight. That would raise doubts about their own ability to fight off an invading force.

Sebastian:

It's QandO, not Quando.

(Made the same mistake myself.)

Slart,
I don't read that in novakant's comment at all. What he is pointing out is what is expressed in the CT thread, that the strong need to clearly delimit grey areas as off limits or that greater certainty is required when those are attacked. Sebastian objects to this, and novakant notes that Sebastian's belief about the willingness for state actors to follow jus in bello laws is not necessarily true because in any of these conflicts, the body count of the 'guerilla' side is always much higher than that on the 'proper army' side. This is just my reading of novakant's comment, so I hope he'll stop by to clear it up.

"Killing civilians (on both sides of the conflict) is not a side effect of trying to hide from the enemy. It is the most important positive strategy of asymmetric warfare. As a result of these practices, civilians are placed in much more danger than they would otherwise face."

This is almost surely wrong. The mass killing of civilians through saturation bombing, including the fire bombing of Dresden, Hamburg and Tokyo and the atomic bombing of two Japanese cities, was a major feature of the very symmetric Second World War.

Saturation bombing is not a common feature of modern wars; WWII was generally unique in that aspect. Therefore, I think Sebastian is correct in his assessment that guerilla tactics place more civilians at risk.

Consider the problem we face at checkpoints in Iraq: because soldiers can be killed by someone who looks otherwise like an Iraqi civilian while manning a checkpoint, there have been numerous incidents where soldiers engaged actual civilians in the fear they were insurgents preparing to attack the soldiers. If the insurgency wore some type of distinguishing outfit, the risk to civilians would be reduced significantly, albeit by giving the Coalition forces an easier time of identifying the insurgents. You can fairly argue that to dress distinctively is suicidal for the insurgents, but the fact is that by protecting themselves they're putting civilians at significantly greater risk.

I think it could be said that we saturation-bombed Iraq's Republican Guard during GW1, but we did so (IIRC) in a place that was pretty far removed from significant civilian population.

Andrew's comment had me wondering, is the civilian casualty count in Iraq due to asymmetrical warfare or to it being a civil war? Certainly, I'm not suggesting that there are no asymmetrical aspects here, but it seems that a lot more casualties are due to the Sunni and Shi'a factions duking it out.

Of course none of the moralists deal with the assymetric issue in which the weaker side has the more profound intention. It may manifest less power but its goals are far more sweeping. Hizbollah is an obvious example. It is no mere national liberation front but has morphed into a group now committed to killing Jews -- not just Israelis -- worldwide.

Put that assymetrism in your pipe and smoke it.

And even if you dispute my characterization of Hizbollah's goals, the issue remains. Assymetry is not just an issue of force but of strategic intention.

I'd say the majority of the civilian casualties we're currently seeing in Iraq are due to the civil war. I don't have statistics handy, but given the numbers of people being reported as being gunned down by various death squads, any losses caused by misidentification of civilians as insurgents is a very small fraction of the current carnage.

Good question, but I don't think it applies all that well. We don't really have all that much accessible civilian population over there. Sure, there are quite a few civilian foreign nationals, but I'd expect most of them are hanging out in the Green Zone, or on FOBs.

You can fairly argue that to dress distinctively is suicidal for the insurgents, but the fact is that by protecting themselves they're putting civilians at significantly greater risk.

Andrew,

Consider the reason why "area bombing" (as I believe the RAF preferred to call it) became common practice in WWII. Daylight boming using light bombers designed for precision strikes on military targets was found to be too dangerous. So one could reasonably say:

You can fairly argue that daylight precision bombing is suicidal for the aircrews, but the fact is that by protecting themselves they're putting civilians at significantly greater risk.

Unless you think that's a fair criticism of WWII aircrews then your remark is not really a fair criticism of guerrillas. I suggest we forget about the Iraqi insurgents (or "insurgents" as Charles Bird would say) and think about a movement we can have some sympathy with, such as WWII partisans or (in case that triggers Godwin's Law) the Spanish guerrillas who resisted Napoleon. I think they would have seen a soldier at a checkpoint as fair game and I can't say I blame them.

Pet peeve: "asymmetric" does NOT begin with "ass".

The main problem with the laws of war is that they are at best asymmetrically enforced in ways that have little to do with state vs. non-state actors and much more to do with who has power and who doesn't. Officials in dictatorships, of course, are in no danger unless they are overthrown, though theoretically they could face arrest if they left their own country, as happened to Pinochet (but only after he had stepped down). Democracies are supposed to be self-policing, but I can't imagine why anyone takes this seriously. Low ranking war criminals are prosecuted as scapegoats. High ranking war criminals get jobs at Kissinger Associates.

The much weaker incentive is that someone might lose an election if the population is sufficiently disgusted, but I think this rarely happens over crimes committed against outsiders. What matters much more is the cost to one's own country. So you can also try arguing that the killing of civilians only increases support for terrorism, but the "get tough" crowd just sees this POV as appeasement.

On the particular subject of Lebanon, I'd be interested in knowing if anyone who defends Israel's bombing campaign in this war also thinks the 1982 campaign was equally moral. It's a trick question, from my viewpoint. If someone is willing to defend what Israel did in 1982, then I can safely write them off as irrational. Which doesn't, of course, prove that the current bombing campaign is equally bad, though from what I've read it seems similar, if on a smaller scale so far.

Kevin,

For the record, I have no objection to insurgents targeting soldiers. That's war. My objection comes to people who target civilians rather than soldiers.

As for the WWII example, you're absolutely correct that night bombing was placing more civilians at risk in order to protect the aircrews. But, again, WWII was a one-off activity; I'm pleased to note that it has been some time since we bombed a city to the ground, and I'll be perfectly happy if we never do so again.

I'm not arguing that the insurgents should wear bright orange jumpsuits in order to distinguish themselves from the local population (although if there's some way to get them to do that, I wouldn't object). My point was strictly to note that by blending into the local population, they put the entire population at risk. My statement was intended to be descriptive; I'm not getting into the prescriptive here because I'm not certain what the right answer is.

Another example to add to WWII would be Kosovo, where it seems pretty clear that we could have caused fewer civilian casualties by using ground troops, or (failing that) the poor old Apaches that never went anywhere. Or, alternately, by being willing to fly a lot lower.

Andrew wrote--

"Saturation bombing is not a common feature of modern wars; WWII was generally unique in that aspect."

The Korean War, by some accounts, saw more civilians die under US bombs than died in Germany and Japan put together from US and UK bombing. The statistics are all over the map, but the low estimate I've seen (I think in Max Hastings's book) was "hundreds of thousands" and the higher estimates hit 2 million. Curtis LeMay once claimed the civilian death toll from bombing was over a million and that the US leveled everything in North and South Korea. A slight exaggeration. I skimmed a book devoted solely to this subject by a military historian several years ago and he had tables of the area flattened in various Korean cities--as I recall the numbers for various towns were something like 50 percent, sometimes higher and sometimes lower.

In Southeast Asia I've read Fred Branfman's book on what the US did to the Plain of Jars in Laos, where people had to live in caves and farm at night. The same was true of the southern half or North Vietnam, according to Michael MaClear's "The Ten Thousand Day War". Every town was flattened. He saw this for himself as a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reporter. The US in response claimed that only military targets had been hit.

And the Russians in Afghanistan were also pretty ruthless in bombing much of that country. Though not Kabul, which they held. It was partially destroyed by the fighting in the 90's between factions of what later became the Northern Alliance .

"and novakant notes that Sebastian's belief about the willingness for state actors to follow jus in bello laws is not necessarily true because in any of these conflicts, the body count of the 'guerilla' side is always much higher than that on the 'proper army' side."

How does the body count of the guerilla side being higher than the proper army suggest much less prove that the laws of war are not being followed?

The thing that bothers me when Sebastian brings up this argument is that it often seems to include not merely a justification for treating captured insurgents inhumanely, but an obligation to do so -- otherwise, the argument goes, we're giving other insurgents no incentive to obey the rules of war. But maybe I've misunderstood something.

"Another example to add to WWII would be Kosovo, where it seems pretty clear that we could have caused fewer civilian casualties by using ground troops, or (failing that) the poor old Apaches that never went anywhere."

Kosovo is almost the exact opposite of WWII in terms of bombing inside city targets. To my knowledge there was no saturation bombing of cities. That is why the Chinese embassy incident was so noteable--we weren't regularly destroying huge areas of cities so China wanted to know what the hell happened when we hit their embassy. If you flatten the whole city, that isn't really an issue.

Donald,

Interesting. I wouldn't have thought there would have been as much bombing in Korea or Vietnam based on the much lower number of cities.

One interesting but depressing suggestion is that if Hezbollah cannot be dealt with soon, the IDF will have to have a spin off a similarly unaccountable militia group to fight it.

And, gosh, that worked so well the first time, too...

Seb: it occurred to me, but alas only after I had posted the comment, that I should have said: I didn't mean that it was an example of saturation bombing, which it wasn't, but of excessive killing of civilians due to an aversion to casualties.

Usually the body count on the guerilla side includes a large number of civilians. An extreme example of this was in Operation Speedy Express in Vietnam, where over 10,000 VC were recorded killed by the US, while about 700 weapons were captured. Kevin Buckley of Newsweek investigated and years later his report in truncated form was published in Newsweek. (The Newsweek editor didn't want to "pile on" the US government because of all the stories on My Lai that had been published.) You can read about this in Phillip Knightley's "The First Casualty", a history of war correspondents, or shorter versions of it in Francis Fitzgerald's "Fire in the Lake" or in Hitchens' book on Kissinger (or in good old Noam, but nevermind).

The guerilla wars in El Salvador and Guatemala produced massive numbers of casualties, most of them civilians killed by the government. I think one could probably go down a long list of guerilla wars and find that lj's statement is generally true, and if you examine why it's usually because the state forces were using indiscriminate firepower or committing outright massacres, or both.

In re Nell's comment, see here. It's been tried. It didn't work, and it didn't end well. (That's why I provided my little list -- having been there, and worked at a paper for part of the time (copy editing, not anything glamorous like reporting), means that the words 'South Lebanon Army' are a lot more familiar to me than, I imagine, to most readers.)

Therein lies one of the major problems with guerilla warfare. Governments are under pressure to do something, soldiers tend to get angry when they take casualties from an enemy they cannot easily come to grips with, and you have all the ingredients of atrocities if the government and military aren't extremely careful.

I think one of these things is not like the other, hilzoy. I think the suggestion was that IDF would spin off an unaccountable force...of Israelis.

Not that I think this is a particularly good idea, but SLA was, if you can believe the Wiki entry, composed of Lebanese.

I confess that I do not have any expertise on Just War Theory, and so I'm technically not qualified to make any substantive comments to this thread. That said, it is apparent to me that the value of the life of innocent civilians (on either side, but especially on the side of the less mighty) drops to sub-human levels. It is tactically okay for state-actor X to unintentionally kill hundreds of innocent civilians--whose memory, incidentally, is never treated with the same dignity and respect with which the memory of victims of terrorists are--in order to destroy strategic targets and kill ten or eleven of its enemies, or worse yet, simply to intimidate a legitimate but somewhat powerless foreign government. Or at least that's what it sounds like, from the forceful defence of Israel's recent actions that many have made. By contrast, it is never okay to kill hundreds of citizens of one's own country in order to do the same. It is this asymmetric value of human life that disgusts a cosmopolitanist like myself. Now, it can be argued persuasively that it is necessary for such an asymmetry to arise, because it minimizes the number of casualties on both sides, but unless people make that argument when talking about the rules of war, I get the eerie sensation that I'm listening to a monster. To me, all discussion of justice in armed conflicts should be grounded on the strong foundation that innocent human life everywhere is equally valuable.

I forgot about that comment, Nell. It's what is so weird about American and Israeli moralizing about state-sponsored terrorism. The Phalangists already had a record of civilian slaughter when Sharon let them search Sabra and Shatila for PLO fighters, and Israel and the SLA ran a joint torture center at Khiam during the 90's. I wouldn't say they were unaccountable at Khiam, since they worked together. What are you going to do with a government that supports monsters? Gosh, you can't deal with these people--they just don't think the way we do.

"What are you going to do with a government that supports monsters?"

Is that question meant to pertain only to Israel or should we be applying it to Syria and Iran now?

Also, we should note that much of the collapse of the SLA was tied to the fact that Israel didn't warn them about the fact that the Israeli army was withdrawing. That is to say that Israel was really treating them as distinct. If Israel's main method of warfare against its enemies were similar to Iran and Syria's it wouldn't have to do things like that.

Now, I don't think encouraging 'unaccountable' forces is a good idea. Which is why I think changing the rules to further increase the incentives toward having them is a really awful idea.

It is in this that I believe Israel is failing in its current offensive. It would be immensely useful to be able to say--for every single target--"Hezbollah endangered people thusly".

This is moronic. Yes, if only the media constantly referred to "homicide bombers," everything would be better. You seem to be under the misimpression that everyone outside of the US is an idiot. They know that the terrorist groups mixing in civilian populations increase the risk to civilians. To the extent people seem not to be sufficiently exercised about this fact, it's probably because they recognize that such tactics are a function of the asymmetry. We could make the terrorists appear much less sympathetic to civilian populations by arming them as well as we arm ourselves. But that, too, would be moronic.

Sometimes, there are no good answers.

SB wrote:

Modern asymmetric warfare is about turning the rules of non-combatant immunity and proportionality on their heads. Guerrillas tend to target civilians and civilian objects. Their attacks are often linked to no military objective. They tend to wear no distinguishing uniform and they often place their military targets in or next to civilians and civilian objects. Everything they do gravely endangers civilians on both sides. This strategy serves a number of purposes. It protects their own fighters by making them difficult to target. It allows propaganda victories whenever they kill civilians on the other side. It allows propaganda victories whenever civilians near them are killed.(Emphasis mine)

No. War is firstly and entirely political. Military considerations are means to get to a political end, nothing more. To talk about war (asymmetrical or not; conventional or not) without reference to the underlying political purpose is to fundamentally misunderstand war.

Guerilla targets are often chosen primarily because they have no military value: the point of any conflict (conventional or asymmetric) is to get the other side (whether a state or non-state group) to accede to your political goals. Guerillas will deliberately target civilian infrastructure, economics, symbols or just people in order to get them so upset/frightened/angry that they will pressure their own government to accede to the political goals of the guerillas. Military targets can be of little utility when the goal is to undermine the civilian will that supports the government/group being attacked (it would depend on your own resources, goals and values to determine your own strategy/tactics).

Thus, propaganda is a key part of any war (again, asymmetric or not). Guerillas (and terrorists, if one wants to make a distinction) actively pursue targets that will get the greatest number of people to be afraid (thus, achieving the largest reduction in the political will of the other side). The US bombed Baghdad precisely because it showed how weak Saddam was (more and more Iraqis could see and imagine the US bombing their neighboorhoods, and as more and more Iraqis supported Saddam less and less, his ability to resist the US was reduced). The fundamental goal is to reduce the other side's ability to resist you (thus allowing you to achieve your political goals); propaghanda victories are often of much greater importance in this regard than military ones.

Asymmetrical warfare is a rational response to the inability of a state/group to compete on a conventional battlefield. The goals of war remain the same in both asymmetrical and conventional war: achieving ones political goals. Evaluating the morality of Hezbollah's tactics (or Al Qaeda's, or the Taliban's, etc.) by the yardsticks of our military strengths and practices is a mistake.

Another important consideration: the US (and Israel) have significant political, economic, military, cultural and social relationships with other states. Our actions on the battlefield (in terms of our tactics to achieve our political ends) will effect how other states view us, and thus influence those other relationships. As a result, violating the "Western rules of war" may result in tactical victories on the battlefield (nuking Falluja, for instance), but stratigic losses through the loss of relationships with other allies and trading partners (who won't want to associate with a state that would do such a thing). Hezbollah has some, but much fewer, relationships, and is much less constrained by those relationships than the US (and Israel) are. Additionally, the domestic audience that Hezbollah plays to (their constituency; spread across many states, since they are a non-state actor) is far different than the one Israel (or the US) plays to, and this conditions both political goals and tactics to achieve them.

Thus deliberately limiting our tactics (as Rodin would argue) isn't done for military reasons, but is a consequence of larger political and societal considerations. If you want to reject Rodin's limitations, you need to engage those political and societal issues.

In Guatemala, the guerrilla movement not only endangered entire villages by mixing in the population, they actually abandoned them to their gruesome fate once the army came to slaughter them. But the idiots we are, we never held the guerrilla solely responsible for the slaughters. Why, many of us actually believe it was the army that was responsible for the majority of atrocities (90% or more, according to the independent report of the Commission for Historical Truth, the leading member of which was savagely killed one day after the report came to light). How unenlightened of us!

"the IDF will have to have a spin off a similarly unaccountable militia group to fight it"

Back to their root, in other words.

Nell writes "And, gosh, that worked so well the first time, too..."

Well, the first time would have been the terrorist activities in the 1940s which helped get them a state, after which the terrorist militias were absorbed into the new IDF.

Seb: Israel abandoned the SLA, but only after it had essentially ceased to be an effective ally. It was plainly an Israeli proxy throughout the 80s and early 90s, and, again, did not achieve the desired result.

Sebastian, the point of my comment is that it does apply to Israel, Syria, Iran, the US, and no doubt others. I'm sort of torn between two different strands of utopianism. Either we seriously apply the same standards to everyone or we stop pretending that the world can be divided neatly between good guys and bad guys. Applying the same standards to everyone would mean arrests and prosecutions of high-ranking government officials no matter who they are, not just limiting it to people who lose (like Milosevic) or have left office (Pinochet). Probably never will happen.

The alternative is to be honest about the fact that everyone uses ruthless tactics when it suits their interest and to stop pretending that there is something uniquely awful about the enemy of the moment. Probably never will happen. But I intend to keep complaining about it.

"did not achieve the desired result."

It depends on what the desired result is. If it allows Israel to engage in deniable attacks against Syria or Iran it would tend to be more effective than trying to go toe to toe with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

"But I intend to keep complaining about it."

The thing I don't understand is, what is 'it'?

Pet peeve: "asymmetric" does NOT begin with "ass".

Easily remembered inasmuch as an attractive ass is typically a symmetric, not asymmetric, one.

Exactly, Sebastian. The Hezbollah terrorists are the ones who are responsible for most of the civilian deaths in Lebanon. The best solution for stopping this practice is to make the terrorists pay dearly for it. Just as with our War Against Militant Islamism, Israel's fight against Hezbollah is also a media war and the Israelis need to fully engage in the information front, highlighting the ways in which Hezbollah is violating the Geneva Conventions and slamming the victim card they are playing.

Hezbollah may be responsible for placing their offices and outposts next to UN and civilian buildings, but that does not remove all responsibility from Israel for bombing them. If a Hezbollah target is located next to a hospital, Israel ought to be damn sure that the target is valuable enough to justify the almost certain deaths of the civilians in that hospital. And that's a pretty high threshold to cross.

Does that encourage Hezbollah to locate next to hospitals? Sadly, yes, but I have difficulty arguing that we've got to bomb hospitals and orphanages just to deter Hezbollah from using them for cover.

I guess you could have Mossad operate assassination teams ( or death squads, if you like) who could cross into Lebanon and assassinate Hezbollah leaders. Of course, there would have to be no official authorization, so that there coulkd be deniability.

To be honest, I think the present alternative may be better-ghastly as it might be.

(sigh) Sometimes I wish that the Ottomans were still running things....

Hezbollah may play a victim card as much as they wish, and I won't lift a finger in its defense. But what about the innocent civilians (whether they sympathize or not with Hezbollah is beside the point) who are being killed by the Israeli attacks? How is it that they are not victims, or that their lives are less valuable than those of Israeli victims of Hezbollah's attacks? These people are victims, and they are not victims of Hezbollah. It is obscenely stupid to suggest that they are victims of Hezbollah, simply because Hezbollah hides in their midst, when those who actually, physically kill them are Israeli troops. This is the moral calculus of monsters: I am entitled to kill those people, and if they hide amongst innocent civilians, the death of the latter is their responsibility, not mine.

"It is in this that I believe Israel is failing in its current offensive. It would be immensely useful to be able to say--for every single target--"Hezbollah endangered people thusly"."

This was possible in the first couple of days after the attacks. It has ceased to be possible now, more's the pity.

The Hezbollah terrorists are the ones who are responsible for most of the civilian deaths in Lebanon.

I've never been a fan of the quantum theory of responsibility, where it comes in one single indivisible package and can be held by only one party, no matter how complicated the situation.

What Andrew just said. Methinks one can easily fall prey to an obsession with the theory of incentives, and justify bombing hospitals and airports on the basis that doing so counteracts whatever incentives terrorists may have to locate their operation centers close to hospitals and airports. This incentives-driven mindset can get pretty awful very quickly, as one can witness in the constant flirtation with torture that many people engage in these days.

Just to clarify, before anyone thinks I am the quantum opposite of Charles Bird: I do hold Hezbollah somewhat responsible for its putting Lebanese civilians at risk. But surely Israel much further from being exempt of responsibility when it comes to the lives of innocent civilians in Lebanon.

Charles: "The best solution for stopping this practice is to make the terrorists pay dearly for it." -- This had been accomplished after the first day of bombing. I fail to see what the rest of the bombing has added to it, in that regard.

" the Israelis need to fully engage in the information front, highlighting the ways in which Hezbollah is violating the Geneva Conventions and slamming the victim card they are playing." -- The Israelis are pretty engaged on that front, at any rate judging from the number of Israeli spokespersons I see on the news, and the extent to which they are highlighting this very point.

The trouble is that it doesn't seem to be working. And part of the reason why it's not working is that a lot of people recognize that what Andrew said is right: that the fact that Hezbollah started this, and is absolutely to blame for that, does not mean that Israel bears no responsibility for what followed, and specifically that it is not responsible for its decision not to be content with serious retaliation, but to lay waste to large parts of the country. That is not a decision they were forced to make, and they are responsible for making it.

People see this and notice this, and no amount of "engagement in the information war" will obscure it. That, again, is one reason why I wish Israel had stopped while the point about Hezbollah's responsibility could still be plainly made. A lot of people accepted it then; very few do now. (In the ME, at any rate.)

Charles,

The Hezbollah terrorists are the ones who are responsible for most of the civilian deaths in Lebanon.

What Hogan said. Responsibility is not zero-sum. Hezbollah bears responsibility for starting this particular fire and Israel bears responsibility for pouring fuel on it.

Don’t you think “terrorists” is wearing a bit thin? I’d hate to see Hezbollah emerge as the rulers of Lebanon, or anywhere else, but it seems to me they are proving themselves to be bloody good fighters. Far from wanting to attack civilians, their preference is to attack the IDF or, better yet, goad the IDF into attacking them on their own turf. I am sceptical of reports which suggest that they only go into action when surrounded by their wives and children. Next we’ll be hearing that they are taking babies out of incubators for use as shields.

Do Americans have a rooted objection to acknowledging the fighting spirit of their enemies? I seem to remember reading of a 19th century Prussian visitor who surprised his American hosts by telling them that they had the finest light cavalry in the world – the Apaches. Apparently that way of looking at the matter was new to them.

People see this and notice this, and no amount of "engagement in the information war" will obscure it.

It's hard to beat something with nothing. Pictures of dead children and ambulances with holes in them aren't going to be countered with an assertion that the terrorists are to blame.

This is somewhat OT, but I can't resist. Upthread Mr. McManus said, re. submarine warfare:

So the Germans stopped following the rules. I presume this rule got tightened, I think merchant vessels in WWII were not allowed to be armed.

True, sort of. The laws of war at sea hadn't changed in 1939. But again, the British armed their merchantmen, and again, the Germans took to shooting without warning.

A grim development was the Laconia incident, when a German U-Boat captain torpedoed an Allied troopship. The captain rescued as many men as he could, along with other U-Boats, and they sailed toward land with prominent Red Cross banners flying. He even radioed in English that he was rescuing people. An American B-24 found them, the pilot asked for orders, and was told to attack the submarines anyhow. He did. The U-Boats got away, but lots of people died.

Admiral Dönitz issued orders forbidding U-Boats from providing any assistance to torpedo victims after that.

This is somewhat OT, but I can't resist.

It's not OT at all. The concept of perfidy, warships disguised as merchant ships, commandos going in disguise and suchlike grey areas of the law are highly relevant to any discussion of the rights and wrongs of guerrilla warfare.

"Pictures of dead children and ambulances with holes in them aren't going to be countered with an assertion that the terrorists are to blame."

We see pictures of dead Lebanese children and ambulances with holes in them in the regular media right now.

For the most part we don't see pictures of that when Israeli children die in suicide blasts and to my knowlege we have never seen pictures of people killed by the rocket attacks. Israelis killing people in Lebanon is NEWS, NEWS, FRONT PAGE NEWS. This was true from day one of the Israeli response (the day that hilzoy agrees with).

Israelis getting killed is routine, boring and normal--maybe page four stuff. They have fewer deaths than your average country because they have the best civil defense in the world, but the number and ferocity of attacks against Israeli civilians for decades in a row are just a routine part of the background so far as news reporting goes. And the kidnappings wouldn't have made the front page if there hadn't been a very forceful Israeli response.

That is Hezbollah and Hamas winning the propaganda war at every stage for years.

Forgive me if somebody else has already pointed this out:

Michael Totten's take

A must read.

Sebastian wrote--

The thing I don't understand is, what is 'it'?

I thought that was clear. The self-righteousness of people who talk about the killings of the enemy and nothing about the similar crimes we or our allies have committed would be the "it" to which I am opposed. I see it constantly, in comments at Obiwi and in letters to the NYT and in my real life kneejerk Israel-supporting friends. It's not only that this way of thinking is hypocritical--it's also a mindset that leads to further killings of innocent people, on the grounds that the other side is so evil and we are so good that we can kill hundreds of civilians and then put all the blame on the other side.

I'm not condemning everyone who supports military action by Israel in this situation--I'm not sure what the Israelis should do. But you could support some level of military response and, like von did the other day, draw the line at bombing Beirut suburbs.

By the way, does anyone here know much about the prisoners that Hamas and Hezbollah want released? Are any of them innocent? Are they all terrorists guilty of killing civilians? (I'm not going to count people who have killed Israeli soldiers as terrorists.) Is Israel's record so sterling that we just take for granted that anyone in their prisons deserves to be there? I'll answer that last one--in general, no I don't think one should assume that. Of course we've gone way beyond the hostage-taking issue at this point.

Israelis getting killed is routine

well... it is. it's been happening pretty much continuously as long as i can remember - literally.

it's even more routine than US soldiers getting killed in Iraq. and when was the last time you saw pictures of dead US soldiers?

"But you could support some level of military response and, like von did the other day, draw the line at bombing Beirut suburbs."

I draw the line at indiscriminately bombing suburbs in any city. I do not draw the line at bombing Hezbollah targets located in the suburbs.

"well... it is. it's been happening pretty much continuously as long as i can remember - literally."

Yup, and the fact that it can be considered routine and non-newsworthy is one of the biggest propganda victories possible for Hamas and Hezbollah. And that victory is handed to them dozens of times per year.

Seb: Actually, I think the coverage I've seen (CNN and MSNBC, mostly) has given about equal coverage to attacks on Israel and on Lebanon. The pictures from Lebanon look a lot worse, but that's because there are no entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble in Israel. (Not that what's been done to Israel isn't bad enough; it's just that the reason that pictures of Haifa or Netanya don't have the same 'rubble as far as the eye can see' effect is because they aren't rubble as far as the eye can see.)

Sorry if I missed anyone's linking this news item:

Mr. Ramon also raised the possibility of an expanded air assault, saying "all those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah."
You know, if you don't want to be compared to the Nazis et al., a good first step would be not to say things like that. Commissar Order, anyone?

("Eek, but you're not allowed to compare [Israel/anyone else] to the Nazis!" Why? To encourage people to imitate them? Never understood that one, personally. There are dumb Nazi comparisons, easily spotted and disregarded, and then there are valid ones.)

Michael Totten is one of the few American voices I trust on Lebanon issues. I found his take completely reasonable, if grim in outlook.

"Actually, I think the coverage I've seen (CNN and MSNBC, mostly) has given about equal coverage to attacks on Israel and on Lebanon."

That is only after Israel counterattacked.

Did you see multiple front page stories of the rocket attacks in December? October? I didn't.

Hezbollah probably has a lot of offices. Bombing them is going to kill civilians. This is why you should only bomb the places that have, you know, real military significance.

In the I/P conflict the Israeli victims get front page status all the time. They and their families are treated exactly as they should be--as the innocent victims of a terrible atrocity.

Sometimes Palestinians get this treatment. And sometimes the media refers to a period of quiet, when what they mean is a period when the only ones being killed are Palestinians. No one who has paid attention to the American press could possibly say that Hamas and Hezbollah have been winning the propaganda war for years. It's no doubt different in other countries, Arab ones anyway. But to say that Hamas and Hezbollah have been favored over Israel in the US press is, well, an interesting point of view.

Right now the Lebanese victims are being given the same treatment by the NYT that Israeli victims receive when a suicide bomber strikes. They also treat the Israeli victims of rocket attacks with the journalistic compassion they deserve. It's almost as though they are doing their job.

It's possible, though, that your comment is evidence for my theory that the Internet connects people in parallel universes. In your world, no doubt it is true that the mainstream American press has always had a bias against Israel and in favor of Hamas and Hezbollah. In my world, we scratch our heads at assertions like that and then think "Aha--a quantum superposition of states." I wonder if there was a cat on TV if you'd see a live one and I'd see a dead one.

"They also treat the Israeli victims of rocket attacks with the journalistic compassion they deserve."

In which paper did you see front page stories on the victims of the rocket attacks in December? Which paper in October?

Seb: the same ones in which I saw front page stories when Palestinians were wounded (as opposed to killed) in Gaza or the West Bank. Which is to say, none.

In which paper did you see front page stories on the victims of the rocket attacks in December? Which paper in October?

The stories I'm looking at from December say there were no casualties. How many were there in October?

How to defeat an enemy fighting asymmetrically? Outflank it.

The Hezbollah guerrilla forces may be locally popular and blend into the local community but their ability to strike at Israel comes from foreign countries.

So, if defeating Hezbollah decisively is in the US interest, then the US needs to make the commitment to invade and hold Iran.

that is not a decision to be made lightly.

There were no October attacks according to that list you linked to, hilzoy. I did remember seeing November attacks at CNN.com

CNN

As far as front-page newspapers, who knows? The Paris riots were ongoing then.

if defeating Hezbollah decisively is in the US interest, then the US needs to make the commitment to invade and hold Iran.

Francis,

This is probably what you meant, but I'll add anyhow: with the caveat that such an action needs to offer greater rewards than costs. I'd argue it would certainly be in the U.S.'s interest to see Hezbollah destroyed, but I'm not of the belief that it is of a level of interest commensurate with the costs of invading Iran.

Sadly, yes, but I have difficulty arguing that we've got to bomb hospitals and orphanages just to deter Hezbollah from using them for cover.

I will cop to be being extreme about this, Andrew. If Hezbollah is firing rockets from a hospital or orphanage or mosque, it is no longer "civilian". The rocket launchers should be taken out in those locations, and Hezbollah should get the blame--with big media fanfare--for terrorizing and imperiling the civilian occupants, assuming there are any there. I agree that Lebanese and Israeli civilians are both victims in this mess, but it's important to point out who's at fault for their victim status.

And part of the reason why it's not working is that a lot of people recognize that what Andrew said is right: that the fact that Hezbollah started this, and is absolutely to blame for that, does not mean that Israel bears no responsibility for what followed, and specifically that it is not responsible for its decision not to be content with serious retaliation, but to lay waste to large parts of the country.

This comes down to the fundamental question: Why should anyone be content with retaliation? When has retaliation ever solved anything? We didn't invade Afghanistan to retaliate.

Tit-for-tat has done exactly nothing for over fifty years. What has worked? Camp David did with Egypt, and the agreement with Jordan did as well, both made by sovereign nations that did not have paramilitias controlling parts of their countries. This can't happen in Lebanon until the militant wing of Hezbollah is out. The point isn't about retaliating for Hezbollah transgressions. It's bigger than that. The solution for peace still comes down to the Lebanese government having sufficient military power to retain territorial integrity, and then negotiating a peace agreement with Israel. With Iran helping Hezbollah get to state-within-a-state status, this has become a threat that Israel cannot withdraw from. If Israel cannot help get the Lebanese government to the point of full sovereignty, we're going to see the non-stop drip of war anyway.

Hezbollah bears responsibility for starting this particular fire and Israel bears responsibility for pouring fuel on it.

I'm not sure how Israel "poured fuel", Kevin, not when dozens of rockets are landing in Israeli cities every day. Be that as it may, when a combatant is standing behind a woman and child and that combatant is firing at you, you kill the combatant and pray that the woman and child survive, and then you hope the combatant rots in hell for the evil act he did, and for which that combatant is responsible for. Same goes for what Hezbollah is doing.

Don’t you think “terrorists” is wearing a bit thin?

It should never be. Every rocket fired at a populated city by Hezbollah is a terrorist attack, and they are also killing fellow Arabs who happen to be Israeli citizens. "Terrorists" is an accurate description given what they are doing, and I think we do ourselves a disservice by not calling it what it is.

Sebastian, there are one or two leftwing groups that have done studies supposedly showing that the mainstream American press is overwhelmingly biased in favor of Israel--the claim is that Israeli deaths receive much more attention on a per capita basis than Palestinian deaths. I could see if that study or studies are online or you could and if so, then you could try to poke holes in them. My subjective impression is that that the NYT tends to be biased towards Israel, though not as much as some lefties claim. I have a much stronger sense of pro-Israel bias regarding the New Yorker and could give anecdotal reasons for feeling this way, but won't bother. I almost never watch TV news, unless the Daily Show and the Colbert Report count. Well, sometimes Lehrer. Lehrer seems balanced lately, but I don't watch enough to be confident of that.

"Tit-for-tat has done exactly nothing for over fifty years."

CB, that's very post hoc ergo propter hoc (or some other sort of fallacy). One has to be able to say, policy X has lead to situation Y, while policy A would have lead to superior situation B; one can't say situation Y sucks therefore X is bad and therefore let's try A, because A might have lead (or have been reasonably expected to have lead) to inferior situation C, and all policies beside X might have been reasonably expected to have lead to situations worse than Y.

CB: "The solution for peace still comes down to the Lebanese government having sufficient military power to retain territorial integrity, and then negotiating a peace agreement with Israel."

The question is: how do we accomplish this? Personally, I would have thought that retaliating to maintain deterrence, and then working with the non-destroyed Lebanese government to strengthen its army and isolate a not-made-much-more-popular Hezbollah would have been a vastly better way to achieve this, but hey, what do I know? Maybe risking the collapse of Lebanon into a failed state will do the trick. Maybe ponies too!

Andrew: SH and a number of commenters are of the belief that (a) Iran will develop a nuclear weapon within 5 to 10 years and (b) enough individuals within the Iranian govt are willing to be martyrs that they would trade nuking Tel Aviv for whatever the consequences may be.

Personally, I believe that Iran is deterrable and that the American people are not willing at this time to bear the consequences of an invasion.

but others, apparently reasonably, disagree.

So, to be honest about it, I recognize that the invasion and occupation by the US of Iran serves three major US goals:
(a) it cuts off a major source of funding and weaponry to Hezbollah;
(b) it destabilizes the radical Shiite militias in Iraq, possibly leading to an outcome there more to our liking; and
(c) it prevents the development of an Iranian nuke.

but unless we apply the Powell/Marshall Doctrine instead of the Rumsfeld Doctrine, I think we will sorely regret it. And Powell (overwhelming force) plus Marshall (massive occupation/reconstruction) equals a lot of people and money.

I would have thought that retaliating to maintain deterrence...

You're making a big assumption that Hezbollah would actually be deterred, Hil. This is a group that considers it a victory when they lose ten of their own but happen to kill an IDF guy in the process. Lebanon is doomed if Hezbollah sticks around, and the current government may be doomed if the fighting continues. Keeping the posting rules in mind (and since Nasrallah is part of the military command-and-control structure), his demise may do more than anything to degrade Hezbollah is if this article is accurate.

Francis,

I'm certainly concerned about those possibilities as well, but I'm also of the belief that we shouldn't do anything unless we're prepared to do it right. We tried to do Iraq on the cheap and, like most things you try to do for less, it's ended up costing us a lot more (not to mention the price being borne by the Iraqis). I have no faith that the current administration is going to do anything in Iran any better than they did in Iraq, so I certainly wouldn't support an invasion before 2009 because I think we'd do more harm than good. Further, I'm far from convinced that an invasion of Iran would really help all that much. The nuclear genie is escaping his bottle, and if invasions are the only way we can stuff it back in, we're doomed anyhow. So it's time for plan B.

First, WRT discussions of bombing -- I think it more useful to distinguish between strategic and tactical bombing, than use terms like "area bombing" or "saturation bombing." Whatever the volume of bombs or the method of delivery, the force doing the bombing is either attacking the opponent (tactical) or the opponent's means of making war (strategic). Either may endanger civilians, but the latter is more likely to do so.

Second -- I think that what Seb and Charles miss in their arguments here is that the propaganda effects of asymmetrical warfare need to be addressed differently for different audiences. Highlighting the fact that Hezbollah violated the rules of war and placed civilians in danger is not going to be an effective way to counter them because it fails to address itself to the audience that Hezbollah is trying to reach. Neither "the West" nor "the UN" or any other actors matter one bit to Hezbollah when it comes to public opinion. Their only goal is to radicalize the people around them, and Israel only helps that by deciding to play Goliath to their David.

Yes, Hezbollah sucks. Yes, their methods are cynical and calculated to cause the death of non-combatants on both sides. But the weapons that cause the most damage are fired by the guys on the other side. Israel has lost the moment that they are perceived as overreacting. Israel will only win when and if it is perceived as the victim (or at least not as the big bully) not just outside of the ME but within as well.

William Lind has published a lot on-line regarding counterinsurgency, and Tom Hammes and John Nagl have both written very good books on the subject that I would recommend to anyone who is interested. Martin van Creveld is another one to read, who definitely does have an intimate understanding of the situation in the ME. All of them agree that the US and the Israeli strategy is completely counterproductive. I have yet to see a convincing counter-argument.

Asymmetric warfare, anyone?

Now more Israeli soldiers are on the way, including an armored unit being transferred from Gaza to Lebanon. They have been told civilians have left the region where they will fight.

"Over here, everybody is the army," one soldier said. "Everybody is Hezbollah. There's no kids, women, nothing."

Another soldier put it plainly: "We're going to shoot anything we see."

The words of soldiers whose training has obviously made them indifferent, at best, to the prospect of being tried as war criminals.

Via Billmon, who correctly is coming to despise Israel for its latest actions. He's not too thrilled about the "only terrorists are in south Lebanon" remark, either.

"Via Billmon, who correctly is coming to despise Israel"

I would have written, "who has long despised Israel and is happy to cherry-pick data confirming his prejudice", but YMMV.

Billmon:

I've felt many emotions about the Israelis before. I've admired them for their accomplishments -- building a flourishing state out of almost nothing. I've hated them for their systematic dispossession of the Palestinians -- even as they smugly congratulated themselves for being the Middle East's only "democracy." I've pitied them for the cruel fate history inflicted on the Jewish diaspora, respected them for their boldness and daring, honored them for their cultural and intellectual achievements. But the one thing I've never felt, at least up until now, is contempt.
I see no reason to take that statement at less than face value.

"I see no reason to take that statement at less than face value."

Have you read him for very long?

Have you read him for very long?

On and off. And I can readily appreciate that you would rather talk about Billmon than about IDF soldiers whose sentiments are scarcely distinguishable from those of Einsatzgruppen, but it doesn't do much for your moral credibility vis-a-vis Billmon.

Anderson: "IDF soldiers whose sentiments are scarcely distinguishable from those of Einsatzgruppen"

You're the one showing difficulty in making distinctions.

Okay, Rilkefan, explain this one to me:

"Over here, everybody is the army," one soldier said. "Everybody is Hezbollah. There's no kids, women, nothing."

Another soldier put it plainly: "We're going to shoot anything we see."

What "distinction" would *you* make here?

I would hate to suggest you can't read, and it would probably violate the posting rules, so I won't. But to make things simple for you, the quote above is about a question of fact - are there civilians in region X? The soldiers quoted have been told the answer is "no", which would be kinda consistent with "there's no kids, women".

That's just for starters about your confusion here - I think though that others might do a better job explaining these matters to you than I.

Sebastian: In which paper did you see front page stories on the victims of the rocket attacks in December? Which paper in October?
hilzoy: the same ones in which I saw front page stories when Palestinians were wounded (as opposed to killed) in Gaza or the West Bank. Which is to say, none.

<sarcasm type="gratuitous" subtype="unhelpful">I keep trying to explain to people that this is about who originally started it, and if only we could figure out who originally started it we could solve the problem in no time. I'm glad to see Seb and hil tackling the question head-on.</sarcasm>

Here's a question in case somebody else feels that this thread might benefit from a few degrees of deflection.

Suppose we agree that "asymmetrical" warfare places civilians at higher risk, that simply tightening the nominal "rules" of war is very unlikely to help, and that we would like to figure out a way to mitigate AW's tendancy to cause civilian casualties. Redoubling our efforts to enforce the rules by punishing either party doesn't help because "no pre-existing monopoly on the use of force" is pretty much the nature of the problem, while outside attempts enforcement just increase th number of participants. What we want is rules that are self-enforcing, which is just another way to say that we want a strategy. And we particularly want a strategy which doesn't benefit one side more than the other. So...

What characteristics does asymmetric warfare have in general, which might be subverted to the purpose of mitigating civilian casualties?

Useful answers would not require you to know ahead of time whether your side is the "guerilla" side or the "conventional" one.

This war is absolutely symmetrical if you consider the views of the literal true believers and their Gods on either side, whether it is Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and the Iranian mullahs, orthodox Jews in Israel who believe their God gave them land, or folks like the wonderful guy cited in Kevin Drum's post entitled "Christian Zionism" (2:09 am) and his patron true believer in the White House, or the deeply loving Reverend Rod Parsley of Ohio (see the most recent New Yorker) who is bankrolling the religious Right's new crazy person for the Governor of Ohio. That the candidate is a black man is a joke on everyone, if you think about it long enough.

The rules of engagement will be whatever the various gods say they are. Because the lot of them -- Gods and believers -- are crazy f------.

They -- all of them -- believe the rest of us are better off dead and saved than alive and wondering the hell to do on a Thursday afternoon.

I'm sorry -- apropos of nothing, or nothingness, discussing rational rules of engagement in warfare brings out the dada in me.

It reminds me of Groucho Marx's comment that a "7-year old child could figure it out. Now someone run and find me a 7-year old child."

Well, Rilkefan, if I were their defense counsel, I would make that argument too. But "shooting anything you see" isn't going to fit too well.

Calley tried out the theory, didn't he, that he'd been told everyone at My Lai was an enemy? How did that work out for him?

I don't think the IDF quotes can be read any other way than as they were portrayed. Neither the IDF brass nor the IDF soldiers know who is where - the IDF no longer even attempts to distinguish Hezbollah from civilian - they just shoot to kill. Clearly understandable, but also clearly murder.

In order to in any way excuse the evil that Israel does, there must be a very real, and worse, evil avoided. As I said on an earlier thread, if ALL of Hezbollah's inventory were sent on its way to Israel, at the current ratio of rockets to murders, Israel's efforts have been to avoid fewer deaths than have already happened. To say that they had the right to target ANY Hezbollah targets, not just the obvious military targets, is to defy logic and and morality to which Americans once laid claim.

As Hilzoy said, if there is no expectation of changing the situation for the better, there is no justification for the murders of civilians. Israel has commited an evil act but not avoided a greater evil. Their act stands on its own as murder.

Jake

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