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July 25, 2006

Comments

There were a few more of us, once upon a time upthread.

This, on the other hand:

Those firing the bullets, missiles, and artillery causing the casualties, Slart. In other words, the ones doing the killing have decided that the value of the lifes and security their own citizenry is more valuable than those of others, an understandable position. But others might do a different estimation.

I completely disagree with. If you think it's somehow justifiable to hide behind the civilian population, you've failed to understand why there are rules in place to forbid such action.

Oh, and I found this at Haaretz rather interesting. Again, playing to the tit for tat article pointed to above.

Also, if you inspect the map you can see that most of the things across the street from the Pentagon are huge parking lots.

"I guess it would be akin to considering any Federal buildings as military targets because they're associated with our government."

Like targeting a Toys For Tots office.

...which is not quite the same as saying it's totally groovy to kill 1000 civilians to get at one legitimate combatant, mind you. I'm not sure if there's actually any justifiable trade in that respect, but it certainly ought to be clear where the blame lies in setting the whole sequence in action.

Slart, are you really telling me that if the US was invaded (let's take the Red Dawn scenario) we wouldn't resort to almost identical tactics?

I find that hard to believe

Jon H: No, more like - say - the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

You're saying, Hal, that we would target civilians?

Um...no. Not even in the movies.

I'm saying that we would use civilians as shields.

"I'm not sure if there's actually any justifiable trade in that respect, but it certainly ought to be clear where the blame lies in setting the whole sequence in action."

I suppose it depends on the rules of engagement.

It's one thing to hit an orphanage that has a missile launcher in it. It's another thing to start targeting orphanages in general because there was once a missile launcher in an orphanage, even though that could be rationalized as "denying the enemy potential cover" or something.

Likewise, it's one thing to engage an ambulance if you see the enemy using it. It's another thing to target ambulances in general because they might be in use by the enemy.

Down that road attacks on Israeli citizens could be justified because, due to the widespread (compulsory?) military service any given civilian may be a reservist, may have been military, or may soon be military.

Down that road attacks on Israeli citizens could be justified...

Yep, this is the logic at play.

The closest thing is the Macy's Pentagon City. In between the Pentagon and the Macy's is a huge parking lot and a very large freeway. It appears to be over 1/4 mile away. Rather different from having apartment buildings that nearly abut the building.

You're picking nits here. If I can see it from an office or apartment window it's in my goddamned neighborhood. I can walk to the Pentagon from my office, Sebastian; I hardly need you to describe to me where it is and isn't located.

"I'm saying that we would use civilians as shields."

While targeting civilians? Or are you making an inapt comparison, here?

Factual note: it is not nuts to suppose that a car looked like a target, from an airplane. As I wrote in the other thread, Israel is after (among other things) Katyusha launchers, which can be mounted on the back of a truck (not an 18wheeler, but a pickup sort of thing), and Katyushas, a number of which can be carried in cars.

Moral note: this is why it is important to have some standard in mind of how likely you have to think it is that something is a legitimate target, rather than e.g. fleeing civilians, before you hit it. If Hezbollah was occasionally in the habit of traveling in ordinary cars or vans, that would not (imho) make it legitimate to bomb every car on the highway. If 99% of the cars were Hezbollah, that would be another story.

To my mind, saying that any risk at all that one will hit civilians is unacceptable is nuts; but saying that the fact that some group hangs out among civilians, or does things (e.g. driving cars) that allow targeters to mistake civilians for Hezbollah, legitimates literally any number of civilian casualties, is also nuts. It has to be about the drawing of lines.

This whole thing is a play by Israel to take out the Hezbollah rockets. ISRAEL escalated this into the debacle it has become in order to "degrade" Hezbollah's ability to damage northern Israel. This is the plan the IDF has had in place for months, awaiting only the cover of a Hezbollah attack - any attack.

Israel decided months ago that civilian deaths in Lebanon were an acceptable price to pay for removing the threat of the rockets.

Except - the rockets keep coming, Hezbollah hasn't given up, and the civilian deaths in Lebanon and Israel keep mounting. Israel erred, and badly. They have lost the support of much of the world, and they have not yet and are not likely to seriously harm Hezbollah, short of genocide. Looked at in that light, you could say that EVERY death, Lebanese or Israli, is a result of Israeli hubris and miscalculation - just as it is a result of Hezbollah hubris and miscalculation.

I think that Israel intended to harm Lebanon, as even they recognize that it is up to the Lebanese to end Hezbollah. So, if that is true, they intended the main effect of their attack to fall on civilians from the very beginning, and claiming to target Hezbollah is no more than a shallow cover for their real end - terrorizing the Lebanese population into ending Hezbollah, and thereby ending the threat to Israel of the Hezbollah rockets. See here Hezbollah Rockets for some discussion on the rockets. There is much more to be found on line, much of it by Israeli sources.

I think it is clear - when the neo-cons play with weapons, people always get hurt. The government in Israel is apparently little different from our own failed administration - prideful, arrogant, and misguided.

Jake

Slartibartfast:

Taking down the WTC towers?

No, attacking the Pentagon.

I'm trying to make what seems to me a pretty simple point. Do I really have to spell it out?

When he's referring to Lebanese consciousness, he's referring to Hizbollah.

Uh huh. I take it that "supportive Shiite community," here:

"[We must] pulverize the Hezbollah infrastructure in Lebanon and force the supportive Shiite community to pay a steep price for its provocations against us."

also means Hizbollah. Thank goodness that while the Israeli military establishment is extremely sloppy with their words, they are extremely careful with their bombs.

Slartibartfast, some time ago I suggested that people who got the WMD issue (as well as other issues) wrong on Iraq could benefit from listening to the people who were right. Now might be a good time to start.

Talking about rules of engagement without having agreement on the purpose of the war is really silly.

In WWII, the purpose of the war was the utter destruction of the enemy. Despite the unquestionable (unless you're a loon) evil of the Axis powers, people still debate the morality of the Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagaski bombings.

Israel wants to do ... what, exactly? Destroy the ability of Hezbollah to strike Israel? That's a purely military objective that does not justify hitting anyone on the road fleeing north. Kill Hezbollah fighters? Air power's a pretty indiscriminate tool. Terrify the Lebanese into not backing Hezbollah? Right. Last time you hit a hornet's nest, did the hornets pursue you or the baaad hornet who bit you and caused you to hit the nest in the first place.

Hezbollah doesn't obey our rules of war. OK, point conceded. So now what? Even if SH can persuade every last reader of this thread that Hezbollah cheat, who cares? How many Lebanese read this blog anyways?

Returning to the Pentagon, it's one of the largest buildings in the world, so it's hardly a fair comparison to discuss missing it vs. missing a small building in a cramped city.

but, let's say that the Chinese are sick and tired of the US committing war crimes in the ME and decide to use some wacky orbital kinetic bomb on the Pentagon. So they hit it, but the spillover effect kills a bunch of civilians.

Precisely how many people in the US, other than Noam Chomsky and Chalmers Johnson, will blame the administration? Two? The other three hundred million of us will be rightfully pissed off at the Chinese.

so, to reiterate, Hezbollah cheats as measured against our rules of war. So what? Where does that get you?

If you think it's somehow justifiable to hide behind the civilian population, you've failed to understand why there are rules in place to forbid such action.

I'm at a loss as to why you might think that was my position.

"Factual note: it is not nuts to suppose that a car looked like a target, from an airplane."

It's worth noting that the Israeli Air Force is equipped with the Litening targeting pod, which is almost as good as our best. The notion that they'd mistake a car for a truck at any sane weapons-release distance is not very well-founded. Our targeting pods can recognize tanks by type at distances far beyond maximum weapon-release range.

This is one area of military capability where I'm fairly well-versed, just to be clear.

"I think it is clear - when the neo-cons play with weapons, people always get hurt."

So, Israel is chock-full of conservatives who used to be liberals? Who knew?

"No, attacking the Pentagon."

Note that the upset level over that, although not exactly zero, is nowhere near as high as the upset over the WTC attacks.

Uh huh. I take it that "supportive Shiite community," here...also means Hizbollah.

Perhaps. More likely, it means those who are helping Hizbollah. Note there's nothing in there about punishing people who aren't supporting Hizbollah.

Slartibartfast, some time ago I suggested that people who got the WMD issue (as well as other issues) wrong on Iraq could benefit from listening to the people who were right. Now might be a good time to start.

Whereupon I pointed out that back then, there were a great deal of people saying things about Iraq that were wrong, and wrong from both sides of the aisle, and that there's really no way of telling which is which except in hindsight.

And if you're proposing that I ought to listen to your opinions in this matter, recall that you're the guy who thinks Israel could be resettled to Palm Springs.

And you wonder why I don't take your admonitions all that seriously.

Note that the upset level over that, although not exactly zero, is nowhere near as high as the upset over the WTC attacks.

And, to make sure we count things the way they actually stand, AQ killed 58 civilian passengers to accomplish their end.

So, no, I'm not seeing it.

Slarti: I stand corrected. However, since Katyushas can be carried in e.g. a van, wouldn't it be possible for a van without Katyushas, but with fleeing passengers, to be mistaken for a van with Katyushas? Or does it somehow detect the presence of rockets and/or launchers?

Whereupon I pointed out that back then, there were a great deal of people saying things about Iraq that were wrong, and wrong from both sides of the aisle, and that there's really no way of telling which is which except in hindsight.

I, on the other hand, got everything right about Iraq so far.

Oh, sure. No, a targeting pod cannot see inside a vehicle.

Well, dpu, I promise to have listened to you all along.

We're going to have to work out some verb tenses for time-travel, though. Maybe rilkefan knows some.

"And if you're proposing that I ought to listen to your opinions in this matter, recall that you're the guy who thinks Israel could be resettled to Palm Springs."

Slarti, that's me, Jon H. You're responding to someone else. Perhaps Jon S. left off the S.

Slarti -- thanks. -- I mean, obviously, I was trying to explain how fleeing people in civilian vehicles could be hit w/o its being on purpose, and besides being grateful for the clarification, I'm also grateful that I don't have to draw the awful conclusion that they were hit on purpose just yet.

In the very first post on this thread Cleek references a story about an air strike on a UN post in the southern Lebanese city of Khiyam.

From a variety of news reports it appears that:
1. The post has been in that building since 1972.
2. It is claimed that it was well marked as a UN post.
3. Kofi Annan is accusing the IDF of targetting the post which suffered a direct hit.
4. Four UN personel are confirmed dead.

I find it impossible to believe that the IDF is deliberately targetting the UN in southern Lebanon. But I haven't yet seen any response to that accusation.

"The trouble with trouble is that it always gets worse."

Hilzoy, I suspect that the reason some vehicles are being targetted is because they are suspected to be involved in military operations. This is a natural consequence of using civilian-appearing vehicles for military purposes.

While there is much throwing around of the human shield theory, another is that Hezbollah naturally does not want to be overly distinguishable from civilian vehicles. The end result is pretty much the same, however, unnecessary civilian casualties.

Slarti writes: "Note there's nothing in there about punishing people who aren't supporting Hizbollah."

Bombs can't tell the difference.

I doubt Israel's targeting pod can see a pro-Hizbollah bumper sticker on a fleeing car.

Hilzoy:

But we can't predict success (or lack thereof). Your best estimate is that, even with a rigorous assault, we'll be back to the status quo ante in six months. I'm not sure about that -- and a lot depends on exactly how fully Israel prosecutes this war, and the conditions it manages to extract from its proponents.

And as an aside: there is, in fact, such a thing as Kantian foreign policy. I quite like it, actually, though as one would expect, there are outdated parts.

Well, whaddaya know. You learn something new every day. I guess I should have said that no modern state practices a Kantian foreign policy.

Bob Mc.:

In fact, Vietnam -- a tactical loss -- likely was a strategic win. There had been a serious effort by China and Russia to export communism to SE Asia. The costs inflicted by Korea and Vietnam stopped them.

Now, I don't advocate adventurism. But I do advocate seeing things through and taking, where possible, the long view.

Many: I'm curious whether many of the commentariat would ever endorse the use of military power; if we can ever have a war fought clean enought to satisfy their sense of propriety and fair play.

I find it impossible to believe that the IDF is deliberately targetting the UN in southern Lebanon. But I haven't yet seen any response to that accusation.

I'm a bit confused about this as well. I can't think of a rationale for an intentional strike on this, but there have been a number of nearby strikes. Weird.

"Slarti, that's me, Jon H. You're responding to someone else. Perhaps Jon S. left off the S."

Ack. Retracted, with blushes.

And retracted as concerns the other, uninitial(iz)ed Jon. My other comments still hold, though.

Seb: While targeting civilians? Or are you making an inapt comparison, here?

If all we had was inaccurate rockets at our disposal, the result would be indistinguishable. We'd be hiding among the civilian population, fighting without uniforms and - assuming we didn't have precision guided weapons any more because we were, you know, invaded and fighting on the run without radar, lasers and GPS - hitting civilians with our laughably inaccurate weapons.

The point is, if we were put in the same position as they are in now, I think we'd be doing pretty much the same thing. It's one thing to sit around with precision weapons and deplore the inaccuracy of the guerrilla weapon. It's another thing to be put in the same position and then try to uphold your clean standards with inferior firepower.

Many: I'm curious whether many of the commentariat would ever endorse the use of military power; if we can ever have a war fought clean enought to satisfy their sense of propriety and fair play.

If you changed that to "effective use of military power" then I would agree. But this little adventure is so stupid that I have to wonder what the hell the Israeli government is allegedly thinking.

That was me, Hal, not Sebastian.

And of course having bad weapons is an excuse. Surely they were shooting at military targets, only they (surprise!) missed.

"But I haven't yet seen any response to that accusation."

FWIW, Israel officially regrets the deaths and will launch an investigation. Either it was an accident or some pilot's in even worse trouble. Not sure it's responsible of Annan to go directly to the intentional claim.

rf, it was clearly intentional. Whether it was the of the individual pulling the trigger, or a policy of a nation, that is a different question.

Jake

Whoops. Sorry for the incorrect attribution, Slart.

But what else is a guerrilla going to do. And if you'd have read the Haaretz article, you'd see that, according to Lebanese accounting, the Israelis have already done a stunning amount more in civilian casualties in the last war, so the tit for tat theory applies in spades.

This incident did not spring from the brow of Zeus...

Whereupon I pointed out that back then, there were a great deal of people saying things about Iraq that were wrong, and wrong from both sides of the aisle, and that there's really no way of telling which is which except in hindsight.

Except that we now know who was right. Thus, you can either (1) believe the people who were right were right by random; or (2) consider whether the people who were right were right for a reason -- i.e., that they have a more accurate perception of the world than you.

I'm suggesting that it's #2. But you clearly have no curiosity in considering it, and I have no power to make you do so.

And if you're proposing that I ought to listen to your opinions in this matter, recall that you're the guy who thinks Israel could be resettled to Palm Springs.

And you wonder why I don't take your admonitions all that seriously.

Wrong Jon.

Again, beyond exhorting you to do so, I don't have the power to make you pay closer attention to the world around you. You will do whatever you will do.

"The point is, if we were put in the same position as they are in now"

You know, when I was in high school, my German teacher made an argument like this. He said: "if you were in Hitler's place, you would have done the same thing".

14 jaws dropped almost in unison. It was both obviously wrong and completely unfounded. Sure, it wasn't provably wrong, but it wasn't in any sense provably correct, either.

And the offensive part, that was just icing.

Not comparing you with Hitler, mind you, just comparing you with my German teacher.

I'm curious whether many of the commentariat would ever endorse the use of military power; if we can ever have a war fought clean enought to satisfy their sense of propriety and fair play.

The answer is yes, for me at least, and I'm curious about where the question is coming from. What, on this thread, justifies the supposition that we're all just bleeding-hearts who don't get that war is an imprecise sort of thing? I strongly object to the implication in your original post that once Hezbollah violates the laws of war by hiding behind civilians, Israel has a free pass to kill however many of those civilians it thinks it needs to to get at Hezbollah (let's call this the One War Crime Per Dead Orphan Fallacy). There's still a very large gap between "Israel is morally obligated to think about how many innocent bystanders are going to be killed when it bombs Target X and take that into account in deciding whether Target X is worth bombing" and "Israel is morally obligated not to bomb Target X if any innocent bystanders will be killed."

von: true, we can't know one way or the other. Given the difficulty of interdicting smuggled Katyushas and what I think are the obvious effects this will have on Lebanese support for Hezbollah, I am pessimistic. And the thing is, our government has to make up its mind what to do now, without waiting for hindsight. I think that Israel and the US have made a horrible, horrible mistake. I very much want to be wrong.

(In re smuggling, I did like this comment from the director of GlobalSecurity.org:

"“It’s a medium-size rocket, so it’s not the sort of thing you could stuff down your shorts and walk with through a border control point,” Pike said."

Indeed.)

Actually, Slarti, I think the aplogists for Israel are truer comparisons to your teacher.

Jake

Jon S, me getting the wrong Jon doesn't make your argument any less problematic in terms of time-travel.

Unless it's your point that people who got it right about Iraq and WMD have the slightest clue about Israel and Lebanon. It's a completely different problem.

Next, perhaps, you'll be touting stock tips?

Jake: "rf, it was clearly intentional."

Got any evidence?

And, to be sure, your band of correctariat have even less direct information about this situation than they did about Iraq.

"I'm curious whether many of the commentariat would ever endorse the use of military power; if we can ever have a war fought clean enought to satisfy their sense of propriety and fair play."

Speaking for myself, sure. Actually, on reflection, it's two questions. (1) Do I ever endorse the use of military force? Yes. Going backwards: Afghanistan, Kosovo, the unfought war in Rwanda, Gulf 1, WW2... sure.

(2) Is there a war so pure that it would satisfy my sense of fair play in the sense that I found nothing to criticize? Who knows. But there are certainly wars in which I find no more to criticize than I'd expect given that human beings, even well-intentioned ones, are fallible. There are also wars in which I think that people did some seriously wrong things, but that that wrongness does not somehow call the entire war into question. I think, not that I want to open this can of worms, that dropping the first atomic bomb on a city, as opposed to some demonstration site without people, was wrong, but not that that somehow made WW2 as a whole wrong.

This is different. And I think you'd find it so too, if you agreed that it involved killing hundreds, displacing nearly a million people, and destroying large chunks of a country in a way that was unlikely to produce any good result. That's not a matter of "ooh, wars can be nasty sometimes." It's more: "WTF are you doing???"

Perhaps, Slarti, Jon S refers only to his understanding of human nature and the small matter of ethics.

Perhaps his insight is not into the specific tactics and circumstances, but rather into the very human beings who have created this horrendous sink hole of war crimes - and into their victims, the Israeli and Lebanese pupulace.

It's not as if recent wars and invasions have such a great track record, is it?

Jake

I think there was enough data and time to realize going into Iraq was a very bad idea, and I think the other options were clearly better. Israel didn't have the luxury of a quiet deliberation and clear alternatives.

"It's not as if recent wars and invasions have such a great track record, is it?"

No, it's not. But I do find the absence of finger-pointing at those who are most contemptuous of the lives of innocents rather confusing.

And it's not as if we Americans have anything whatever to do with the clash between Israel and Lebanon. Or is it your contention that Israel is unclean by association?

Slartibartfast:

Unless it's your point that people who got it right about Iraq and WMD have the slightest clue about Israel and Lebanon. It's a completely different problem...

And, to be sure, your band of correctariat have even less direct information about this situation than they did about Iraq.

All right. As I said, you apparently have zero curiosity about how and why you were wrong. If you did have such curiosity, you might discover exactly why some of the people who were right previously probably also have some worthwhile insight on the current situation in Lebanon.

But you don't have such curiosity. It's too bad -- not just for you, but for this country. It's extremely damaging to us to have so many people so resolutely uninterested in what you might think would be one of the foremost issues of our time. But there it is.

rf, are you saying that all these wonderful weapons and their great targeting systems are not capable of distinguishing this one building from all others? If that is so, then Israel is no less guilty of indiscriminately targeting civilians than Hezbollah. We know Hezbollah cannot direct the vast majority of their rockets, and so we make such an accusation of indiscriminate targeting, but we accept Israel's contention that they are NOT indiscriminately targeting civilians because they are using OUR weapons. You can't have it both ways - the man or woman who pulled the trigger AIMED it at the building containing the UN people. His act was intentional - whether he intended to hit the "UN" is yet another question.

But if he did not intend to hit the UN facility, then it calls into question either Israel's statements regarding thier ability to aim, or their knowledge of where to aim - either of which means they ARE at the least careless of civilian life in Southern Lebanon.

Jake

It's not that I have no curiousity so much as that "we were right and you were wrong" does absolutely nothing to satisfy it.

But nice change of subject. Aren't we on Israel vs. Lebanon, here?

I'm curious whether many of the commentariat would ever endorse the use of military power; if we can ever have a war fought clean enought to satisfy their sense of propriety and fair play.

Endorse

I have to wonder what the hell the Israeli government is allegedly thinking.

I think that the Israeli govt takes Ahmadinejad's statements about obliterating Israel seriously. Hizballah, the Iranian backed terrorist organization, which has already targeted Israelis worldwide, would be the likely agent for doing that. So they are likely to perceive Hizballah as an existential threat based right next door.

Isn't there a quote somewhere, Slarti, about he who has the most power has the most responsility? Maybe it's the one about "To he who is given much, much is expected" or whatever it is.

I cannot reiterate enough times that Hezbollah is WRONG. That Iran is wrong, that Syria is wrong.

And that none of those wrongs excuse Israel's terrorizing of Lebanon.

Jake

"And that none of those wrongs excuse Israel's terrorizing of Lebanon."

Oh, sure. But those wrongs, they invite something in the way of responsibility for the consequences, no?

"rf, are you saying that all these wonderful weapons and their great targeting systems are not capable of distinguishing this one building from all others?"

You don't seem to understand the concept of distinguishing, but in any case people make mistakes. You just want to hold Israel to some superhuman standard the better to bash it. Lacking the expertise to determine what error rate is to be expected given the situation, the claimed targeting, and the tech, and lacking the data to determine the above and most importantly what the actual error rate is, you can't make these claims. Well, you can, but I won't be responding to them.

One way to avoid bombing civilians when you're going for combatants who use civilians as shields is to opt for a ground invasion. Would invading Lebanon have been better? Would invading Lebanon have caused less outrage than the air campaign? I don't think so.

Another way to avoid killing civilians when you're going for combatants who use civilians as shields is to opt for targetted assassination. Israel used that tactic against Hamas, and I think it worked - "worked" meaning the incidence of suicide bombers dropped significantly. But Israel was also roundly condemned for it.

I wonder what tactics would pass muster, or are all military responses considered out of bounds?

Tactically, I prefer assassinations - fewer civilian casualties, less infrastructure damage. But that doesn't get rid of the rockets or their launchers.

Strategically? If the goal is to make sure Hezbollah can't launch rockets into Isreal; and if Lebanon's government is unable to kick Hezbollah out of the country; and if Syria or Iran will simply refill the supply of armaments once Israel withdraws - then strategically the most effective thing to do is raze and depopulate a 10 to 20 mile stretch of borderlands and create a DMZ like the one separating the Koreas. Would that be acceptable?

A negotiated ceasefire would be a wonderful thing - but not if it simply restores the status quo ante, because all that means is that Hezbollah moves back into Southern Lebanon, and keeps playing dare-ems with Israel's border forces, and keeps launching missiles whenever it likes.

A negotiated ceasefire that permanently stations international troops along the border might - might - prevent re-establishing the status quo ante, but raises a number of questions. Such as, where will the troops come from, what will they be authorized to do, and who will be commanding them?

Excellent comment, CaseyL.

Hey hilzoy, does it violate the posting rules?

Slartibartfast:

It's not that I have no curiousity so much as that "we were right and you were wrong" does absolutely nothing to satisfy it.

Except that bears no relationship to our previous interaction, in which I practically begged you to read any of the numerous sources I mentioned. I spent an enormous amount of time explaining why you should want to learn more, and precisely how you could learn more.

Yet all you heard out of all of that was "we were right and you were wrong." The non-funny funny part is that this type of selective perception is precisely why you (and others) were wrong in the first place.

But as I say, I obviously can't make you want to perceive the world around you. I won't try any more.

Dave L: If the launcher is a big enough threat to Israel to justify killing the orphans to destroy it, that's one thing, but suggesting that once Hezbollah has put the launcher there the orphans are no longer entitled to consideration is something different. I kind of thought that was part of what the whole proportionality thing was all about.

You would @#%!!**#@ think that, wouldn't you? I would have, before the Medium Lobster, er, Von's post showed me the error of my limited thinking.

Hilzoy: This is different. And I think you'd find it so too, if you agreed that it involved killing hundreds, displacing nearly a million people, and destroying large chunks of a country in a way that was unlikely to produce any good result. That's not a matter of "ooh, wars can be nasty sometimes." It's more: "WTF are you doing???"

Exactly. Very well said.

Rilkefan: Israel didn't have the luxury of a quiet deliberation and clear alternatives.

WTF? "Gosh, we had TWO GUYS KIDNAPPED, so we must IMMEDIATELY launch a MASSIVE ATTACK ON BEIRUT"???????????????

The poverty of insufficient deliberation:

Israel's military response by air, land and sea to what it considered a provocation last week by Hezbollah militants is unfolding according to a plan finalized more than a year ago.

In the years since Israel ended its military occupation of southern Lebanon, it watched warily as Hezbollah built up its military presence in the region. When Hezbollah militants kidnapped two Israeli soldiers last week, the Israeli military was ready to react almost instantly.

"Of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared," said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University. "In a sense, the preparation began in May 2000, immediately after the Israeli withdrawal, when it became clear the international community was not going to prevent Hezbollah from stockpiling missiles and attacking Israel. By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we're seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it's been simulated and rehearsed across the board."

I guess if it hadn't been for the kidnappings, Israel would've had to wait for a Hezbollah militant to double-park or something.

"One way to avoid bombing civilians when you're going for combatants who use civilians as shields is to opt for a ground invasion."

But, as we've re-learned, ground taken must be defended. And civilians as human shields, as we've re-learned, has its own downsides in the context of a ground invasion.

No, I think Israel's tactics are just about the only tactics of force that could possibly have some positive result: they've cut off Hizbollah's supply of rockets. Hizbollah can probably resupply its small arms, but that's not of much concern to Israel.

Francis may get his wish.

I think it is too short sighted to focus on the issue of whether or not Isreal should have do this or to what extent and who killed the most civilians etc. We need to be thinking about what we wish for the Middle East in the long run, two or three generations down the line.
Both sides in the Middle East(pro-Isreal/anti-Palestine and pro-Palestine/ anti-Isreal) say the same things and behave the same way:
"It's all your fault. You started it. I'll stop but only after you do. You hit me first. You hit me harder. You got your friends to hit me. I'm going to beat you up so bad you won't be able to hit me back."

A pox on all their houses. Our only participation should be to support negotiations for peace. Otherwise we shouldn't support any side. . It may very well be that someday Iran will decide that they don't mind being nuked back so they go ahead and nuke Tel Aviv. I can't imagine why anyone would think this attack on Lebanese territoy would prevent it. It's just the latest round in the cycle of violence. We need to be looking for ways to break the cycle, not contribute by arguing about who is more to blame or who is right this time.
The WW2 analogy doesn't work because in WW2 there were clear aggressors and those clearly aggressed against. In this situation both Palestine and Isreal have a right to exist and the fighting will continue until the blame game stops.

"But as I say, I obviously can't make you want to perceive the world around you. I won't try any more."

That's just as well, as you've obviously long since decided to completely ignore anything I've had to say in response.

Which, possibly, is the very definition of incurious.

"I guess if it hadn't been for the kidnappings" - and killings. Note that there was a very new govt in power, dealing with another crisis - they had the option of not following this plan, but not a space for calm deliberation. That is, they could not have thought about it for a month then gone in. That is, the comparison to Iraq war is rather poor.

"to what it considered a provocation" - that's quite something.

i now know the sound that 15 ships make passing in the night. It's called this thread.

Tactics: this group will not come to consensus on the morality of the means by which Israel is waging this war. Some are focused on Israel's mistakes and some are focused on Hezbollah's noncompliance with Western rules of war.

Strategy: this bit the dust early. There was little follow up on why Von believes this war to be a strategic mistake.

Bad analogies: The Pentagon? The building's enormous and on the wrong side of the river.

Gary Farber sawing off his own leg? Hil, that was a little wacky even for me.

It's late in the day here in So.Cal. and we've been bickering all day (beats working, i guess). But I'll try to inject a new idea nevertheless:

Israel, like the US, has become casualty-adverse.

The overemphasis on air power, the obsessive reporting of each casualty ... these are hallmarks of American-style war making, in Bosnia, Somalia and GWII.

And while I'm in no hurry to see either Americans or Israelis sent to useless deaths, if either country is going to use its armed forces, it might as well recognize that being excessively risk averse can result in strategic defeat.

'"It's all your fault. You started it. I'll stop but only after you do."'

Israel just gave up Gaza, and was planning on giving up 90% of the West Bank in exchange for nothing. They haven't been the ones firing rockets into neighboring territories. They do a lot of regrettable and even awful things, but I don't think "pox on both sides" captures the situation well.

Francis, I saw you pass by in the evening.

I am very appreciative of the latest Isreali initiatives and I hope they stick to them because that sort of initiative is really the only way forward.

Ok, way OT:

I'm juicing right now, not that that has anything to do with anything at all, except that it might explain the gap in my responses.

So, look: I think Gary Farber has made (and has continued to make) some points that we might all take to heart. Perhaps especially me. Those points being (not trying to put words in Gary's mouth; just attempting a shorter-): there's no shortage of opinion on the current goings-on in Lebanon. There is, however, much less in the way of informed, thoughtful opinion. So here's my view on that: lacking an informed opinion, maybe we all ought to step back and consider that the other guys have a point. And then think on that. And then think on it some more. And, possibly much later, to speak those considered thoughts.

And, way, WAY OT, if Gary hasn't gotten an invitation to post here, he certainly ought to. I know Gary's got his own blog, and he probably doesn't need yet another password to remember, but I (perhaps mistakenly) think Gary will get more exposure here than there. Certainly he'll prompt more discussion. I think Gary's knowledge of history, especially in the context of the current happenings in Lebanon, will be of great use.

And of course there's the right/left imbalance to consider, but I think that's tertiary at best.

Now, back to the question of how much tomato is too much.

rf, the UN had specific assurances that their facilities would NOT BE BOMBED. Yet they were. That is all I am saying is in any way factual, but from that I infer several things about Israel's intent or their capabilities.

You can't both argue that they are not indiscriminately bombing Lebanon because their targeting and target knowledge is so good and at the same time say no foul when they bomb a facility they said they would not. Something has to give, and maybe it is simply human error - in which case, how much OTHER human error is there?

Jake

"Down that road attacks on Israeli citizens could be justified because, due to the widespread (compulsory?) military service any given civilian may be a reservist, may have been military, or may soon be military."

Down the road?

Phil,

"You're picking nits here. If I can see it from an office or apartment window it's in my goddamned neighborhood. I can walk to the Pentagon from my office, Sebastian; I hardly need you to describe to me where it is and isn't located."

I don't understand your point at all. So what if it is "in your neighborhood"? When you see a news report saying that the building next to a Hezbollah building got damaged are you picturing the Macy's 1/4 mile away?

Jake, "Except - the rockets keep coming, Hezbollah hasn't given up"

It is less than two weeks since Israel started. Surely no-one expected a magic anti-rocket wand to be waved and everything ceases immediately?

Hilzoy,

"I think, not that I want to open this can of worms, that dropping the first atomic bomb on a city, as opposed to some demonstration site without people, was wrong, but not that that somehow made WW2 as a whole wrong.

This is different. And I think you'd find it so too, if you agreed that it involved killing hundreds, displacing nearly a million people, and destroying large chunks of a country in a way that was unlikely to produce any good result."

There were a large number of times when it was not at all clear that WWII was going to have any good result, and certainly not as good a result as it did have.

"rf, are you saying that all these wonderful weapons and their great targeting systems are not capable of distinguishing this one building from all others? If that is so, then Israel is no less guilty of indiscriminately targeting civilians than Hezbollah."

Jake there is a good difference between being able to target but sometimes missing (Israeli case) and not being able to target any closer than "somewhere in the city" (Hezbollah case). Even with an actual gun it is the case that you sometimes miss. If Israel is to be criticized on that basis, no modern war can ever be just.

There is, however, much less in the way of informed, thoughtful opinion.

the more blogs and op-eds i read, the less i find value in "thoughtful opinion". the only opinions that actually matter a single bit anywhere in the world are those of the people in power; everyone else is pretending. stock up on lofty ideals and logical conclusions, then see how much good any them do when the people in power go and do what they do. doesn't it ever bother any of you that everything on political blogs is simply complaints about what has already happened, and the people that made it happen ?

this is the same as arguing about sports statistics. none of us play in the big leauges; the coaches and players don't know we exist and wouldn't listen to us if they did. and yet, day after day... amateur coaches and monday morning quarterbacks pretend to tell the players what they should have done.

time for a long break

"You can't both argue that they are not indiscriminately bombing Lebanon because their targeting and target knowledge is so good and at the same time say no foul when they bomb a facility they said they would not."

Jake, you really need to use the good terminology available here. When you say 'bomb' you need to decide if you mean "target" or "hit". The verb "to bomb" suggests targeting, but I'm not sure you mean it.

Ok, what I am trying to get my mind around is the collapse of the nation-state. There is no conceivable tolerable Iraq or Lebanon or Palestine that will have the monopoly on violence that defines a nation-state and makes it possible to deal with as a unified political entity. Iran with its factions and uncertainty about who is controlling what military assets is more the future than the Iran of Pahlavi or the Egypt of Nasser.

That is why these are desperate losses on the part of the US and Israel. There are trying to maintain a structure, a mindset, a theorey of int'l relations that defines their sense of nationa security. Syria, Saddam, Pakistan, SA, Iran, whomever must be responsible for al-Qaeda and terrorism. We can barely deal with it otherwise, or will have to change to deal with it in ways we will find very uncomfortable. The collapse of Doha and Bretton Woods I & II there are many indications that the old model of nation-states is collapsing.

With the questionable elections, the partisan, even isolated policy of the unitary executive, the various splits with each political party, I no longer feel the US is anywhere near the unified nation it was in my youth. We may be one or two elections away from looking like Iraq, with much less violence.

Er, von, your account doesn't seem to allow room for the existence of Pol Pot, whose moment came after the US capitulation in Vietnam, and who was eventually driven from office by our Vietnamese enemies.

Speculatively, I think there's at least room to wonder whether a more communist Asia, with fewer fixed battle lines running hither and thither, might have developed better and in the end have collapsed more like the Warsaw Pact. Certainly I think there's room for some outcomes to have been better than what we got, along with the ones that would have been much worse.

As for the current situation...

I think it would be enormously to Israel's gain to make much more focused attacks on suspected targets, with ground forces and all. Yes, they would lose more soldiers. But I think that any Israeli soldier's life saved now will cost more, maybe many more, other Israeli soldiers' lives in the months and years ahead in this round of war. It's bad strategy, both in terms of overall progress toward the goal of reducing Hezbollah's ability to attack Israel and in terms of Israel's ability to persuade others and win their support for diplomatic and economic matters.

I respect air power and am glad it's in the modern arsenal of war. I don't think that it's the right primary weapon for this kind of operation. I'm also once again surprised at the really howlingly bad judgments on human nature and behavior implicit in some of the decisions about the Israeli response, as I was about a lot of aspects of the US's war and occupation in Iraq. I retain some capacity for surprise, it seems.

Bob, I find myself agreeing with you a lot more than I'd like about a lot of this. In the spirit mutual help for sharpening the speculative senses, I'd like to recommend two science fiction novels, in case you haven't read them:

Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson, is a high-energy riff through a future that seems perilously close now, with just about all aspects of life franchised.

When Gravity Fails, by George Alec Effinger, is set farther ahead and looks at one possible, somewhat peaceful post-national future. It's out of print now, but places like Powell's often have used copies for sale cheap.

I assume that at least in some cases Israel probably is trying to hurt the civilian population. I think this is true because Israel, like other Western democracies, has a really poor human rights record in wartime situations, which in their case amounts to most of their history. Which is not to say that dictatorships have a good record, but only that I don't find it shocking to contemplate that Western democracies sometimes target civilians and lie about it. The US has done it directly and by proxy over and over again. The French human rights record is appalling. The record of the British is pretty bad from what little I know. I wouldn't expect us to behave better than Israel has in a similar situation. If anything, we'd probably be worse. I do not mean this as a compliment to Israel.

My claims about Israel's poor record come from having my mind poisoned by books about Lebanon by Robert Fisk and Jonathan Randal (the latter a Washington Post reporter) and books about Israel by various people, some of them Israeli, and from reading human rights reports from B'Tselem, HRW, and Amnesty International. Plus there was that eyewitness account by NYT reporter Chris Hedges who saw IDF soldiers shooting Palestinian children for sport.

The 1982 war was impressively bloody. You have to go pretty far to get an instinctive Western sycophant like Thomas Friedman to accuse your military of indiscriminate attacks. Jonathan Randal and I think Fisk as well report that the Israelis tried to assassinate Arafat by bombing any building where he was reported to be. One flattened building contained 200 dead and wounded civilians. That was an impressive display of compassion by both Arafat and the Israeli air force. Not to be outdone, according to Bob Woodward's "Veil" the US tried to assassinate a Shiite terrorist leader with a car bomb in the mid-80's. We missed, but 80 civilians died. I think Hezbollah should do as we say, not as we do.

Those who decry Israel's response as disproportionate are really saying that Israel's end -- stopping Hizbollah's rocket attacks -- is improper.

This is bunk, and its the core of your point. Those who decry the disproportionate response don't see what bombing airports, bridges and numerous other civilian areas has to do with attacking Hezbollah or ending rocket attacks. Please address the actual issue concerning the specifics of what makes the response disproportionate. Then we can have an intelligent discussion about what is wrong with this Israeli war.

The scope of this war means that the Israeli goal is to destabilize the existing Lebanese government, and the it must think it profits from such a circumstance. I don't see the logic of it, and it certainly is not in the US interest to support this terror war.

I should be clear that atrocities alluded to in my previous post were before the current round of killing.

In the current bombing, if Israel were trying to minimize civilian casualties they wouldn't be bombing Beirut neighborhoods. And they wouldn't be using cluster munitions, as Human Rights Watch claims they are. It's always possible that a country could change its earlier pattern of behavior, but reading about the current war reminds me a lot of what I've read about the 1982 invasion, except this one seems smaller in scale so far.

Interesting fact, by the way, if a little off-topic--according to Iraq Body Count, the number of civilians reported killed by coalition forces in Iraq during the third year of occupation was 370. Presumably this means we're getting a huge undercount, which ought to be disturbing. Alternatively, the US is literally orders of magnitude better at fighting guerillas than the IDF, if the idea is to kill the guerillas and not kill civilians, because the Brookings Institute claims we're capturing or killing roughly 20,000 insurgents per year. Or maybe the US forces in Iraq did almost nothing in terms of counterinsurgency warfare in March 2005-2006 and that's why the number of civilians reported to have died at our hands in one year amounts to the number killed in Lebanon in about 10 days. It'd be nice if we actually could tell from press accounts what our forces have been doing in Iraq, but I don't think we can. Though these days the Iraq-on-Iraq violence probably far outweighs ours (and everything happening in Lebanon.)

End of one paragraph threadjack.

"I'd like to recommend two science fiction novels, in case you haven't read them:"

Bruce, the Newberry post linked above at 6:46 focuses on Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum in depth. He also like D F Wallace's Infinite Jest and Rushdie. Newberry does mention Stephenson, not flatteringly:

"Eco, Wallace and Rushdie remain on bookshelves because they are the great elaborators in narrative of the post-modern floating opera in its most polished forms, building on the moments of Barthes, Pynchon.

But their limits are seen in that since these epochcryphal labors, they have not produced other works which have had the lasting and shattering impact of their signature works. Soon there afterwards the easy kitschification of Neal Stephanson would take over the same territory, presuppose a pseudo-Darwininan answer, in the form of Snow Crash to the question of what keeps the free play of memes and factoids from descending into intellectual grey goo. Anyone slogging through his Baroque series knows that whatever principle Stephanson thought to apply, it isn't working." ...Newberry
...
Incidentally, the collapse of the nation-state, besides convulsing the right with horror, will not please the left, like Katherine & Hilzoy. The Hague, Geneva, and Torture Conventions have just become irrelevant. Addington may get to disappear his "combatants without a liscense", but it is also obvious that a uniform no longer grants a usable legitimacy in a war zone. Just the muscle of a bigger group of thugs.
Without that legitimacy, the purpose of the protocols breaks down.

I have said before we have entered lawless times. Behold.

Sorry End italics

Yechh Test

Plus there was that eyewitness account by NYT reporter Chris Hedges who saw IDF soldiers shooting Palestinian children for sport.

Hey, look, it's the entire Israeli/Palestinian issue in microcosm. Based on my recollection of Hedges' report, there are good reasons to be skeptical of it, but in doing a little Googling trying to dig up more information on it I rapidly came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as an even-handed discussion of the topic. I'd say "you really shouldn't refer to Hedges' report as if it were incontrovertibly true", but, well, that just gets us back to where we started.

Italics NO!!!! :)

In all the horror of the war, everybody seems to be missing the Israel's cold-blooded decision, supported by the US, to destroy that nice new democracy that we all cheered when they expelled the Syrians.

I cannot see how it is in anyone but Hezbollah's interest to have a failed state in Lebanon rather than a democratic and relatively stable one (even if potentially hostile to Israel and the US). Like the 1982 invasion, this is worse than a crime (though it is certainly that) - it is a mistake.

As for Israeli blood-thirstiness, I visited the place a few years ago and was deeply shocked by the attitudes I encountered. They're a product of a 50 year state of siege, but that is an explanation not an excuse. Reports of Israeli atrocities have been much more credible in my eyes since then.

von: In fact, Vietnam -- a tactical loss -- likely was a strategic win. There had been a serious effort by China and Russia to export communism to SE Asia. The costs inflicted by Korea and Vietnam stopped them.

The peoples of Burma, Laos and Cambodia -- among myriad others -- would certainly disagree with you there.

Bob, I think Newberry sells Snow Crash short. Stephenson's obviously getting doctrinaire with the passage of time, but that book is full of the human cost of its system and doesn't strike me then or now as anything like a real endorsement of it.

"As for Israeli blood-thirstiness"

You might want to choose a different description - this one has bad associations going back centuries.

"...anything like a real endorsement of it."

Realize that Newberry is some kind of optimist, much more than I. My guess is that he found "Snow Crash" unduly defeatist and pessimistic.

"If promiscuous misconnectivity of symbols [the vast Syrian-Ianian terrorist conspiracy, for example ...RM] is the post-modern illness, and the celluar pyramids the symptom, then it is in unsustainable extraction that the fever lies. The converse is a faith in the power of connection - people become more flexible, not more encrusted as they connect, and it social order is not the hermeneutic coven, but the adhocratic, and ultimately participatory democratic forms which have their visible part on the blogs, but their active part through out the society."

I don't know for certain what Bushco, Israel, and the Neo-cons think they are doing in the middle east, but by their own accounts it appears they are trying to "inspire" or frighten the locals into forming some new all-encompassing uberstructural attitude inimical to terrorism and extremist Islamism. I think they at least now recognize that their enemies enjoy a certain amount of base support, so it is simply not a matter of replacing dictators and leaders. Like GWB and Republicans, they see the structure as both democratic and heirarchical. They want the Palestinians, Iraqis, and Lebanese to freely choose the right kind of leaders.

The problem is that the heirarchy really isn't there, and a lust for heirarchy can't be imposed. Newberry diagnoses this paranoia as seeing patterns that don't exist because the patterns that do exist are not controllable by those who are comforted by heirarchies.

I tend to connect too much, but the DLC is to the netroots as Bushco & Neocons is to the ME. The Lieberman outrage is about incomprehension and the loss of control.

A friend of mine thinks that the Bush-Cheney crew are having a Berthold Brecht passage: "The people have lost the confidence of the government; the government has decided to dissolve the people, and to appoint another one." It's much the same as the apocalyptic urge that strucks many tyrants who find their grand designs unwelcome, except these folks are still roaring along.

Now Israel wants a 2km wide buffer zone. All these deaths, both Lebanese and Israeli, and they want a 2km buffer zone? Most of Hezbollah's rockets have a fairly short rangem, but one still greater than 2km.

Can anyone say "panic"? Israel badly miscalculated, and now they are offering up what amounts to a face saving cease fire.

Hezbollah fired something approaching 1000 rockets, which rockets killed something approaching 30 people. If that ratio of rockets to murders holds, then ALL of Hezbollah's rockets would have murdered something less than 400 Israelis.

This Israeli attack has already killed more than 400 total, Israeli and Lebanese together. Even on the principle that Israel has a right to protect against even the possibility of future attack (which, in US law, you aren't allowed - people are murdered all the time by perps against whom they have restraining orders - the victims lives would have been saved had only the law allowed us to shoot the perp before he murdered the victim) this is a bad trade. Were I Olmert I too would be seeking any way out possible. Two more weeks of this and Israel will have dug a hole from which it will never emerge.

All this because of rockets from Iran and Syria. We can see just how dangerous the rockets are - not very, compared at least to the Israeli IDF.

I don't know whether or not Iran is an existential threat to Israel, but I am very sure those rockets were not.

And a final note - apparently Hezbollah has a few rockets that could reach Tel Aviv. Those have not been used. It seems that Hezbollah, at least, has some sense of proportion - or consequences. Either way, they at least are thinking.

They are also winning the PR battle.

Jake

This is sounding a lot like the whole torture debate to me. There seems to be one camp that believes killing civilians (torture) is either not evil (they chose to stay, they support Hezbollah, they might be Hezbollah members, they started it) or it is proportionately evil and/or the only option and therefore right (excusable). On the other side there are people who believes killing civilians (torture) should never be done and is always wrong, and people who believe it may be sometimes necessary but it's still evil and should be judged as such (it shouldn't be excused or legalized).

I find myself on the latter side as in the torture debate. What Israel is doing may be necessary but it's wrong, and there have to be consequences grave enough to ensure they and others won't choose to do it again unless they're abolutely certain it's the only way to further their cause, and their cause is sufficiently important to them.

Actually the same goes for Hezbollah. What they're doing is wrong, but I'm not sure they have any other choice (not counting getting obliterated in a legitimate war as a choice).

Most of Hezbollah's rockets have a fairly short rangem, but one still greater than 2km.

And they're diddling around in a small area probably nowhere near where the rockets that threaten Haifa are. Whatever they had as objectives, they were betting on the air war.

If someone attacks you, there's a point at which your response crosses a line and stops being mere self-defense and becomes a horror of its own.

Wrong. You honor the threat. You don’t stop until you wipe it out. Do you prescribe a half dose of chemo when you are dealing with a cancer? Do you want the surgeon to remove half of your inflamed appendix?

Soldiers are expected to give their life for their country. What does a country owe them in return? Is this about 2 soldiers? Of course not – it is about the almost daily attacks over many years. But as a pretext it sits very nicely with me…

How about 241 dead Marines in 1983? We should not just be supplying arms in this war – we should be directly involved. Is 23 years too long to wait for payback? I revere RR – but withdrawing from Lebanon then was a huge mistake, the biggest of his presidency.

The ME has been a festering boil on the armpit of the world for decades – it is time to settle it. We should directly help Israel in Lebanon, and use this opportunity to settle things with Syria and Iran both. The time has passed for half-baked “peace” treaties that only one side honors and roadmaps to hell. Get this crap over with once and for all.

book is full of the human cost of its system and doesn't strike me then or now as anything like a real endorsement of it

Sure, anyone who'd actually read it would come to that conclusion. It's absolutely clear to me that Stephenson invented this extrapolation of the present, and then spent the entire book looking at it askance. If you doubt this, try reading Zodiac.

They are also winning the PR battle

I think it's worth spending some time in considering why this is so. My take is that it all connects back to Israel's right to exist and defend itself. And to what degree Lebanon ought to be (and ought to have been) actively suppressing the Hizbollah attacks.

By "ought to be", I mean that it's absolutely incumbent on a state to prevent its population from waging war on another state, unless it is in fact at war with that other state. So I think Bob McManus' comment upthread about the death of the nation-state is particularly apt, but I think it's dying because we (the world) aren't holding it to be responsible for things that occur within its boundaries.

So, to turn the whole U.S./Canada thing around, if some extremist group in the US were attacking civilians in Canada, it'd be absolutely incumbent on the US to address the problem, and address it promptly. And if we didn't do that, it'd be within Canada's rights to take them out. If we actually declined to take action, it might even be within Canada's rights to declare war on us. This gets into legalities of which I'm completely ignorant, though.

Anyway, something to consider.

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