Thursday, August 03, 2006

Israel and Hezbollah

I've been procrastinating writing this entry, and I think I've done a very good job -- what other blogger would have the patience to wait weeks to write about Israel's confrontation with Hezbollah? Yessir, that's what you get here at Midtopia: top-quality performance, no matter what that performance happens to be.

But here goes.

There are a few indisputable facts we need to lay out here:

1. Hezbollah has been provoking Israel for months, firing rockets at civilian targets.

2. The government of Lebanon and the UN observers in southern Lebanon did little to stop it.

3. Israel has a right to defend its people from attack.

4. The Lebanese government's territorial rights are weakened by their unwillingness or inability to halt the attacks on Israel.

There are all sorts of qualifications one could apply to that list. Hezbollah sees itself as fighting an illegal occupation; the government of Lebanon is too weak to confront Hezbollah, and doing so is not within the UN force's means or mandate; Israel's right to defend itself does not mean it can do anything it wants; and any decision to violate international borders should be taken with care.

But those are some basic facts. And from them I draw some simple conclusions.

Israel was fully justified in going after Hezbollah in the name of self-defense. If rebel groups based in Canada were firing rockets into the United States, we'd go after them no matter what Canada said. And we'd be justified.

Hezbollah's aim -- the destruction of Israel -- is unrealistic. And their main tactic -- firing rockets at civilian targets -- is indefensible. Even less defensible is using civilians for cover. Hezbollah deserves international condemnation for its actions.

Israel, however, doesn't get a free pass.

We have to accept that, given Hezbollah's tactics, there will be civilian casualties from Israeli strikes. But blame for that is shared to some extent, based on the measures Israel takes to minimize such casualties. I think they've generally tried to lessen them, especially because they know what a PR disaster mounting civilian deaths can be. But Israel is responsible for ensuring that its rules of engagement properly balance the threat against the collateral damage.

Israel has a legitimate interest in going after selected infrastructure targets in South Lebanon, in an effort to disrupt Hezbollah communications, movement and supply. Bridges, transportation, power, communications, water supplies -- all these things are legitimate targets as long as they relate primarily to southern Lebanon. But Israel's air offensive has gone way beyond that. Infrastructure has been attacked throughout Lebanon, including the Beirut airport and a Lebanese Army base in northern Lebanon. These appear to be an effort to make the Lebanese feel the pain of allowing Hezbollah to exist. But besides being hard to defend, I think that strategy will backfire. Such bombings will harden anti-Israel resolve among the Lebanese, not lead them to suddenly eject Hezbollah.

I have no problem with Israel's ground incursions. They are more focused than the air campaign both geographically and militarily. I think that's the proper way for Israel to take on Hezbollah: isolate southern Lebanon strategically, then go in with ground forces and root out the guerrillas and their support structure.

So what's the long-term solution? Bush and Rice have the right approach here: a multinational force with teeth, to replace the lightly armed UN observers. Go in with overwhelming force, clear out the guerrillas, and then hand control over to the Lebanese Army backed by UN troops with the means and mandate to keep the guerrillas from returning. If Hezbollah fights back it becomes Hezbollah against the world, and that is something that Hezbollah's backers don't really want to see.

None of this addresses the root cause of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. But the current mess offers us an opportunity to draw a line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, to say "enough is enough" to attacks on civilians and unending conflict. If we can show that dirty tactics -- by either side -- will not be tolerated, perhaps we can nudge the region back toward uneasy peace and an emphasis on negotiations. At the very least we strengthen the hands of moderates in the region and weaken the hand of the militants.

After that the key will be to stay engaged, to reward talk as much as we punish violence.

Israel already knows that it cannot ever win by military means alone; that's why it has withdrawn from Gaza, and why it withdrew from Lebanon several years ago and has no intention of again establishing a permanent presence there.

The Palestinians are now split, but leaning toward negotiation rather than atrocity.

Hezbollah will be the hardest nut to crack, because it does not represent Palestine and draws its support from two states, Syria and Iran, that don't care much about world opinion. The key to neutralizing it is to confront it militarily, pressure its patrons to stop funding it and drive a wedge between it and the Arab/Sunni/Lebanese/Palestinian interests that surround it. Arab states should ideally take the lead in this, so that the pressure comes from brothers rather than Westerners. Syria might listen to Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and those four can then shut down the Iranian pipeline to Hezbollah.

A lot to digest. And the situation is more complex and explosive than I've outlined here. Still, by delineating the limits of conflict and provoking extensive world intervention, the Israel-Hezbollah fight might end up pointing the way out of the morass -- if we only seize the chance.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Maxtrue said...

Hizb’Allah commits a moral crime and the world’s media says nothing

This is acceptable?

Now these stories are almost a week old and even the New York Times says nothing. And could someone please tell me how Syria and Iran along with Turkey would not cut up Iraq in a second were we to just pull out? The Western Press has sunk to a new low. Perhaps they are jockeying for Soros's money.

The Democrats have been useless. McCain, who has a son that just joined the marines, said a ceasefire without just resolutions and enforcement is pointless (even when his own son may face terrorists by November). While Clinton has supported Lieberman, Bill has not defended the DLC yet, from Kossak attack which is anti-Israel, anti-capitalistic, isolationist and calls for negotiation with terrorists (who they often paraphrase when attacking Bush).

Meanwhile France declares that Iran is a “stabilizing force in the Middle East”. LOL

Iran releases Bin Laden’s son to spearhead AQ attacks in Lebanon while calling today for the destruction of Israel. How anyone can not see the linkage between Syria, Iran, Chavez, Hamas, Hizb’Allah, AQ, the Brotherhood, and even Russia (through Belarus) and China (watch out for those missiles), is beyond me. When this is the centrist line, one must wonder how left the Democrats have steered. Lamont was pathetic on Colbert. He refused to state one policy other than Iraq he differed from Lieberman on. If Lieberman looses, I predict a loss in 2008 for the Democrats. A few seats now will do little to change the disaster that will befall us should we retreat and ignore this coming threat.

We must pressure China and Russia more

We must not lose sight of the global effort I suggest all read these articles.

We must pull off the mask of the
Leftist roots of the antiwar movement. Behind the Kossaks is an ideology bereft with anti-Zionism, socialism, uncompromising secularism, isolationism and a few more isms I care not to mention.

Retreat and Islamic resurgence will have a destabilizing effect in Pakistan as well. What will happen with this beginning to go into production? Do Kossaks even care?

So I suggest that all here wonder about Lebanon while considering the bigger picture. Israel is at war with Iran, Syria and their terrorist networks. Besides the US and Britain with help from Australia, Eastern Europe and Japan, Israel stands alone against terror. When the President’s line is centrist in strategic assessment, one can safely assume the Democrats have moved to the Left and abandoned several decades of centrist Liberal thought. I trust poorly executed sound strategy far more than undelivered bad strategy which the Democrats offer.

Will Bill stand up? Will he fight for the DLC before America slips into political chaos at a most dangerous time. I expect fireworks before November, and these no one can blame on Rove.

These issues underline the topic of Lebanon. And a ceasefire now, capitualtion to Syria and Iran will only make the dangers greater for today's teenagers. Who would have thought that Bush would be a voice of reason in the blather of opposition voices? Certainly not me. And I think, many Jews and centrists.

8/03/2006 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Maxtrue said...

here is the one bad link to the "Leftist roots of Kosworld". Don't think that most antiwar supporters have a different view of Israel.

8/03/2006 4:04 PM  
Anonymous Maxtrue said...

the other bad link to Pakistan's planned nuke production increase Wonderful news

8/03/2006 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Maxtrue said...

Qana

the political game of Qana

Qana again

the strategy of human shields

more from Isreal

evidence of Qana rockets?

last one on Qana for now

There are numerous well respected intelligence blogs and they also speculate that Hizb’Allah is playing a despicable game. The two families who lost the most at Qana had their men busy firing missiles. Are the families of terrorists exempt? These are some real issues Lebanon is now bringing forth. Clinton spoke harshly to Rumsfeld today. So did McCain. But Hillary had little to say about the global war the US and Israel is fighting. I think Blair put it in perspective a few days ago in LA. Unfortunately, the Democrats are leading a charge to retreat.

8/03/2006 7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hezbollah will be the hardest nut to crack, because it does not represent Palestine.........
This is a comment I dont fully agree with.
Hezbollah is not a part of Palestine and the media can do everything to seperate it from the Palestinians but onw reason for their existence is the Palestinians and their misery.

Can you imagine the zeal of the shia in Lebanon wanting to get back at Israel?

the foreign policy of driving wedges is the vestige of the colonial era. something better and fairer would be putting ones effort in making people see sense. As Tom Friedman puts it making the Arabs and Persians love their own children more than they hate each other or the Americans or the Israelis. That wont come with an arsenal of weapons and an army.
GK

8/04/2006 2:01 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

GK: I think Hezbollah will be a harder nut to crack because there is nothing that could satisfy them short of Israel's destruction. If the Palestinians agreed to a peace deal tomorrow, Hezbollah would still be firing rockets into Israel. Their interest is not the same as the Palestinians, and they answer to masters that are remote from the Palestinians.

Yes, making people see sense is the only route to long-term peace. But that takes time, and it requires sidelining the militants so the sensible leaders can speak for their people.

My solution does not involve taking sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict; it involves building buffers, and ruling certain tactics unacceptable no matter who engages in them. It is intended to weaken the hand of the militants and build a space where the sensible leaders can hammer out an agreement.

In that context, removing Hezbollah military units from southern Lebanon is not a pro-Israel move. It's pro-Lebanon in that its purpose is to extend Lebanese sovereignity over the entire country; and it's anti-terror in that Hezbollah has been deliberately targeting civilians.

8/04/2006 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sean Aqui I fully understand your position.
Hezbollah has something beyond hate for Israel.
I am no apologist for those manaics. Let me make this point.
Have a look at the maps of the time when Israel was founded ,and how it is now.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/v3_israel_palestinians/maps/html/israel_founded.stm
However justified, It is nothing short of a blantant land grab that has happened. and the Palestinians are living in massive prisons in the form of west bank and Gaza. The history has grown into such a level that even if the Palestianians get a state of their own I dont see the Israelis relinquishing their 'rights' to secure the border of that state.
And when you start talking about Syria, you should talk about Golan Heights. If America wants to get Syria on their side, one should get the Golan Issue resolved. As long as that is 'annexed' and not recognized by any country,and settled by Israel there wont be a handle on Syria.
For an interesting piece on the present conflict, you can read what Richard Cohen has to say.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/17/AR2006071701154.html


GK

8/04/2006 3:20 PM  
Blogger Scrubs & Shines said...

RE-Israel and Hezbollah,
Canada has played a neutral role in the world as peace keepers. The government of Canada should abandon there stance towards Hezbollah and work quickly to end the violence as peace keepers can and should. It is very important for the United Nations and Canada to change it's one sided stance of supporting Israel government in this conflict, Canada must refocus on bringing an end to the middle East crisis that preys on the weak and the innocent of both Israeli and Lebanese people.
If Canada and the U.N cannot do this, then surly Iran and Syria must consider a larger role at defending the people of the Palestine. Other Arab nations should seriously intervene to save the Arab people and there homeland of Lebanon. Israel and Hezbollah both need to end this violence towards each other now and if the western world sits back and watches , then its time for Arabs to stop this war. U.S.A should stay out of this and focus on stopping cival war in Iraq.

8/06/2006 7:37 AM  

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