A long time friend---currently bound for the exotics of Costa Rica---recently dropped this in my email box;“hey I replied to your post about lebanon, but it didn't show up. WTF! no wonder no one leaves comments.”
In a futile attempt to address the problem I also tried to post on my own blog and, well- needless to say…
Anyway, I will let that issue slip down the priority list. I have more important things to do, such as respond to the post that never made it onto my blog.
Where are we at now? Nearly three weeks into the Israeli army's offensive against the Hezbollah (Arabic for, The Party of God)
militia in southern Lebanon that was started by the latter's July 12th cross-border attack into Israel that left 8 soldiers dead and two kidnapped. At least 423 people in Lebanon have been killed, 376 of those being civilians. 51 Israeli soldiers have been killed. Foreign nationals residing in Beirut and elsewhere have been or are still being evacuated by marines and over 120,000 Lebanese refuges have flooded into Syria which already houses some 420,000 Palestinian refuges.
The international community has repeatedly called for a cease fire. Yesterday a high-level conference held in Rome ended in disagreement. Most European leaders calling for an immediate cease fire while the U.S. continued to defend its position to give Israel more time. The US also previously blocked a UN resolution mandating a cease fire. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who only made a trip to the area earlier this week, is reluctant to advocate a cease fire that fails to address the deeper issues of the on-going confrontation. Two weeks into the current conflict Israel stated that it would welcome an international force into southern Lebanon, with the caveat that the force would need to capable of carrying out military operations. Since that offer, both NATO and the UN no country- the exception possibly being France- has pledged a significant number of troops.
Israel stepped up their offensive today, directly sighting the lack of agreement on a cease fire by the international community. Their stated intention is to establish a security zone free of militants that would extend more than mile into Lebanon from the Israel border. As long as there is no force available to step in as a buffer in Southern Lebanon the conflict will continue. Israel doesn't want anything less than the total elimination of the Hezbollah threat and they cannot afford anything less as it would be interpreted as a victory for radical Islamists the world over. Sheik Hassan Nasrallah and his Hezbollah militants have already achieved a victory by holding out for 18 days against the Israeli army. This is the longest any force, let alone a terrorist group, has sustained a conflict with Israel. But, then again, this isn't just any terrorist militia. Hezbollah is widely believed to be supported, funded and armed by Iran through Syria. Early in this conflict both Israel and the US were surprised at the power and sophistication
of the Hezbollahan rocket arsenal. Neither country realized the extent to which the instigating terrorists were able to secure supplies from Iran. Also, Hezbollah has turned out to be a unique type of threat, as it has features of a stateless terrorist organization, but it also holds territory—and is quite dug in there--- and is able to hold at risk the population of the regional superpower in the way that only national militaries once could.
What I have outlined above is the current situation as of yesterday the 28th. Today there were some more interesting developments. Bush and Blair made a joint statement threatening Syria with regards to their role in the conflict. Sec. of State Rice went back to Israel to try and cut a peace deal. And, the majorities of the Arab states have now switched positions and are in support of Hezbollah. It is believed that the three weeks of Israeli bombardment and Satellite footage from Al Arabiya of dead and wounded Lebanese have outweighed Arab nation's initial disgust with the Shiite terrorist provocations.
Now, for the opinions.
And eventually the normative.
I support Israel's attack on Hezbollah. (It is another issue as to whether this was a politically smart move by the Israelis, but more on that later.)
Hezbollah provoked the current conflict. They are responsible for dragging Lebanon into this unnecessary conflagration. Hezbollah has always run the lower third of Lebanon; the government in Beirut does not exert influence over them or that region. There seems to have been little desire from most Lebanese to do anything about the militia, then again, part of the reason might be that Hezbollah's militants easily outgunned the country's weak and divided army
in previous confrontations.. Additionally many representatives sitting in the Beirut parliament and cabinet of this year-old, fragile democracy are in no way opposed to an armed struggle against Israel. (Hezbollah will never be ousted from Lebanon unless Syria, per Thomas Friedman's recommendation, is brought on board. Threatening Syria is not a step in the right direction.)
But, has Israel retaliated in an inappropriate way? No, it hasn't.
Others have put forth the argument that Israel, following in the footsteps of previous American responses to terrorism, has fallen hard from the top of the moral pedestal in dealing with terrorists. In stooping to their level the west is pursuing a war based increasingly on tribal solidarity
instead of with the restraint and composure of a leading nation-state. I don’t buy it in the least.
Consider how Hezbollah is acting. They have dispersed themselves among a civilian population. The majority of their rockets are not in secured bunkers but instead hidden in civilian homes. They fire their rockets from densely packed neighborhoods, in civilian garb and then return to their pedestrian lives. Also, consider who they are firing upon. They fire indiscriminately into any Israeli city within their range. Their random attacks have killed not only Israeli's but also some Arabs as well. One pundit quipped, To Hezbollah, there is no such thing as“collateral damage” from its missiles. Israel keeps telling the world its army aims only at military targets, but Hezbollah doesn't even pretend to. Its soldiers proudly fire away at civilians.
Hezbollah acts with no restraint. They do not adhere to international law. They will stop at nothing to destroy Israel and every Jew in its boarders.
And their mentality rules out pacification through diplomacy, consider the following, there are two rules to keep in mind. One is that you are not going to placate the enemy with the kind of concessions that appeal to Western diplomats. Hezbollah is fighting for honor, to humiliate the enemy, not for any particular objective.
The author, John Tierney, was insisting that there is a distinct difference between Western culture and the prevailing culture in the Middle East, that “Honor” means two entirely different things in these respective cultures. He concludes that, Israel has no choice in what it's doing. Nothing short of victory by either side will change anything.
Additionally, consider the abnormally high level of anti-Semitism emanating from Middle Eastern states. Normally Israel is only forced to contend with calls for their annihilation
from terrorist groups but now---point the finger at Iran---these threats are state sanctioned policy. Mahmoud Ahmadinejod, the new Iranian president, has ranged from highly provocative denials of the Holocaust to repeated calls for Israel's destruction, and his high-profile quest for nuclear weapons
, not to mention the Iranian supplied rockets currently being fired into Nahariya by Hezbollah--- adding it all up leaves me thinking Israeli paranoia seems anything but.
This leaves Israel with no option. In order to eliminate the terrorist threat there will be unavoidable civilian casualties. Until the members of the international community all hop in the same life raft, Israel should do the job that a more prompt peace-keeping, buffer force would have done. Israel does not want to occupy Lebanon—seeing as the 18 year, hard learned lesson still fresh in everyone's minds--- they plan only to rout out Hezbollah and push them beyond the range of their rockets.
The Middle East is a mess. Forget democracy; think, 20 year devolution. Neo-cons should finally admit their ideology has flat-lined. I am afraid their damage is irreparable.W. continues to present simplicity as clarity. When will he ever learn that clarity is the last thing you're going to find in the Middle East, and that trying to superimpose it with force usually makes things worse? That's what both the Israelis and Ronald Reagan learned in the early 1980s when they tried disastrously to remake Lebanon.*Italics indicate quotes. All quotes are from various issues of the International Herald Tribune.