Monday, July 17, 2006

Lebanon again

"Bombing neutrals, persuadables, and friends is strategically stupid. And cruel."

This is from Michael Totten's blog (see comment by Michael at July 15, 01.10 pm), which I like a lot. If you were to map the the blogosphere he seems to be generally associated with the rightwing of American blogs - perhaps on the basis that he has written about how 9/11 changed his previously what Americans call "liberal" (i.e. leftwing) views. But he decided that he had to go and see for himself and headed off to the Middle East as a freelance journalist. His writing from there has been consistently interesting and fair and makes him well worth reading. Yet now he seems to have run into problems with many of his pro-Israel readers and commenters who are unwilling to countenance the thought that Israel's bombing campaign can be anything other than a strategic masterstoke and a moral act of the highest order. Totten argues convincingly that it is neither.

The rant from "Lebanon Profile" in the same comments thread (it can be read seperately here) who blogs at the Lebanese Political Journal is also well worth reading for those out there who feel the Lebanese shouldn't complain as the bombs rain down because it's their fault for not disarming Hezbollah.


KGS said...

While civilian casualties are regrettable, Israel has in fact taken into consideration the less fanatic civilian population, and has tried avoiding all possible contact with them. Warning people to flee areas before its hit, ruins the element of surprise, but it saves lives. It doesn't always work.

What is undisputable, is their focus on the Hezbollah infrastructure, which I believe they are softening up in preperation for a ground assault. That the US has been quiet about the Israeli operations thus far, signals to me that Hezbollah has been singled out for destruction.

I have friends on the border with Lebanon in Zarit, who say that the world knows little of what has gone on at the border over the last decade. Its high time for the Hezbollah to be decimated as a fighting group. Letting them survive as is, only prolongs the inevitable.

I do hope that civilian casualties can be averted, but what's most important is getting rid of the Hezbollah.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

KGS - "I do hope that civilian casualties can be averted, but what's most important is getting rid of the Hezbollah."

Firstly, civilian casualties clearly haven't been averted - maybe the IAF is taking measures to minimise them, but that's "minimise", not avoid. Civilians are dead and without doubt more will die. Your belief is clearly that they are expendable in order to get to Hezbollah. That's your belief - other will differ. And then look at Hamas, Islamic Jihad et al. Israel has been trying to crush them for years - decades, in areas predominantly under Israeli control and haven't. If Israel keeps doing to Lebanon what it is doing now, it may well temporarily destroy Hezbollah's capability but they will just increase their support, not lower it, in the longer term.

And the US has not been silent - they have said Israel has the right to defend itself but urged restraint. Bush today in his G8 press conference with Blair: "And so our message to Israel is, look, defend yourself, but as you do so, be mindful of the consequences. And so we've urged restraint." I'm no Bush fan, but that to me sounds like exceedingly good advice.

KGS said...

Toby, scattering leaflets that warn the populace to avoid areas being targeted, that end up not only warning the civilian pop., but also the terrorists as well, is clear evidence of a decision made to try and avoid casualties as much as possible.

Even if you split hairs between "avoidance" and "minimize", it does show a moral decision has been made to avert civilian casualties, in contrast to what the Russians have done in Chechnya.

My belief of civilians being "expendable" is IMHO, a cheap shot. One would have to be willing to say the same about French citizens during the allied bombing campaign over France. No loss of life is ever acceptable, but its clearly unavoidable.

Are you saying that any military operation that may involve the loss of life from some of the civilian population, is never an option?

As for the US statements....Yes I am privvy to the same news as well, and IMHO, the recent measured statements by Bush are more than anything, a "green light" to the Israeli operation. To me, that is a very relative low key, quiet policy now being promoted by the US admin, especially when viewed in light of the French and the come lately Finnish MFA.

"Eki" was relatively passive during the first 24hrs. of the Lebanese operation, and only after the French government issued its harsh statements did Finland call the operations "disproportionate" and an immediate end to them.

So in comaparison, the US admin., has been quiet.

KGS said...

What I would really like to hear from you, is what you think the Israeli response "should have been".

Moreover, what they should be doing now that they have never done in the past, and why you think it might succeed.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

Civilians were warned - but being told to leave "Southern Lebanon" is hardly helpful - particularly when bridges and roads north are then targeted. I'm not in any way suggesting that this was intentional - but what do you think Israelis would have done if Hezbollah has warned them to "Leave Northern Israel"? How? Where to? Etc? Also the continued pummelling of central Beirut just looks more and more like an attempt to detroy the receonstruction of the last decade. And now we see attacks all across the north of the country where Hezbollah has never had much presence, if any. It was an Israeli General who said they would "put Lebanon back twenty years" or words to that effect.

It seems quite clear that the EU (and Finland as the Presidency) didn't say much to start off with because they supported Israel's right to self defence against a cross-border attack. It was only when Israel kept attacking all across the country that the position changed. You can single out France if you want, but the British position is basically the same. If you want a historical analogy, when Argentina attacked and seized the Falkland Island, the UK fought them in the Falklands, it didn't start bombing the Argentinian Ministry of Defence, and anything else vaguely related to the Junta, in Buenos Aires.

I'm not a military strategist, but an alternative political strategy is clear. Israel should have fought Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon - the area that Totten calls "Hezbollahland" - to stop or suppress the missile firings and the cross border incursions. At the same time they should have called on the Lebanese government and the international community to enforce the UN resolution on the disarming of Hezbollah. The Lebanese govt. has not done so because of internal weakness, but the agression against Israel by Hezb. should have been used as a political moment for Israel to gain support for their demands (disarming Hezb.) - rather than yet again alienating much of world opinion. In effect, a multinational force to do this is what Annan/Blair were suggesting yesterday, but now finding wider international support for this will be harder after Israel's disproportionate use of force. In the first days of the crisis even the bloody Saudis were basically support the Israeli position by criticising Hezb! All of that at least tacit understanding is now flowing away as memories of the 1980s and occupation come back.

KGS said...

Thanks for the reply. What is first and foremost in the intial Israeli response, was the decision to reduce the possibility of the two soldiers removal from Lebanese territory, hence the bombing of roads leading to Damascus and the international airport, as well as the enforcement of the blockade.

Israel has not dealt a fatal blow to the Lebanese infrastructure.
The damage done to the airport was minimized, and can be easily repaired. But it sent a clear message to the government that it should not help facilitate the departure of the IDF soldiers, perhaps even to enduce them to give word of any knowledge that they might have of where the Hezbollah might be holding them.

Neither is Israel targeting the population at large. The Maronite residents in Eastern Beirut, their Sunni brothers in the city center and in Tripoli, and the Druse in the Shouf Mountains have remained spectators on the sidelines while Israel hits Hizbullah and its supporters.

As for multinational forces ever being a factor in helping to secure Israel's northern border...Israel will never trust it. They had too many bad experiences with UNAFIL being used as a cover by the terrorists, the attacks never ceased, while the abductions of IDF soldiers continued.

As for the claim of "disproportionate", I deem the demand by Hamas for Israel to release 1200 prisoners for one IDF soldier...disproportionate. The Falklands is not an appropriate comparison. Britian was content in dislodging the Argentines from "British soil", and was not chasing the trail of missing UK soldiers who will more than likely end up murdered.

International outcry matters little, as long as the US is in agreement with Israeli policy. Anyways, its the stamina of the Israeli public that what will determine the outcome of the operation. Whoever blinks first loses all.

KGS said...

This is by Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times

"Unfortunately we must admit that in such a war the only way to get rid of “these irregular phenomena” is what Israel is doing. The operations of Israel in Gaza and Lebanon are in the interest of people of Arab countries and the international community."

I'll just admit that the Arab world is as divided as the West. I do however find it comforting to know that other Arabs have the ability to see the greater picture.

KGS said...