A remarkable state of war hysteria is developing in Washington. Fox News, The Weekly Standard, CNN and a multitude of partisans of the contesting parties in Lebanon are pouring fuel on the fire of war burning brightly. War Drums beating in the deep?
Otherwise sensible people are seriously suggesting that all out war to the death is the desirable "motif" of the day. In addition, neocon visionaries like Bill Kristol, Newt Gingrich and the Ledeen are howling like banshees for general war against the enemies of "freedom."
Ideas like the dispatch of Clinton (Bill) and #41 as a team to "solve" the problem are being floated around town by friends and consultant agents of interested parties. This last is not going to happen unless ’43 becomes convinced that Israeli efforts to destroy Hizballah and de-stabilize Syria are in danger of failing. If they are sent in that circumstance this would be yet another misjudgment of policy leading inevitable to yet another failure of execution.
It is pretty clear that as Putin said last night, Israel has "larger objectives" in Lebanon. It is also clear that there is agreement between the US and Israeli governments with regard to the policy being followed by Israel. President Bush places ALL responsibility on Hiszballah. The US Government is blocking adoption of a cease fire resolution requested by Lebanon. The pattern seems clear. Israel is supposed to smash Hizballah without re-wrecking Lebanese society.
Bombing and artillery fire are not going to clear the Hizballah movement’s forces out of south Lebanon. They have a widespread network of caches, underground storage and firing positions that extends far to the north and into the Biqaa Valley. Additional re-supply through Syria is a possibility. The population in the south is generally friendly to Hizballah and hostile to Israel. The rocket and missile fire into Israel will continue as long as the potential launch sites in Lebanon are within range of targets in Israel.
As that idea "soaks in" (or at least becomes plausibly discovered), then Israel will have no "choice" but to enter Lebanon with major forces and occupy ground in enough depth to make it impossible to strike targets in Israel. In the process of doing that they will of necessity by-pass Hizballah fighters hiding in and around the population or just out in the bush. Once that happens, then in the weeks, months and years that follow the now familiar war of the elephants and the ants will be re-played. A smaller and less well understood version of this "war" was fought out between the Israelis and the Shia Lebanese during the long Israeli occupation of south Lebanon. In the end, the pressure of this endless guerrilla was too much and Israel withdrew its forces. What has changed? Hizballah now knows that these methods work. They worked for them and they have seen the example of Iraq. That is what has changed.
I am filled with suspicion that US/Israeli policy has provided an opportunity for Hizballah and their Iranian friends to learn the limits of the "ants" abilities. If you listened to Hassan Nasrallah’s speech today you could hear, not boasting, but rather an attempt to provoke an Israeli advance.
All the neocons where certainly out in force on the talkshows today including newt declaring ww3 on MTP. The question is what happens when Israel is stuck in lebanon. Can the olmert goverment pullback without anything to show for it. And if Hezbollah can be resupplied through syria with weapons the only way to permanently take them out goes to syria and iran. Logically everything seems to indicate a widened war assuming of course israeli declarations can be taken seriously. And in washington I suspect there are plenty of people eager to take advantage of the situation and coordinate a strike on syria.
Did you hear Newt’s answer to the question regarding bombing the missile in N.Korea? Russert asked him….”well, what you DO if after you took the missile out the N. Koreans stormed across the border?” Nothing…nada, zip. He went off on a rant that had absolutly nothing to do with the issue… but would not touch the question. And big Tim would not follow up. This is the neocons in a nutshell. And BushCo in a nutshell. Did you see what Rich wrote about them in the Times today? “…the core values of this White House are marketing and political expediency”.
The lack of obvious follow-up questions is a hallmark of mainstream media these days – though it does seem at long last slightly to be changing.
Another characteristic is not asking for some evidence for or clarification of supremely nonsensical or contradictory statements – such as suggesting civilians in southern Lebanon evacuate after (so we are told) roads and bridges have been destroyed and road traffic attacked.
That high-pitched squealing noise we are now hearing from chickenhawks in media studios far from the sound of the guns may be fantasy meeting reality but the neocons (perhaps more properly neo-Hobbesians – nasty, brutish and short) will never admit that they were wrong about anything ever.
Could we get a clear definition as to what a terrorist is? The term is now used carelessly to include almost anyone that uses armed resistance without wearing a uniform.
It is my understanding the weapons Hizbollah has aren’t classified as nuclear weapons and therefore, should be legitimate weapons for resistance fighters or citizens to use within their own borders. I don’t condemn all Hizbollah’s targets. If their targets are Israeli troops, their weapons or troop encampments, that doesn’t qualify as an act of terrorism.
To me a terrorist is someone or a group that isn’t selective and routinely kills innocent civilians.
Given that definition, Israel is guilty of being a terrorist when they don’t direct their missiles and bombs to members of Hizbelloah. Civilian infrastracture would also fall under my definition of terrorism because those targets severely weaken the civilian population’s ability to survive. That applies to both Israel and Hizbollah.
I’ll make further comments to this topic, once I know what this blog’s definition is of a terrorist.
To the best of my knowledge, Israel is the only country in the Middle East who has nuclear weapons and its technology. That is not documented, but may we assume that it is a near certainty?
Another element or armed conflict would be proportionality when responding or initiating. ‘Preventative aggression’ does not qualify as just cause for conflict–those two terms when used together are an oxymoron.
The escallation started anew with the second attack on Haifa by Hizballah. At this point can the President assert influence or just spout platitudes? Also I’m still confused about the area the soldiers were kidnapped from. On Newshour they said they were kidnapped from Sheeba Farms. Isn’t that Israeli occupied but not part of Israel?? Does anyone know?
Newt is blowhard but is apparently taken seriously in some quarters. To bad it wasnt Dana Priest asking the questions. She did a good job smacking down Bill Bennett a while back. I didn’t see Rich colume but I do agree. Unfortunately for the Administration reality have intruded in the marketing of the president recently. That is where a repeat of 03 might be useful?
To use a cliché, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” It all depends on the perspective I think. By todays values Nelson Mandela would have ended up in Gitmo. ANC was listed as terrorist organisation during the 70 and 80s.
I believe Israel also have stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons something that seems to get very little notice.
Excellent post PL. Very insightful.
“US/Israeli policy has provided an opportunity for Hizballah and their Iranian friends to learn the limits of the “ants” abilities.”-PL
What more do they need to learn? Wouldn’t Israel have also learnt from the 18 year occupation of south Lebanon?
Clearly Israel and the US believe that Hizballah can be destroyed. IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz has stated they will destroy Hizballah once and for all. As Syria assists Hizballah with resupply, Israel could attack them and widen the conflict. It seems the neocon war cheerleaders in the US and Israel would like to see escalation and a wider conflict. It serves their purpose and helps Rove rescue the Nov congressional election.
On the other hand Iran probably helped promote the instigation by Hizballah calculating that Israel would respond with an invasion and then get bogged down as happened when they occupied South Lebanon in 1982. They may be assuming that with both the US and Israel bogged down in Arab lands it would prevent any attack on them and give them more chips to bargain with.
I am curious to see how the Iraqi Shia respond and if this unrest spills over to other Arab countries.
Frank Rich, NYTimes, 7/16/06:
“The Bush doctrine was a doctrine in name only, a sales strategy contrived to dress up the single mission of regime change in Iraq with philosophical grandiosity worthy of F.D.R. There was never any serious intention of militarily pre-empting either Iran or North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions were as naked then as they are now, or of striking the countries that unlike Iraq were major enablers of Islamic terrorism. Axis of Evil was merely a clever brand name from the same sloganeering folks who gave us “compassionate conservatism” and “a uniter, not a divider” — so clever that the wife of a presidential speechwriter, David Frum, sent e-mails around Washington boasting that her husband was the “Axis of Evil” author. (Actually, only “axis” was his.)
Since then, the administration has fiddled in Iraq while Islamic radicalism has burned brighter and the rest of the Axis of Evil, not to mention Afghanistan and the Middle East, have grown into just the gathering threat that Saddam was not. And there’s still no policy. As Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution writes on his foreign-affairs blog, Mr. Bush isn’t pursuing diplomacy in his post-cowboy phase so much as “a foreign policy of empty gestures” consisting of “strong words here; a soothing telephone call and hasty meetings there.” The ambition is not to control events but “to kick the proverbial can down the road —far enough so the next president can deal with it.” There is no plan for victory in Iraq, only a wish and a prayer that the apocalypse won’t arrive before Mr. Bush retires to his ranch.”
Seems to me there are two realities somewhat obscured by the fireworks in Israel and Lebanon and the mouthworks in Washington. (1) Deterrence works — we are deterred by the North Koreans and by the Iranians. By the North Koreans by their actual possession of nuclear capability and by the Iranians by their demonstrated capacity to disrupt progress toward political transition in Iraq, PLUS the uncertainties about their nuclear capabilities.
(2) We are at war with Iran now, in Iraq and, through our respective surrogates, in Lebanon and Gaza. The elephants and ants analogy is apt. At least the elephant has the wisdom to acknowledge when he is being bitten. The decision we face is not whether we will have war with the Iranians — they have made that decision for us. We do have some latitude in deciding what kind of war we will fight with them and our strategy for pursuing it — can’t make those decisions until we recognize the reality however.
Whoever recently wrote here that insanity was performing the same actions while expecting different results had it correct. (Sorry, I can’t find the quote for attribution.) Ants and elephants alike seem to have succumbed to the madness. As the Bushites and neocons have long eschewed diplomacy as being unmanly, even if someone would listen to them they wouldn’t know what to say.
The Princess of State displayed true candor when asked if she would personally travel to the region to mediate. “Let’s recognize that simply going in and shuttling back and forth, if you don’t know where you’re trying to go, is not going to help.” Amen, although it wouldn’t hurt, either. Maybe you could find someone knowledgeable who could help, Mme. Rice?
But of course real hyperpowers don’t need that wimpy diplomatic stuff – Kristol to the rescue with the Straussian big guns! THIS time it’ll really work!
“[T]his aggression is a great opportunity to begin resuming the offensive against the terrorist groups. Israel is fighting four of our five enemies in the Middle East, in a sense. Iran, Syria, sponsors of terror; Hezbollah and Hamas. Al Qaeda doesn’t seem to be involved. We have to take care of them in Iraq. This is an opportunity to begin to reverse the unfortunate direction of the last six to nine months and get the terrorists and the jihadists back on the defensive.”
Madness. Blind insanity.
(But hey, see how the overnights go, check the demographics, Karl will be back from Colorado tomorrow, we’ll tweak this puppy …)
I think u have raised an interesting question with respect to the Iraqi Shia – I read that Sadr made an announcement that, I’m paraphrasing here, Iraqi Shia wouldn’t be sitting on their hands while their co-religionists are at war.
Another thing I’ve been wondering about is where is OBL et al in all this. I can’t imagine it will be too long b4 we hear from him or Dr. Z.
Anyone reckon that Israel’s underlying (captured soldiers notwithstanding) aims are to limit DC’s ability to deal with Tehran per some sort of negotiated settlement to the nuclear program/regional security environment?
Excellent article PL.
People all over the world have began to realize that past injustices have run its course, no one wants to axcept the old rules. I, for one, want justice, not one for you and a different one for me. I want justice for all, regardeless of color, creed and religion. I want a world that is just. I want a world where just is for everyone, then the world will be for everyone regardless of who they are…I think others will do so once the wrong powerful ones come to accept these rules. Enough is enough…
Article about living In the Giant’s Shadow.
Repercussions for US Ambassador John Bolton, the appointed obstructionist. His tactics at the UN empowers adversaries like Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and other spoilers content with a UN that is tied in knots.
Hamas, and Hizbollah have grown in influence in the Middle East. Iraq has deteriorated into civil war. Pakistan grows terrorists who proliferate like weeds. Israel threatens to engulf the Middle East into all out war. Russia and China grew closer together by reaffirming their ties with each at the annual meeting of the Council of Heads of Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation (SCO). Afghanistan will have their biggest opium coup this year that funds the Taliban and assorted drug dealers. The price of gasoline is at record highs around the world. Climate change threatens more severe storms—hurricanes in Florida last year resulted in substantial damage to the refineries in the gulf and displaced thousands of Americans from states in Louisiana, Texas and Alabama. The December 2004 tsunami deaths soared past 212,000 victims. The list of distress is much longer, but everyone here knows it to be representative of today’s world and is free to contribute their own countries’ ‘unique’ brand of suffering.
So although it is painful at times to live in the shadow of the elephant, and be one of the ants, America itself is suffering from her own policies. That doesn’t bring anyone any consolation—it just spreads the misery around to affect as many populations as possible. Other nations don’t get to vote for any of America’s representatives, but they do get to experience the result of their incompetence. I do request the United States electorate vote for someone better next time to lessen the severity of the pain.
There is no justice. IMO you should learn to settle for common sense. pl
It’s worth noting that one factor in the IDF’s eventual withdrawal from Lebanon was the effect of the 2 Intifadas in stretching the Israelis militarily.
Whilst the Eretz Gadol crowd has always coveted the part of Lebanon south of the Litani river, even the “simple”, more limited, task of uprooting Hizbullah from South Lebanon, whilst simultaneously waging a low-intensity war in Gaza and maintaining military deployments to protect settlers on the West Bank and keep the Palestinians “quiet” there would require a full-scale mobilisation of Israel’s reserve forces for a protracted period.
Needless to say, Israel’s somewhat shaky economy would come to a screeching halt. Perhaps more ominously, Israel’s net emigration trend would likely accelerate under these circumstances, as the recent influx of Russian migrants decide that Putin-land looks a lot rosier than the chaotic Yeltsin-land that they abandoned ten years ago.
My concern is that this will spiral into a prolonged war (more than 8 years) of all-against-all in the Middle East; specifically this: Shia vs. Sunni, Mulsim vs. Christian, Israel & US vs. Everyone Else.
“There is no justice. IMO you should learn to settle for common sense. pl”
Spot on. This craving for “justice” sparks the tit-for-tat, but-they-started-it cycle. Scripturally it’s linked to an eye for an eye.
dan, how serious is the emigration trend?
I once read that 20% of Israel’s citizens (according to the Government of Israel statistics) live abroad.
The figure for Lebeanon is probably higher than that.
Both Lebeanon & Israel are small countries with limited economic opportunities thus emigration.
Both could substantially benefit from a generalized peace in the Levant.
This is a political hot potato – the Israeli government produces no meaningful statistics on emigration.
The flow of migrants to Israel has more or less collapsed since 2000. The last official statistics that I saw suggested that there were only 22,000 immigrants to Israel for the year ( 2003 IIRC ).
Survey data suggests that at any one time some 20% of the Israeli Jewish/Russian population is thinking of leaving.
It’s generally assumed that of the 1 million or so Russians that arrived between 1989 and 2000, at least 1/3 will leave as part of the normal pattern of migration ( “natural wastage” ). That would suggest that, before any extraneous factors are taken into account, there is already a net outflow from Israel comprised of recent Russian migrants alone.
Is anybody else thinking Sabra and Shatila while listening to US officials say “Israel must be allowed to defend itself”?
“I am filled with suspicion that US/Israeli policy has provided an opportunity for Hizballah and their Iranian friends to learn the limits of the “ants” abilities. If you listened to Hassan Nasrallah’s speech today you could hear, not boasting, but rather an attempt to provoke an Israeli advance.”
Your words, I agree, it has that “please don’t throw me in the briar patch” feel to it!
I read the notion that the IDF, after being degraded to be a jailer in the occupied territories was looking to kick some butt to restore their ‘deterrent image’. Might be. I agree with Putin, that the snatching to the troopers was a welcome excuse and not the actual reason and that their liberation is not the goal this escalation is about.
I think that, while the more western Jews might think about leaving, the orthodox and hardcore Zionists will never do. With an outflux of frustrated moderates, considering the birthrates, the wackos will gain the upperhand in the long run. The result will be an apartheid look-alike.
The zionist enterprise, taken seriously, is about ‘ius sanguis’ and ‘blood and soil’ and ‘never again’ – there won’t be a reconciliation – it’s just that the the Arabs will have to pay the price, and suck it up. The Arabs on the other hand aren’t any better, even though they don’t have much reason to be happy to be on the losing end.
Sadly, PL, I don’t think there is much room for common sense (there, however, should be, I strogly agree).
I doubt that Israel will ever become more moderate, to the contrary, this mess will become SOP too soon for my liking.
I strongly I hope I won’t see the end of Israel in my lifetime, but then, I’m just 32.
In 66 a.c. and the following years jewish zealots brought upon Israel the end of their kingdom. How bitter an irony would it be to see history reapeated 2000 years later, doom brought upon Israel again by zealots, now jeawish and muslim.
The occupation of some of Lebanon is what several million perhaps several tens of millions on the right most fervently wish.
It would indicate the possibility of a “greater Israel” which is supposed to be a necessity for the rapture that will take decent people up to heaven so they catch watch Jews, Muslims and Democrats suffer.
Some polls indicate roughly half of Republican voters vaguely believe in this and events could shift them.
The president has a more moderate official Christianity, but he also believes God speaks to all people and it’s one’s duty to listen. He thinks he does. He is also aware of the apocalyptic theories and the White House spinners have been coy.
When asked about these theories he said, “Fisrt, I’ve heard of them,” the White House removed the comma as though anyone could not have heard this is a common, deeply held belief.
So as with many Muslims we are confronting there is an apocalyptic force that is very strong in the Republican party.
Anyone who says they want justice not for themselves but for everyone is a potential murderer who will first torture.
The best and most moral peole know that they work from a subjective perspective, they also knows that when it comes down it will mostly likely be them and theirs, they know their tendency to rationale the questionable acts of their of themselves and their friends, they know they are pragmatically indifferent to the pain of the world because one can’t simply take it and they know that if they get worked up about one cauder they ignore others (how many died in the Congo while liberals agonized for Kosove and rightists about the butchery of Saddam?)
It’s selective, it’s always selective. The truly humane use reason and law to try and establish a system more just, they try to allow themselves to bow to these systems because they know the limts of their individual morality.
The people who cry for justice for Palestinians never shouted loudly about Arafat and his cronies looting billions, caring nothing for infrastructure, leading their people into a war that would smash them, nor did they campaign for Palestinian rights in Lebanon where it’s Illegal for Palestinians to practice a profession or even work without a permit (of which only a few hundred are issued) where most factions have slaughtered thousands of the despised foreigners kept in camps not allowed to settle or of their treatment in other Arab lands where they are loved abstractly and hated in person.
Yes Israel has plenty of the same ilk, but the goal of “justice” is not this but death and destruction which includes most importantly that of the Palestinians, the sacrificial victims.
The “advocates” are like david Horowitz in the sixties who wanted to use blacks as a “vanguard.” Let them die, let their communities be smashed, let’s encourage them.
Justice and Peace are incompatible aims. A quest for Justice entails perpetual war.
Moreover, absolute Justice is impossible (even theoretically) to achieve since it requires one to adjudicate among qualitatively incommensurable things (which one is better: an ice-cream sundae or a Cypress tree?)
One can only manage, not solve.
In re “justice,” I agree. pl
I agree on the question of the subjectivity of justice. Once one understands this there is room for the exercize of a certain amount of compassion wrappedup as a common sense desire to avoid excess. pl
I don’t believe justice is necessarily subjective. Law and reason are designed to make it as “objective” as possible.
But practiced correctly they balance things and that blindfolded lady is in great confusion and muddle weighing the balance here.
It’s those with the simple definition which always puts guilt on one side or another who speak the word most loudly, the more objective measure is unsure, always unsure. Why we have appeals in our courts etc.
“Justice” is a social construct – the tough part is the historical (i.e. over generations) compromise and negotiation required to get your and my notions of “justice” more or less to coincide.
Once lost, consensus is bloody hard to rebuild – and Amos Oz reckons the only thing that ends civil/tribal conflict is exhaustion.
It’s an indication of the neo’s shortsightedness that they were so eager to cast aside the principles of Westfalia after 911 (I guess that was the perfect excuse). International stability is a vastly underestimated commodity in a time where a Michael Ledeen can preach ‘creative destruction’, without being put under medication right away.
Perhaps something coming close to justice is best achieved by sticking to principle – with all the side effects. The wars of secession from Serbia in Kosovo were not an international problem, but an internal one. The Serbs had a right to crack down on the kosovar separatists. But you’d have to accept that limitation. Accepting it, however, limits political leeway. Serbia as one of the last communist countries had to be rolled back.
I am convinced now as I was then that NATO, including my gvt, started a war of agression when they intervened there.
But that was about political will. There are many things, that are illegal, that can be made possible if there is a corresponding political will, and the persuasion that ‘we are the good guys’ who, have virtuous and (self-?) righteous goals.
For some reasons, the Americans persuade themselves more effectively on this. (Mental note: If you believe your own propaganda – is your propaganda just brilliant, or are you a dupe?). I’m deeply sceptical about the sensibility of intervention today.
Principle would mandate to crack down harshly on your own war criminals too. But I don’t see anyone willing to prosecute Bush for ordering the supreme evil, war of agression, that made possible all the other evils from Abu Ghraib to the recent atrocities in Iraq. There seems to be a certain amnesia about the simple fact that the Nuremberg principles are universal, and apply to the US, too. The world, certainly the US, isn’t ready for this. I wonder if we’ll ever be.
The knee-jerk response is: Hey, Saddam was a bad guy, didn’t he deserve it? Probably, but what about his people? What about the blow to international law? Is war on suspicion indeed such a boon to global stability (Questionable)? Are SERE training techniques at the right place in the hands of military interrogators (No)? Are the Iraqis truly better off in a civil war where all the rights they gained in their constitution are pointless to their ethnic rivals? I wouldn’t be so quick to say ‘yes’.
I always wince when I hear Bush babbling his tirades about liberty and freedom and living under the ‘iron heel of communism’ as he did when he was in Wismar – without having ever experienced something like that. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It wasn’t exactly so that the entire east was a single giant gulag. My impression is that in dictatorships, you can live a life ‘within the limits’ as long as you don’t stick your neck out, and that’s just what the majority of Iraqis did, what the majority of people in the former Warsaw Pact countries did. Speak to easterners, to Iraqis, or go read Milan Kundera’s books for this. Yes of course there was repression.
But the question is how that felt for the majority of the population, compared to chaos and civil war. Only a lunatic would pick (civil) war, given the choice.
But their opinions just like the realities of their lifes don’t matter for the moral clarity of the zealots pushing them into the abyss, so they can say to themselves: ‘We didn’t compromise with evil!’ ‘Great you didn’t, but I lost my family, health and wealth over it. I’m so happy you sleep well.’
It’s not so that the own actions don’t count as long as your enemy is ‘evil’. That’s too cheap.
PL: ‘Once one understands this there is room for the exercize of a certain amount of compassion wrappedup as a common sense desire to avoid excess.’
The neo-cons make me miss Kissinger. He was devious and ruthless, sure, but at least he knew what he was doing.
You cannot sustain a policy like the one (or lack thereof) America’s conducting in the Middle East without being clear about a few things: (a) what do I want? (b) What exactly am I doing to achieve it?
America isn’t clear about the goals of their engagement in the Middle East. Maybe some folks in the administration are, but I bet even there there are at least two dissenting opinions.
America also isn’t clear about the nature of their benevolent use of firepower. When you use the military you go and kill people, and bystanders, too. The survivors will not love you for it, so think long and hard before considering it.
Delusions about why you fight will create delusions about why you’re fought. Delusions about this point also create a lack of empathy for the suffering of the civilians standing by.
Same for blaming Saddam for a *war of choice* started by the US: All that came out of it is his fault? The lawlessness for instance? Saddam also is to blame for the checkpoint shootings and torture at Abu Ghraib? (Interesting view on causality)
The excess of subjectivity (and the denial about it) is ruling out common sense solutions, not only between Israel and the Palestinians.