Battlepanda: Israel's terrible blunder


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Israel's terrible blunder

I can't believe I'm linking to The Captain's Quarters, without excoriating something. But this analysis of Israel's recent incursions into Lebanon seems right to me:
No one can blame Israel for the years of frustration in dealing with Hezbollah
terrorists in southern Lebanon. They have conducted border raids, shot missiles,
and otherwise tried to provoke Israel into a response. This week, they took
advantage of the Gaza engagement to attack Israel again -- or perhaps staged the
attack in coordination with Hamas -- and Israel has finally responded in force.
While Hezbollah fires more rockets into Northern Israel, Olmert has all but
declared war on Lebanon:

Israel intensified its attacks against Lebanon on Thursday, blasting Beirut's international airport and the southern part of the country in its heaviest air campaign against its neighbor in 24 years. Nearly three dozen civilians were killed, officials said. The strikes on the airport, which damaged three runways, came hours before Israel imposed an air and naval blockade on Lebanon to cut off supply routes to militants. ...

In a stark warning, the Israeli army chief said Thursday that Israel's air force is prepared to strike anywhere in Lebanon, including the capital of Beirut, if the Lebanese government fails to rein in Hezbollah guerrillas.

"We are not at war, but we are in a very high volume crisis, and we have an intention to put an end to the situation here along the northern border," Brig. Gen. Dan Halutz said in Jerusalem.

Two Israeli citizens have died and 70 more have been wounded in the rocket attacks, and Israel has gone to its second-highest alert level. Reports yesterday had the IDF mobilizing even more units and calling up some reserves. Meanwhile, Ehud Olmert has accused the Lebanese government of supporting the attacks on Israel and has stated that Israel will not limit itself to southern Lebanon for military responses. The attack on the Beirut airport makes that rather clear.

However, one has to wonder whether Israel has chosen the correct enemy. Lebanon just recently freed itself (mostly) from Syrian occupation through a people-power revolution. Syria occupied Lebanon for almost 30 years prior to that, and they put Hezbollah into place as their proxy, not Lebanon's. Granted, Israel had a point when they noted that Hezbollah politicians have ministers in the Cabinet, but unlike Hamas in the Palestinian Authority, they do not have political control of the government.

A free and democratic Lebanon could be an ally to Israel, or at least not an enemy. They could eventually have a relationship similar to that of Jordan; not exactly friends, but not at all enemies. Why toss that away in a misdirected rage?

As Publius said on this issue "when you're doing precisely what your enemy wants you do, you're doing the wrong thing (see also Iraq)."
Thus, if you’re a group like Hamas or Hezbollah, you're not really even trying to invade or overthrow Israel. You're trying to foster the hate. And you do that by preventing political resolutions. They're fighting a global, multi-decade counter-insurgency type of war where the goal is to goad Israel into disproportionate responses that foreclose the political deals that could stabilize the country’s existence.

In short, there are two different types of wars going on. Israel is fighting a Sherman-esque conventional war, complete with collective punishment and infrastructure destruction. Hamas/Hezbollah are fighting a counter-insurgency intent on thwarting political progress.
Although I don't share the Captain's enthusiasm for an Israeli attack on Syria itself, he is quite right in pointing out that Hezbollah is controlled by Damascus, and not Beirut. In fact, Damascus is probably tickled pink that the Israeli has done such a fine job of undermining the fledgling Lebanese democracy that has steadily slipped away from Syrian influence.

On a more personal level, my cousin's husband-to-be is Lebanese-Canadian, and I can only imagine his feelings at this juncture. From the dark days after Rafik Hariri's assasination, the Lebanese have stood up to the Syrians and embraced democracy. With that came hope. 460,000 tourists visited Lebanon thusfar in 2006 as opposed to 272,000 during the same time period in 2005. With the most recent attacks, what progress Lebanon has made in the direction of economic stability and normality since then have been cruelly obliterated.