Friday, July 21, 2006

Ground War

Ed Morrissey considers the prospects for Israel's anticipated ground assault against Hezbollah. He looks at the likely reactions of Syria and other players in the Middle East and concludes that the long term benefits might be worth it but the short term risks are high.

Read his analysis here. See also Strategy Page's report here.

Pat's Short Memory

Pat Buchanan is on the side of the angels, and I have a lot of respect for him, but he has a surprisingly short memory. In the course of arguing against going to war with Iran he says that:

None of this is written in defense of Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran. But none of them has attacked our country....

Let's refresh his memory for him with a list of Hezbollah's attacks against the U.S. over the last twenty years or so:

  • Car bombing of U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut killing 241 U.S. servicemen (1983)
  • Car bombing of U.S. Embassy in Beirut killing 63 people, including 17 Americans (1983)
  • Bombing outside U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut killing 24 (1984)
  • Hijacking of TWA Flight 847 killing one U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem (1985)
  • Abduction, torture and death of CIA Station Chief William Buckley in Lebanon (1985)
  • Bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia killing 19 U.S. servicemen (1996)

See Michelle Malkin for more on Hezbollah as a threat to the U.S.

How many Americans does Hezbollah have to kill before Pat is convinced that if we are not at war with Hezbollah they are certainly at war with us?

Israeli Tactics

Strategy Page offers interesting analysis of Israeli tactics in the current war.

Meanwhile, this article at YNet describes the extensive bunker system Hezbollah has constructed along the Israeli border and why it must be destroyed.

Evidently, thousands of Israeli troops have been tasked with the job of finding and securing these underground structures and most of the Israeli military casualties have been suffered in this mission.

Thanks for the tip to Belmont Club.

<i>Sojourners</i> Weighs In

It was obvious from the first paragraph of Jim Rice's Sojourners piece on the Israeli attack on Lebanon that we would be left scratching our heads more than once. For instance, he began his essay with this:

What is the proper, appropriate response of a nation to violent attacks by terrorists or other radical extremists? We have seen one model illustrated in the response of the British government to last year's attacks on London's public transportation system, in which 52 people were killed and 700 injured. The British rightly understood the attacks as terrorist acts, but responded in a measured manner, dealing both with the investigation of the terrible crime and the need for enhanced security in its wake. Pointedly, the British did not opt for a military response to these acts of terror.

Maybe no one has told Mr. Rice but a) the attack to which he refers was carried out by British citizens. There was no appropriate military target for a reprisal and b) the British are, in any event, no strangers to the use of military against terrorists. They have used military force in both Northern Ireland and in southern Iraq.

We have also, of course, seen an altogether different model of response, perhaps most clearly exemplified by the U.S. invasion of two countries - one of which was an actual source of the terror - following the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001. Unfortunately, it seems to be in the latter spirit that Israel responded to terror attacks in the past fortnight.

Is Mr. Rice suggesting that the use of military force against the Taliban and al Qaeda is "unfortunate"? If so, why is it? What does he suggest we should have done in the wake of 9/11? More to the point, how does he think Israel should have responded to the incessant terrorism to which it has been subjected?

In pursuit of peace Israel gave the Palestinians Gaza. It acceded to world opinion and promises by the U.N. by withdrawing from southern Lebanon and was planning further withdrawals from the West Bank. The Camp David accords awarded the Palestinians everything Israel could possibly give without ceasing to exist, but Arafat rejected the offer. Israel trusted Lebanon to keep Hezbollah off of its northern border but Lebanon was too weak. It trusted the U.N. to protect it from terror attacks, but the word for people who trust the U.N. is "corpse." Europe, we all know by now, won't stop the terrorists. Richard Cohen says the Israelis should just "hunker down," presumably until Hamas, the PLO, and Hezbollah have attrited them into extinction. Now James Rice says their decision to defend their children from the Hezbollah butchers is "unforunate."

The rest of the article is a complaint about Israel's alleged disproportionate use of force, etc. Mr. Rice writes as if the killing and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers was the very first provocation committed by Hamas and Hezbollah. He ignores the low level war that has been waged against Israeli citizens for decades and sniffs that the Israelis should ignore it, too.

...does the real need for security justify the massively disproportionate response to an act of terror? Is the collective punishment of an entire population ever morally and ethically justified?

What exactly is a disproportionate response? In Mr. Rice's world, apparently, the Israelis are justified in killing only as many terrorists as the terrorists have killed themselves. That, of course, is an absurd policy. The purpose of war is to crush the enemy, not to make him say "uncle." Israel finds itself in a war for its very survival, not some schoolyard scuffle that is supposed to be a "fair fight."

The only way to stop Hezbollah and Hamas from killing Israelis is to eliminate Hezbollah and Hamas. The first question then is whether the Israelis are justified in seeking to destroy these terror groups, both of which effectively control the governments of Gaza and Lebanon respectively. If the answer is that they do, then the question becomes what are the most moral means to bring this end about. If Mr. Rice has a problem with the morality of a "disproportionate response" it would helpful if he explained exactly what it is that is so offensive about it.

Does the destruction of much of Lebanon's civilian infrastructure, so painstakingly rebuilt after years of civil war and occupation by both Israeli and Syrian forces, bode well for future peace between the neighboring states? In sum, will the Israeli attacks bring long-term security for Israel, or will they further ensure that the next generation of Lebanese and Palestinians - across the theological and political spectrum - grow up with an undying hatred in their hearts?

It is true that there has been much destruction in both Gaza and Lebanon, but there was much destruction in France in WWII. The effort to defeat the Germans meant that war needed to be waged in France and other European countries where innocent civilians were caught in the crossfire and entire towns and cities were laid waste. Was "the collective punishment of an entire population" of Europeans morally and ethically justified? Death and destruction are tragic, of course, but the blame for these should no more fall on the shoulders of the Israelis than it should have fallen on the shoulders of the allies sixty years ago.

...much U.S. media coverage of this new Middle East war paints a misleading picture of a tit-for-tat equivalency between the two sides: Hezbollah explodes a bomb in Israel, Israel responds in kind. While their intentions are indeed malevolent, the two terrorist groups have nowhere near the military capability of Israel, which wields one of the most powerful military forces in the world...The death toll in Lebanon in the first six days of the war has been tenfold that in Israel - according to The New York Times, 310 people, most of them civilians, have died in Lebanon while Israel has suffered 27 casualties, 15 of them civilians, since Israel began its attacks.

This is bizarre. Would Mr. Rice think that things would be more just if the casualty figures were closer to equal? He seems to suggest that if one side is stronger than the other it's somehow unfair for the stronger side to use its might, or it's unfair if they don't suffer the same casualties as the other side. This is positively looney.

So what if Israel is stronger? How does that bear on the crisis that Hezbollah and Hamas have precipitated? As I said above, the goal of war as Mr. Rice seems to think, is not to gain a stalemate, it is to win as quickly and as decisively as possible.

We cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed by the political, strategic, and moral complexity of the situation to stand back and do nothing. A first step toward a more comprehensive resolution is an immediate operational cease-fire. But that must be followed by a new way of thinking because, as a U.N. official put it yesterday, "The Middle East is littered with the results of people believing there are military solutions to political problems in the region."

He says that we can't stand back and do nothing and then calls for a cease-fire which essentially does nothing. A cease-fire does not resolve the problem. It does not make Israel or Lebanon any safer from the predations of the terrorists. It simply returns things to the status quo. It guarantees that terrorism will continue and convinces the orcs that the world will never let them be defeated.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir had it right when she said that there will never be peace in the Middle East until the Arabs love their own children more than they hate the Jews. As long as Muslims are so filled with hate for Jewish people that they will strap bombs to their children and send them out to blow themselves up, there will be no peace. If Mr. Rice wants "a new way of thinking" in the Middle East he can start by confronting that fact.

Israel has every right and reason to do what it's doing. The world, including those who are so quick to condemn it, has done nothing to end the terror and has instead left Israel with no other choice. All those who demand a cease-fire and who complain about "disproportionate response" are essentially calling for another Masada.