Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, July 14, 2006

Is this the way to fight terrorists?

Israel continued its bombardment of Beirut today. Civilian casualties in Lebanon are, according to AP, now 73. The reason for this is that Hezbollah, an armed faction in southern Lebanon with some participation in the current Lebanese government, has kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and fired ketusha rockets into various Israeli towns, including (although there is some dispute) downtown Haifa. I am not sure how killing 73 civilians makes the point that it is wrong to kill civilians or kidnap Israeli soldiers. It feels disproportionate, also.

Worse, the idea that air strikes will beat the Lebanese into submission is based on pretty much nothing. Air strikes don't terrorize populations; they inflame them. Slobodan Milosevic, a man was not popular, became the focus of national support and adulation after the USA began to bomb Belgrade. As always in the Middle East, the problem is about a total inability to empathize or put oneself in the other's shoes.

Imagine if a despicable gang of White Supremacists, whom most Americans revile, kidnapped two Mexican soldiers and fired rockets into Mexican towns, including, I don't know, Veracruz. Mexico demands action. The USA, a la Katrina, says, "What-EVER..." The Mexicans retaliate by destroying JFK airport. How, exactly, would the US public and government respond? Would they respond by caving in to Mexican pressure? No, they would go apeshit. The president's popularity would surge to 90% and the public would demand invasion of Mexico. Taco Bells would be egged. Military pressure by Mexico would not produce the desired result.

Why does Israel think military pressure on Lebanon will be different? Does the above analysis change if, rather than a despicable gang of White supremacists, it was the Minutemen or even the Republican party that undertook these actions? Even liberal Democrats who dislike the Republicans would rally 'round the flag. And we aren't half as proud, macho, or concerned about honor as Middle Eastern cultures can be.

If Israel wanted its soldiers back, the approach of you-touch-me-I-kill-your-family will not succeed. Olmert should have tried to arrange for he, Abbas, and the Lebanese PM to appear on TV together and make a plea to release the soldiers. He needed to appeal to the Lebanese and Palestinian people, not take the attitude that "those tribes all hate us, even the little children. they are animals, so we punish them en masse." I have frequently heard Israelis refer to Palestinians as animals. That is not a helpful attitude if you need their cooperation, and Israel need to realize that they DO need Palestinian cooperation if there is ever to be peace. That is not an attitude appropriate for a Democracy. Israel also should confine military action as much as possible, not buzz the home of Syria's president with F16 fighter jets. The idea is to turn public opinion in Israel's favor, not to unite public opinion of the skeptical Arab Street - particularly in modernizing, relatively secular Beirut - with Hezbollah and Hamas.


Anonymous said...

I find myself agreeing with LTG on this one although, I would extend comdemnation also to Hezbollah, Lebanon's President, Syria and Hamas. Israel's response is counter productive. If their goal is to "wipe out" Hezbollah, a few bombing raids and a blockade won't be enough force to do it. If their goal is to concinve the weak but well meaning democratic elements in Lebanon to push the Syrian backed Hezbollah out of their country, indescriminant bombing is too violent to win friends.

At the same time, Hezbollah's (and Hamas') strategy of perpetuating a state of low grade war with Israel for political gain, is dispicable. Imagine that the governing PAN party in Mexico had it's own army (stronger than the Mexican national army) and that they attacked a border post in El Paso and caputered some border patrol agents.

As for buzzing Assad's away. He's a thug and a dictator and not a particularly competent one at that. That Israel didn't bomb him suggests that they don't think he's directly responsible (or in charge) but that they want him to crack down on his own rogue elements (the same that organized the assassination campaigns in Lebanon recently). Syria is up their eyeballs in this. Who knows if threatening Assad will do any good though. 

// posted by Raised by Republicans

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to excuse Hezbollah. I just think that the way to get Lebanon to stop supporting them is not to bomb the civilians. 

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG writes, "Air strikes don't terrorize populations; they inflame them." Yes, and that's precisely what happened... but I think you have the actors reversed.

It is Hezbollah, with (at least) tacit approval of the Lebanese government, that launched (and continues to launch) air strikes at Israel. To date, over 300 missiles have been launched at Israeli towns, killing 4 and wounding 150. Now, Lebanon's reckless actions have provoked an angry and entirely predictable response from Israel.

You say Israel's response is disproportionate? Well, that's the point--they're pissed off. That's what pissed off people do. You say Israel ought to have been wise enough to know that bombing Lebanon would only harden their resolve? Well, Lebanon should have thought of that before they bombed Israel and started the fighting again.

I wish it would help if Israel would act saintly. But so far as I can tell, acting nice earns you no points on the Arab street. Israel could turn the other cheek all day and get nothing but bruises for its troubles. Israel is not dropping bombs to, "make the point that it is wrong," to kill Israelis. (The Hezbollah already had a pretty good idea that Israel would think so.) Israel is punishing those who hurt them.

I sure wish Israel's attacks were carefully targeted and killed only Hezbollah and their supporters. But thre's a real war going on down there, and we all know war isn't nice. The world is right to call for peace, and (as always is true in war) both sides have done terrible things. But if you insist on assigning blame to someone, I believe that burden must fall on the agressors, Hezbollah.

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG's analogy of Hezbollah to a "despicable gang of White Supremacists, whom most Americans revile," is misleading. Hezbollah enjoys broad support among those in Southern Lebanon where they have practically built their own state.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Hezbollah is not a marginalized organization. They have an effective veto over any action by the Lebanonese government and they have their own military which is strong enough to rival (if not dominate) the national forces. A better analogy would be the NAZI party in Germany just before Hitler took total power.

Dr. Strangelove is correct that Hezbollah has set itself as a kind of state within a state. So did Hamas. Both organizations have private militaries. Both provide social services to an impoverished population. Both also blame that poverty on the Israeli enemy and use that world view to whip their supporters into a hate filled frenzy.

LTG raises an interesting point however. Even if we can agree that Hezbollah is a powerful and despicable organization that is acting as the de facto government of large parts of Lebanon, how should Israel deal with it? Israel has tried occupation without success. Israel has tried to trade land for peace, again without success. To be honest, I don't see a viable path to peace so long as groups like Hamas and Hezbollah control the distribution of social services.

I think the biggest mistake the Israelis made was that they didn't combine their occupations with a generous welfare state.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

One angle that no one has mentioned is Iran. It is a well-known fact that both Hamas and Hezbollah have support from Iran and possibly Syria. Iran has just refused again to negotiate over nukes. It is quite possible that this has played into Israel decision and it is quite possible that this is why neither group has been seriously deterred by Israeli actions or those of the world. Hamas is being squeezed on all sides, yet refuses to give up. They can only do this is they are getting outside help.

In addition to getting pissed off about constant missile attacks on their land, Israelis also feel threatened by Iran's nuke program and have even threatened to bomb Iran. In fact, we on this blog have speculated that the US and Israel have made plans fro such an action should Iran continue its resistance.

I also agree that the analogy presented by LTG is not really applicable. Hizbollah and Hamas are non state actors with state sponsorship that seek the end of the Israeli state. That makes the stakes pretty high for Israel. I'd also add that Lebanon does not have a strong enough government to control Hizbollah. So the Lebanese government, suddenly free of Syria, is still trying to get its footing amid sectarian tensions. It is almost irrelevant in this case since it doesn't control its southern border. I aslo agree that their actions do nothing to bolster Lebanese opposition to Hizbollah. In fact, it forces Lebanon to support Hizbollah in order to prevent re-occupation of its southern territory. In addition, bombing Beirut is over-extension in my view.

This is a proxy war really. This is the result of the US drowning in Iraq and Israel having pulled out of Gaza. Keep in mind that many Palestinians were not happy about Israel pulling out of there because they had too many internal conflicts to handle the responsibility. In fact, many Palestinians saw it as a clever mover by Israelis to let the Palestinians self implode and then to create an excuse to re-invade.

So to say that this is the result of someone getting pissed off over kidnapping is to over-simplify some dangerous geo-political facts.

// posted by UNWest

Anonymous said...

Dr.S - I wasn't being misleading about Hezbollah. I was making a point, that even if - unlike Lebanon - Hezbollah were despised, nobody in Lebanon would respond well to the Israeli response. How much worse, then, if Hezbollah were popular. I even SAID that in my post "Does the analysis change if they were the Republican party..." 

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG: sorry, I misinterpreted your post.