Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Outcome Of Kidnappers' War Still Uncertain

Arab bloggers are divided over Hezbollah and the Kidnappers' War. This is in fact a healthy sign. Were the Arab world to line up behind a force as martial and aggressive as Hezbollah, then we could be certain of seeing the conflagration that everybody senses is near. It may still occur, but the divisions amongst Arab states and the tepid support Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria have thus far received indicates that we may avoid disaster. They may try more seriously than they already have to surrender and seek negotiations.

This is possibly bad news in the long term. The great fear now ought to be that a cease fire would give Hezbollah a chance to regroup and rearm Of the proposals for permanently disarming Hezbollah, none seem likely to work. The worst is for a multinational force from the U.N. They'd be toothless and weak and their presence would only shield Hezbollah. Better a force from NATO, one that does not include Americans, as their presence may be controversial. They'd at least potentially have the strength and authority to shut down Hezbollah.

But the best choice for doing more than merely stemming the tide of ugly headlines is still to choose to support Israel. Many things will quiet Lebanon's southern border, but the only realistic thing which can do so with any permanence is the Israeli defensive war against Hezbollah. It is a tragedy that they do not have, have not sought, and would probably not receive, assistance from the Lebanese central government. The bitterness between the states I suppose runs too deep. But the suffering in Lebanon is a direct result of Iran and Syria's efforts desire to destroy Israel, and Hezbollah's willingness to be the vanguard of their ambitions; it does not finally fall on Israel.

It is not the fault of Israel that its enemies have insinuated themselves into civilian populations, and that its enemies have no cause that can be answered by less than Israel's destruction. When Hezbollah is neutered, there will be peace. Israel can neuter them, NATO might, and the U.N. will only let them heal to full strength.

Thus far, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has held fast to the condition that the kidnapped soldiers be released. And George Bush is persistently holding Syria responsible for the crisis. But the New York Times reports the framework of a cease fire:

The outlines of an American-Israeli consensus began to emerge on Tuesday in which Israel would continue to bombard Lebanon for about another week to degrade the capabilities of the Hezbollah militia, officials of the two countries said.

Then, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would go to the region and seek to establish a buffer zone in southern Lebanon and perhaps an international force to monitor Lebanon's borders to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining more rockets with which to bombard Israel.

American officials signaled that Ms. Rice was waiting at least a few more days before wading into the conflict, in part to give Israel more time to weaken Hezbollah forces.

"Weaken" is insufficient; "dead" is required.
Israel has been lukewarm to the idea of an international force in Lebanon, but is willing to consider such a deployment if it includes troops from major powers and is used to prevent Hezbollah from supplementing its arsenal.

On Tuesday, Israel said it blew up six more long-range rockets that it said were being transported by road into Lebanon from Syria.

Since it is only Israel that has shown the ability to disarm Hezbollah, Israel ought to be allowed to continue to do so. Anything less than Hezbollah's removal and we'll be fighting this war again in three years.

In addition to the horror of watching the Lebanese suffer, we also have the spectacle of watching foreign nationals struggling to leave Lebanon. Their suffering is not worse than that of the Lebanese, but it does link people outside of Lebanon directly to the crisis. The difference is, the refugees will all be gone in a few days, and the world will perhaps sense it has less at stake than before.

The U.S. has, to appearances anyway, made a hash of the evacuation. I don't know if it's a fair criticism, but it does describe how our efforts look:
A cruise ship sailed into Beirut late Tuesday, delayed by an Israeli naval blockade amid fierce criticism that the U.S. effort to evacuate 25,000 Americans fleeing Mideast fighting had lagged behind Europe's. The commander of the Fifth Fleet said the ship would begin boarding evacuees at dawn.


The White House defended asking Americans to reimburse the estimated $150 cost of their passage, and the ambassador said the evacuation's slow start was intended to safeguard Americans.


"The embassy is providing us with sketchy information and they are being rude to us here at the gate," he said. "We have other options, like leaving through Syria, but they keep stringing us along day after day."

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the United States has determined it was not safe to travel by road, adding: "We understand the anxieties of people in Lebanon."


Snow said the government has to charge evacuees because of a 2003 law. "I dare say that it's something that is causing heartburn for a number of people, but it's the law," he said.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi objected, saying it was not Congress' intent to prevent evacuations by making people sign a commitment to pay.

"A nation that can provide more than $300 billion for a war in Iraq can provide the money to get its people out of Lebanon," Pelosi told CNN.

I think Ms. Pelosi just lost a few votes for her party. First of all, a person who wishes to take over as House Speaker shouldn't be whining that people don't understand what Congress means. She should be explaining what she would do, as Speaker, to ensure that laws are written so that they do what the people's representatives expect. Second, a liberal shouldn't ever complain that the government isn't throwing enough money around. It calls to mind too many negative associations with the Democrats' tax-and-spend past, and her cavalier tone towards the war effort suggests she thinks no more of the military's work than she does an ordinary Congressional pork project.

It is probably too early to assume a real cease fire is in the offing, just as a few days ago it was too soon to say that Lebanon would necessarily be the start of a wider war. Attacks back and forth continue, and I doubt either side is quite ready to stop fighting just yet. We're accustomed to think world events unfold quickly. This is what I call the fallacy of the paragraph.

In history books we read that World War I broke out after a Serbian nationalist assassinated Archduke Ferdinand. All the events are bundled together in a single paragraph, and this leads us to believe, falsely, that the war began almost instantaneously. But it took nearly a month for Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia, then 3 more days before Russia declared war, and then another day for Germany to declare war. The first shots were fired a few days after that. It happened quite slowly in comparison to our understanding of the event.

Even the most accelerated world events require several days to truly unfold. That is no less true in the Middle East.


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Rich Rostrom said...

Umm... the first shots of WW I were fired on July 29, the day after Austria declared war on Serbia. That is when Austrian artillery bombarded Belgrade from across the Danube.
Going to your main point - I don't think this will be a decisive war. Even Israel does not have the stomach for it. Comments like "Hezbollah's military power has been degraded 50%" implies that Israel wants only to reduce the problem for a while. Nasrullah will survive, Iran will send more money and weapons, and a few years from now it will be as it was last month.

What Dingell says is right: of course he refuses to acknowledge that Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, and Hamas don't want peace.

McKreck said...


Good catch. I said "first shot" but what I really meant was the beginning of the hostilities that we think of when we think of WWI -- the German entry into Belgium in an offensive against the French. The analogy here would be to the beginning of hostilities between Israel and Syria, not the "first shot" overall, but the "first shot" of what history would consider the main conflict.

We'll see what will happen in the next few days.