Saturday, August 12, 2006

Cease Fire Fallout

The second operational paragraph of the UN cease fire resolution states that Israel will withdraw past the blue line as UNIFIL and the Lebanese army deploy to south Lebanon. It is fortunate that Israel continues its deployment towards the Litani, as this will ensure there is no vacuum for Hezbollah to fill.

The possibilty that Lebanon will accomplish anything close to Hezbollah's disarmament seems rather slim, given what Fuad Saniora said of the cease fire:

Praising Hizbullah guerrillas, the prime minister said, "The steadfastness of the resistance fighters in the field was very important, as was the steadfastness and unity of the people," he said.

He doesn't have to like what Israel did, but neither need he praise Hezbollah for starting the war in the first place. A statement like this suggests he accepts Hezbollah's subversion of Lebanon to make war against Jews. Perhaps the Cedar Revolution is already dead.

At Publius Pundit, Jonathan Taylor develops a thoughtful criticism of Israel's attacks on Hezbollah, which includes this conclusion:
Israel may win the physical battle, but they are dangerously close to losing the war for democracy. Yes, Israel was provoked. Yes, it is intolerable that a group of radicals have their own independent army. That Israel has faced these problems is not a new development – its been this way for decades. Democracy in the Arab world, however, is new. And Israel has decided, for whatever reasons, that a brief military campaign is more important than lasting peace.

This is similar to the argument Richard Cohen made in the Washington Post a few weeks ago, though on a smaller and much more rational scale. I think the flaw here is that it fails to account for the disproportionate strength of Hezbollah's mini-state as compared to the weakness of the Lebanese central government. Taylor's argument asks Israel to have waited for an infant to grow, but that infant was surrounded by wolves, and the odds of its survival even before Israel's attacks were already quite slim. It is not just to ask Israel to absorb the blows of a totalitarian aggressor on the off-chance Lebanon's Cedar Revolution would survive Hezbollah's presence.

If there is any reasonable criticism of Israel's choice to attack, it is Taylor's, but even his argument does not persuade me that Israel would have been wiser to show patience. That country drew the quite reasonable conclusion that Iran and Syria, working through Hezbollah, were acting on their stated goal to drive Israel into the sea. They responded with brute force, as they have the right to do. It may be that in doing so they have destroyed the possibility of lasting democracy in Lebanon. However, given Hezbollah's strength and its true character, I don't think the chances for the Cedar Revolution's survival were very strong in the first place.

Hassan Nasrallah had begrudgingly accepted the cease fire. He called resistance to Israel's attempts to destroy the threat he poses a "natural right", which by implication means he believes he has an absolute legal right to destroy Israel, and Israel has no legal right to do anything but sit back and take it. He left unmentioned the resolution's demand for the unconditional release of the kidnapped soldiers.

The New York Times reports on Israeli soldiers' surprise at how well armed and resilient Hezbollah troops are. I suppose they mean to imply that Israel should recognize how hard it is to destroy an entrenched, well-armed guerrilla army and just give up. I say, send bigger bombs. Under UN resolution 1559, Hezbollah has no right to exist as a military force. The world should act like it actually believes that principle.

UPDATE 1:45 pm CDT: A question has occurred to me: when has any central government ever survived an armed party within its borders when the difference in strength between the central government and the armed party is as great as the difference between the Lebanese government and Hezbollah?

My first thought was Columbia, but the difference in strength between FARC and the central government is not as great as that between Lebanon and Hezbollah. The central government has military forces capable of fighting FARC, has the support of the U.S., and has the presence of well-armed right wing militias fighting the same enemy. In Lebanon, all the militias except Hezbollah have disarmed.

Then I thought of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge, but after Vietnam invaded, a much weakened Khmer Rouge was driven to the hills. A strong Cambodian state eventually emerged, but they had help from an invading nation and an enemy much less powerful than Lebanese democracy has in Hezbollah.

I can't really think of any other cases similar to Lebanon and Hezbollah at the moment. I'd like to know if there is any historical justification for asking Israel to be patient with Lebanese democracy, when that democracy is so weak compared to an internal mini-state like Hezbollah.

UPDATE 2:33 pm CDT: Israel will cease military operations at around 7:00 am Monday Israeli time, or 11:00 pm Sunday CDT. It's not official yet because Israel has yet to officially endorse the cease fire. Since its not clear what ceasing operations means, but it probably doesn't mean an immediate Israeli withdrawal. Thus, Hezbollah can continue its attacks under the pretense that having not withdrawn, Israel hadn't accpeted the cease fire.


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