Sunday, July 30, 2006

Serious Issues: 2) Israel in Lebanon – I’ll be brief here, but today’s events certainly invite comment. Reportedly, Israel is going to observe a 48-hour pause in the bombing campaign, after the calamity in Qana. This certainly is a decent response to a tragic error. It is also probably being taken in response to the enormous outcry that has followed the horrifying display of images of death and destruction, from the collapsed building.

The question has to be asked – What are the Israeli policy-makers actually thinking? They rail against Hezbollah for using civilian areas as platforms for their missile launches. Israel seems to be saying that Hezbollah is doing this to use Lebanese civilians as human shields, in the belief that the launchers will be protected from Israeli attack because of the proximity of civilians. This is utter nonsense.

If you want my opinion, Hezbollah doesn’t locate their launchers in populated areas because they hope they will be immune from Israeli attack. Actually, they are inviting the Israelis to attack -- in fact, they are counting on it. This is a propaganda war, as much as anything else. Hezbollah has been hoping Israel would go after their rocket launchers because this tragedy was so predictable.

It happens in every war. Remember the U.S. strike on the bomb shelter in the first Gulf War? There were similar strikes on civilian targets in the second Gulf War, too. It’s inevitable. Military planners delude themselves and their civilian leaders into believing that their intelligence reports and their high-tech weapons will enable them to conduct a war without making a mistake like this. This is the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

Israel faces an amazingly well-entrenched enemy that has no compunction against putting the local civilian population in danger. Yes, Hezbollah’s strategy is unethical and against the Laws of War. The thing is – this a war…and they know it. The only real commandment in a war is to win it. All the other “laws of war’ hold no meaning to the loser. In a war, the losers can take no solace from the knowledge that they observed the laws of war. If they could win by ‘cheating,’ they would do so – that’s true of every side in every war.

Hezbollah must know that Israel has the firepower to occupy South Lebanon, if Israel is wiling to suffer the casualties it will take to accomplish that objective. By this, I mean both the casualties on the Israeli side, and the civilian casualties in Lebanon caused by Israeli action. Hezbollah doubts that Israel is ready for its own casualties, but they are banking on the high-stakes international pressure that follows events like Qana. Israel has been down this road before, with the first "Qana Massacre' in 1996. Israel should know that massive civilian casualties are inevitable – if the campaign continues, the events in Qana are likely to be repeated somewhere else.

I began by asking 'what are Israel’s leaders thinking?' Are Israel’s leaders so stupid to believe this would not happen? Were they just hoping against hope that they could achieve their goals much more quickly – before such tragedies could occur, or before the international community could force the Israelis to stop? I’m at a loss.

Israel’s bombing pause suggests its leaders know they’re losing the propaganda war. But didn’t they have enough foresight to know all this would happen? I’m still trying to understand what Israel is trying to achieve. How do they imagine an endgame that will achieve whatever objectives they have in mind? Today’s events leave me even more confused.

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