Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Israel's March of Folly (Harpers.org)

Harper's has been publishing timely and concise interviews and essays on a variety of topics, including the war in Lebanon. The following by Ken Silverstein deserves a wide readership. As you are reading essay consult yesterday's statement by Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who offers a glimpse of Israeli official thinking.

Israel's March of Folly (Harpers.org): "Israel now faces a problem in Lebanon similar to the problem faced by the United States in Iraq: it must try to win a “victory” in order to justify its foolish decision to go to war, and only then can it withdraw. But even if Israel manages to drive north to the Litani River, it's unlikely that many people will remember this as a triumph for the Jewish state. The members of Hezbollah who are killed in the conflict will be remembered as martyrs, and the call to destroy Israel will become even more fervent. “The Jews all died at Masada,” said Milt Bearden, a former CIA officer with broad experience in the Middle East, “but no one remembers that it was a Roman victory.”"

2 comments:

Lauren Anderson said...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

To Augustus Norton at http://bostonuniversity.blogspot.com/

I'm afraid I don't take Ken Silverstein's or your commentary on the war between Israel and Hezbollah seriously since you both seem incapable of rendering a useful analysis based on objective reality. I listened to your comments on NPR's Fresh Air today and I was appalled that with your experience in the military and in Middle East politics you have such a strange view of current events.

You are wrong on numerous points. First, Israel had to hit Hezbollah hard this time. Hezbollah was the provocateur and they were obviously building up a huge military capability--not for defensive reasons but to attack Israel offensively and destroy them, which has always been their raison d'etre. Just like Al Qaeda, the cancer of Hezbollah must be removed everywhere it exists.

Second, there is NO political or diplomatic solution that will remove Hezbollah from Lebanon. They are too powerful and too committed to their twisted world view which calls for the destruction of Israel; and the Lebanese do not have the will or the means to remove Hezbollah themselves. Hezbollah are, first of all, terrorists. I don’t see anyone attempting a diplomatic solution with Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Why would they try with Hezbollah? In fact, when in history have we seen a diplomatic solution to terrorism?

The only solution is to destroy their military power and kill them. That’s why wars are fought. Until the ideals of Islamic fascists, rooted in the Arab world of the 7th century, are destroyed, Israelis and others will have to wage these kinds of wars.

Unfortunately there are several negative side-effects, like new recruits flocking to Hezbollah and having world opinion in some cases go against Israel, but that's how it goes. That does not diminish the need to hit them hard militarily. On the list of priorities in this war, nurturing a pleasant countenance before Islamic radicals or world leaders falls way down near the bottom.

Third, you think Israel is only hurting themselves by attacking so ferociously. How? By what standard? When your peace and your way of life are directly attacked, how is it hurting yourself to destroy the enemy?

You seem to think that there is a middle ground of an extremely limited military response and then applying diplomatic pressure. When has that ever worked with terrorists?

Fourth, when you were asked what Israel could have done differently to diffuse the massive military buildup on its border, you pointed to North Korea as an example. An example of what, I'm still trying to figure out. North Korea is a completely different situation. It is a sovereign nation, not an illusive terrorist militia, hiding in the civilian population of a non-aggressive country and actively seeking the destruction of another sovereign nation.

Fifth, you say that Israel’s response is heavy-handed. How? Last I heard they were warning civilians to flee and doing everything reasonable to limit civilian casualties while they destroy weapons supply lines, Hezbollah strongholds and rocket launching sites. Contrast that with Hezbollah, who have no regard for human life and have been deliberately targeting and hiding behind civilians.

Sixth, your comments about Israeli hegemony are not only irresponsible, but they have no factual basis whatsoever. Since 1967 Israel has been relinquishing territory and reducing its size. Please name another country that has unilaterally done the same. Though they occupied southern Lebanon for a time, it wasn't an attempt to expand its borders; they were neutralizing the PLO threat. Israel eventually pulled out of southern Lebanon and recently unilaterally pulled out of Gaza. Unfortunately, the irrational militants read this as some kind of victory and continued their attacks on Israelis. What choice did Israel have?

I find your opinions so contrary to the reality of current events that I wonder if you have some sort of anti-Israeli agenda. What do you think?

Lauren Anderson
laurenanderson7@yahoo.com

arn said...

Thanks to Ms. Anderson you for her comments. Obviously, I see matters rather differently.

On the specific case of whether Israel is taking sufficient steps to safeguard civilian lives, I refer elsewhere on the blog to a new report by Human Rights Watch, which may be read at hrw.org. The blog reference is:

http://bostonuniversity.blogspot.com/2006/08/human-rights-watch-on-israels-and.html

I suggest that interested readers look at least at the executive summary, which was just released, and make up their own minds about whether Israel (and Hizballah) have acted with appropriate care to safeguard civilians.

An additional report is in progress by Amnesty International, which will likely further detail actions that indicate Israel has not only failed to safeguard civilians, but has also purposefully attacked civilian installations and services, such as food stores.

On the issue of Israel in south Lebanon, where it was effectively in occupation for 22 years (1978-2000), I thought that Prime Minister Ehud Barak made a courageous decision, one that was long overdue. As Barak himself noted two weeks ago, Israel's occupation "created" Hizballah. The late Yitzhak Rabin said the same thing.

In Gaza, Israel's "withdrawal" was intended to jettison the burden of occupation but for the Gazans the reality of occupation continues.

As for the West Bank, the 1982 war--which had horrendous results--was all about keeping and not about given back that territory. Ehud Olmert's plan for unilateral withdrawal is all about keeping land on the West Bank that has been illegally colonized by Israel. On this last point, the U.S. is more or less alone in legitimizing the "settlements".