Monday, July 17, 2006

Cost and necessity in Lebanon

I make no pretense of being any sort of expert on the madhouse that is the Middle East — indeed, with each passing day's news and blogs I realize more how ignorant I've been — so these comments should be taken well diluted. Why post them at all, then? Just for readers who like to gather as many different views as possible so as to sift them.

Why is Israel cracking down hard on Hezbollah? Ralph Peters thinks "the Israelis began to miscalculate — reacting impulsively and emotionally themselves. Attacking Hezbollah was fully justified and necessary, but Israel's frustration with the Lebanese government's toleration of terrorists boiled over into folly."

No doubt the Hezbollah raid sparked high emotions in Israel, with several of their soldiers killed and two taken hostage, probably dead by now or held under appalling conditions. But it seems highly unlikely that a major operation in Lebanon was undertaken impulsively. My guess is that Israeli intelligence had become aware of some seriously threatening development in Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon: new, high-tech toys for boys supplied by Iran to the Shiite militants (the rocket that struck an Israeli ship lends credence to this idea); maybe even a plan to invade Israel.

Peters is probably right that Hezbollah's raid was not part of a grand strategic plan. More likely, in my view, it was intended by some Hezbollah faction to show off its boldness and capability to other Hezbollah elements. The warlord who pulled it off probably didn't expect Israel's reaction, not knowing that a very worried Israeli IDF high command and prime minister had been looking for a reason to take down the major threat coming from Lebanon's direction that it had become aware of.

Will the situation blow up and bring Iran into the mix? Probably not. It's hard to see how it could advance Iran's interests. Iran's strategy seems to be continuing to develop its nuke capability while fending off any kind of multi-state action against it with diplomatic wiles, keeping Gulliver tied down in endless negotiations about resolutions. For Iran to dive into the fray now would provide an opening for instant retaliation which would surely include crippling its nuke development.

True, the face Iran presents to the world is Ahmadinejad, a free-range lunatic. It's not clear to me, though, how much he can call the tune. If he looks to be about to bring down Goetterdaemmerung on the country, a coalition of mullahs might see to it that he is led away, thanked for his efforts on the nation's behalf, and shot.

Should Israel respond "proportionately"? No, nothing could be more foolish. What would a "proportionate" response mean? A quick over-the-border raid to kill a few Hezbollah militants and take a couple of hostages? Israel's enemies don't value human life the way Israelis do; they couldn't care less if they lost a few men. Hezbollah, or whatever faction started the ball rolling, could still crow about how they'd scored a victory over the Little Satan.

Setting a modern military into motion to perform its function is a terrible business. Once you've done that, you can count on losing some of your own at best, or some unexpected nightmare at worst; for certain, plenty of innocent civilians caught in the line of fire will die. All this will be for nothing if the end is to just return to the status quo, like a shoving match between schoolboys. The aim of a military response must be to change the situation, if possible drastically, in your favor.

If my guess is right and Israel is cleaning up a major new and credible threat that its intelligence operations have detected, then they have to neutralize it. Count the cost. But count the necessity.

Language and thought,
light and rapid as wind,
man has taught himself these, and has learnt
the ways of living in town and city,
shelter from inhospitable frost,
escape from the arrows of rain.

Wise though his plans are,
artful beyond all dreaming,
they carry him both to evil and to good.

Sophocles, Antigone


Anonymous said...

Israel essentially created Hizballah by its 1982 invasion and long occupation of Southern Lebanon in an earlier effort to change the situation in its favor. The same goes for its support of HAMAS in years past as a ploy to counter Al-Fatah. While it is early to contemplate what unintended consequences its current campaign may have, one likely result may be greater cooperation between Shi'ite and Sunni Islamist forces, just at a time when Iran (and its Shi'ite allies in Iraq) are waxing in strength.

Israel may have the uppper hand militarily, but I see a very bleak future for it.

Dymphna said...

This was no miscalculation. Just for starters, Iran has been training Hizbullah for several years now. Do you think the incursion into Israel was spontaneous??? They take orders from Tehran, who funds them. As does Syria, which also takes its orders from Iran.

Backing up...why do you think the Palestinians took the Israeli soldier when they did? And why do you think he's still alive (probably?)...because Iran has use of him.

Hamas and Hizbullah are merely mini-me's for Iran. Did you know that there were 60,000 Iranian registered "tourists" thru Lebanon in the first six months of this year? An all-time record. The good Lord only knows how many unregistered 'tourists' made the trip.

And guess why Saudi Arabia and the other main actors have finally started telling Hizb. to cut the crap? Because they see now what Iran is up to.

This is all about diversion and Israel is going to have to go into Lebanon now and take out Nasrallah and his crazies...

Israel's incursion into Lebanon decades ago came because of shelling into Israeli towns. They finally withdrew on a negotiated truce that Israel would be left in peace. Same thing with Gaza, even though that was a unilateral, un-negotiated withdrawal.

Pay attention to what Iran is saying and what it is doing. Syria is terrified because it made a devil's pact and now it will have to pay...

I suggest you read up on the history of the area...that will give you the insight into the current situation.

Israel may or may not prevail. No one, including Israeli intel, knows exactly what kind of armaments Iran has sent to Hizbullah. We do know they trained several dozen terrorists in the use of the weapons last year. Israel is in a fight to the death here -- I am sanguine about her fate only because of the sudden change in tune in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, et al...they're scared of the crazy mullahs. About time...radiation travels...

Rick Darby said...


Thanks for your comment. I read you and Baron regularly at Gates of Vienna and am honored that you stopped by Reflecting Light.