Software Nerd

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Lebanon

I hope it isn't the contrarian in me, but I'm not completely disheartened by the recent Israeli campaign in Lebanon.

Yes, the Israelis were overly concerned about civilian casualties. I would have loved to see the Hezbollah destroyed. It's revolting to see concrete-bound people claim that the Hezbollah are freedom-fighters. Do they realize that being bossed around by a dictator is not "freedom" just because one reduces the number of generations up the tree of evolution where you and the dictator share a common ancestor! That makes a freedom-fighter out of every man who picks up arms and makes his dad or brother the new dictator.

It is true that Israeli and U.S. public opinion came down on the side of thinking that Israel gave up too soon. The official Arab reaction was muted. Even the Syrians declared a few times that they were moving their army to increasing levels of readiness, but did little else. Yes, Assad came out after the war and spoke about taking back the Golan Heights; but, relative to past Arab reaction, he pretty much kept his trap shut. [Iran is a different story.]

The problem is, I do not think Israelis would have supported actions that would be required for the next phase, of really finishing off the Hezbollah while it hides among a sympathetic population. As a result, the Israelis would have ended up like the U.S. in Iraq, not defeating the enemy anyway, and simply bogged down trying to hold territory. The next phase would have been a turn in Israeli opinion, asking to have their boys come back home.

So, while I criticize the Israelis for their modern loss of moral certainty, I cannot criticize their politicians for understanding this. By stopping at this point, the Israeli government actually increases the likelihood of public support when it starts its next campaign against the Hezbollah.

I also do not think that the better thing would have been to fight no war at all. While it's revolting to see some Lebanese celebrating in the streets, declaring that Hezbollah won the war and is their country's savior, those are the images one can expect. On the other hand, there are also more Lebanese who realize that something has to be done about the Hezbollah. Less of them can evade what should have been obvious already. Sometimes, one has to light a fire under people, to goad them into action.

Some say that non-Hezbollah Lebanese are powerless to change the status quo. In think this is false. It may be true in the short term. However, if they have the will and motivation, they can do it. A few years ago who thought the Syrians would leave either? Every faction of the Lebanese has some history of military action. I think the possibility for change is higher than it was before the war.

Such change can go either way; it could pitch Lebanon into civil war -- but, that is not Israel's problem. The Israelis have given the Lebanese more than a huge prod -- they gave them a hard kick in the rump. More of them realize that something must be done about the status quo. The next fight is essentially internal, and Lebanese. If the good guys lose, Israel's next war might be against the Lebanese army. However, I don't think this is a foregone conclusion.

Replacing one UN resolution with another seems to be an empty victory, even a victory for the bad guys. However, more than that has happened. Israel has moved from asking that the UN resolution be enforced to demonstrating that it is willing to act if it is not. Destroying some of Hezbollah's infrastructure and weapons is not something to be pooh-poohed either.

The biggest problem I see in the final outcome is that a larger force of U.N. troops may forestall a future Israeli attempt to attack Lebanon again. This is the biggest additional negative that Israel has created. It is extremely important that the Israelis monitor the progress of the U.N. forces and Lebanese army and only pull back to the extent that they (Israel) is happy with the progress those new forces are making.

Meanwhile, Israel needs to start planning the next invasion, which might be required in a year or two: how will they neutralize the UN? what lessons did they learn from this war that they can apply to the next? is there a way to take out the media stations they failed to take out this time? is there a way to reduce the threats from incoming missiles? is there a better way to shut down supply routes from Syria? how do they improve ground intelligence? is there a better way for them to take the initiative and surprize the enemy? and so on...

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