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Monday, July 31, 2006

...Or Destroying Aggressors

One thing that I have learned is that we all have biases - we presume our friends to be innocent and our enemies to be guilty; we presume our friends to be truthful and our enemies to be deceitful. George W. Bush could say that it snowed in Alaska and I would have to check with the Farmer's Almanac, meanwhile Howard Dean could say that the moon is made out of cheese and I might pause for a nanosecond before laughing out loud, so let me state my bias up front:

I am biased towards Israel's right to exist.

When it comes to the issue of Israel's right to exist there should be no debate - if that is even a question then there is no point in discussion. If one entity believes another entity does not have the right to exist then there cannot possibly be any form of discussion between the entities - the bare minimum for any kind of discourse, let alone civil discourse, is the simple confession of each other's right to exist. Thus, if we can agree that Israel has a right to exist then we can discuss the present situation rationally.

If Israel has a right to exist then the first responsibility of the Israeli government is the security of its citizens. That is the primary purpose of governments, protection from domestic and foreign enemies - police for the former and soldiers for the latter. The nation of Israel must protect its citizens, and when Hezbollah began raining military-grade rockets on Israeli civilian centers what was Israel to do? Say, "Thank you, sir. May I have another?" The obvious response was that at a bare minimum Israel had to stop Hezbollah from launching rockets into the homes of Israeli citizens. So, how could they get that done? The first step would be to contact the Lebanese government and insist that they control their own citizens and prevent them from conducting acts of war. If the Lebanese government is unable or unwilling to do so then Israel could either accept rockets being launched from Lebanon into Israeli homes or Israel could take out the rockets' launchers. Israel, to nobody's surprise, chose the latter.

Is it collective punishment or disproportionate destruction?

In a word, no. Hezbollah is firing rockets into Israel and then blending back into the civilian population. This, according to the Geneva Convention, is a war crime - and so is hostage-taking. Hezbollah and Hamas are not even remotely considering abiding by the Geneva Conventions and Israel has nothing to gain by doing so since it will not buy their civilians or soldiers an iota of respect or peace, therefore the Geneva Conventions are essentially null and void in this conflict - if Israel even pays lip-service to the Conventions themselves then I'd be surprised.

Keep in mind, this current conflict is not isolated from the previous conflicts - it is essentially the continuation of a war that began in 1948 (unless you want to take it back to Isaac and Ishmael) by other means. Those nations that sought Israel's destruction tried three times to accomplish their desired end through overt military means, and three times Israel defeated their combined armies - 1948, 1967, and 1973. It was during the 1967 war that Israel repelled the Arab armies and captured the West Bank of Jordan and the Gaza strip, previously controlled by Egypt. Any time prior to 1967 the Arabs could have created a Palestinian state out of the West Bank and Gaza, but their quest back then and still today is the utter destruction of Israel. After all, the PLO was founded in 1964.

Israel did make one major mistake in 1967 - when capturing foreign territory you have exactly three viable options:
  1. Assimilate the indigenous peoples into your own culture (preferred by the Arab states so as to destroy Israel from within)

  2. Deport the indigenous peoples to the lands of the defeated nation(s) (preferred by the Israeli Right)

  3. Return the captured land and its inhabitants to the defeated nation(s) (preferred by the Israeli Left)
Israel's mistake was that its Left and Right forced each other to compromise, and the result was a long-term migraine - occupation. The Right's solution would have been the most efficient, although it would have come at the cost of all international support, possibly even that of the U.S. The Left's solution would have secured the peace, but only in a Neville Chamberlain sense - it would have been 1968 instead of 1973 when the Arabs would have next invaded Israel. The assimilation option would have been uniquely problematic for Israel, whose sole purpose for existing is to be a Jewish state. It is no wonder that the Israeli Left and the Israeli Right - who agree even less frequently than the American Left and Right - uniformly rejected that option.

I bring all of that up to give a bit of context to the current struggle - 24 years ago it was the PLO firing rockets from southern Lebanon into the homes Israeli civilians. 24 Years ago the UN perpetually brokered cease-fires that were repeatedly broken by the PLO/Syria/Lebanon. Israel knows full-well that a cease-fire does nothing but allow its enemies time to dig in deeper and reload. Cease-fires mean absolutely nothing - a total, guaranteed peace would mean everything. Richard Cohen put it best, "...the only proportionality that counts is zero for zero. If Israel's enemies want that, they can have it in a moment."

No dead Jews, no dead Arabs/Chaldeans/Persians.

I'll not hold my breath waiting for anyone to offer or accept that proposal. This recent fighting does conveniently change the subject from what was about to be a humiliating defeat for Hamas - the Palestinian referendum on implicitly recognizing Israel and setting its borders with Israel, a referendum that was heading to overwhelming victory before Hamas captured Corporal Gilad Shalit as their hostage and then began lobbing rockets into southern Israel. Once Israel responded to protect its citizens from senseless murder Hezbollah began to senselessly murder the civilians of northern Israel via military-grade rockets. With Israel's massive (and I would say justified) retaliation to eradicate Hezbollah from Lebanon the political landscape in Gaza and the West Bank has certainly shifted in such a way that Hamas is probably less likely to lose the referendum, if the referendum is held at all.

Just like Hamas wanted, all along.

You see, ultimately, this is a war of survival, and in such a war there are no rules - it's kill or be killed, those are your only options and I cannot blame Israel for choosing its own survival. It's pretty easy to Monday-morning quarterback from 12,000 miles away, but let's say that little Johnny next door is shooting your dogs with his slingshot. The first thing that you'd do - after telling little Johnny not to do that any more - is to have a conversation with little Johnny's parents. If little Johnny's parents are unwilling or unable to control little Johnny then you could call the police, but let's say that you live in an area where there are no police - think Wild West town with no sheriff - what do you do? You have to get it into little Johnny's head that he can't go shooting your dogs. So you go to have a talk with little Johnny who immediately goes and hides behind his mama's skirt. If mama and daddy won't handle the situation then you have to treat Johnny like a grown man and let him know that if you see him anywhere near your property then you'll shoot him where he stands. Surely, everyone would see this as reasonable. The next day you hear Snowball and Napolean yelping out back so you go get your Winchester, load it up, step outside to see little Johnny walking next to his mama right along your property line, blowing you a raspberry and giving you the finger. Should anyone give a rodent's sphincter when little Johnny's mama catches a couple buckshots as you try to expedite little Johnny's meeting with his maker?

If Lebanon cannot keep its citizens (Hezbollah) from launching rockets into Israel and killing Israelis by the bushel then I can't feel too sorry for Lebanon catching the business end of the Israeli military. I do weep for the individual civilians who are killed - both Israeli and Lebanese - as they, for the most part, don't have anything to do with the fighting: they're just trying to live their lives and provide for their families as rockets and bombs come flying through their roofs. Nonetheless, when Hezbollah refuses to fight military-to-military and instead hides among the civilian population then Israel has little choice but to destroy all infrastructure that could be used to facilitate rocket attacks on Israeli cities. The unfortunate reality is that infrastructure and housing are intimately intertwined, so destroying infrastructure necessarily means killing civilians unless the civilians would have had time to evacuate before the attacks. If Israel had given notice before the attacks how many rockets would have rained down on Israel in that intermediate period? 100? 1000? 10,000?

The bottom line for us in America is this: when an ally is attacked it is the responsibility of its allies to help it repel the attacker(s) - that is what the United States is doing for Israel and must continue to do for Israel for as long as Israel's neighbors seek to destroy Israel.

Unless one doesn't believe that Israel has a right to exist...

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 8:01 AM

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You already know that I disagree with you. I find it most interesting that you do not find the possibility or the necessity of a third party intervening in the situation as something that must happen. I also find it interesting that it is okay with you that a country that has had a weak government for more than 15 years should all the sudden be able to excercise its soveriegnty when its civilians are more and more by the day siding with those who we hope they will turn against.

Israel has the right to defend itself. It has the right to exist now, as it was created in 1948. It does not, however, have the right to make demands of a country that does not have the power to eliminate what has been deemed a terror to do so. It does not have the right to continue to kill hundreds of Lebanese and turn around and condemn others for returning fire. You hit me--I can hit you back. We learned that in kindergarten. That rule is being excercised on both sides of the fence. The only thing that can perhaps end this conflict is a third party intervention. And that seems like it wont happen soon. Especially in the eye of the fact that Ms. Rice is now lying about the Lebanese refusing to speak and making it seem like it was her idea to turn right back around after landing in Beirut for negotiations.

I think we can agree, that you and I are at an impass on this particular subject.

Posted by Blogger Jonzee @ Monday, July 31, 2006 3:29:00 AM #

A third party could try to intervene but it would be an exercise in futility - have you ever tried to break up a fight between two sisters? I've seen sisters turn on the one trying to break up the fight and work together to beat down the third party. Anyone who tries to get in the middle of this situation would encounter much the same response which, not coincidentally, is why absolutely nobody is volunteering their troops for such a suicide mission.

And Israel has condemned Hezbollah for initiating fire, not for returning fire. It is Israel who has returned fire and even the Arab League has admitted as much, condemning Hezbollah for provoking this round of hostilities.

As for asking a weak government to exercise sovereingty, if said government cannot control its citizens and its citizens are conducting acts of war against another country then that other country has a responsibility to exercise its sovereignty for the sake of keeping its own citizens alive. Having made demands of the Lebanese government to keep rockets from landing in Israel that originate in Lebanon and Lebanon's inability/unwillingness to put a stop to said madness it is not only Israel's right to secure their northern border it is their responsibility - the first responsibility of any government is the security of its citizens. This isn't some tit-for-tat hit you back kind of deal - you shot off a rocket that killed 5 of my people so I now have a right to kill 5 of your people - this is an attempt to prevent Hezbollah from ever killing Israeli civilians again.

The only thing that can end this impasse is Arabic/Persian/Chaldean acceptance of Israel's right to exist - either that or when the day comes that there are either no Jews in the Middle East or no Arabs/Persians/Chaldeans in the Middle East.

Airborne pork, indeed.

Posted by Blogger Athanasius @ Monday, July 31, 2006 6:43:00 AM #

Is Lebanon not an ally of the U.S. as well?

How is the wanton killing of babies justified? You said yourself that most Lebanese just want to go about their business.

And yes, I would care about the buckhot hitting Johnny's mother.

Also following your argument, if Israel is giving Hamas (and some say Iran) exactly what they want, how is that helping Israel? If you believe (as I do) that the Palestinian people were about to recognize Israel, then how does the current bombing campaign move us toward a lasting peace?

If one is to believe that the only solution is ultimate military destruction of surrounding areas, why not just bomb the whole area right now and get it over with?

Posted by Blogger AAFD @ Wednesday, August 02, 2006 2:17:00 PM #

Actually, Lebanon is not an ally of the United States - a friend, to be certain, but we have signed no alliance with Lebanon. It is much like the 1982 Falklands War between Great Britan and Argentina - we had close relations with Argentina but we had a long-standing alliance with Great Britan. When Argentina asked the US to intercede on its behalf the US told Argentina that they provoked the conflict by invading and capturing the Falkland Islands and that the US would functionally stay out of it, even though we provided the UK with material and moral support. We were and are allied with the UK, as we are now and have been allied with Israel - pledged to each other's mutual defense.

I would hardly call Israel's actions "the wanton destruction of babies" - that would be my description of abortion, but that's another discussion for another time. Israel is not targeting civilians, Hezbollah is hiding themselves and their arms among civilians, so when Israel takes out those soldiers and their munitions civilian casualties ensue. The fault here lies with those who initiated this conflict, with those who hide behind civilians instead of fighting military-to-military. The fault lies with those who actually are about the "wanton destruction of babies" - Hezbollah, who launched over 200 rockets into civilian housing just today.

How does all of this help Israel? It is the least-bad option available - when someone is raining hundreds of rockets into your cities and killing your civilians, asking your enemy not to do that simply is not an option. Sitting on your hands and doing nothing is not an option. Eliminating their capability to launch rockets into your cities is the only option, and when the country from where they are launching rockets is unwilling/unable to stop them from launching rockets into your civilian population centers then your only option is to eliminate their rocket-launching capability yourself. When your enemy refuses to fight military-to-military but instead fires off rockets and then blends back into civilian society you are forced to interdict their roads, bridges, power plants, and anything else that could facilitate the enemy launching rockets into the homes of your civilians. Any other concern - be it a road map to peace or increasing tourism - will have to wait until the security situation is handled. If your citizens are not secure in their own homes then you have failed as a government - there can be no peace when rockets are killing babies in their beds. Israel has to stop the rocket-launching, then they can concern themselves with a Palestinian peace process.

Why not carpet-bomb the whole area? Because the whole area is not the immediate problem - all of the Middle East doesn't need to be razed, but the presense and influence of Hezbollah must be pushed back to to a point where their rockets can no longer reach Israeli homes, and that means that a whole lot of innocent Lebanonese are going to get caught up in a mess that they could not control. I don't blame Israel for responding, I blame Hezbollah for forcing Israel to respond.

Does anyone really think that this is what Israel wants?

Posted by Blogger Athanasius @ Wednesday, August 02, 2006 6:25:00 PM #
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