Saturday, July 15, 2006

War Pigs

I have mentioned before that I have a rule against commenting on the Israel-Palestine situation. It is a fool's errand; both sides are unhinged, committing horrible acts in the insane hope that each will get what it wants.

But the strategic implications of the events unfolding over the past several days are simply too monumental to ignore. I actually can't believe how ineptly Israel has handled the situation so far. Perhaps they were taken aback at Hezbollah's sudden efficiency at hitting Israeli military targets; perhaps this had been in the works for a while, and Israel just bided its time for the inevitable provocation.

Whatever the case, their disproportionate response, killing scores of civilians and decimating Lebanon's infrastructure, has painted Israel into a real corner here. Of course Israel has the right to defend itself (not herself; personalizing a formalized statist construct is, in my humble opinion, a rather cryptofascist rhetorical technique, whether the speaker means for it to be or not). But it has a responsibility in defending itself to use measured, proportionate tactics. Of course Hezbollah is a Syrian-Iranian sock puppet. But Israel plays right into their hands by getting drawn into a proxy war with Syria, effectively destroying Lebanon's nascent democracy (as we were incessantly reminded by the usual halfwits drooling on their keyboards at the hot Lebanese protest chicks) and making itself look like the bad guy causing a bunch of unnecessary civilian casualties.

I'm not sure why Israel didn't stick with the tried-and-true method of small-scale border incursions to find and secure the release of its soldiers, or perhaps even allow for a few older terrorist prisoners to be released. Something shy of instigating a real war, of not just upping the ante but ramping it up drastically, practically overnight.

As Billmon points out, this is why asymmetrical warfare ironically benefits the weaker party, especially against stateless agents. The stronger party simply has no targets it can hit without making itself look monstrous.

(In that sense, Hezbollah may have found the sweet spot in Fourth Generation War: It isn't a state and doesn't carry the political or defensive burdens of one, but it controls enough territory, commands enough popular loyalty and has enough allies to mount some fairly sophisticated military operations, using both conventional and nonconventional weapons. It's powerful enough to be successful -- and be seen as successful -- but not so powerful that state actors like Israel can fight it on equal terms. We may be looking at the New Model Army of the 21st century.)

That's it. And just as a matter of practicality, nothing else, but when Israel shells a family going to a beach, or jumps into another country and obliterates its infrastructure in a weekend, instead of targeting its attacks in the area whence the inital attacks originated, they're essentially begging Palestinians and Lebanese Arabs to join Hezbollah or Hamas or whoever. All the happy talk about giving back this or that strip of land means jack shit to someone who has no life and no prospects. I'm not sure what makes them think this policy of collective punishment is ever going to do anything but inflame the existing situation.

I mean, I'm sorry, I'm well aware of the position Israel has been in since day one, and it's a country I really hope succeeds in the long run, but none of this helps its cause. There are no easy answers, obviously, but this one is especially perplexing, how quickly it's escalated.

Coupled with Chimpco's conspicuous silence on the matter, one might reasonably assume that ramping up the violence and further destabilizing the region is not a flaw but a feature. If they really are serious about hitting Iran, this would be one way to force the issue politically, but again, there is just no way to do that militarily without irrevocably alienating our allies and killing a lot of innocent people. There's not going to be even a pretend coalition of the willing; it'll be us and Israel. Blair has his hands full with domestic political scandals, and his party is ready to throw him under the bus out of self-preservation. China and Russia have significant interests in Iran, and they will take none too kindly to our belligerence.

Hopefully I'm wrong, but if we haven't yet learned not to overestimate the sheer stupidity of these people, and the ethical depths which they are more than willing to sink to, then we never will.

1 comment:

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