Thursday, July 13, 2006

War notes 

Lebanon, while entirely unhappy to be at the business end of Israeli ordnance, has pointed the finger at Syria and, by extension, Iran:

Syria is holding Lebanon hostage by giving orders to the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah which has captured two Israeli soldiers, a leading Lebanese minister said.

Syrian Vice-President "Faruq Shara gives the orders, Hezbollah executes them and Lebanon is the hostage," Communication Minister Marwan Hamadeh told AFP.

And, of course, Syria does nothing without orders from its overlords in Tehran.

Meanwhile, the United States has cast a veto against a United Nations resolution condemning Israel:
The United States cast the first U.N. Security Council veto in nearly two years Thursday, blocking an Arab-backed resolution that would have demanded Israel halt its military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The draft, sponsored by Qatar, accused Israel of a "disproportionate use of force" that endangered Palestinian civilians, and it demanded Israel withdraw its troops from Gaza.

This was a good veto to cast. It seems to me obvious that Israel's use of force has been extremely measured, all things considered. Indeed, it has not yet been sufficient to coerce the return of the soldiers held hostage by Hamas and Hezbollah, so whatever its proportionality it is manifestly inadequate.

MORE: Allison Kaplan Sommer observes that the missile attacks on Haifa have blown the lid off:
Let me try to describe exactly how the Hezbollah's missiles hitting Haifa was crossing a huge psychological red line for Israelis.

Imagine for a minute that there were terrorist groups sitting in Mexico. Every once in a while, they acted up, and there were incursions into small towns in southern Texas -- a missile was lobbed, the citizens had to go into bomb shelters. It would be horrible, everyone would wring their hands, every attempt possible would be done to stop it. That would be one thing.

Now compare that to a situation in which those terrorists got hold of longer-range missiles. They started firing into downtown Houston and downtown Dallas. And no one can tell if they might just start aiming for San Diego or Los Angeles.

A completely different story, no? A different world.

At this point, there will be no such thing as "overreaction" when it comes to the average Israeli. The rubicon has been crossed.

Here's the problem: If Israel fights for the humiliation or even destruction of Hezbollah's capacity to wage war, what will Iran do? Can it tolerate the destruction of its primary front-line asset without putting up a fight? Not without humiliating itself before the Muslim world.


By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Thu Jul 13, 05:53:00 PM:

Q: How many Palestinian civilians are worth one Israeli soldier?

A: I don't know, but the dozens dead so far is manifestly inadequate.

Most of the world condemns actions that target civilians.  

By Blogger Charlottesvillain, at Thu Jul 13, 05:59:00 PM:

apparently not when they are Isreali civilians.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Thu Jul 13, 06:40:00 PM:

Once a full-out hot war starts, and casualties aren't countable, that stuff becomes less relevant. You don't hear too much about Iraqi body counts, just American soldiers.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu Jul 13, 09:11:00 PM:

Two things, Lanky.

1, it's convenient PR to call any dead non-military person a 'civilian' when it suits your interest. If a CIA operative killed in the course of duty is not a civilian, neither is a terrorist foot soldier. All kinds of news channels report "12 civilians killed in Israeli airstrike," but they leave out that they were all armed with AKs and card carrying members of, say, Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade.

2, so what would be the proper Israeli response? Kill one Palestinian and let it go, because they are now 'even?' Or give in to Hamas's demands and free 1,000 prisoners? Do nothing, because nothing is worth the price of additional suffering, even if it means increasing the liklihood of similar attacks in the future?

What should your country do if you were kidnapped by a terrorist group as a bargaining chip?  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu Jul 13, 10:33:00 PM:

Assuming that the dead civilians were not targeted, but were unintended casualties of attacks against Hezbollah targets, Hezbollah is responsible for their deaths, not Israel. If you don't wear a uniform and use civilians as a shield or as camouflage against uniformed troops, you are the war criminal, not the uniformed soldiers.  

By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Fri Jul 14, 10:53:00 AM:

I was actually referring to the Palestinians, not the Lebaneese, but they're largely the same issue.

If you don't have any sympathy for the regular Lebaneese citizens who happened to be in the commercial airport when the Israelis blew it up, then ask yourself, why not? Were they gun-toting card-carrying terrorists? Did they deserve to die just for being in an airport that Hezbollah might use? Maybe it was their fault for not wearing uniforms, or their fault that Hezbollah doesn't? Maybe as a class of people the Lebaneese are just irrelevant. That would be a shame, because as far as I know, they're the only people to ever democratically remove a terrorist organization from power.

When Hamas kills civillians, it's wrong. When Hezbollah does it, it's wrong. When Israel does it, it's wrong. Maybe I'm just too simple to see it any other way.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Fri Jul 14, 11:47:00 AM:

I have enormous sympathy for any non-combatant killed in war. However, I also know how to determine who is culpable for that death.

The left has been eager for the West to apply the law of war in its war-on-terror operations. Well, one of the axioms of the law of war is that a nation is responsible for attacks launched on its soil. Is it the fault of the average Lebanese that its government is so weak that it cannot prevent Hezbollah from attacking Israel from Lebanon? No. But it is even less Israel's fault.

By any traditional measure of morality and law, Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and Lebanon -- probably in that order -- are responsible for unintended civilian casualties in Lebanon, because they have all supported or tolerated Hezbollah's unlawful activities from Lebanese soil.

Finally, I reject your moral equivalence. Intent matters in war crime, as in all crime. Israel obviously does what it can to avoid civilian casualties. This is difficult, since its enemy uses civilians as shields and as camouflage, both of which are crimes. If Israel intended to slaughter innocent civilians, there would be nobody living on the Gaza strip. Certainly if it were within the capability of Hamas or Hezbollah, there would be no Jews living in the Levant. There's your difference.  

By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Fri Jul 14, 07:52:00 PM:

I'll agree with some of the sentiments there, but not all. (surprised, I'm sure)

As for every traditional measure of morality and law would holding Hezbollah, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon responsible for the deaths of Lebaneese civilians...the Vatican doesn't, and I hear they're kinda traditional. Israel could have chosen to limit the offensive to Hezbollah targets. Instead they're taking out airports, power plants, etc...

As you point out, the Israelis have the capability of eradicating the Palestinians. Through their largesse, they choose not to. That's commendable, but I don't agree that it buys them the moral authority to destroy Lebaneese civilian targets.

I do agree Hezbollah is bad, and should get what it has coming to it. However they aren't the state government in Lebanon these days. (Unless the threat of Israel catapults another terrorist agency into power.) The ordinary democratic Lebaneese could have been an ally against extremists, but I'm guessing instead the citizenry will band together and focus on national defense. I call that our loss.

Killing people is wrong and killing civillians is worse. Killing civillians who might have democratically voted Hezbollah out of power adds a icing of foolishness. It would have been cool if Israel had showed a little more restraint, but even better if they'd shown more discrimination. To the extent that criticism of Israel is ever allowed, I hope you can see my point.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jul 15, 12:35:00 AM:

More than two thousand years ago, the polemicist known to historians as "Pseudo-Xenophon" or "the Old Oligarch" criticized Athenian demokrateia for the lack of accountability of its citizens. In an oligarchy, he claimed, the oligarchs were small enough in number that each one could be identified with the policies that he advocated. In a democracy, on the other, any citizen could deny any responsibility, saying that he opposed an action, but was in the minority, even if the truth was otherwise.

If the Athenian polity, with its relatively restricted franchise and its open institutions, allowed the hypocrite to hide in the mass of its fellows, what shall we say of the modern Lebanese state? Hezbullah representatives sit in the Lebanese parliament; Hezbullah openly flaunts the nominal sovereignty of Lebanon, conducting atrocities from bases on its soil. Why should not the entire population of Lebanon be considered, at a minimum, co-conspirators in its crimes? And what then should Israel do, when faced with so many heavily murderers?  

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