July 14, 2006

War!

by Michael J. Totten

I'm sorry to be gone and (mostly) unable to blog at a horrible time like this, when a city I love and used to live in is under attack by an ally of my country. I'm scrambling to keep up with what's going on while trying to do my temporary full-time and all-consuming job, which ends in a week. Meanwhile I try, as much as is possible, to console some of my friends while their country burns, while fighter jets scream over head, while columns of filthy black smoke blot out the sun.

Israel has a right - nay, a moral obligation - to defend itself and rescue the kidnapped. But what kind of down-the-rabbit-hole war is this, where the guilty parties - the Baath regime in Syria and the Jihad regime in Iran - sleep warm in their beds while Beirut, a libertine city they hate, takes the punishment for them?

The dictators in the region have always been happy to fight the Israelis to the last Palestinian. Now it looks like they're happy to fight the Israelis to the last Lebanese, too. And why not? Lebanon is a relatively liberal and almost half Christian sort-of democracy. Can't have any of that in the region if you're a totalitarian mullah. It suits Tehran just fine if the Jews slug it out with such people.

Bashar al-Assad promised to make Lebanon burn if his Syrian occupation soldiers were forced out of the country. No doubt he is ecstatic at this latest turn of events. His principal enemies are killing each other instead of teaming up against him like they would in a better and more intelligent world.

Israel and Lebanon are the two freest countries in the Middle East. They are the only countries, aside from tortured Iraq, that hold unrigged elections for parliaments and heads of state. The tyrants to their east have pulled quite a coup, haven't they? The two countries friendliest to America and to liberal Western values are now shooting each other. (The Lebanese army, which has cooperated with Israel in the past behind the scenes, is now firing anti-aircraft guns at Israeli planes.)

It's a catastrophe for Lebanon, which is now under siege because Iran took it hostage. It's a catastrophe for Israel, which could have, and should have, worked toward a peace process with the Lebanese. Lebanese are (were?) far and away the most likely of all Arabs to sign a genuine treaty at some point down the road. And it's a catastrophe for the United States. We have few friends in the region already, none of whom get along well with each other as it is.

The Middle East was in a holding pattern until two days ago. No one knew what would happen next, what the next big thing would be. Now we know. The democracies suffer and bleed and turn on each other while their enemies, our enemies, sit back and watch. The Baath regime and the Jihad regime rest easy knowing that Israel is too cautious or gutless to take the fight to the source and chooses to hit the country of the Cedar Revolution instead.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 14, 2006 09:12 PM
Comments

Israel and Lebanon are the two freest countries in the Middle East.

Well, one is a democracy.

The other is a partial-democracy with a rogue (i mean, elected) theocratic fascist political entity with a "private militia" that the government has done nothing about, nor have they asked for help from the international community.

And then, surprise, this theocratic fascist political entity and its private militia start a war.

It's a catastrophe for Israel, which could have, and should have, worked toward a peace process with the Lebanese.

And they could do this with Hezbollah in the government and getting a free run in South Lebanon?

We're told that the Lebanese government is incapable of disarming Hezbollah.

So how is peace treaty signed by the Lebanese government supposed to be worth the paper it's printed on?

Unfortunately, the way the Arab world works - if the Lebanese government and Israel were having direct peace negoatiations (and, to remind everyone, the Israelis pulled out of Lebanon six years ago), that would strengthen Hezbollah because they could use the "emotion" of the Arab street against any deal with "the Zionists."

This is something President Bush and Condoleeza Rice do not understand (one among many things): for right now, the more "democratic" an Arab country is, the less likely it will be able to sign a genuine peace deal with Israel.

It's sad, but true.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at July 14, 2006 09:42 PM

Israel and Lebanon are the two freest countries in the Middle East.

Well, one is a democracy.

The other is a partial-democracy with a rogue (i mean, elected) theocratic fascist political entity with a "private militia" that the government has done nothing about, nor have they asked for help from the international community.

And then, surprise, this theocratic fascist political entity and its private militia start a war.

It's a catastrophe for Israel, which could have, and should have, worked toward a peace process with the Lebanese.

And they could do this with Hezbollah in the government and getting a free run in South Lebanon?

We're told that the Lebanese government is incapable of disarming Hezbollah.

So how is peace treaty signed by the Lebanese government supposed to be worth the paper it's printed on?

Unfortunately, the way the Arab world works - if the Lebanese government and Israel were having direct peace negoatiations (and, to remind everyone, the Israelis pulled out of Lebanon six years ago), that would strengthen Hezbollah because they could use the "emotion" of the Arab street against any deal with "the Zionists."

This is something President Bush and Condoleeza Rice do not understand (one among many things): for right now, the more "democratic" an Arab country is, the less likely it will be able to sign a genuine peace deal with Israel.

It's sad, but true.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at July 14, 2006 09:43 PM

Michael, it's good to hear from you. I am sorry you have to watch this happen to Lebanon. I'm with you, and I hope and pray we move the fight to where it belongs, in Damascus and Tehran.

Posted by: Asher Abrams - Dreams Into Lightning at July 14, 2006 10:04 PM

The Lebanese government is a 'let's pretend' government, because it is not committed to controlling its own territory. What we see now is what happens in that case - the crazies in the other part of the country can drag you into a war.

It's very much as if we let a bunch of American Indians repeatedly launch murderous raids into Canada. We could hardly say a response against our own territory was unjustified, particularly if it was targeted at the aggressors.

Posted by: ZF at July 14, 2006 10:05 PM

It's a catastrophe for Israel, which could have, and should have, worked toward a peace process with the Lebanese.

Excuse me, which Lebanese? Michael obviously has a soft spot for Lebanon so he's not thinking rationally.

Lebanon has no real government. It hardly deserves to call itself a nation state. It's a nation of merchants and shopkeepers living in fear of the Hisbolllah mafia. They are a Somalia with tourism, a lawless land, where nobody is in charge so nobody is responsible. So who was Israel to negotiate with? The shopkeepers in Beirut? They're going to face down Hisbollah? puleeeez. They haven't forgotten the civil war and they weren't going to risk it for the jews. So they ignored the problem. Now look at them.

Posted by: Carlos at July 14, 2006 10:23 PM

Thank you Michael for your post. There's little we can do right now except wait for the storm to pass. The situation is out of our hands.

Posted by: Montreal at July 14, 2006 10:26 PM

"Well, one is a democracy.

The other is a partial-democracy with a rogue (i mean, elected) theocratic fascist political entity with a "private militia" that the government has done nothing about, nor have they asked for help from the international community."

It's the best thing that you can get in the Arab world. I remind you that America invaded a country and spend hundred of billions in it, but was unable to create a system that is worth half of Lebanon's.

Posted by: montreal at July 14, 2006 10:29 PM

It's terribly sad to see the potential for a two-state peace dissipate instantly because those opposing peace intentionally provoked war by invading Israel and kidnapping her soldiers. This exposes the democratic will of those who turned out the previous government in Palestine (Gaza), and exposes the fiction that Lebanon is "a" country. It is not. It is two countries. One has a formal government and the other a military council. One claims territory, while the other occupies and rules a portion of that territory, irrespective of the claims or wishes of the formal government. The peaceful modus vivendi between the two existed at the sufferance of the military council. The current action has made that clear.

Saying that Israel might be too cautious or gutless in refraining from attacking what you conclude are the states that govern the choices of the Hezbollah military council, involves multiple leaps in reasoning without uncontroverted evidence. Crazy folks sometimes go crazy all by themselves, even if others are happy to see it.

Democratization of the Palestinian election process has had that dreaded unintended consequence. It exposed the difference between the people and their then-leaders. Israel is intelligently paying attention to the will of those people as expressed through their newly elected government, which will is shared by the contingent in Lebanon.

Genuine peace for and with Israel can't be had a country at a time, with single treaties between Israel and weak semi-states. It has to be regional, or it's phony, a delusion for Israel and fairly meaningless for the other signatory state. Today's reality is that states have, less than ever before, absolute significance in war and peace. Conflict is more between factions, not so much between states. That the identity of fighters and states may be the same is coincidence today, not a necessity, especially where a weak state fails to monopolize deadly force within its own territory. That is Lebanon's critical flaw, and why it is the locus, but not the focus, of military action. The rockets aren't being fired from Iran or Syria, but from within Lebanese territory. That, sir, is the source that counts in actual life and death.

Your sorrow for Lebanon is achingly understandable. But her acquiescence to being occupied by a military force that can operate without her approval is the cause of her current pain. Actual war is waged by real people. Israel is defending against those real people by counter-attacking them. Governments issue words and policies and directives. Soldiers fire weapons. Israel is counter-attacking those who fire the weapons at her, not those who fire words. It's a very reasonable choice. First, neutralize deadly force. Only then, deal with those who encouraged it.

Posted by: Seadog at July 14, 2006 10:48 PM

Welcome back Michael. Get your butt back to your real job, which is keeping us informed about Lebanon! (just kidding.) My question to you is whether there is a realistic chance that Israel can weaken Hizbollah sufficiently so that the Lebanese military can assume the role of guardian of the border. I'm skeptical. Seems to me that public sentiment in Lebanon is likely to become more sympathetic towards Hizbollah the more "punishment" the rest of Lebanon gets handed by Israel. Israel should leave out that part of its program (punishing Lebanon). To the other comments above I say, it is unrealistic at this stage to expect the Lebanese government to control Hezbollah. Jeez, give the Lebanese some credit: they chased out Syria, but Syria still has the poor country by the short hairs.

At this point Israel's behavior comes across less as a strategic decision to confront Hezbollah than as a spontaneous reaction to convince Israel's enemies that Olmert and his government are willing to fight and fight nasty to protect Israel. I'd welcome a decisive blow against Hezbollah, but, as with all wars, keeping the focus is very hard. Things take on their own dynamic, and the next thing you know you're shooting at folks you originally didn't consider part of the fight.

Too bad Bush screwed up so badly in Iraq. The time is ripe for the big boys to show Iran and Syria how to put on their pants. But I doubt it's gonna happen anytime soon.

Posted by: Karl B. at July 14, 2006 10:56 PM

Apparantly the kidnapping raid was planned over the last four months. It was hardly spontaneous. Likewise, Iran and Syria have been arming and training Hizballah. There are thousands of rockets in the southern Lebanon that can reach Israel. There is simply no way that there was not going to be a confrontation at some point. Iran itself is clearly set on it and Nazrullah is not going away without a fight. So now or later, take your pick, but you have to pick one.

Do you think Israel should have decared war on Syria? Do you think they could have done that? Certainly the US and Iraq also have good reason to declare such a war, but they haven't done so. Should they. Are you willing to push for such a war? What about Iran? It is going to be a continuing problem, even Arab countries on the gulf are worried. There too is another war brewing, and I suspect Iraq will suffer the consequences.

Such are the times. I don't have the answers. And really, I don't think there are any easy peaceful ones. Sorry.

Posted by: chuck at July 14, 2006 11:29 PM

Totten is 100% correct on one point. As long as Tehran and Damascus are left alone they will never stop the fight unless Iran can strike a "Hezbollah will release the soldiers if you leave our Nuke program alone." Israel attacked, Lebannon destabilized, eventually Israel will be attacked for overreacting, hell Syria thinks that the U.N will invite Syria back in to keep the "peace". Thats why Iran said there will be war if Israel attacks Syria.Translation- bomb the crap out of Lebannon, we'll scrape off the remains and make it southern Syria again. Michael, I do have one question. If Israel went straight to Damascus, would the cedar revolution support or destroy Hezbollah? or at least turn their heads away and let Israel do it for them. If not it seems that Israel has to at least degrade their offensive capabilities.

Posted by: kevin peters at July 14, 2006 11:34 PM

Israel is too cautious or gutless to take the fight to the source and chooses to hit the country of the Cedar Revolution instead.

In terms I think are more familiar to you than I think war is:
A bunch of kids are shooting BB guns at you and your wife in an alley. Your wife takes a BB to the eye.

Do you:
1. Position yourself between the thugs and your wife to protect her, gather all the stones you can and fling them at the brats to fight off the onslaught.
2. Sprint out of the alley, ignoring the brats and leaving your wife open to more injury, because you know damned well those kids could not afford the price of those BB guns. So you're going after their utterly irresponsible parents. Because if there's one thing about you it's that you are not ever going to be thought of as too cautious or gutless to take the fight to the source.
3. Position yourself between the thugs and your wife to protect her, gather all the stones you can and fling them at the brats to fight off the onslaught. Get those brats off your back. Get your wife medical attention. And then see about those damned irresponsible parents.
4. Run to an internet cafe. Order a really terrific coffee. Grab a keyboard. And write a withering blog which blames everyone in sight and especially decries all the now broken windows in the alley. Which had recently become your very favorite alley. Even though the alley was teeming with punks. Because that alley had an ineffable charm which could only be truly experienced by those who have strolled down it. An even then you had to have an exquisitely open mind to really appreciate the place for it's true essense. Warts and all dontchaknow.
And now it's all in pieces because the City Council of Seattle failed to keep the streets of Portland free of thugs from Portland whose step-father lives in Phoenix.

Posted by: Stephen_M at July 14, 2006 11:45 PM

bad analogy, stephen m. because the BB gun shooters aren't alone in that alley.

let's make it a schoolyard instead. michael and his wife are passing by at recess and some kids start shooting BB guns. his wife takes a BB to the eye.

should michael

1. gather all the stones he can and fling them at the brats to fight off the onslaught, regardless of all the other children (who vastly outnumber the thug kids, but are incapable of doing much as bullies rule the playground) who get struck and wounded in the process? knock down the school itself in retribution, so neither the thugs nor the other children can receive an education?

2. or should he get his wife out of there, call over a teacher to keep the kids in check for the rest of the school day, and pay a visit to the parents tonight?

Posted by: carine at July 15, 2006 12:16 AM

The sad thing is that Israel has fallen right into the trap that the Syrian and Iranian paymasters of Hezbollah have set for them. The way things have turned out, everyone who most decent people would want to see win, have lost.

The Israelis have lost as they won't get their guys back and will fall further down in world public opinion. They're dealing with an enemy that, like most extremist movements, has an almost infinite capacity to take casualties and make sacrifices. Something we in the democratic world (and I include Lebanon north of the southern third) don't have. And if a few of Hezbollah's compatriots get killed and the economy is in ruins? All for the greater cause of humiliating the 'Zionist entity' isn't it!

The majority of decent Lebanese have lost out as the country that they have been trying to rebuild really has gone backwards 20 years. And don't give me the "their fault as they should have disarmed Hezbollah" line - how exactly were they to do that short of civil war? My understanding (correct me if I'm wrong Michael) is that dialogue was indeed under way among political parties in Lebanon to move them in that direction.

The United States has lost out as once again it's pretty much sitting around and doing nothing.

And who are the winners? Nasrallah who is starting to talk and act like he's the President of Lebanon. Hezbollah who know that they've shut down any debate about their role in Lebanon. Assad, Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah, who now call the shots in the region - and their interest in stability is just about zero.

Posted by: Dirk at July 15, 2006 12:53 AM

Karl B.,
Sorry to quibble, but...

give the Lebanese some credit: they chased out Syria

I think the credit should go to the United States and as much as it pains me to say it...to Fwance.

Posted by: Natasha at July 15, 2006 12:57 AM

Looking at the areas bombed by Israel, I see them cutting off avenues of escape and refitting by Hezbollah. I'd expect a massive invasion of troops to take care of the missile stores. This invasion will probably go near Syria on the East - daring Syria to get involved. In any case, the destruction of a good portion of Hezbollah forces should let the Lebanese army take over finally.

Or maybe I'm just an optimist.

Posted by: yag at July 15, 2006 01:14 AM

Dirk,
don't give me the "their fault as they should have disarmed Hezbollah" line - how exactly were they to do that short of civil war?

Guess we're going to find out now. h

here's how I think they should have done it verses sticking their head in the sand and hoping for the status quo to give them cover...

I suspect the Lebanese government will go to the U.N., declare itself impotent, plead for international assistance for implementation of Res. 1559...international pressure forces hizbollah to remove itself from the southern border, the cooperative Lebanese military moves in, IDF forces cease-fire, the Lebanese have their country back - a step closer to a sovereign country, hizbollah loses, nasrallah or whatever his name loses, syria loses, iran loses.... there. that's how it's done. democracy in action.

Posted by: Natasha at July 15, 2006 01:19 AM

If Israel plans to attack Damascus it must first pacify its left flank and rear. I think it's way too soon to tell what is coming next.

Posted by: Todd Grimson at July 15, 2006 01:22 AM

Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas have all planned this out very well to serve multiple purposes.

1) Draw G8 focus away from Iran Nukes.
2) Overshadows the deadline Iran was supposed to meet the very same day.
3) If anyone noticed, Syrian KingNut's nutters were out in force telling the world that, "Syria will defend the Lebanese." As if they are heroes.
4) Turns up propaganda of hate on Arab TV showing scence over and over.
5) Removes growing tension within their own countries problems from Gaza, Iran and Syria. They get a reprieve. We would have a better country if it were not for those darn Zionist! Grrrrr! We would build hospitals and schools....

Sure....

Michael, I enjoy many of your insights. You're right about one thing, Lebanon could not take care of their own problems. But this was due to fear. They allowed Terrorist in their city to get stronger, add more weapons, sophisticated technology now with UAVs and anti-tank weapons to them as well. Hezbollah increased their ability to cause destruction and chaos.

I realize Lebanon did not want civil war. But that is avoiding the unavoidable when you allow bombs to be shot from your country and attacks from your land to continue for 6 years straight. You cannot live with the devil's minions and not expect to eventually pay the piper. Soon or later, because of the evil they let stay in their country, bloodshed would reign again. If you cannot control your own land, then any country hurt by people on your land will eventually respond.

This was not the first time Hezbollah hit and killed Israeli soldiers or civilians in the last 6 years.

I'd make some recommendations to Israel and "Lebanese Who Want Change".

1) Lebanon must denounce Hezbollahs attacks and demand they stop acting as heads of the state! Why does some nutjob in Lebanon have the authority to declare war against Israel if he is not the Prime Minister? They are only a fraction, 1/3 and have no right to attack another country.

Lebanon must denounce the threats, the acts and tell the world that Hezbollah does not speak for it.

2) Lebanon must denounce the words of Syria and tell them never to enter Lebanon again. And tell them to stop supporting Hezbollah. And that Syria has no right to speak for Lebanon as they have not requested Syria's help.

3) Allow Israel to take care of Hezbollah fully. Set borders to seal off Hezbollah in the south. That's it, they must stand for their country. Get the civilians out, stand the army up.

4) Israel must condemn Hezbollah again and again. That they want the Lebanese to be a free country. That Hezbollah is responsible for killing innocents and attaking Israel. Over and over again, they must repeat these are actions against Hezbollah, the terrorist supported by Iran and Syria. Do not allow the rogue states and terror regimes to control the media.

5) G8 must come out in strong condemnation of Hezbulloah, Hamas, Syria and Iran and continue to move forward on sanctions against Iran if they refuse to act on the nukes.

We agree, Syria and Iran must be held responsible. Their leaders are the cause of all of this. Israel needs to try and work with the few responsible leaders in Lebanon to insure they do not harm civilians, but focus squarely on Hezbollah.

Israel could clear the entire southern end of Hezbollah, then have the Lebanese Army take over the operating space to keep the lunatic thugs out.

The truth is, as long as Hezbollah has any power, especially more military power than the Lebanese Army and is not disarmed, this will continue forever as long as Syria and Iran like it.

Posted by: Michael at July 15, 2006 03:45 AM

Israel is fighting the government of Lebanon, which is Hezbollah. They have missles, airplanes, an army; they control terrority, provide social services. Apart from the fiction of a Lebanese parliment and elected officials, who have been invisible since this all started, is there anything resembling government in Lebanon that is not Hezbollah?

The only honorable course of action on the part of the Lebanese "government" is to side with Israel and declare war on Hezbollah, even if it means their own destruction. No honorable patriot could do anything else. The fact they haven't done this speaks volumes of their concern for their country.

Posted by: Seymour Paine at July 15, 2006 05:29 AM

Enough with this "Lebanon is innocent" crap. Hezbollah isn't part of the Syrian government or the Iranian government. It is part of the Lebanese government. Lebanon is actually ruled by those fundamentalist terrorists. Their people are Lebanese, their bases are in Lebanon, they are elected by the people of Lebanon. And being pro-syrian doesn't make them any less Lebanese.

This attack was ordered on the highest levels by members of Lebanon's government. And then other ministers were complaining that they "were not informed". Well then if they don't know what their own fellow ministers and MPs are doing then what's their use? They should just resign. I should also point out that the government did not condemn this attack and it completely endorses the "resistance" to return "occupied territory" south of the blue line, and maintains a state of war with Israel.

If Lebanon doesn't want to be targeted for the actions of Hezb, the government should simply announce that all territory south of Sidon is not Lebanese territory, and recognize the independent state of Hizbollahland. But as long as they claim that as Lebanese territory, they will be held responsible for what is going on there.

Regarding Syria/Iran. Israel wasn't attacked from Syria/Iran by a Syrian/Iranian political party and member of the govenment. It was attacked from LEBANON by a LEBANESE political party and member of the government claiming it was doing it for LEBANON. Imagine Cuba firing missiles at the US and in response the US invades Canada. Naturally the Lebanese don't want to be bombed, but do you think the Syrians want to be bombed? How would you explain to a Syrian that his country is being bombed because Lebanon attacks Israel (while the border with Syria is quiet), particularly after the Syrian army withdrew from Lebanon under intense pressure. And how would the world react?

So in conclusion this operation is only beginning and Lebanon better accept responsibility over what is happening in it's own sovereign territory or suffer much much more damage and destruction.

Posted by: Alex at July 15, 2006 06:06 AM

Fox is reporting that it was not a drone that attacked the IDF boat.
It was an Iranian built C802 (Chinese design) Anti-ship Cruise Missile fired by Iranian Revolutionary Guards "advisors" (100 reported with Hizbollah). Vessel hit was a Saar V PGG.

Posted by: dj elliott at July 15, 2006 06:14 AM

Dirk, you're missing the point: the Lebanese government was never going to disarm Hizbullah short of civil war. They had to engage in civil war to take control of their country.

Morality aside -- and, as others have argued, it was immoral and craven for Lebanon to not only fail to rein in Hizbullah, but to accept them as part of their government -- the Lebanese have long been faces with a choice: fight Hizbullah, or fight the IDF.

Right now, they're just getting a taste of what the IDF can do -- which do you think is the better choice?

More importantly, after much of Hizbullah is destroyed, which do you think the Lebanese will think is the better choice?

The Israeli ambassador to the UN put it plainly to his Lebanese counterpart: he should have denounced Hizbullah; the Lebanese should be joinin with the IDF in rooting out Hizbullah. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the prudent thing to do.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at July 15, 2006 06:29 AM

"But what kind of down-the-rabbit-hole war is this, where the guilty parties - the Baath regime in Syria and the Jihad regime in Iran - sleep warm in their beds."

Can anyone making this argument explain why attacking Iran or Syria would end Hezbollah attacks on Israel rather than intensify them?

Israel has absolutely no choice but to eliminate Hezbollah themselves. And since they will get no help from anyone, their only option is to do so using very harsh methods.

No country in the world except Israel is expected to put other nation's citizens ahead of their own.

Posted by: Shmuel at July 15, 2006 06:55 AM

"The sad thing is that Israel has fallen right into the trap that the Syrian and Iranian paymasters of Hezbollah have set for them."

I think it's just the opposite. Hamas and Hezbollah kidnapped soldiers thinking it would be business as usual. That is, Israel would be forced to negotiate, rather than risk a new Arab-Israeli war. Rather, Israel has managed to change rules after wihdrawing from Gaza and Lebanon and Hamas and Hezbollah won't get out of this alive. Israel won't start a thing with Syria or Iran. Why should they?

Posted by: Shmuel at July 15, 2006 07:03 AM

It feels awfully good to hear the voice of reason when all of us are caught in a whirlwind of madness. Thank you Michael.

Posted by: Fouad at July 15, 2006 07:32 AM

An attack, per se, on Syria wouldn't stop the transfer of weaponry and money to Hizbullah. On the other hand, an attack of sufficient force to end -- or threaten -- the Assad regime might persuade the Syrians to conduct themselves differently.

My guess is that we're less than 72 hours before Syria starts getting hit.

That said, doing it without hitting Hizbullah where they live -- in Lebanon -- would be almost useless. The Israelis seem to have several ideas going:

1. Hit Hizbullah, hard, and reduce their ability to do damage. That's going on right now, and can be expected to ramp up, not down. That'll take both air strikes and an incursion at least to the Litani, probably further.

2. Hit Lebanon hard enough to make it clear that it's riskier for them not to fight Hizbullah than to fight Hizbullah. That's started to happen, although the damage is minor, so far. (Bombing of the airport's runways rather than turning the whole facility into rubble, for example.) The Lebanese can be expected to protest that the damage isn't minor, while noticing how much worse it could -- and possibly will -- be.

3. Warn Syria (done with the flyby over Baby Assad's house), and then hit them, too. The real question here is not whether Syria will get hit by the IAF (the clock's counting down on that), but whether the armor gets rolling. Syria can't be hurt enough by air strikes that it's had time to prepare for for it to do enough damage.

4. Iran? I don't have the slightest idea what Israel has in store for Iran at the moment. But there has to be something down the line.

It's the behind-the-scenes diplomacy between Israel and Lebanon that's the key, at this point. If the Lebanese are persuaded that they simply have to take on Hizbullah, and are persuasive that they will -- and it won't be an easy sell to the Ohlmert government -- this can quickly settle down to IDF attacks on/ movement into the South, with very little (other than air strikes on Hizbullah targets) north of the Litani.

The Lebanese argument is that they don't have enough of an army to take on Hizbullah -- and they're right, in a vacuum. But they're not living in a vacuum -- the Lebanese army does have resources to do a lot of damage to Hizbullah as long as the IDF is striking at Hizbullah targets.

If Hizbullah is forced into a two-front war -- against both Israel and Lebanon -- Lebanon can get out of this with relative minor damage.

If the IDF has to go to Beirut to root out Hizbullah, it'll be ugly.

That said, it's likely that Lebanon will take this opportunity to miss the opportunity, and try to get away with promising to consider talking about negotiating the possibility of talking about negotiating doing something about Hizbullah.

I don't think that'll work.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at July 15, 2006 07:46 AM

"The sad thing is that Israel has fallen right into the trap that the Syrian and Iranian paymasters of Hezbollah have set for them."

Yes, just like the U.S. fell into Osama's "trap" by invading Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet we are still waiting for the Ummah to uprise and overthrow even a single Arab government. Osama has ensnared only himself, reduced to making home video for Al-jazeera in some dirt cave somewhere. Real nice "trap."

And so much for Iran's "trap." They are the Wiley Coyotes of the middle east with all their "traps", and nobody is fooled. They will be happily obliged just as we obliged Osama. If Wiley Coyote can't back up his trap with some firepower then he is only ensnaring himself, not Israel.

Posted by: Carlos at July 15, 2006 08:04 AM

I think Michael's characterization of what is happening is a perfect reflection of precisely why it is happening. That is, his love for Lebanon allows him to misunderstand and mischaracterize the realities of the situation -- just as Lebanon itself does corporately.

It can only be a stupid romanticism or some form of madness to think that Hezbollah's role and popularity among a large segment of the Lebanese population could allow peaceful coexistence with Israel, or indeed, could allow peace at all, ever.

When the inevitable war so longed for by the Islamists is forced, though, engaging in reasonings which split the blame between Hezbollah (but, of course, not beloved Lebanon) and Israel is something much worse, much less innocent, than mere romanticism. Such thinking is morally bankrupt, and ultimately such thinking is as great a threat to freedom, security, and peace as the Islamists themselves. Indeed, such thinking is the sine qua non without which the Islamists cannot ultimately succeed.

Wake up. It's neither loving nor wise to encourage the Lebanese (nor yourself) in continuing the self-deception that Lebanon can finally be trusted more or treated differently than Hezbollah. Lebanon, at least until you all wake up, is Hezbollah.

Posted by: Levans at July 15, 2006 08:04 AM

Michael, you sound like you are thinking with your heart, rather than your brain.

Posted by: DagneyT at July 15, 2006 09:05 AM

Or perhaps not.

Responding to a report in a pan-Arab daily newspaper that Israel presented Damascus with an ultimatum, an Israel Defense Forces officer said Saturday that targeting Syria is currently not on Israel's agenda.

Posted by: dawnsblood at July 15, 2006 09:07 AM

I felt the same way as Michael when this all started. Why Beirut? Especially after the Cedar Revolution.

But it seems clear now (I hope) that the IDF is sealing in Hezbollah to block all escape routes through which to funnel the kidnapped soldiers.

The IDF may be doing what Beirut could not: cutting off Hezbollah and then killing it.

May Baby Assad be next.

-Ducati

Posted by: Ducati at July 15, 2006 09:24 AM

Natasha, quibble away. I've watched revolutions since the Solidarity movement was getting cranked up. Absent widespread public support in the country affected, no amount of political jawboning is going to result in the removal of an occupying force like Syria. With all respect to the importance of cooperation between the US and France on this matter, they would not have risked one soldier's life to force Syria out. The Lebanese paid with numerous lives and are still paying the price.

The question is, what can the US and France do now to minimize the influence of Iran and Syria in Lebanon so that the Lebanese can get a grip on Hezbollah.

Posted by: Karl B. at July 15, 2006 10:47 AM

"Almost one half"

Hardly. Maronites are 25% and Orthodox 10%. Lebanon has never been. Lebanon's problems are partly a function of its failure to realize that truth.

If the Shi'ah had been given one-man-one-vote, there would not have been a HizbAllah.

Posted by: David M. McClory at July 15, 2006 11:33 AM

"There are thousands of rockets in the southern Lebanon that can reach Israel. There is simply no way that there was not going to be a confrontation at some point."

Much the same scenario as in the early 1980s, remember.

As much as I admire the Lebanese Cedar Revolution, it is incomplete. Hezbollah needs to vamoose just as much as the Syrians do.

Posted by: The Sanity Inspector at July 15, 2006 12:31 PM

I've got to say, Michael, I'm with your commenters.

Would you be cheering "go Israel!" if we were attacking Iran right now?

All of our alternatives suck right now.

1. Doing what we are doing to a greater or lesser degree
2. Attacking "the source" in Syria and Iran as you recommend and have the world come crashing down on us for starting World War 3.
3. Doing nothing -- and deal with the message that would send

Posted by: Allison at July 15, 2006 01:59 PM

Karl B.,
Absent widespread public support in the country affected, no amount of political jawboning is going to result in the removal of an occupying force like Syria[insert occupying militant terrorist organization, regime or fascist dictator(ship) here].

It seems you've clarified the need for use of force in the greater WoT.

they would not have risked one soldier's life to force Syria out

U.S. soldier's risk their lives every day fighting for freedoms for those who are unable to secure it for themselves - whatever the reason.

The question is, what can the US and France do now to minimize the influence of Iran and Syria in Lebanon so that the Lebanese can get a grip on Hezbollah.

1. Encourage the Lebanese to finish the work themselves and work URGENTLY with the U.N. and all concerned parties with the implementation of res. 1559 AND Taif accords from 1989 concerning "restoration of the territorial integrity, full sovereignty, and political independence of Lebanon" and never let up, not for a moment of cheese, wine and crackers until it is done.

2. Support by whatever means possible Israel and Lebanon's right to defend herself from and against the terrorist militia, Hizbollah, who occupies Lebanon and those who support them. Defund, disarm, dismantle by all means necessary. Once and for all.

Just a start.

Posted by: Natasha at July 15, 2006 02:29 PM

How about, in addition to blaming foreign capitals for backing Hezbollah, we also point out that Israel's ridiculous overreaction is seriously imperiling the Lebanese government.

Posted by: Chris at July 15, 2006 03:20 PM

The Lebanese army still has the opportunity to stop shooting the IDF and turn against Hizbollah. Once they do that, the front line will be clear. It will be obvious who is fighting who. Instead the Lebanese army decided to stay low as its government play victim just like the Palestinians like to play victim all the time.

Rob.

Posted by: robert at July 15, 2006 06:24 PM

Maybe if Lebanon had cracked down on Hezbollah when they were firing RPGs at Israeli settlements, this war could have been prevented, too.

Sure, Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government. But if the US's Democratic Party was firing cruise missiles at Ontario, and Hillary Clinton was screaming every day that Niagra Falls would run red with Canadian blood, do you think anyone would have believed George Bush if he said, "They're democratically elected representatives, so there is nothing we can do to stop them."

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at July 15, 2006 08:40 PM

Michael and others are right that attacking hizballah-land is a short-sighted approach that's not going to solve the larger problem. Mythology aside, however, it's the best Israel can do. At a minimum, invading Syria would leave Israel's flanks so exposed that even the Gazans could make serious trouble; airstrikes against Iran would be costly and probably wouldn't do enough damage to prevent a bloody retaliation.

The ideal would be a full-scale US invasion of Syria and Iran, but even if serious planning began today, it would be at least two years before the necessary number of troops could be fielded.

A realistic alternative would be a naval campaign to destroy Iranian ocean commerce (especially weapons shipments to mediterranean terrorists) coupled with sustained airstrikes against Syria and Iran on the model of the current Israeli campaign in Lebanon. Bonus: an opportunity to learn and develop countermeasures against many current Chinese-made weapons.

Posted by: Stacy at July 15, 2006 09:27 PM

Stratfor says that Israel is trying to destroy Hezbollah (hitting roads, etc. keeps Hizbollah from resupplying), and that Hezbollah seems to think it can win.. At worst Hezbollah thinks they can retreat into Syria.

In anycase, it looks like the Lebanese government is willing to actually try to disarm Hezbollah, so maybe Israel's gamble has some positive effect. And, oddly enough, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and even the PA are distancing themselves from Hezbollah. Could this be a water shed, a tipping point?

Maybe the retreat from Gaza, and the following proof that the Palestinians are as intrasigent as the Israelis have been saying has caused Arabs to decide that war with Israel over Palestine has become too much of a liability.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at July 15, 2006 09:38 PM

Michael,

You're blog is great and the work that you do is priceless. I love getting a totally new perspective on the world that the main stream media doesn't provide. That being said, I have a serious problem with this post.

Saying that Israel is gutless because it does not attack Syria and Iran is totally hypocritical. Why should Israel get dragged into a war with these two nations when Lebanon lets its territory be used by Syria and Iran to direct attacks against Israel.

The gutless ones are those who allowed Hezbollah to grow in strength. It is easy to wave flags in a crowd of one million to evict the Syrians. Why should Israel be forced to clean southern Lebanon and lose its soldiers in what otherwise should be an internal fight? The foundation for any nation is the idea of one gun, one authority. Lebanon was corrupted when it allowed Hezbollah into its government.

Posted by: FreeThinker at July 15, 2006 10:24 PM

They also speculate that Israel could topple the Bashar regime but won't because it's afraid that what will follow Bashar will be even more hostile toward Israel.

Who could blame them for seeing that?

Posted by: Josh Scholar at July 15, 2006 10:31 PM

"What should the Israelis have done instead? They should have treated Hezbollahland as a country, which it basically is, and attacked it. They should have treated Lebanon as a separate country, which it basically is, and left it alone."

Why should Israel allow supply/escape routes to Hezbollahland to remain open? The goal is to end rocket attacks and retreive the kidnapped soldiers. There is no evidence that the Lebanese government was willing to help with this. Therefore all targets hit so far have been legitimate

Posted by: Shmuel at July 16, 2006 05:17 AM

'Insulting my personal friends while they are driven out of their homes as war refugees is not acceptable.'

...

"Israelis thinks everyone hates them."

Although insulting Israelis while they are being attacked indiscriminately and without initial provocation is still permissable.

I wonder why Israelis are soooo paranoid?

Posted by: Shmuel at July 16, 2006 05:21 AM

I am just now listening to an interview on CNN with the PM of Lebanon Siniora. Blitzer (CNN) repeatedly asked in various ways if Hez was the problem (bringing in missiles, kidnapping, firing missiles into Israel) and each time, Siniora blamed Israel. He is such a fucking coward he couldn't even mention Hez. The entire problem is Israel, Israel, Israel. So, I ask: given the Lebanese government's craven approach to Hez, is there anyone with whom Israel can talk? Is there really any governmen in Lebanon besides Hez?

Posted by: Seymour Paine at July 16, 2006 10:53 AM

While I never see eye-to-eye with Totten, I never see eye-to-eye with anyone (at least when politics is concerned).

I strongly object to the notion that Israel should attack Syria and Israel. I would actually support such attacks, but at this point they are not even remotely feasible.

Israel is under enough pressure from the international community as it is. However, most world governments can’t deny the aggression by Hamas and Hezbollah so they resign themselves to condemning Israel and Hezbollah equally.

I'm not thrilled with Ohlmert’s response but I know if he didn’t respond militarily his administration would collapse and be replaced by a more hard-line administration.

At this point the most important thing is to get Hezbollah to disarm. Their illegal militia is an embarrassment to the government of Lebanon, which is still under the heel of Syria.

Posted by: Freedom Now at July 16, 2006 01:19 PM

Michael:
Please go back and reread your own article
Everything Could Explode at Any Moment

"Hezbollah is planning an operation," he said.

“How do you know?” I said.

“We know,” he said and nodded.

I knew he was right. The Lebanese intelligence officer more or less told me the same thing. He didn’t say the threat was from Hezbollah, but he didn’t have to.

You're Nostra-freaking-damus. Everyone apparently knew that Hezbollah was going to do something. The only question was exactly what and when. According to your own reporting, Lebanon was doing precisely Jack Schidt about the situation, because there was really nothing they could do.

What was Israel supposed to do? At some point, Hezbollah had to be removed from southern Lebanon. Since the Lebanese government was unwilling/unable to do so, Israel had to do it. They would have to be insane to attack Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran all at the same time. This way, they can concentrate their firepower on achieving one objective before moving on to the next.

What was that other brilliant observation one of your interviewees made? Ah, yes:
The Israelis Live Over There, So I Don’t Have to Forgive Them!

Posted by: The Monster at July 16, 2006 07:28 PM

"Israel is too cautious or gutless to take the fight to the source"

I wouldn't be so sure... I smell the hand of Karl Rove... something is afoot

Posted by: Citizen Grim at July 16, 2006 07:30 PM

Michael,

I commend you for your efforts and the Lebanese are aware of the love you have for them, but as a Lebanese I must admit that I expecte more support for Lebanon from you. Your language almost equates Israels suffering to that of Lebanon and you know there is no comparison! It wasn't back on the 14th of July and it certainly isn't now!

However you rightly mention that Lebanon is taking the hit for Syria and Iran. I wish for a day when we can live in peace without any interference from ALL of our neighbours and Iran who have never wished us well and have never done anything to accomodate us in the region!

Posted by: Hani Ghraizi at July 17, 2006 07:23 AM

Seymour Paine,

Once again, you have shown yourself to be absurdly ignorant. Siniora could not bring himself to mention Hezbollah because he does not want to provoke a civil war within Lebanon, which would undoubtedly result in the collapse of his state and Lebanese democracy. A reality inside Lebanon is that Hezbollah is simply more powerful militarily then the Lebanese state government, and that any attempt to "disarm" or "demilitarize" Hezbollah by Siniora and Lebanon - per the UN mandate - means the end of democracy in Lebanon (for the time being).

Siniora's approach to Hezbollah is not "craven." The approach has been to weaken Hezbollah the only way it realistically can: by changing public attitudes. As Michael and any Lebanese poster on this site could no doubt attest, he has had some success pursuing this avenue over the last year.

No one is objecting to Israel's reaction because they don't think Israel should be angry that they've had soldiers kidnapped by a terrorist group or because they don't think they should be concerned about the steady barrage of Katyusha's raining in from their North. People are objecting because they realize that by attacking Lebanese infrastructure - for whatever military purpose - Israel is forcing Lebanon into a war started by Hezbollah. Lebanon and Siniora then have two choices: 1) fight that war against Israel and lose; 2) fight that war against Hezbollah and lose, and watch their country slide back into civil war- which would embolden Hezbollah and enhance its standing (and Syria's influence) within Lebanon's borders.

Alternatively, Israel could have kept firing back at Hezbollah positions in the south and told Siniora that "you need to take the lead against Hezbollah because we can no longer tolerate their existence, and we will help you militarily/logistically in any way you feel you need to those ends."

Instead, Israel is bombing Beirut's airport and civilian infrastructure.

Posted by: Chris at July 17, 2006 07:41 AM

Israel should completely annex Lebanon. Lebanon is unwilling and more likely unable to control its own border. Until Lebanon is able to, Israel should annex all territories it takes. Then once the terrorists are hunted down like the animals they are then Israel should let the land go back to Lebanon. This way Syria, Iran or any other terrorist organizations cannot use the northern border as a means to attack Israeli soverignty.

Posted by: Robert at July 17, 2006 09:59 AM

Michael the obvious problem is Syria and Iran BUT THE REAL CULPRIT/PROBLEM IS???????????????

The International Community - The UN - The EU

If Israel had an iota of confidence that the International Community and some or even half of the Lebanese would join in and universally condemn Syria, Iran and Hezbollah they might have been cowed into waiting........... but in the READ WORLD..........

If they waited a few drops in the ocean difference would have been seen... so just like when the PLO shoots into Jerusalem from Churches in Bethlehem and then the Christians in Bethlehem secretly hate the PLO but publically SCREAM DEATH TO ISRAEL........... Israel is left with no choice.

I would not be surprised if Syria plants a few bobms in Christian neighborhoods to explode during an Israeli shelling near by so Israel gets blamed..... PAR FOR THE COURSE.

Mike

Posted by: Mike Nargizian at July 17, 2006 03:31 PM

Can anyone making this argument explain why attacking Iran or Syria would end Hezbollah attacks on Israel rather than intensify them?

Hizbullah is Iran's pet (Syria runs the kennel). If Hizbullah attacks Israel, it's because someone in Tehran or Damascus told them to.

I think the Israelis would be delighted to confine their attentions to 'Hizbullahland'. Unfortunately, Hizbullah is not confined to Hizbullahland- lots of Hizb live in south Beiruit, and lots of their people and toys pass through the Beiruit airport and seaport. Closing those ports, blocking the airport, and making it difficult to move large numbers of men and equipment around Lebanon is necessary. In a very real sense, all of Lebanon is effectively Hizbullahland- a place the Hizb are free to operate without opposition so long as they exercise a bit of discretion.

Lebanon is finding out that sitting around, drinking coffee, and wishing Hizbullah would disarm itself didn't work.

Sorry, guys, but this can't be a complete surprise.

If you let a dog sleep in your bed, don't be surprised when you get fleas.

>>>>>

Why should Israel allow supply/escape routes to Hezbollahland to remain open? The goal is to end rocket attacks and retreive the kidnapped soldiers. There is no evidence that the Lebanese government was willing to help with this. Therefore all targets hit so far have been legitimate
- Shmuel

Israel's goal is to destroy Hizbullah. This isn't just about a couple of soldiers, and I doubt it ever was. As Michael wrote a while back, in "Everything could explode at any moment", the Israelis knew something was coming. I'd be very surprised if they haven't spent some time thinking about what to do when it came.

http://op-for.com/2006/07/prepping_the_battlespace.html

What we are seeing now is just the opening moves of a very complicated chessgame- a chessgame that will become very interesting if the Israelis capture any of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards rumored to be among the Hizbullah.

One thing I've been wondering about:

http://www.debka.com/pictures/Lebanon.jpg

What is so special about Baalbek?

Posted by: rosignol at July 18, 2006 04:08 AM

Michael shalom,

I am sure that Lebanon asked the international community for help, and I am sure there was a plan how to disarm the Hizbollah.
http://frenkelx.blogspot.com/2006/07/war-in-lebanon-could-have-been-avoided.html

The problem is that Israel politics was consumed with the Gaza disegajement plan. It delayed the southern lebanon problem for later.

I am sorry to hear about your friends in Lebanon and hope they will stay away from any sign of Hizbolah, since the Israeli air missiles are hunting them down.

As for Israel atacking Syria. Israel can hanlde a confrontation with Syria, but it's basic tactic was always to reduce the number of simultanous wars. It already needs to repell bomings from Gazza strip, exploding terrorists from the west bank, and rockets from lebanon. Fighting Syria is possible, but only as a last resort.

Regards,
Itai Frenkel

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