September 16, 2006

Getting Lebanon Wrong

Right after the end of the Hezbollah war I interviewed two members of Israel's Peace Now who stayed on a kibbutz just a few kilometers south of the border under Katyusha fire attack. Not wanting to give space only to the Israeli left, I sought out someone who could give me a different point of view, someone who was not an officer or spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces, someone who could speak his or her own mind freely without having to answer to the government or the army.

Yaacov Lozowick seemed perfect. He's the archivist at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and he wrote a book called Right to Exist: A Moral Defense of Israel's Wars. His Introduction is titled Why I Voted for Sharon.

Right to Exist Cover.JPG

If anyone would be able to provide a clear and thoughtful defense of Israel's most recent war in Lebanon, it should be him. But he did not say what I thought he would say. The Hezbollah War, or whatever it ought to be called, is one of the least popular wars in Israel's history.

We met at Yad Vashem and he gave me the best insider's tour of the museum I could ever have hoped for. Afterward we sat down in the restaurant to talk about his book and the recently concluded hostilities.

MJT: So your book is a defense of Israel’s wars. All of them?

Lozowick: (Long pause.) No.

MJT: The main ones?

Lozowick: No.

MJT: Well, what’s missing? If it’s not a defense of all of Israel’s wars, which ones are not…

Lozowick: The ones that aren’t defensible.

MJT: And which ones are not defensible?

Lozowick: Lebanon One [in 1982] was not defensible. Although the first three days of it could have been. Lebanon Two wasn’t in my book, and that was a stupid one.

MJT: Why was it stupid?

Lozowick: It was stupid because we stumbled into what…it wasn’t a full-fledged war, but it was pretty close to it. From the perspective of the people living up north it was a full-fledged war. So we stumbled into what was an almost full-fledged war with absolutely no prior strategy. If you look – and you don’t have to go back far, we had an election here in March – you can go back and look at the election campaign, it was all of six months ago, and you will not find Lebanon mentioned once. It was totally off the map. It was not a subject that interested anybody. It was off our screen. We had left Lebanon in 2000. Those of us who are educated enough to follow the newspaper and to remember what is says knew that Hezbollah was building this tremendous armory of weapons that were aimed at us. We put it in the way back of our minds, didn’t deal with it, and we went to war with them with a prior notice of about 32 seconds. So that’s one very strange thing.

The second one was that over the next two days Olmert defined for us what the goals were. And they were goals that we could definitely agree with, but they were not realistic.

And the third thing was that after taking us to war in 32 seconds and having defined goals which were very…far reaching goals, he then did nothing to make them happen. He just squandered. He wasted time. There has never been a war – except maybe 1948 – that Israel started out with as much diplomatic…if not backing at least it was acquiescence…as this one, right? The Americans were backing us. Tony Blair was backing us. The Germans, the Czechs, and the Poles were sort of backing us. And most of the West was saying okay, well, you know, let’s pretend we don’t like it, but if you kill the Hezbollah that’s fine. We’ve never been in that situation. Those are better opening cards than we’ve ever had.

MJT: Yeah.

Lozowick: So what did we spend the first days doing? Killing Lebanese civilians for no obvious reason that anybody could see. Right? Bombing Lebanese bridges I could see. You didn’t like it at the time, but that I could see. There’s a military…

MJT: I can see it too. I don’t like it, but I get it.

Lozowick: There’s a military justification for that. You can rebuild bridges.

MJT: Right. It’s not like bombing a restaurant.

Lozowick: Right, but we were clearly not…I always say if you’re ever in the mood for some real good hardcore criticism of Israel…

MJT: Only if it’s intelligent…

Lozowick: …the best and almost only good place to go, you go to Ha’aretz. They are better at it than anybody else because they know what they’re talking about. There was a guy in Ha’aretz, I don’t remember who it was, about the second week of the war, demonstrated in a factual tone of voice that the moral criteria which we were fighting this war were lower than the war with the Palestinians.

It’s very simple. The IDF finds a terrorist holed up in a building in Nablus. They will surround the building. They will…at the end of the day they will have killed the guy or arrested him. But they will not do so as long as civilians are in that building. One civilian and one terrorist and we will figure out a way of getting rid of the civilian before we kill the terrorist.

In Lebanon we weren’t doing it that way. By the third day it was obvious that we had changed our own rules. We were still being careful. We weren’t using Hezbollah tactics. But we were not abiding by the rules that we use fifty miles south.

MJT: Okay, so let me play Devil’s Advocate. It’s a lot easier for them to have these rules inside Nablus – isn’t it? – because they can kind of control Nablus, at least on again off again control, and they know the area. But the dahiyeh [Hezbollah suburb] south of Beirut is 100 miles from the border. And the IDF has no ground control over that place, ever. Not even Lebanon has control of that place. Only Hezbollah does. So how could the IDF have those rules of engagement all the way up there?

Lozowick: I don’t know the numbers, and I don’t know if anybody does know the numbers, but I don’t even know the number of the dead civilians up in the dahiyeh. It wasn’t very high.

MJT: I saw the pictures, and it doesn’t look good.

Lozowick: It doesn’t. But as far as we know – and we could be wrong here – the populace of the dahiyeh had at least a twelve-hour warning that this was going to happen and at least most of them weren’t there. There must have been tens of thousands of people living in the dahiyeh. You were there.

MJT: Yeah, it’s not the size of Tel Aviv, but the size of Ramallah maybe.

Lozowick: Okay. So tens of thousands of people live there. We killed…500 of them? That means that most of them weren’t there. Right? Now, clearly it’s easier to do this in Nablus than in the dahiyeh, and I think from the perspective of the Israelis that a certain amount of collateral damage was inevitable. But…what for? Killing Lebanese civilians in order not to achieve anything…there’s no justification for that that any of us can see.

So we stumbled into this thing without thinking, we set very high goals, we had international backing at one point to an unprecedented degree, and then within days we were killing hundreds of civilians which…we don’t like. The army was saying “it will take us ten days and we’ll kill off Hezbollah.” So had we killed off Hezbollah and had 600 dead Lebanese civilians, nobody would have been happy about it, but maybe you say, okay, maybe there’s no choice. Hezbollah hides itself among civilians, etc, etc, etc. I don’t know. The question would have been raised after the war, not during the war, and it would have been raised in any case, but maybe we would have said there was no choice.

But by the second week of the war the air force clearly wasn’t going to beat the Hezbollah. And then we squandered a week doing absolutely nothing. And then in the third week of the war, and the world is getting more and more impatient with us, the goodwill that had been there was being dissipated. We finally started going in there with totally the wrong forces. They were sending in small units. You know, it wasn’t even done right.

MJT: If I quote you saying all this stuff, I can already see what’s going to be said about what you’re saying. I’ve already said a lot of this myself and was dismissed by the right.

Lozowick: What I’m saying, this is…

MJT: You’re saying a lot of what the Peace Now guys said. Some readers of my blog told me I need to get out of the left-wing bubble. And here you are saying…

Lozowick: Okay, I’ll delineate for you. Number one. I’m saying that although the war was not planned and certainly was not discussed, way over 90 percent of the Israelis in those first days thought it was justified. Myself included. And it was justified even if we were killing some Lebanese civilians because there’s no way you can get at Hezbollah without also getting people that Hezbollah is using as shields.

MJT: Yeah.

Lozowick: Also, so that’s one. Basically I’m smack in the middle. I’m about as close to the Israeli consensus as anybody can be. With springs left and right. Because I zigzag myself. I’m more critical than mainstream Israelis at the moment because of the Lebanese civilians. People can say “Michael, you’re quoting a lefty on that one.”

I’m also saying something which is more right-wing. And that is, I’m not saying that the war shouldn’t have been carried forward. It should have been carried forward. We should have poured in five divisions. We should have done it with as much force as we could muster. And we should have killed every single Hezbollah fighter in Southern Lebanon. I’m not saying it’s a stupid war because it couldn’t have been won. Because I think it probably could have. Or anyway it could have been fought on a level where it would have been obvious to everybody that although Nasrallah on the last day of the war could have been claiming victory it would have been clear to everybody that he’s just talking through his hat.

Having said that, I think that you can quote me as much as you want because this is what most Israelis are saying.

MJT: It’s just funny because I was told by several people to get out of the left-wing bubble. And I’m talking to you, and you’re out of the left-wing bubble, and it sounds the same. There’s a right-wing bubble here, too, isn’t there?

Lozowick: Yeah, the settlers.

MJT: I hate to stick labels on you, I’m just trying to figure out what the Israeli political spectrum is.

Lozowick: We’re in one of those very rare cases right now where there is a consensus. There was a consensus at the beginning of the war that stretched deep into the left-wing bubble. I’m not talking about center-left. Deep into the left. And the consensus now is that it was a stupid war. And that’s, again, left to right. It’s a stupid war because it caused tremendous damage without bringing anything.

MJT: But is there a consensus for why it was a stupid war? Or do you have a left-wing critique, a centrist critique, and a right-wing critique? Because it seems to me like there are some people who are upset that it was stopped early, that it should have been more ruthless. And I’ve heard others say it was too much, it was over the top.

Lozowick: You have to remember where Olmert is coming from. Olmert is a lawyer at heart. He’s also a politician. There’s this trauma of Lebanon from 1982. And we dare not march large forces into Lebanon because our own populace won’t allow it. And the air force says we can do it from the air, so let’s do it that way. So that’s where they were at the first few days.

What I think happened – and I thought so at the time also – was that by the end of the first week…the Israelis are a very educated public when it comes to waging war. Unfortunately. Okay? We know what we’re talking about. We know what we’re talking about on a personal level and on a national level. It was pretty clear to all of us by the end of the first week that this was not going to work because there were going to have to be ground forces.

I think that a sizeable proportion of the Israelis would have been willing or even eager to have a real invasion of Southern Lebanon in the second week. Olmert, I think, didn’t realize that and didn’t follow that. He drew it out until the fourth week. Now, by the fourth week we get people like David Grossman who published a quarter-page ad in the newspaper who said this is a just war. We didn’t expect that from him. And then a week later was saying it’s time to stop the war. His reading of it was that if you haven’t beat the Hezbollah by now then you’re not going to. And maybe we even can’t. And if we’re not going to and we can’t then it’s time to stop the war. That’s the left.

From the perspective of the more military-minded right, it was the other way around. It was, if it’s not going to happen in the third week, then at least it should happen in the fourth week. Which is why at the end they were saying “don’t stop.”

But both camps, the argument between them is the argument that appeared in the third week. In the first two weeks they were all of the same opinion. And that is: we’re in it, we have to go kill the Hezbollah.

When Israelis are angry at one another, they’re angry. And they’re not angry at one another right now. They’re angry at their government and they’re angry at the generals. You get this movement of soldiers and parents who are from two different directions and have somewhat different agendas, but they’re merging. The two groups are the parents and the soldiers. It’s not left and right. There are left and right in both of those groups. They haven’t worked together for twenty years and they will not work together again for the next twenty years. But right now they’re working together. And everybody is conscious of all those three sentences. They know that they haven’t in the past, they know that they won’t pretty soon, but right now they know who they are. Because everybody is aggravated and furious at the political leadership for totally mismanaging the war and at the military leadership.

MJT: So you thought the 1982 Lebanon war wasn't a good one either. What is it about Lebanon? Israel doesn't seem to get Lebanon.

Lozowick: It's a complicated place.

MJT: It is a complicated place. It's the most complicated place I've ever been.

Lozowick: Well...

MJT: I spent seven months there and it took me three months before I felt like I had a grip on the basics. It took three months to get Lebanon 101.

Lozowick: (Laughs.)

MJT: And that was before I could start fine tuning and drilling down into anything. Just getting a mental map of the place and who's who and what they really think, what they say. It's...not an easy country.

Lozowick: You have to remember that up until the 1970s, Lebanon was not regarded by the Israelis as an enemy at all. We were fighting war against the Egyptians and the Syrians and sometimes the Jordanians. The Lebanese were not participating in any of this. Even in 1948 the Lebanese hardly participated.

MJT: And it's still sort of that way.

Lozowick: Well...

MJT: After Hezbollah it is totally that way.

Lozowick: Perhaps, yeah. I can remember in the late 1960s there was no fence between Israel and Lebanon. There was a line sort of there which...part of the problem in 2000 was that nobody remembered exactly where it was.

MJT: Right. They had to redo it with the U.N.

Lozowick: And they did it with old maps. Unlike some places where you can go and see the old patrol roads, like in 1967. In the case of Lebanon there was no old patrol road. Israel even today, Israel has never been at war with Lebanon. It was at war with the PLO. And now it's at war with Hezbollah.

MJT: What do you think about how the Lebanese government insists, seriously or not - and I say, to an extent, not - that they're at war with you? The Lebanese government does say this. But they never act on it.

Lozowick: Well, I think legally they probably are. There's a state of war between Israel and most of its neighbors. Egypt and Jordan no longer. There's a state of war between us and Iraq also.

MJT: That's finished, though. It's de facto finished.

Lozowick: Lebanon...why do we keep getting Lebanon wrong? Maybe it's precisely because we're not at war with Lebanon. Next time we go to war with Syria, which may happen, we will be at war with Syria. We will hit Syria. When we go to war in Lebanon then it's not quite clear who we're at war with.

MJT: It's a war in Lebanon rather than a war with Lebanon.

Lozowick: In a war with a country you win by hitting that country so hard that they call uncle, basically. There are even more drastic ways of winning wars, but basically that's the standard way. You win a war until a country says they've had enough and can't do this anymore. If it's not a country then...how do you do it?

MJT: It's like that in the West Bank. The West Bank is not a country with a government that controls everything either.

Lozowick: And we've never managed to fully win a war with the Palestinians. We functionally win wars with the Palestinians, we functionally won the second intifada.

MJT: It stopped.

Lozowick: Yeah. So functionally life is normal here. That's part of the problem between us and the Palestinians. One of the things that the left in Israel used to say was that we need to give the Palestinians a state among other reasons so that we have somebody to hit if they continue to wage a war against us.

MJT: It might work and it might not. Who are you going to hit in Lebanon? They have a government. And they also have a terrorist army separate from that.

Lozowick: I think the third Lebanese war, by the way, will look different. Because we'll get our act together.

MJT: You really think there's going to be another one?

Lozowick: Don't you?

MJT: Probably. I think there's a small chance there won't be.

Lozowick: It's not inevitable, it's like...

MJT: Predicting the Middle East, politics and war, is kind of a fool's game. There are so many variables and surprises that...the way I see Lebanon right now is that literally anything could happen.

Lozowick: There's no doubt that we are preparing for the next war against Hezbollah. We're not ready for it now. And given the depth and breadth of the stupidities and mistakes that we just did, then it will take a while. But we won't make the same mistakes twice. Lebanon and Hezbollah will now remain on our radar. They're not going to drop off like they did before. And remaining on our radar means that serious money and serious effort will be put into preparing for the next round.

MJT: Do you really think it's possible to solve the Hezbollah problem without dealing with Iran and Syria? They're trying to rearm Hezbollah right now. And they'll do it for a third round, too, unless they have some reason not to.

Lozowick: Had we severely hit Hezbollah now...I mean, you can't eradicate them. The idea is in the minds of half a million people. You can't make that go away. But had we in this war really severely reduced the strength of Hezbollah, and then the French would have come marching in without hesitation because they wouldn't have had to confront Hezbollah, would the Lebanese government plausibly been able to then take over? Maybe they could have.

MJT: If you could knock Hezbollah down by 90 percent, then yes.

Lozowick: Yeah. That's what we thought we were doing.

MJT: But do you think that's really possible? I mean, look at how long Israel and Hezbollah were slugging it out until 2000. Like the US in the Sunni Triangle in Iraq. It's been going on for a long time. I think the insurgency in Iraq is breakable, but it's going to take a long time. With Hezbollah it's the same thing.

Lozowick: No. Hezbollah is better armed than the insurgency. And they're more visible. You can hit them with bigger stuff. They're more concentrated in a very clear area. If there were armed Hezbollah guys up in Nabatiya, we didn't have to hit them. They weren't bothering Lebanon either in some major way. Most of Hezbollah's armed power was either in the Bekka Valley or in Southern Lebanon facing us. Had we - I don't want to say demolished - had we seriously hit them in Southern Lebanon and then moved aside for a heavy European force whose job is to hold the hand of the Lebanese central government until they can grow into it...that's basically what Ehud Olmert said in his first speech during the first week. He didn't spell it out that way, but he basically said that's what the goals of the war were. And we could have done that. We would have just had to run a different war than the one we ran.

And you know what? We could have done so, probably, while killing a lot fewer Lebanese civilians in Beirut. We didn't gain anything from that. Hitting their command post site made sense, but you know what? It turns out that hitting their command post didn't make much difference. They weren't in disarray. Either they had subterranean communications that we didn't figure out. Or they prepared themselves so well they didn't need the command post. The guys underneath that bunker in the village in Southern Lebanon knew exactly what they were supposed to do. And they had it all worked out for six weeks. And the only thing we needed to do then was get into the bunker and kill them. And hitting the command post in Beirut didn't make any difference.

You can forgive the army for not knowing that in advance. You cannot forgive our army for not knowing that they were dug into these gigantic labyrinths. That, we should have known about. How come we didn't know? It's ridiculous. You can't build those things shovel by shovel with nobody noticing it. Not if they're good enough to withstand aerial bombardments. Not knowing that Hezbollah could keep going without its head...maybe we can be forgiven for that. I don't know. But we're doing it wrong. All right?

The peacenik that is in me - and I used to be one - prefers every method except war. But the experienced soldier in me, and also the historian in me, tells me that military power really can achieve most of its goals if done correctly. It doesn't always, but it can.

Military power cannot make your neighbors love you. You cannot force them to make peace with you. There's no way you can do that. Only they can do it. But you can hit your enemies to a degree that they no longer threaten you. So if you quote that no one will tell you that you're in the left-wing bubble.

There is a group of hard-core left that does have a knee-jerk reaction against us just about all the time. What was interesting about the first week of this war was that support of the war even lapped that group. It got that far left.

There's another thing you need to remember, too, and that's historical context. Israeli society, as you'll see when you read the last few pages that I added to my book when it came out in paperback, a significant majority of Israeli society wants to end the occupation.

MJT: What percentage do you think? Do you know?

Lozowick: Anywhere between two thirds and 80 percent, depending on which day you ask them. The reason Arik Sharon did what he did in Gaza is because he's a canny politician and he wanted to be re-elected. And he was playing to that group, which crosses political parties. Okay? He was playing to that group. The reason he pushed through the disengagement from Gaza was because he felt confident at every single moment of the process that he was backed by a solid majority of Israelis.

Previous to that, Ehud Barak was elected in 2000 on two planks. One was that he was not Bibi Netanyahu, a catastrophic prime minister. And the second was that he was going to get us out of Lebanon. That was his promise. He got elected on that plank, and indeed he left Lebanon. And up until this summer, many people in Israel would tell you nothing Barak did was right except for that.

Olmert was coasting to victory, partly on Sharon's coattails, but mostly not. We're not idiots. We know that if Sharon's gone, Olmert can’t replace him. He's Olmert, not Sharon. He was coasting to victory because he was going to do the same thing in the West Bank that Sharon had done in Gaza.

The fact that his victory was no narrow, then, was because he's a fool. He made some stupid statements. He was arrogant. He said "we're gonna win." In American politics every presidential candidate always says "we're gonna win." That's the way it happens. With us, no. You don't say that. You say "we will try to win." But to say "the election's finished, we already won," as Olmert did a month before the election, it's very stupid. He turned off a sizable chunk of his voters.

The point is, by the summer of 2006, Palestinians were busy proving to us that the disengagement from Gaza was a mistake. And they were busy forcing down our throats that a disengagement from the West Bank would be an even bigger mistake. And then having the Hezbollah join the fight and say leaving Lebanon was also a mistake, that was just too much for people to take. Part of the reason that so much of the left was so solidly behind this war was because they had to win the war in order to be able to continue on the program of getting rid of the occupation.

That's why Olmert was able to go to war in 32 seconds. Because everybody was absolutely furious at the situation. And it has to be changed. The fact that they made it even worse makes everybody even more furious. But that wasn't foreseen on the 12th of July.

MJT: So do you think it was a mistake to leave Lebanon and Gaza?

Lozowick: No.

MJT: Why?

Lozowick: Because Zionism is not about controlling Arabs.

Post-script: Please hit the Pay Pal button and help pay travel expenses for independent writing. I am not a rich person, and I can’t do this without help. I want to do more of this in the future, and I intend to go back to Lebanon soon. Other countries tentatively on my list include Iran, Algeria, Bosnia, Dubai, and Afghanistan.

If you would like to donate money for travel expenses and you don't want to use Pay Pal, you can send a check or money order to:

Michael Totten
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Many thanks in advance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 16, 2006 12:23 PM
Comments

I'm not part of the "Left wing bubble", but as an Israeli, I can attest that Lozowick is spot-on regarding many of us, across the political spectrum. I've never even served in the IDF, but as a civillian veteran of 3 wars, I realized something was wrong about a week into the war and ground forces would be necessary. And quite a few of my friends - some of whom did serve, and occupy various positions across the Israeli political spectrum, agreed.

Posted by: ER at September 16, 2006 01:11 PM

Some useful and interesting points, especially the idea - the extent to which it is continuously true, rather than just true in this example, I'm not sure - that there is or was no real right/left division on opinions to this war. There were certainly examples of general ideological confusion - some articles from Haaretz have shown me right now that while the Labor leadership wants to pull Olmert down, the rank-and-file left movement wants to save him - while Binyamin Netanyahu stuck with Olmert right until the cease-fire and then went after him with both barrels -

But they are already beginning to diverge again. The JPost is already writing editorials demanding further IDF intervention in Lebanon and denouncing a prisoner swap. And I think of the desire to pull down Olmert as a right-leaning, anti-disengagement movement. Where do I intuit that? I read Caroline Glick, for starters.

It's too late, I guess, being back in the states and all, Mike, but if you really did want to get outside the consenus, you should have talked to Yesha.

Posted by: glasnost at September 16, 2006 01:29 PM

I think Lozowick is right the IDF could have killed more Hizballah fighters and fewer civilians. I think he's wrong when he claims that the IDF could have reduced or degraded Hizballah enough to make a significant difference between the war's outcome as it already was, and some other imaginary way it might have ended.

Whether you use higher numbers of troops or not, Hizballah still has the rest of Lebanon, not to mention Syria, to use to rest, rearm, and re-infiltrate. Furthermore, simply packing the troops in tighter would not have solved the IDF's ATGM problem. The Western World has not solved the ATGM problem, or at least, hasn't demonstrated solving it in a serious war - and so the IDF's advance was inevitably going to be initially slow and relatively high-casualty.

There's no reason to believe that any further incremental degradation of Hizballah south of the Litani would have led to the war ending in some other way than how it did - a cease-fire.

Israel was never in for a serious counter-insurgency in this area, so a punitive raid was what this was always going to be (unless it degenerated into something even worse for Israel - for example, if it had been Netanyahu running the show and he refused to leave).

The punitive raid could have been both more effective and more humane - but this wouldn't have seriously changed the big picture. Either way, Hizballah is detterred, for now.

There's one big piece missing in Lozowick's perspective - well, two big pieces - the argument against a massive, rather than a targeted, response in the first place: and secondly, the understanding that the Hizballah intervention happened because of the parallel crisis in Gaza.
Ehud Barak's withdrawal from Lebanon was very clearly the strategic right choice, but there would not have been even the perception of leaving oneself vulnerable, had a general peace been reached with the Palestinian leadership. Because Hizballah would not attack without the political cover of the unresolved Palestinian war.

Posted by: glasnost at September 16, 2006 01:51 PM

What a masterful interview! This is one of the best discussions of the complexities of the current situation I have read ANYWHERE. Obviously it's not complete, it's one very well-informed, well-connected Israeli's perspective, but this is really superb, MJT.

I'm curious -- how much time had you spent in Israel prior to this trip?

And -- did Lozowick tell you what he thinks WILL happen with the popular outrage? It took 6 months for Golda to get booted, and the anger now does not seem to be lessening. What's it going to take?

THANKS!

Posted by: Pam at September 16, 2006 01:53 PM

This whole interview is somewhat laughable due to the wrong questions being asked.

you cannot kill a man by pricking his fingers with a needle, unless you are doing it until he dies of starvation (a war of attrition).

Likewise, you cannot kill Hezballah unless you attack its vital organs, all of which reside in Iran. All the Lebonese civilian deaths were nothing more than needle pricks in thier fingers, probably encouraging more than anything due to the fact that it allowed them righteous outrage.

I am glad that MJT has declared Iraq "de facto done", perhaps he should forward that memo over to the American media and the Democrat Party.

The question that begs to be asked is, can Israel adjust to meet the coming attacks. Can Israel become a force for eliminating threats instead of defending thier existence, both politically and militarily?

Posted by: Joel Mackey at September 16, 2006 03:26 PM

Everyone is getting Lebanaon wrong! Lebanon needs to be held responsible for everything that transpires within its territories. Otherwise sovereignty means nothing and every means of organizing international cooperation is in jeopardy.

Thanks very much for your dedication, Mr. Totten.

Posted by: Abu Nudnik at September 16, 2006 05:06 PM

"I am glad that MJT has declared Iraq "de facto done", perhaps he should forward that memo over to the American media and the Democrat Party."

I read that as "Iraq can't possibly fight a war with Israel because they have at best a low level civil war to deal with."

Posted by: mikek at September 16, 2006 05:23 PM

The quantity and quality of Hezbollah arms smugglers has to have dropped precipitously under the rain of precision guided munitions. At the very least, there is probably a new discipline tool in the Hezbollah organization. Saying "I bet you can drive a truck...", probably increases volunteerism...for any other task.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 16, 2006 05:53 PM

"But by the second week of the war the air force clearly wasn’t going to beat the Hezbollah. And then we squandered a week doing absolutely nothing. And then in the third week of the war, and the world is getting more and more impatient with us, the goodwill that had been there was being dissipated. We finally started going in there with totally the wrong forces. They were sending in small units. You know, it wasn’t even done right."

My understanding is that a modern military like the IDF always has a carefully-thought-out plan sitting on a shelf for every war it might face. So what happened in this case? Did it have a bad plan, or did it have a good one but Olmert wouldn't let them follow it?

Posted by: Fred Jones at September 16, 2006 06:27 PM

"Because Zionism is not about controlling Arabs"

Controlling them enough to push a portion of them aside that is.

"In a war with a country you win by hitting that country so hard that they call uncle, basically."

And with a people whose homeland you also live in you do the same thing hoping they'll eventually cry "uncle" too.

Posted by: Alan Goldstein at September 16, 2006 07:03 PM

How much was Olmert constrained by the USA, in regards to what he could do and when? I've read that the US was forcing Olmert's hand this way and that during the war. The US military leaders were interested to see how different strategies played out, partly to cull information about a potential attack on Iran.

Posted by: Chaser at September 16, 2006 07:08 PM

MT, stop writing these great reports, you are causing my PayPal account to drop precipitously!

Excellent interview.

I would be interested to hear what your opinion is of the near-term future political changes within Israel and a future war with Hezbollah/Syria (We all know that you have a "secret" crystal ball ).

Regards,

Ron

Posted by: Ron Snyder at September 16, 2006 07:17 PM

Chaser, were you reading Sy Hersh by any chance?

Posted by: mike at September 16, 2006 08:38 PM

Good interview. Lozowick's main gripes seem to be with the planning and execution of the war, and Israel being unable to attain their objectives.

He does recognize the difference between going to war and defeating a state by conventional means, and fighting a guerilla war against insurgents or terrorists. Unfortunately, his support for another go in Lebanon means he has not really learned much except to try it again with more planning and more force.

Wars against well armed insurgents can not be won by conventional military means. The US-Vietnam and Soviet - Afghanistan wars showed this. The US-Iraq occupation is reminding us of this today, and the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan seems to be growing stronger over time. Israel had its own lesson in Lebanon and withdrew in 2000.

Insurgencies can be temporarily suppressed by overwhelming force, as they have been in the occupied territories ending the 2nd Intifada, and even in the US-Vietnam war we reached a cease fire after years of fighting which broke down when US forces left and the overwhelming force was removed.

The Israeli government and military can continue to rely on military force to suppress the insurgents/terrorists, either in the occupied territories, or Southern Lebanon if they choose to make a 3rd attempt. As this military force also harms the civilian populations it creates more insurgents, and also may create conflicts with neighbouring states and non-state actors who may attempt to support the insurgents and escalate the conflict. Israel will always live in a state of tension and fear if they choose to continue along this path.

Those in government and in the military have had personal success under these circumstances of war and terror, and so will not choose to take another path, not because they are evil but because they know no other way. Unless the Israeli people force the issue and Israel ends the occupation and allows the Palestinians to have their own state (and not that silly version of statehood proposed in 2000), they will always live under the threat of another war and terror attacks.

With Pakistan becoming the first Muslim nation to have nuclear weapons thanks to Saudis financial aid, and Iran seemingly close to having the same, and speculation that the Saudis have received or will receive nuclear arms from Pakistan as payback for their financial support and as a deterrent to the Iran nuclear threat, the situation is growing less secure. While Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are not a threat to Israel, they are only not a threat so long as they keep the extremists from power. If Iran develops nuclear weapons it is hard to see them launching directly against Israel knowing that the US would respond afterwards, the MAD doctrine worked well in the Cold War.

However, states with populations hating Israel acquiring nuclear weapons makes Israel less secure as it becomes more likely that non-state actors or terrorists will acquire these weapons.
Then Israelis will have more to worry about than a suicide bomber or Hizbollah Katyusha attack.

There will never be peace for Israel until the Palestinian problem is addressed resolved to everyones satisfaction. Israeli's recognize this, hence the growing support to end the occupation. Hopefully the peace movement in Israel is more widespread than the US MSM would lead you to believe.

MJT's interviews helps understand the thinking in Israel and fortunately the issue is at least being debated.

Posted by: Paul Todd at September 16, 2006 11:32 PM

Great interview!

I think most Lebanese would agree with Lozowick's assessment.

Two qualms:

1. There's no comparing Hezbollah to the Iraqi insurgents. For one, as Lozowick states, they're entirely different organizations. Second, Hezbollah operates from within a sovereign state that did not instigate this offensive. Third, the relationship of the insurgents to the Iraqi government is not well defined. Hezbollah occupies seats in the Lebanese parliament and is in the government.

Hezbollah is also much less sinister. Yes, they are anti-semitic. No, they do not decapitate the people they kidnap.

2. Ummm... I really hate how Israelis and other pundits continuously say, "Hezbollah attacked Israel. Hamas attacked Israel. Therefore, Israel was wrong to pull out of Lebanon and Gaza."

That's just plain stupid logic. Both groups attacked Israel while Israel occupied.

That aside, Israel pulled out of Lebanon because it could not politically sustain the casualties it suffered throughout their unlawful occupation of Lebanese land.

As Lozowick states, Israel has a horrible history in Lebanon.

Posted by: Charles Malik at September 16, 2006 11:42 PM

Am I the only one who is (cautiously) optimistic about the future course of relations between Lebanon and Israel? If Israel had "won" the war, they would have tried to dictate terms, Arab pride would have been trampled, basically, it would be Lebanon one all over again.

The fact that Israel, in some sense, suffered a defeat in Lebanon, may create an opening for a new status quo. Everyone agrees that Egypt's relatively good showing in the 73 war paved the road to Camp David. The same may now happen with Siniora government.

Of course, Lebanon is weak, and there are some bad actors, Syria and Iran, who will want to queer the pitch. That's where the international peacekeeping force comes in. I've been suprised by the large number of countries who are currently volunteering troops to help in Lebanon's reconstruction. It is possible then, that under world auspices, they can create a kind of proctorate over Lebanon that will allow a stable, democratic government to come into existence. It's one thing for Hezbollah and its sponsors to attack Israel and the U.S. Will they want to take on the whole world? All will depend on whether the UNIFIL forces will stay the course when the inevitable attacks begin.

This may be a polly-anne-ish view of things, but I think there is some room for optimism in Lebanon. Lebanon may succeed where Iraq seems to be failing.

Posted by: MarkC at September 17, 2006 01:47 AM

It's possible, MarkC. I wouldn't describe myself as optimistic just yet, but I am less gloomy about this than I was.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 17, 2006 10:47 AM

Marc C -- I've been calling it Newspeak 4: "Defeat is Victory"

It's good if there's a debate in Israel, and a more public plan for MORE destruction and Hizbollah killing, if the "inevitable" attack occurs.

Only the Leb people can stop Hizbollah -- although if the IDF had killed more, more quickly, a stronger international force would have been willingly coming.

Since body counts are the main PR weapon, perhaps Israel should do more no-body destruction of terrorist houses, and tunnels. Find them, find weapons -- FILM the FINDINGS -- and destroy all around it.

I'm quite less gloomy; except for Iran becoming a leader of the non-aligned (anti-US) forces and having them support Iran getting nukes...

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at September 17, 2006 02:54 PM

Charles--What land of Lebanon's was Israel occupying when Hezbollah conducted a cross border raid killing three soldiers and kidnapping two more? Please enlighten me.

I suspect you're going to say "Shebaa Farms." Spare me. First, the UN has declared Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon completed. The UN is not exaclty a pro-Israel organization, and even their inspectors don't think Lebanon and/or Syria have any legitimate claim to Shebaa Farms. Second, we both know that the only reason Hezballah makes such a stink about Shebaa Farms is so that it can keep on attacking Israel because Hezballah doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist. Is Lebanon really willing to be repeatedly dragged into wars by Hezballah over 25 square kilometers of land that the international community doesn't think you have any legitimate claim to in the first place? The really funny part of this whole thing is that Lebanon doesn't really control any of their southern lands and yet the government wants the Shebaa Farms too? Why not try actually asserting sovereignty over the lands that are legitimately yours first, and then we'll talk about Shebaa Farms.

Posted by: Fern R at September 17, 2006 03:23 PM

That interview shows a picture of a narcisistic West much more upset how it looks to himself in the mirror than to win a war. Maybe because all recent historical western struggles have been with himself. That will change soon and will not be pretty, hope it doesnt gets narcisus end...

Posted by: lucklucky at September 17, 2006 05:50 PM

I just want to know how you tell who was a civilian and who wasn't, other than the obvious, children and women, and I'm not so sure about women. Did anybody take a count to determine the ratio of male bodies to female and children. That might shed some light on the actual magnitude of civilam deaths.

Posted by: pacific_waters at September 17, 2006 08:13 PM

I have a really big problem with the idiotic argument put forward by 2 other commenters above:

------------------------
Paul Todd:
There will never be peace for Israel until the Palestinian problem is addressed resolved to everyones satisfaction

Charles Malik:
2. Ummm... I really hate how Israelis and other pundits continuously say, "Hezbollah attacked Israel. Hamas attacked Israel. Therefore, Israel was wrong to pull out of Lebanon and Gaza."

That's just plain stupid logic. Both groups attacked Israel while Israel occupied.
------------------------
Both of these are nonsensical. Malik says Israel "occupied". What did Israel occupy exactly? According to Hamas, Tel Aviv and Haifa is also occupied. Are you both giving Hamas a green light to wage jihad on Israel so long as it exists ? By extension, do you approve of all other terror groups to attack Jews througout the world so long as Tel Aviv and Haifa are "occupied" ?

Neither of you mention that Hezbollah is a foreign force occupying Southern Lebanon.

All I keep hearing is some kind of elaborate and perverted reasoning to excuse the barbaric actions of Hezbollah and Hamas, whilst Israel can do no right.

The whole point of the past decade has been to use diplomacy to settle claims over DISPUTED (not occupied) territories. Seeing as negotiations have stalled for years, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and Lebanon. And look where it got them ?

Posted by: Jono at September 17, 2006 08:29 PM

The whole point of the past decade has been to use diplomacy to settle claims over DISPUTED (not occupied) territories.

Just because Israel considers them disputed territories does not make them other than occupied territories. Fundamental UN principles and political, legal, and ethical doctrine among Western nations does not support- fundamentally opposes and considers unethical - territorial exapnsion of a nation-state by means of war. In 1967, Israel initiated war against Egpyt and Syria, captured the territories of Gaza and the West Bank, and refused to give them back for decades, allowing Israeli civilians to colonize the territory and denying the indigenous occupants both political rights and civil liberties.

Occupied is shorthand for "controlled by military rule of a non-indigenous government".

Seeing as negotiations have stalled for years, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and Lebanon. And look where it got them ?

What it got them was the the beginning of the possibility of coexistence and mutual reconciliation. It would be nice if Israel could be immediately be rewarded for withdrawing from Palestinian and Lebansese territory that it occupied for decades, with the immediate transformation of the guerrilla movements that forced it to leave into peaceable, re-intergrated socieities. It would be nice if, since Israel withdrew from Gaza, Gaza agreed to ignore the West Bank, and give tit for tat. However, people being slow to surrender their prejucdices, it's clear that withdrawal alone does not create peace. Further carrots and sticks are needed beyond that, perhaps even including the military conflict that has occured since the withdrawal.

What withdrawal did, however, was to begin to remove the impermeable barriers to peace.

Posted by: glasnost at September 17, 2006 09:47 PM

If 'territorial expansion of a nation-state by means of war' is always wrong, as Glasnost says, what does he think the Arab nation-states were trying to do in 1948 and 1967?
Tony Judt of New York University can't even be called a Zionist (he's argued over the last few years that 'ethnic' nation-states are obsolete _ funny, the Arabs don't seem to have gotten the memo), but he observed in a review of Michael Oren's '6 Days of War' that closing the Strait of Tiran to Israeli shipping, as Nasser did or said he had done before the '67 war, was a classic casus belli.
As for refusing to give the West Bank and Gaza back (back to whom? Only Britain and Pakistan ever recognized Jordan's control of the West Bank), does Glasnost remember the Arab League's Khartoum summit just after the '67 war, with its '3 No's' _ 'No negotiations, no recognition and no peace'?
The idea that all of Israel was 'occupied territory' was _ as Jono says _ written into the PLO's organic law before Israel ever captured the West Bank or Gaza; and every time Yasser Arafat said something to a Western audience about backing off that position, he'd come back and tell his audiences in Arabic that he hadn't meant it.
'Mutual reconciliation' implies good faith on both sides. Its existence under Abbas is doubtful at best; it absolutely didn't exist under Arafat. Sadat showed it, got the Sinai back _ and paid for doing so with his life. If Arafat was afraid the same thing would happen to him if he did the same, that says something about his side, not Israel's.

Posted by: greeneyeshade at September 17, 2006 10:36 PM

"In 1967, Israel initiated war against Egpyt and Syria, captured the territories of Gaza and the West Bank,"
-- sorry glasnost, Israel pre-emptively defended itself from an obvious build-up of military men and equipment. This after a 1956 war and after a 1948 war by the Arabs who refused Israel's existence -- with neither war ending with a Peace Agreement.

[Because the UN/ world community was unwilling to allow Israel to defeat the wimpy Arab armies to the extent that they actually surrender.]

"and refused to give them back for decades,"
Egypt gave up its claim to Gaza; Jordan gave up its claim to the West Bank. As asked "back to who"? There's no historical "back" to go back to.

Arguing that after Egypt & Jordan gave up claims on the land, Israel should have created a Palestinian state is an argument I'd agree with, but not a "give the land back".

"allowing Israeli civilians to colonize the territory and denying the indigenous occupants both political rights and civil liberties."

These are the two huge mistakes of Israel. 1) allowing, even subsidizing, colonization by the settlers. (Partly a result of the political power of the extreme parties, which is worsened by the Proportional Representation system that Israel and most Euro countries has, and now Iraq, too.)
2) Doing a BAD job on occupation!

Israel should have been learning how to occupy the Arab lands better, and how to get Arab police to do police work in Arab areas. It seems that, since Israel actually didn't want to colonize or occupy, they've never put conclusive thought into the best way to occupy. So there's no "how Israel taught free speech to occupied Arabs" lessons to be learned -- Israel never seriously tried.

It might be too late; it might be time for Israel to give up in Gaza and do more in the West Bank.

But, as usual, Israel problems tend to ignore Lebanon -- so it's no wonder an ignored problem gets only wrong solutions. Though I'm not convinced my own preferred solution (more massive Israeli ground invasion, less bombing) is actually better than the muddle Israel did.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at September 18, 2006 06:12 AM

Charles Malik wrote: "Hezbollah operates from within a sovereign state that did not instigate this offensive." He is wrong. Lebanon will only be a sovereign state when it has a monopoly on men under arms. Lebanon is responsible for every event that takes place or originates on its soil: that and only that is the meaning of sovereignty.

Posted by: Abu Nudnik at September 18, 2006 10:24 AM

In both Gaza and Lebanon Israel's main problem is how to wean the populace from militancy. More than anything, shifting the dispute away from the battlefield and into the negotiation room is instrumental to the country's security. However, the Israelis seem to go about this in mysterious ways.
Take the Palestinians for example. Hamas declares (and abides by) a ceasefire for two years. Then they win the elections and offer a unilateral long-term hudna. You would think that the Israelis would see an opportunity to dialogue wth their sworn enemy. After all, was it not Yizhak Rabin who said you make peace with your enemies, not with your friends? Well, Israel refuses to deal with the Hamas government, withholds taxes and continues with targetted killings. A few months later Hamas is back to its warring ways.
in Lebanon, as the interview demonstrates, Israel had massive international support at the beginning of the conflict. They could have chosen to side with the Siniora government and isolate Hizbollah. After all, even Arab nations (and a majority of the Lebanese themselves) condemned the capture of the soldiers. So what do the Israelis do? They squander the opportunity. They go to an unecessary and unwinnable war, making themselves out to be the villains, alienating and slaughtering hundreds of the very civillians who were sympathetic to their side.
It seems to me that what was said of Arafat fits the current Israeli leadership: they do not miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Posted by: Patrick Gathara at September 18, 2006 10:53 AM

“...we had international backing at one point to an unprecedented degree”

This is flat out wrong. Jews only obtain “international backing” when they allow themselves to be murdered. Left-wing Israelis have unwittingly done enormous damage with their desire to be loved by the world.

Israel must also lower its unrealistic standards protecting innocent civilians during military operations. The terrorists cannot be ultimately defeated if the West is not willing to accept higher “collateral damage” figures. And yes, my position is moral. It is the same as that of Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. WWII could not have been won if the allies embraced the more pacifist standards of today’s naive leftists.

Posted by: David Thomson at September 18, 2006 01:27 PM

Tiny typo
is says >> it says : "follow the newspaper and to remember what is says knew that Hezbollah"

Near front, after Why was it stupid?

Still great article after reading it a second time, but missing a big question.

Assume Olmert ordered the week 2 Blitzkrieg ground attack, as I think would have been better. Would Israel have accepted 1000 IDF deaths? How about 3000? 6000?

I think yes even up to about 5000 in a week 2 mass anti-Hiz offensive, but not sure. I'm not happy about alternative Israeli strategies that don't include possible death rates.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at September 19, 2006 01:13 AM

Sorry, Michael and the expert: Israel had a military plan against Hezbollah and were looking for the excuse to proceed with the plan. It was not 32 seconds and wham. That has already been revealed in Ha'aretz and I'm surprised neither recognized that.

I liked the interview, though. A lot. But as someone who thought the war was unncessary and badly exposed the weakness in the Israeli military, and as someone who believes that Israel's political leadership continues to knowingly squander the opportunity presented by a clear split among Hamas leaders on the subject of recognizing Israel (the latest unity government includes the statement that Israel is a soveriegn state up to its 1967 borders), it bothers me to find the ease with which the so-called "left" is delegitimized in these discussions.

When is there going to be any accountability against the bed wetting right wingers? They get the war they want and can't win. They make up stuff or use pretexts to get there (obviously the Hezbollah raid on the soldiers' camp and taking of prisoners became an excuse for a wider retailiation and war). And too many, but not Michael or the author interviewee, want to undermine norms of civilization to try and get to their goal. Yet, there is nobody in any elite media in the US at least saying such people ought to be as delegitimized as the amorphous "left."

Posted by: Mitchell Freedman at September 19, 2006 07:47 AM

Patrick Gathara,

I can appreciate why you would think that way, but it's important to know all the facts. Do you, in fact, know what a hudna is? It's a Muslim armistice that is limited to 10 years when dealing with a non-Muslim enemy, and should be used to re-arm and train so that after the hudna expires, the Muslim force will be strong enough to militarily conquer the non-Muslim enemy. With this knowledge, you should re-assess whether or not it was reasonable for Israel to agree to a hudna with a militant Islamic group that doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist. If it still seems that Israel took an unreasonable path, congratulations, you are officially an anti-Zionist.

As for Siniora, he head a weak government that was never able to (and never attempted to) disarm Hezbollah, despite the worldwide goodwill his government enjoyed after the expulsion of Syrian occupation forces, when Hezbollah was at its weakest. It's unclear why Israel should put its trust in a man who declares that Lebanon will be the last Arab nation to sign a peace agreement with Israel. But then, I guess it fits in perfectly with your anti-Zionist views, fair enough.

Mitchell Freedman,

Your statement includes many factual errors, but it appears that you can't be bothered with the facts. There is no Palestinian unity government, and at no time did Hamas agree to recognize Israel should it even enter such a government. "Bed wetting right wingers," eh? Olmert is not a right-winger by any means (look at his politics, look at his wife and children), nor is the Defense Minister, Amir Peretz. You may not have noticed, but Likud, NU-NRP, and Yisrael Beiteinu are not and have not been in the governing coalition. Do you ever ask yourself why left-wingers always seem to be the ones to be in power when major wars start? (Israel was ruled by Mapai/Labor through the Yom Kippur War, Asquith, Briand/Viviani/Poincare, and Wilson were in power in WWI, Chamberlain/Daladier/FDR were in power for WWII, JFK/LBJ started the Vietnam War).

Posted by: Jeff at September 19, 2006 03:32 PM

Jeff,

You need better reading comprehension. I said Hamas is "splitting" over the issue of recognition of Israel. You may also wish to read an article in Ha'aretz from 9/13/06 which quoted Gen. Hamad, a Hamas spokesman, as saying Hamas would recognize Israel and its 1967 borders (couldn't figure out how to cut and paste in the pop up for comments).

As for Olmert, he was until these past 10 months or so, a member in good standing with Likud, and is a disciple of Sharon, who defined the right in Israel for so many, many years. I also try not to judge the policies of a leader by the private opinions of one's daughter or wife--and you should avoid that, too.

And as for your history of "leftwingers" in power when war begins, that is something I have thought about quite often and note that only FDR can be called a true left-winger in the sense that modern political discourse would consider left-wing.

America's war in Vietnam was a bi-partisan affair, from Truman to Nixon/Ford. As for World War II, Neville Chamberlain was a Tory, not a "left winger" (don't know much about Daladier). Finally, there is something rather pitiful about calling Golda Meir a left winger apart from her economic views, since she is the one who refused entreaties for peace by Sadat in 1971 and denied the very existence of a Palestinian people. It was her rightwing foreign policies, including the start of the aggressive settlement building program, that one should judge in reference to Israel's relations with its Arab neighbors, not Golda's supposed belief in unions, Karl Marx or socialism. Also, it would be well nigh irresponsible to refer to her as a politically correct multiculturalist.

Maybe you are one of those bedwetting hawks desparately trying to shift blame, which may explain your desparate response.

My point remains: Leftists mostly get delegitimized as hateful and weak for being correct, while right wingers are often presumed to be correct and strong even when they've been dead assed wrong and make a nation, whether the US or Israel, less strong.

Posted by: mitchell freedman at September 19, 2006 05:19 PM

Keyword: Baalbeck.

IDF cannot reach Baalbeck = IDF cannot defeat Hezbollah.

Posted by: Lira at September 19, 2006 05:26 PM

Mitchell Freedman,

Thanks for the response.

Hamas: Talk is cheap. If Hamas will recognize Israel and the 1967 borders, why doesn't it just come out and say so, officially? And amend its charter. These guys are masters of deception, why do you continue to believe them? Khaled Mashal sent a message to Haniye saying that if he forms a unity government with Fatah, Haniye "will find his body tossed in a ditch on the side of the road" (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=112312). But of course, what the Hamas spokesman said surely overrides what the leader of Hamas intends.. right?

Olmert: Member in good standing is not the way I would put it. He was not popular with the Likud central committee and attached himself to Sharon to remain in power. I mentioned his family because his wife is a notoriously hard-core left wing activist and his children refused to serve in the IDF as conscientious objectors. You don't think this has had any effect on him over the decades, or perhaps reflects a part of his own ideology? Unilateral disengagement is a left wing ideology. So what if Sharon embraced it? People change, he moved to the left. And it didn't hurt that by doing so, he could continue to be prime minister and appoint his cronies and sons to prime positions in government.

Left-wing governments: You say "only FDR can be called a true left-winger in the sense that modern political discourse would consider left-wing" and thus dismiss the idea that belonging to a certain party serves as enough to label someone left or right. Fair enough. But then you point out that Chamberlain was a member of the Conservative Party, and so he can't be considered a left-winger? I don't follow the broken logic, which way do you want it?

Golda Meir: Socialists have a proud history of aggressive foreign and domestic policy. See USSR, People's Republic of China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, etc. etc. It's not as easy as you think to separate economic policy from foreign policy.

Ad-hominem attacks ("bedwetter") are a better sign of desperation than a reasoned attempt at debate, so I'll leave that point alone. I will point out, however, that leftists are delegitimized precisely because they are hateful and weak, not because they are correct. Witness the pathetic attempts by Olmert and those around him to remain in power (Olmert sets up Winograd commission which will not comment on the performance of the Prime Minister; Amir Peretz refuses to resign; Halutz says "I will wear my uniform until it is stripped off of me and if that is hard on you, we can find ways of hiding from one another.") That seems weak to me.

Posted by: Jeff at September 19, 2006 05:51 PM

1. If a refusal to resign is a left wing trait, then I guess Bush, Rummy, et al. are "left wingers" now. Nice try.

2. Chamberlain was not a left winger in foreign policy. He was Tory all the way. He'd have rather fought Stalin and sided with Hitler. That was the basis of his refusal to engage against Hitler. No inconsistency there.

3. Your attempt to tie Golda Meir's foreign policy position with her socialist aesthetic is rather lame. She didn't support the Soviet Union or Red Chinese.

4. "Unilateral disengagement" is not a left wing position because it is too general to be left or right. In various circumstances, it could be left or right. Were the Republicans in the US Congress left wing because they wanted no ground war and quick disengagement from Kosovo? That is my point with Meir. She took a position that was Likudnik in philosophy and policy. Irony of ironies that Begin made peace with Sadat, but we know that is not suprising in a Nixon-goes-to-China way.

5. Finally, it's way too late to be accusing the left of being weak in terms of policy making. It is also ridiculous to accuse the left of being hateful with the many right winger commentators in the US calling for the death of Supreme Court justices, Democratic presidents, and armed attacks against Mexicans. To attack the left reveals more about the hackery of the accuser than anything serious.

Good luck, Jeff.

Posted by: Mitchell Freedman at September 19, 2006 06:20 PM

Mitchell Freedman,

Thanks for the response.

1) I was pointing out that those who are hateful and weak are delegitimized. You can be a weak leftist or rightist and be criticized for it, as was Chamberlain and now Olmert. The left tends to see in its enemies a goodness which doesn't necessarily exist, and thus leaves itself open to accusations of weakness more than the right does. That's all I was trying to say.

2) Chamberlain did much to expand the welfare state in Britain (which by your previous post, defines him in today's terminology as a liberal), and so did LBJ. Joe Lieberman votes with the Democrats about 90% of the time, but he supports Bush's intentions as it regards the war in Iraq. Does that make Lieberman a right winger? Hardly. I also don't really see how you can define appeasement as a right wing policy.

3) Golda Meir didn't support the USSR or Red China, but she was indisputably a socialist. I never claimed she supported the leadership of those countries. My point was that having a forceful foreign policy doesn't make one right-wing (see point #1 and #2). Stalin took socialism to the extreme but had a very forceful foreign policy, and I would be interested in hearing where he is referred to as a right-wing politician as a consequence. The same can be said of the leaders of the other socialist states I mentioned.

4) Really, how can you claim that unilateral disengagement is not left wing? The right wing has for decades been identified with the maximalist philosophy (settlement, Greater Israel, etc.), so how can you square that with the minimalist philosophy of disengagement? The right isn't the only group that has an aversion to Arabs (observe the elitism of the Ashkenazis in Mapai and their mistreatment of Mizrahi Jews, let alone Arabs). Olso was a left wing conception, carried out by left wing politicians in the face of right wing opposition. Ehud Barak initially proposed disengagement, and indeed when Sharon was elected in 2003, he ran in opposition to Amram Mitzna's platform of disengagement. It's not the right wing's fault if its elected leader betrays the platform that he presented to voters. You can compare Republican policies on Guam or Puerto Rico, but to compare the Republican policies on Kosovo with Israeli policies on territories under its own control is nonsensical.

5) Is it really too late to accuse the left of foreign policy weakness? What's strong about the left wing's foreign policy? You're the one who claimed that the left was accused of being hateful simply because the left was correct, in your view. I see the left claiming that Bush "stole" the election, that he's an idiot, that right wing voters are uneducated and practice incest, etc. You should visit dailykos.com and see the kind of vitriol that they spew against the non-left. Sure, the right-wing does it as well, but two wrongs don't make a right. Still, the fact remains that the "I voted for the war before I voted against it" left is weak on national security, hatemongering or not.

Posted by: Jeff at September 19, 2006 07:28 PM

Jeff,
Interesting tactic of calling all who disgree with Israeli policies "anti-zionists."
Anyway, I agree that a hudna is designed as a short term ceasefire (ten years is evidently not statutory as the late Sheik Ahmed Yassin offered a 100 year hudna in 2004). However, a pre-requisite for progress on peace talks is silent guns and the Hudna does afford this. Anyway, and the Hamas spokesman has recognised this, it is plainly ridiculous to suggest that in ten years Hamas would be able to (in the words of another cretin) "wipe Israel off the map."
Siniora does head a weak government, but you take his statements on peace with Israel out of their proper context. He initially condemned the Hizbolla capture of the two soldiers and only reacted as he did after Israel's targetting of the Lebanese civillian population. This is just further evidence of Olmert's bungling.
I do not understand why you would expect Siniora to disarm Hizbollah in a year when Israel couldn't do it in 18 years. A disarmed Hizbolla is going to be the result of an internal Lebanese political process supported by the international community, including Israel. Military strikes only provide further justification for their continued existence.

Posted by: Patrick Gathara at September 19, 2006 11:42 PM

Kudos to Jeff & Mitchell for disagreeing so rationally -- although I can easily cite Marc Cooper (on Michael's blogroll) and David Corn as Bush-haters quite full of Leftist hate-speech arguments with little discussion of alternatives.

Today in America, Leftists ARE hateful, of individuals who argue in favor of a pro-democracy war in Iraq -- like Leftist hatred against Lieberman.

There's no similar hate from the right -- although there is 30 years of anger against the US SC creating a 'Constitutional Right to Abortion'.

typo: "Olso was a left wing conception" << Oslo is the city.

Patrick: "However, a pre-requisite for progress on peace talks is silent guns and the Hudna does afford this." Where is your evidence for this assumption?

I believe the fact that Israeli guns are silent, so often, is a big reason the Jew-haters don't make more progress on peace talks. I think that if Israel had offered a reasonable public peace plan for Lebanon, and said it would accept either peace or continued fighting, they could have pushed the US / UN / EU & Lebanon towards a real peace agreement.

If fighting breaks out again, won't this prove you wrong?

One of the horrible things about Leftists is that, after their policies are enacted and result in thousands being murdered, they refuse to accept that those policies were related to the murders. (cut & run in Vietnam & Cambodia; "no genocide" in Rwanda; "Global Test" in Darfur; Stalin's socialism in the 30s...)

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at September 20, 2006 01:31 AM

Tom Grey,
Israel has time and again said it would neither negotiate nor withdraw under fire. The war in Lebanon saw the Lebanese government unwilling to enter into any talks while the bombing continued. The current fighting in the Gaza strip precludes any serious peace talks as Tony Blair found out.
As for Israeli guns being silent so often, I'm sure the Palestinians would beg to disagree.
if fighting were to break out again, it would simply mean that the parties were unwilling to exploit the opportunity to reach a lasting settlement, not that the opportunity did not exist.

Posted by: Patrick Gathara at September 20, 2006 06:36 AM

Tolerance is the proven practice one uses to fan the popularity of bloodthirsty Jihadists into a full holocaust.

In 1983 Secretary Wineberger tolerated the bombing of 241 marines in their Lebanon barricks. This was in direct opposition to Reagan*s orders to do a smack-down on Hezbollah. Terrorism flames fanned vigorously.

No long detailed list here. Suffice to mention there were countless attacks tolerated during the eight year Clinton stint, and thereafter.

Tolerance worked. Now look at the mess we have to deal with. Putin and Russia full backing for Iran.

Pakistan signing agreements with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/HI02Df02.html

Things are moving so quickly now!

Is it too late to bring Liberals, NDP, and Democrats up to speed and on-side?

Nat. Dipstick Pty. leader Jack is asking that we abandon the children and teachers in Afghanistan to the Taliban.

Jack is OK with another Darfur.

The MSM can be proud. They have shielded the North American public from any clear picture or concept of our current emergency.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/HI02Df02.html

= TG

Posted by: TG at September 20, 2006 12:07 PM

-- sorry glasnost, Israel pre-emptively defended itself from an obvious build-up of military men and equipment. This after a 1956 war and after a 1948 war by the Arabs who refused Israel's existence -- with neither war ending with a Peace Agreement.

Tom, this is doublespeak. If international law and democratic norms allowed made initiating war not iniitating war when the other guy undergoes a miliary buildup, then every country in the world could legimitately initiate war against the United States right now, for our current military buildup, which could be pointed at any of them. The 56' war was - this is a neutral description - a British-Israeli plot to seize the Suez Canal. That's why the United States forcefully stopped it.
Iniitating war and preemptively defending oneself differ only in phrasing. Every dicator's every aggressive war in the world uses phrase number two. Do some real research on this topic oneday, find the quotes from the Israeli ex-generals. You'd be surprised.

Greeneyeshade, sure the Arabs were wrong in 1948. Everyone was wrong. On 1967, our perspectives differ.

I do remember the Khartoum summit. It's a good lesson. In 1967, negotiation seemed impossible. Ten years later, the impossible peace treaty with Egypt was a reality.

This is now 2006, and there's been an Arab-League wide peace plan on the table for four years. A historically unprecendented one.
It's drawing crickets.

Posted by: glasnost at September 20, 2006 02:24 PM

glasnost, if you think the Arab-League peace plan is a panacea, you are sorely mistaken. It includes the implementation of the UN General Assembly Resolution 104, the so-called "Right of Return" resolution, which is simply a non-starter given the current and future demographic make-up of Israel:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Peace_Initiative

As a counterpoint to the Palestinians' refugee status, I hope you also note the 750,000+ Jews who were expelled from Arab lands after 1948, including 5,000 from your beloved Lebanon:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_exodus_from_Arab_lands

However, somehow, give-or-take some racial discrimination, most Jews from Arab countries have integrated into the greater societies of North America, Europe and Israel. Why haven't Palestinians similarly integrated into their surrounding Arab countries? Let's look at this quote from the Peace Initiative link above:

"The somewhat obscure 4th section was inserted at Lebanese insistence and reflects its concern that the settlement of the refugee problem not be at what it considers the expense of Lebanon and its 'demographic balance.'"

So, it is okay for Muslim-dominant countries like Lebanon to give a big middle finger to their Palestinian populations (and Syria: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hama_Massacre, and Jordan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_September_in_Jordan) but Jewish-dominant Israel, which has more Israeli Arabs than there are any Jews in any Arab/Muslim-dominant countries all over the world, has to swallow the Arab League peace plan.

Given their own treatment of the Palestinians, the Arab League is not the first source I'd turn to for any equitable solution. As they say, those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones....

Posted by: jjdynomite at September 20, 2006 04:35 PM

== From: the respected Economist =

America may yet come to agreement with France, which has joined some tough statements against Iran recently. But Russia and, especially, China remain stumbling blocks, opposed to sanctions. It is not hard to see why. Ilan Berman, an Iran-watcher at the American Foreign Policy Council, noted the huge scale of China’s economic ties with Iran in recent testimony to Congress.

He points out that China—which is ravenous for more oil and gas—now gets 15% of its energy from Iran, more than from any other supplier. To ask China to slam the door on Iran’s energy exports is like asking America to do without Saudi oil, says Mr Berman. In other words, it is unthinkable.

Mr Bush offered some respectful words for Iranian people on Tuesday. And Mr Ahmadinejad found many occasions to mention justice and love among peoples. But neither man is budging.

Mr Ahmadinejad also referred obliquely to the coming of the perfect one , meaning the hidden imam, that Shia Muslims believe will return to herald the end of the world.

More reason to worry that the president is a millenarian zealot. On the other hand, Time magazine has reported that America has given some of its navy ships orders to prepare to deploy near Iran. A bluff, perhaps. But it has raised fears of an impending strike and of a clash of something more serious than words.

== http://www.economist.com/agenda/displaystory.cfm?story_id=7938954

Damn! Now if we were all driving EVs. . . = TG

Posted by: TG at September 20, 2006 05:09 PM

jjdynomite,
In 1948 the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 194 on the Question of Palestine, which "resolves that refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return..." The resolution did not discriminate between Jewish and Palestinian refugees. Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen (then hardly a club of Israel's friends) voted against this resolution. According to the resolution, any Jews who wish to return to their homes in Arab countries should have the right to do so just as any Palestinians who desire to return to their homes in Israel do. Their right of return is clearly and unambiguously guaranteed by international law under the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In any case, a 2003 poll indicated that only 10% of Palestinians would be willing to adopt Israeli citizenship. The vast majority would rather live in a Palestinian state set up alongside Israel.

The Israeli argument that the return of even this handful of Palestinian would change the "Jewish" character of the state is, at the very best, myopic. in several decades time, if current birth rates among Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews are maintained, the "Jewish" character of Israel will be a distant memory. At the risk of being called ant-semitic (whatever that means) I would argue that this is not necessarily a bad thing. A diverse, multi-cultural, multi-religious Middle East in which the rights of all are respected and not pegged to racial or religious background should be the aim of all.

While the Arabs have not exactly been paragons of virtue when it comes to their dealings with the Palestinians, this does not excuse Israel from living up to her interational obligations. The refugees hold claims to land in Israel, not Lebanon, Syria or Jordan.

Posted by: Patrick Gathara at September 20, 2006 11:59 PM

Oooo-kay, Patrick, I'm sure my father-in-law would love to move back to Egypt where his 80,000 Jewish brethren lived until 1948. I'm sure they'll be treated just as well as the Israeli Arabs are treated in Israel proper.

Oh wait, how well are the Arab/Muslim Egyptians treating their Coptic Christian minority?

In other words, can I have some of the weed you're smoking?

Posted by: jjdynomite at September 21, 2006 01:50 PM

jjdynomite,
Fine by me if your further in law doesn't wish to return to Egypt. He still has the right. And his unwillingness to do so is no good reason to deny others their right to go back to their homes.
By the way, Israel's treatment of the Israeli Arabs is nothing to brag about. 90% of Palestinian refugees would rather live in their squalid camps than be guests of the Israeli state. That's how good the Israeli Arabs have got it.

Posted by: Patrick Gathara at September 21, 2006 03:32 PM
  • Pope Benedict. Nothing to apologize for.*

A fitting tagline for 99% of atrocities in the news today. = TG

Posted by: TG at September 21, 2006 07:40 PM

The 56' war was - this is a neutral description - a British-Israeli plot to seize the Suez Canal. That's why the United States forcefully stopped it.

Really?

Your 'neutral' description of the Suez war completely ignores the fact that Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal Company- which built and owned the canal. The major shareholders of the company were French and British.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suez_Crisis

That's why the United States forcefully stopped it.

Ah, no. The US government opposed it because a guy by the name of Josef Stalin (remember him?) started talking about the Soviet Union (remember them?) intervening on the side of the Egyptians. It did not have a damned thing to do with 'international law and democratic norms'

As far as the comments of retired generals are concerned, here's one you might find interesting-

Eisenhower later admitted, after retiring from office, that the Suez Crisis was perhaps the biggest mistake he made in terms of foreign policy. Not only did he feel that the United States weakened two crucial European Cold War Allies but he created in Nasser a man capable of dominating the Arab world when Nasser was little liked let alone respected amongst other Arab countries.

Posted by: rosignol at September 26, 2006 04:00 AM

Correction, it was Khrushchev, not Stalin.

Posted by: rosignol at September 26, 2006 04:06 AM

CBV. . . Thanks!

[gatewaypundit.blogspot.com/2006/09/thousands-
rally-in-lebanon-against.html]

http://tinyurl.com/gk6dw

A real ray of sunshine there.

Now all we need is a site where millions of Moderate Muslims denounce the extremes of Taliban, Al Qaeda, and Hezbollah 7th century barbarianism. = TG

Also, Thousands more Muslims have been slain by Muslims than all of the Western nations combined.

http://SmallDeadAnimals.com

=TG

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