November 13, 2006

A Perfect Storm?

A perfect storm may be brewing in Lebanon.

I’ve been under Tornado Watch probably ten times or so in the American Midwest. Not once did a tornado touch down anywhere near me while I was on alert. Several tornadoes, though, blew through the area out of the blue with no warning on different days. So consider this a storm watch weather forecast for Lebanon with that level of built-in unpredictability.

The Lebanese government says Syria and Iran aim to overthrow the elected government in Beirut and reconquer the country. Whether they are actually trying to do this right now or not is unknown. There should be no doubt, though, that if they don’t have a plan to execute now it’s because they want to do it later instead.

Meanwhile, a group that calls itself “Al Qaeda in Lebanon” appeared from Lord-only-knows-where and directly threatened to destroy the March 14 government. “Al Qaeda in Lebanon” may or may not exist as a wing of bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. If they do, they’re serious. If they don’t, they’re a Syrian proxy. Either way, it doesn’t look good. This is not a prank phone call.

These threats to Beirut’s elected government are concurrent with Hezbollah’s and Amal’s resignation from the Lebanese cabinet. Hezbollah and Amal quit for two reasons. The first is that the March 14 bloc refused to give Nasrallah and friends who lost last year’s election more power in a “national unity” government. The second is because it was time for the cabinet to move ahead on the Hariri tribunal. Hezbollah will not tolerate the prosecution of their patron in Damascus.

Once again, the country is bracing itself for sectarian war in the streets. Charles Malik says Christians may sit this one out for the first time in Lebanon’s history. Whatever fighting there may or may not be will likely involve Sunni and Shia.

If this isn’t gruesome enough, Syria and Iran have reportedly replenished all Hezbollah’s destroyed arsenal stocks. Hezbollah, according to the Times of London, now has more rockets than they had before the most recent Israeli invasion. If this is, in fact, true, UNIFIL ought to just go home right now. These foreign soldiers are useless except as human shields.

Israelis need a new Lebanon strategy. Now. But they are not likely to get one, at least not until Ehud Olmert takes his rightful place among the losers of Israeli prime ministers. He’s threatening to invade Lebanon again as early as this coming Spring. So far there is no talk whatsoever of doing anything to Hezbollah’s logistics hub in Syria. Hebollah is nothing but a protest and charity movement without its supply train from Tehran through Damascus.

Instead, Israel pinky swears to leave Bashar Assad alone even though he, more than anyone else, is responsible for turning Lebanon into an engine of chaos. The Israelis even phoned Bashar while bombing Beirut and the Bekka. They told him to sleep tight because he is not on their list. So of course he went and rigged up Round Two.

In the meantime, though, Round 1.5 may (or may not) break out at any time.

UPDATE: A friend and trusted source emails from Lebanon with an update on what's going on in the Dahiyeh south of Beirut, the capital of Hezbollah's state-within-a-state.
My friend __________, an American who used to live down there, just visited his old apartment, which was right next to the al Manar Building. It really spooked him. There are massive buildings missing all over the place. There are still heaps of trash and rubble all over, but the streets are all navigable. Of course, the Shia down there don't seem to mind. They're all outside smoking argile in front of the buildings like they used to. Most of his old neighbors are still there. However, Hezbollah is all over the place. The area is completely monitored.

During the war, Hezbollah's full control of Dahieh became 100% apparent to even the most pro-Hezbollah, Lebanese-American-French-Saudi hating idiot. To even get into the area, foreigners had to present their passports, which Hezbollah photocopied. After the war, they first approved who could and could not enter the area, even amongst Lebanese.

Now, their surveillance is everywhere, even though they have allegedly moved their bases of operation. They still have deep tunnels under their, but Dahieh has also become a bit of a trap. Anyone looking for Hezbollah will go there - even though it's no longer the heart of their operation, thus they've set up their surveillance systems to see who's looking for them and what they are doing. If they see those same people at any of their other locations, those people will be ever more closely monitored.

A paranoid organization is now paranoid beyond belief. Allegedly, Hezbollah surveillance is extending further and further than it was before. They are watching everyone, to an even greater extent than in the past. And this has become easier because many moderate Shia who are integrated into the non-Shia communities have now become complete Hezbollah supporters.

Even supporters of Michel Aoun are suspicious of the Shia who joined the FPM, now. The FPM members know the Shia only support Aoun because he's allied with Hezbollah. If there isn't Hezbollah support, those people will be gone. So, it's assumed they are working for Hezbollah and reporting everything back.

According to a graduate computer science student at AUB, the English speaking and moderate Shia are now monitoring websites. He told me to be careful about what I write. I don't take that too seriously, but I wouldn't doubt that they are watching to an ever greater degree.

UPDATE: Don't miss my Pajamas Media podcast interview with Lebanese blogger and political expert Tony Badran.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 13, 2006 01:25 PM

Comments

Iran is the ultimate source. Of this problem and many others. Iran should be the target.

Posted by: Yafawi at November 13, 2006 01:35 PM

But, this forecast is based only IF a sunnie public figure will get killed, which... is... like predicting the future from a glass bowl?

Posted by: tsedek at November 13, 2006 01:51 PM

Mike, you should think twice about dumping on Olmert. I won't claim his leadership was *exceptional, but you know as well as anyone else that the Lebanon invasion II was very very unlikely to make people happy and accomplish anything solid other than the eventual stopping of the rocket fire. There just was neither the leverage nor the resources.

I sort of agree with your criticising that no one is pushing hard enough on Syria, as they are indeed the weakest link, but this isn't Olmert's fault. Do you see any IDF support for this?

The real story lurking here is that the IDF has become almost a state within a state, running its own policies, with the politicians afraid to argue with it.

In general, I think Olmert has done an admirable, even statemanlike job of being willing to entertain both aggressive military moves and politically costly but valuable pro-peace efforts. Most of the kicking of him is because a) he drew the black straw of an overdue no-win war scenario and wake-up call with lebanon, and b) precisely because he's willing to take on the right wing on the settlers and peace efforts.

Posted by: glasnost at November 13, 2006 01:58 PM

I agree that Olmert is taking more heat than is fair. Besides, the alternative is the Likud, and I think it's better for Israel to have a centrist party dominating the government than a rightwing or leftwing party.

That's my two cents. I'd give more, but I am Jew and we are cheap.

Posted by: semite1973 at November 13, 2006 02:04 PM

The first is that the March 14 bloc refused to give Nasrallah and friends who lost last year’s election more power in a “national unity” government.
Not only did we win the elections, but we also won the so-called March 14 the elections. Review your facts!!

Posted by: AlGhaliboon at November 13, 2006 02:18 PM

glasnost: you know as well as anyone else that the Lebanon invasion II was very very unlikely to make people happy and accomplish anything solid other than the eventual stopping of the rocket fire.

They never stopped the rockets. Only the "cease-fire" accomplished that. I was on that border, and rockets were fired in my direction until the very last second without so much as a pause.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 13, 2006 02:22 PM

"The first is that the March 14 bloc refused to give Nasrallah and friends who lost last year’s election more power in a “national unity” government."

It is Hizbullah that brought this useless "March 14" majority. And the election was a win for Hizbullah knowing they won the most number of seats than ever.

Posted by: AR at November 13, 2006 02:24 PM

Not only did we win the elections, but we also won the so-called March 14 the elections. Review your facts!!

Aren't the facts that the March 14 block won 72 out of the 128 seats, Hizb and Amal 35, and Aoun (not allied with you at that time) 21?

How did you win the elections and how did you win them the elections?

Posted by: Dirk at November 13, 2006 02:46 PM

Time to take a trip to Lebanon and do some storm chasing?

Posted by: Charles Malik at November 13, 2006 02:52 PM

Charles,

I'm working on Baghdad and Iran at the moment.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 13, 2006 02:53 PM

Michael,

I tend to agree with glasnost here. Olmert did the best he could with the shitty hand he was dealt. Ultimately, it was never up to him whether to go after Syria or Iran (Hint: The US!).

About the resignation of HA from the government...well....i'll try to repeat what i posted on my blog in "kinder" words here:
When you resign from the government, you can't go bitching about how decisions are being made without you. If you truely call yourself democractic, you have to respect the state's institutions. If you're in opposition, you're in opposition. If you win the elections, then you can be in the government and participate in decision making. Can't have it both ways. And more importantly, you can't threaten violence if you don't get your way, and then claim to be democratic.

Posted by: bad vilbel at November 13, 2006 02:58 PM

Dirk, "March 14" could not have won those seats without Shi'ite votes. If we had given those votes to General Aoun, there would have been no "March 14" today. Anyway I call them February 14, cos that's what they are.

Posted by: AlGhaliboon at November 13, 2006 02:58 PM

Coulda woulda shoulda....

Posted by: bad vilbel at November 13, 2006 03:00 PM

Al-Ghaliboon, did Nasrallah's friends (as Michael very clearly said) Wiam Wahhab, Talal Arslan, Omar Karami, Suleiman Frangieh, the SSNP, Asem Qansoh, et al. win anything at all? No, the lost.

You check your facts.

Posted by: G at November 13, 2006 03:03 PM

Actually the government is unconstitutional, because it is based on the national pact and the consensus, so the cabinet cannot take any decisions when one sect is entirely missing. also note that the interior minister is illegal !!! mr. bassem el saba'a resigned back in february and his resignation was not accepted. he was replaced by mr. ahmad fatfat who has been responsible for the episode in marja'ayoun where the security forces that were supposed to defend us in case we are disarmed, served tea to the israelis, and also in the recent events on the airport road where 2 kids were shot to death by the security forces. anyway, mr. fatfat is illegally acting as interior minister, and will remain illegal unless mr. el saba'a actually leaves the country, which he has not done. anyway it is not up to the prime minister to decide whether or not the resignation is not accepted, the christian president is the one who has the authority to sign the decree accepting/rejecting the resignation, although this has to be done in agreement with the prime minister.

but who cares about the constitution or the president.

Posted by: AlGhaliboon at November 13, 2006 03:04 PM

Actually the government is not unconstitutional. It was formed including all sects and received parliament's confidence. The resignations have not been accepted. There is nothing unconstitutional about it.

And before you make libelous accusations about the security forces shooting two kids, check your facts and spare me the Hezbollah propaganda which is all you are.

And check your facts on the consitution. The President signs the resignation of the cabinet not the individual ministers.

Your entire set of information is straight out of Hezbollah propaganda. You are little more than a loud English version of that.

Posted by: G at November 13, 2006 03:08 PM

Actually, SSNP did win seats. As for Mr. Arslan, he is Druze, and the area where he is located, we are not present. Elsewhere in Beirut and the Beqaa, we handed "March 14" a clear victory. In Christian areas of Mount Lebanon, the non-presence of Shi'ites meant that the Christians would be able to have fair elections, but this was not the case in Beirut and actually the elections in beirut were boycotted by General Aoun for this reason, because effectively non-Christians would be electing christian representatives because of the division of districts.

Posted by: AlGhaliboon at November 13, 2006 03:10 PM

Actually G you are wrong. The non-acceptance of the resignations does not mean that the ministers will be present, and if they are absent this means that they are not represented. the system is based on consensus. there is only one way out of this, and it, too, is unconstitutional, and resembles the case of the interior minister, namely, new shi'ite ministers are selected to replace our ministers, but since our ministers have not left the country, the mandate of the new ministers would be illegal. either way, the unconstitutionality remains.

by the way, you are still wrong, the constitution says the following:

Ministers are to be dismissed by a Decree signed by the President and the Prime Minister in accordance with Article 65 of the constitution.

so it has to be based on mutual agreement by both sides. the PM still cannot take the decision by himself.

as for mr. fatfat's crimes, i would advise you to check the al-akhbar, oct. 9 report on the autopsy, including a copy of the official report of the findings of the doctor as well as x-ray pics.

Posted by: AlGhaliboon at November 13, 2006 03:19 PM

Might I suggest Al Galiboon's 15 minutes are over.

This is getting stupid. The majority is what he and his ilk say, NOT the actual numbers in the house (and yes I hated that law too, but it was the law).

Posted by: JoseyWales at November 13, 2006 03:27 PM

Josey Wales,

AlG will get tired of us when we get tired of him. He has not set himself up as a reliable source in any case. A lot more people will trust you as a Lebanese source of information that him.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 13, 2006 03:33 PM

Josey, the time he spends in the comment section on a blog might cut into his random murder and pointless destruction schedule. It wouldn't be a bad thing if more religious fanatics spent their time on the internet instead of blowing sh*t up.

Posted by: mikek at November 13, 2006 04:18 PM

Ministers are to be dismissed by a Decree signed by the President and the Prime Minister in accordance with Article 65 of the constitution.

Totally irrelevant to the issue at hand. The Ministers were not dismissed.

Besides, have you read article 65?

Article 65 [Powers]
Executive authority is vested in the Council of Ministers. It is the authority to which the armed forces are subject. Among the powers that it exercises are the following:
1. It sets the general policy of the Government in all fields, prepares Bills and organizational Decrees and makes the decisions necessary for implementing them.
2. It watches over the execution of laws and regulations and supervises the activities of all the Government's branches including the civil, military, and security administrations and institutions without exception.
3. It appoints Government employees and dismisses them and accepts their resignations according to the law.
4. It dissolves the Chamber of Deputies upon the request of the President of the Republic if the Chamber of Deputies, for no compelling reasons, fails to meet during one of its regular periods and fails to meet throughout two successive extraordinary periods, each longer than one month, or if the Chamber returns an annual budget plan with the aim or paralyzing the Government. This right cannot be exercised a second time if it is for the same reasons which led to the dissolution of the Chamber the first time.
5. The Council of Ministers meets in a locale specifically set aside for it, and the President chairs its meetings when he attends. The legal quorum for a Council meeting is a majority of two thirds of its members. It makes its decisions by consensus. If that is not possible, it makes its decisions by vote of the majority of attending members. Basic national issues require the approval of two thirds of the members of the Council named in the Decree forming the Cabinet. Basic national issues are considered the following:
The amendment of the constitution, the declaration of a state of emergency and its termination, war and peace, general mobilization, international agreements and treaties, the annual government budget, comprehensive and longterm development projects, the appointment of Grade One government employees and their equivalents, the review of the administrative map, the dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies, electoral laws, nationality laws, personal status laws, and the dismissal of Ministers.

And here's article 53, point 5:

5. He [the President] issues, on his own authority, the decrees accepting the resignation of the Cabinet or considering it resigned.

That's the CABINET, not individual ministers.

And spare me the al-Akhbar garbage. There was nothing indicating that these kids were shot by the Security Services.

Posted by: G at November 13, 2006 04:33 PM

And they were not present the first time when the tribunal was first accepted after Tueni's assassination. It still stood, it was constitutional, and they returned and participated in it.

Posted by: G at November 13, 2006 04:36 PM

With all this discussion regarding constitutional democracy, I though it relevant to provide two useful quotes from "The Will Of The People-Winston Churchill And Parliamentary Democracy" by Sir Martin Gilbert, the world's pre-eminent Churchill biographer, historian and scholar:

"Parliamentary democracy celebrates diversity and dissent. It seeks to exclude no one from the benefits and protections of citizenship. Today, as in every decade in the past, its basic tenets are under threat: the male and female electoral franchise, the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate, the value of peaceful public criticism and opposition, the evolution of practical and egalitarian legislation, and above all, the belief in impartial justice and right of every adult citizen to determine his or her own destiny. The twin pillars of parliamentary democracy are the secret ballot and open debate."

and

"It enshrined one of his basic understandings of parliamentary democracy: that no one class, no one interest--economic, social or political--no one segment of the political spectrum could use the system for its own exclusive interests."

Undoubtedly, this is the 'democracy' that the hizbo blackshirts are moving inexorably toward.

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at November 13, 2006 04:49 PM

G, dismissal also includes release from duties, which is practically equivalent to accepting resignation. You did not need to copy and paste this to prove anything, because the point still stands. At any rate the law is clear on the unconstitutionality of Mr. Fatfat the CHILD KILLER at the very least, and a government that upholds unconsitutionality is unconstitutional itself. I hope you knew that much.

Posted by: AlGhaliboon at November 13, 2006 04:54 PM

By the way:

Please check this out:

http://www.mallat.com/articles/leb_constit_eng_6.jpg

Point #4, Article 53.

Thank you.

Posted by: AlGhaliboon at November 13, 2006 05:01 PM

Ghalib,
What is equally unconstitutional is arms outside the control of the state. Why couldn't you have waited a few more days? Then all the excuses they are making right now would have been negated and we could be talking about the real issues at hand, instead of handing them the excuses that they need to dodge the real issues at stake.

Miscalculation to the maximum. Horrible strategy.

Posted by: Omega80 at November 13, 2006 05:31 PM

The problem that my poor Aounist friend above fails to realize or admit is that Hezbollah sabotage of the tribunal, desire to reverse the effects of UR 1701, and their desire to take over control of the state and its strategic orientation, and to use that to maintain those weapons outside the control of the state are the real issues at stake!

Posted by: anon at November 13, 2006 06:01 PM

glasnost: You are totally, utterly wrong. The army wanted to wage the Lebanon war differently, more swiftly, with more troops on the ground sooner, but Olmert did not let them. The Israeli army is totally subordinate to the political institutions, as one would expect in a modern democracy, and if the Cabinet decided on striking at Syria, there would not be some kind of veto by the army. The "state within a state" rhetoric is how one talks about Hezbollah, and is so totally different from the situation with the IDF as to be laughable. Olmert could have done an exceptional job, but he botched it, and that's no one's fault but his own.

Posted by: Adam at November 13, 2006 06:05 PM

MJT,
There are several very good reasons not to attack Syria and Israel would be very stupid to do so:
1) BV is right. Israel cannot touch Syria because of the American situation in Iraq. This is an American request that can't be refused.
2) As you know, if Asad goes we get (drum roll please) The Muslim Brotherhood. When you have to choose between cholera and the plague you go with cholera.
3) The border with Syria has been quiet since 73. Not one shot fired in anger. Asad has a lot to lose from a war and therefore does not want one. If in the end Syria gets part of Lebanon in exchange for a quiet border for Israel that is a deal I can close my nose and accept. In order to leave this option open, Asad has to remain in power.

For the reasons above, Israel will not and should not attack Syria unless the Syrians attack it.

e

Posted by: e at November 13, 2006 06:17 PM

I always find it ironic if not amusing when the likes of Al G. and others boast that they beat Israel or that they weren’t defeated entirely because they fought the Israelis off.

Believe me, the only thing preventing Israel from eliminating Hezbollah—or the Hamas and the like—is Israeli morality. Israel has not waged total war against its Arab adversaries for quite some time, if ever. But it Israel is capable of bombing Shiite-dominated parts of Lebanon and Syria into smoldering piles of concrete and metal. This could be done without even using ground troops; i.e. little loss of Israeli life. Ditto Gaza. Wholesale bombing and blistering mortar and artillery barrages could flatten the place and kill tens of thousands. The Palestinians would be begging for peace and quiet.

But the reason Hezbollah and Hamas et al are alive to fight another day is precisely because Israel refrains from flexing its muscles to the fullest extent.

Now, the salient question to ask is, if the tables were turned, Mr. Al G., what would you and your ilk do to Israel if you had total air superiority? Be honest.

Posted by: semite1973 at November 13, 2006 06:19 PM

semite1973,
It is not a relevant question. I am not going to define my morality relative to him. I don't care what he would have done.
e

Posted by: e at November 13, 2006 06:26 PM

HA will, inevitably, strike. They are a group founded on violence, and without violence they become irrelevant... hence, violence they did, do, and will bring.

Olmert is a spineless creature. The sole reason he and his mates lost Israel the recent war is because they don't know how to win. We cried for rolling fire screen, the very basic requirements of the army were massive softening of targets before moving troops in... neither was given. The whole thing was a half-arsed affair, thanks to Mr. Olmert and Co.

Semite1973 - this is exactly what Israel will have to do (and much more) if it wishes to survive another 10 years. Half-measures do not win wars, as has been proven time and time again - half-measures perpetuate and eventually lose wars.

Posted by: The Raccoon at November 13, 2006 07:33 PM

Dear Semite1973:

"Believe me, the only thing preventing Israel from eliminating Hezbollah—or the Hamas and the like—is Israeli morality."

That is not accurate. Israel is also constrained by its allies. If Israel engages in "Wholesale bombing and blistering mortar and artillery barrages . . . [that] flatten the place and kill tens of thousands", you're on your own.

Posted by: anonymous at November 13, 2006 10:21 PM

Olmert: it's not that he makes wrong decisions. Any leader does. It's that he never decides at all and does not seem to care about anything. He shows no capacity to learn from mistakes or adapt his behaviour to anything.

When war broke, there were two concrete plans: limited air strike against strategic targets, and massive ground deployment. Both plans had their pluses and minuses. And both were internally coherent.

Olmert did not make a clear choice on either. There were some air strikes, then some ground deployment, and then some more (completely senseless by that time) ground involvement.

And it's not just the war. Everything he does is characterized by this don't-know-don't-care approach. Let's try this and let's try that. He's simply not a serious person.

Posted by: Disk on Key at November 13, 2006 10:22 PM

"you're on your own."

You would be better off winning wars. Why bother with the modern Israeli war under anon's rules? Don't expect Israel to be ignored when things get hard, bloody and painful.

The answer to your question:

"what would you and your ilk do to Israel if you had total air superiority?"

Not my ilk, (I'm clanish:) A healthy debate, one side supports raping women and the other raping everyone they could.

Israel has followed a decent path full of problems, IMHO. They understand and are prepared to own their mistakes. There is room to correct the mistakes made today. Every nation has problems as dramatic and they deal with it, give Israel a chance.

Posted by: mike at November 13, 2006 11:30 PM

E,
Your strategy regarding Syria is totally flawed. If it weren't for Syria, Hamas and Islamic Jihad would not be able to operate as effectively as they do now. It seems as if their tricks have been working on you.

Their main point is to keep making themselves relevant by showing that they are the key to stability because only they can control Hezbollah and reign in the other militant groups. However, as we have seen in the past, this is not true and each and every time dialogue with Syria has produced no results.

Either way, better start getting used to it because Syria is not coming back into Lebanon ever again.

Posted by: Omega80 at November 13, 2006 11:43 PM

Omega is right. Bashar is not the fireman, he's the arsonist. Knee-cap him.

Bombing guerillas is useless. See Lebanon.

Bombing hardened military dictatorships gets results. See Libya.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 14, 2006 12:20 AM

Basically,
If Bashar knew that everytime Hezbollah misbehaved he would get a lashing, Hezbollah would never misbehave again.

Posted by: Omega80 at November 14, 2006 02:21 AM

I am sure you are correct, Omega. It's pretty easy, really. Israel does not have to kill Bashar to get that deal.

Your relationship with Hezbollah must be awfully precarious. How would your friend Al Ghaliboon feel about you telling the Israelis to lash their patron and armorer?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 14, 2006 02:42 AM

Sorry I'm 'using' this comment's section for a personal question. I've been reading through that forum of the Orange Room and would like to know if anyone else but Lebanese but foremost any other israeli like myself is member? I'd like to register but don't know if I'd be welcome?

Posted by: tsedek at November 14, 2006 02:43 AM

Omega, Bashar could also decide to lash back by himself and 'join the party'

Posted by: tsedek at November 14, 2006 02:45 AM

Yes there are Israelis as members (not too many), but they don't pop up too often. Seems that they are not really interested in domestic Lebanese issues.

You are welcome to join, of course you are welcome. However, there are going to be many that will disagree with your ideas, so be ready for that.

Posted by: Omega80 at November 14, 2006 03:17 AM

Michael,
Now that Syria is gone, we want good relations with them. However, it doesn't seem that they have reached the point where they want to treat us as a sovreign state. Many people in Lebanon will cheer if there is a war between Israel and Syria, because of course Syria will get their asses kicked (and taste a bit of what they gave us).

Ghaliboon might now like this, but its a fact. A weaker Bathist Syria is a stronger Lebanon, that's just the way it is. The more they are preoccupied with other things, the more they leave us alone, which is why the Tribunal is a very good thing. Which is also why people are getting nervouse now that the Iraq Study Group is recomending dialogue with Iran and Syria. Isn't the man that is taking the place of Donald Rumsfeld a support of the ISG?

Wasn't he also in the CIA in the 80's and said that the Soviet economy is strong and they are going to be around for a long time? These "realists" haven't learned a thing it seems! Anyways, i'm not suprised they are saying these things because it was James Baker's boss when he was Secretary of State that handed Lebanon to Syria on a silver platter.

I just hope George W. Bush is wise enough to hold his ground regarding this issue.

Posted by: Omega80 at November 14, 2006 03:24 AM

Thank you Mr. Omega80 ;)
It's opposite opinions I'm interested in. Not tea-parties with nodding-head-in-agreement discussion partners, since from those you won't learn.

Posted by: tsedek at November 14, 2006 03:39 AM

It's not a matter of wisdom. There are larger events in progress, and Lebanon and Syria is a sideshow. Events there will have little effect on more important matters, so dealing with them will be deferred for the time being.

What Bush is going to do is try not to wreck his successor's chances of ensuring that Iran does not become a nuclear power and set off a middle eastern arms race, because if the Iranians have them, the Saudis will want them, and if the Saudis have them, the Egyptians want them, and if the Egyptians have them, the Syrians will need them, and if the Syrians have them... well, let's just say that I've seen enough bad decisions made by political leaders in that part of the world that I'm pretty sure one of them will decide to use the things at some point.

Then things get really ugly.

Personally, I hope the Israelis present us with a fait accompli like they did with Osirak. It wouldn't be the first (or even second or third) time they did something that turned out to be for the best a few years down the road.... but Olmert doesn't have the intestinal fortitude for that.

Who are the alternates?

Posted by: rosignol at November 14, 2006 03:50 AM

MJT, Omega80,
Regarding Syria you are mistaken. If Iraq has taught us anything it is that when an Arab dictator goes, you don't know what Pandora Box you are opening. If civil war erupts in Syria, then we will have the same problems we are having with Lebanon, maybe worse. Better to let Asad and Syria stagnate into oblivion than waste the life of one soldier on an adventure whose end is unclear.

Omega80, you cannot disarm HA, yet you are very brave against the Syrians. You couldn't fight the Syrians for one day because HA, your allies, are their bridgehead in Lebanon and by the way, the longer it takes you to disarm HA and make peace with Israel, the more attractive a deal with Asad will be for Israel and the US. Your position is so contradictory and senseless that it amazes me. The very fact that you are making HA stronger just increases the chances that Syria will return to Lebanon. Wake up and leave the Dark Side.

e

Posted by: e at November 14, 2006 04:42 AM

mt: u wrote:

So far there is no talk whatsoever of doing anything to Hezbollah’s logistics hub in Syria. Hebollah is nothing but a protest and charity movement without its supply train from Tehran through Damascus.

ultimately nothing that can be done will be effectively final until we neutralize iran. without iran assad and hizb'allah are nothing.

Posted by: reliapundit at November 14, 2006 04:42 AM

Omega80, why can't you people learn something when we tell you that's the way it is, and refuse to listen until you try it and find out for yourselves? I suppose toppling Basshar's regime to get rid of Hizbullah is one of those things that you guys have to try to be proven wrong. These people have failed thus far because they have based their entire action on mere speculation, and now here you are, falling into the same trap.

As for the unconstitutionality of the presence of any armed forces except the army, that is untrue, the Ta'ef which is accepted by the Lebanese government explicitly states that until such time as Lebanese lands (as per Lebanese government's definition, and Sheba'a farms is considered Lebanese by the Lebanese government) are occupied, the resistance can and should and will remain armed. So there is nothing unconstitutional in that. But there is something unconstitutional in the salafis having weapons and the Palestinians having weapons in and out of the camps. We are still waiting for you guys (whoever complaints about our arms) to respect the constitution and move the army to disarm the Palestinians. But i understand the Palestinian weapons are kept as a card for the Sunnis against us. One thing is for sure, you will never get to disarm us until you take solid steps towards completely disarming Palestinians and salafis, strengthening the army and security forces. Without these 2 things, you can forget about disarming us. And if you try to, we will defend ourselves from your aggression, you can be sure of that too.

As for the tribunal, how did our resignation effect the tribunal issue in any way? If it did not (which it did not, indeed) then why are you saying that we did it on purpose? Again the issue of speculation. You should try to get out of this viscious cycle of speculation and assumptions about motives and intentions. Sheikh Na'im Qassem said that we stand by the principle of the tribunal and it was affirmed during the dialogue summit, check out his latest statement before making such assumptions! Our ministers quit because we had thought we had arrived to some understanding, but the next day we come back and all those people had become transformed into Walid Jumblatts if you know what I mean. so they are to blame, not us, because we have shown that we are open to discussion and dialogue for understanding, as we have done with General Aoun.

Posted by: AlGhaliboon at November 14, 2006 04:49 AM

MJT: "Bombing hardened military dictatorships gets results. See Libya."

You're right, but let's be clear--bombing the military assets of dictatorships doesn't get results (see Iraq and Serbia) so much as killing the families, gangster-style, of the dictator (as in Libya)

That's a drastic step because in my opinion it's far and away more of a becoming-the-thing-you-hate deal than Abu Ghraib or Gitmo. The best you can ever do is to justify it in a utilitarian way i.e. we'll use the latest military hardware produced by the most liberal society to... murder a little girl. But, in the long run it truly will save thousands of other innocents and make the world a better place at least for awhile. I'm not accusing you of cheering for that kind of thing, but wanted to point it out before others cheer for it.

Posted by: Stacy at November 14, 2006 05:16 AM

Omega80, why can't you people learn something when we tell you that's the way it is (ALG)

Uh-oh, NOW you've done it!

Posted by: Dirk at November 14, 2006 05:48 AM

You're right, but let's be clear--bombing the military assets of dictatorships doesn't get results (see Iraq and Serbia) so much as killing the families, gangster-style, of the dictator (as in Libya)

That didn't actually change much.

Ghadaffi (or however he's spelling it this week) has wanted rapproachment with Washington for years- ever since the Soviet Union imploded and he lost his patron. IMO, hauling Saddam out of his hole may have pushed him over the edge, but he was on the edge to begin with, and had been for quite some time.

Of course, the lesson that nasty outfits like his want to make up once their patrons go away just reinforces the case for going after Iran. Without backing from Tehran, Hizbullah's ability to kill people I don't want killed is pretty much confined to Lebanon.

That's a drastic step because in my opinion it's far and away more of a becoming-the-thing-you-hate deal than Abu Ghraib or Gitmo.

Perhaps.

I'll let my kids sort that one out. My main concern is that they have a world worth growing up in, and people who scream 'death to america' are high on the list of things I don't want on the same planet as them.

I understand the people who ordered and carried out the Tokyo firebombing a lot better than I used to.

The best you can ever do is to justify it in a utilitarian way i.e. we'll use the latest military hardware produced by the most liberal society to... murder a little girl.

Would it have been better to land a division of Marines in Tripoli and try to capture her father?

A lot more people would have died that way.

But, in the long run it truly will save thousands of other innocents and make the world a better place at least for awhile. I'm not accusing you of cheering for that kind of thing, but wanted to point it out before others cheer for it.

People die in wars. A great deal of what has been codified as 'the laws and customs of war' in the last century or two have been attempts to confine or minimize the violence that affects noncombatants.

Then some jackass came along and decided that if they didn't abide by these laws and customs, they'd have a significant military advantage. Maybe even enough of an advantage to win.

Ultimately, the only way out of this trap is to not be restrained when combatants hide among civilians.

Posted by: rosignol at November 14, 2006 06:24 AM

If I lived in Lebanon, I'd get the hell out of there. (Of course, if I lived anywhere in the Middle East, I'd get the hell out of there).

Sorry those of you from the middle east who love peace and just want to live. Sooner or later, having tyrants and terrorists in your midst will bring war.

Posted by: Tom at November 14, 2006 06:25 AM

Tom,
You would find Tel-Aviv quite appealing if it is not too liberal for your liking. Ask MJT.
e

Posted by: e at November 14, 2006 06:31 AM

MT:If your Hezb'Shaitan (lets not pretend they are anything else) friend here is any indication, I'd say that prognosticating a 'storm' in Lebanon is alot less risky than prognosticating the weather. He seems to want one, and I suspect he's a good bellweather.

Posted by: celebrim at November 14, 2006 07:03 AM

rosignol: "People die in wars. A great deal of what has been codified as 'the laws and customs of war' in the last century or two have been attempts to confine or minimize the violence that affects noncombatants.

Then some jackass came along and decided that if they didn't abide by these laws and customs, they'd have a significant military advantage. Maybe even enough of an advantage to win."

Well, that falls into the same commanding-the-wind category as the landmine ban or (less so) nuclear nonproliferation. War is the ultimate refutation of the idea that there is no objective reality. People will do whatever they're able to do to win, and restraint is practiced only to the extent that the fighting force is able to win without whatever weapon they are holding back.

Terrorism is sort of notable for its continuation in use despite its demonstrated strategic ineffectiveness. The populations of bombed cities in WW2 weren't cowed, and neither is anyone in a society subjected to conventional terrorism, even on the scale of Hizb/Palestinian attacks in Israel. Even state terror is effective only in the sense that it preserves the ruling party in the short term. In the long term of course, it destroys the society and ultimately the rulers.

Posted by: Stacy at November 14, 2006 07:56 AM

He seems to want one, and I suspect he's a good bellweather.

What disturbs me the most is that he has a pretty distorted idea of what the US's goals and intentions are. Where did that come from? I know Tehran has thought the US had it out for them for a quarter-century, but why (and how) is that delusion infecting the rest of the middle east?

Posted by: rosignol at November 14, 2006 08:40 AM

Yafawi

I disagree all things start at the top, and Russia/China are ultimately responsible

Posted by: akak at November 14, 2006 09:25 AM

"Terrorism is sort of notable for its continuation in use despite its demonstrated strategic ineffectiveness."

You could make a pretty good argument that terrorism is often (especially recently) successful from a propoganda perspective. Or at least creates a compelling illusion of success. I think the current attitude in the US is to try and avoid wading into waters polluted by terrorism, whether that is really possible or not.

Posted by: MikeB at November 14, 2006 09:37 AM

What happened to Solomon2's post, and my own?

A bunch of comments just disapeared!

Posted by: Josh Scholar at November 14, 2006 12:41 PM

Anyway there was a post (now gone!) suggesting that if Israel bombs Syria, the other regimes in the region might retaliate, that it could be the end of the peace deal with Egypt etc.

It seems possible to me that these other regimes, knowing that their own systems aren't so dissimilar to Syria's will feel that Israel is destabilizing Syria and respond on that principle, that Israel can't be allowed to destabilize any regime.

The bombing of Libya didn't have that effect because it was the United States that did the bombing.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at November 14, 2006 12:45 PM

If Israel hits Syria, do you think the international community would show Israel sympathy and understanding?Or would efforts to arm the Gazans redouble and calls for jihad increase? I see Jordan recalling its ambassador and closing borders. I see Egypt renouncing the Camp David accords and vowing belligerence with Israel (without, of course, giving back the territory Camp David yielded to Egypt). I see Syria reveling in its role of "victim" and Asad collecting Saudi cash for arms and terrorism. I see Iraqis goaded into attacking U.S. troops, lest their families be attacked by death squads and militias.

Yes, how idiotic to think that Israel might be able to deal a military defeat to nations like Syria, Egypt, Jordon and Saudi Arabia. How foolish to suggest any military action on Israel's part, because, after all, Israel wouldn't stand a chance against those nations, so they better make damn sure they don't do anything to make them angry.

Posted by: Michael Smith at November 14, 2006 12:51 PM

Mike, I notice that you've managed to quote one of the comments that just disappeared!

Posted by: Josh Scholar at November 14, 2006 12:53 PM

Yes, how idiotic to think that Israel might be able to deal a military defeat to nations like Syria, Egypt, Jordon and Saudi Arabia. How foolish to suggest any military action on Israel's part, because, after all, Israel wouldn't stand a chance against those nations, so they better make damn sure they don't do anything to make them angry.

I wonder if my car will run on vodka, sigh.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at November 14, 2006 12:54 PM

I also posted my "Lebanon Model" comment here on my blog.

Posted by: Solomon2 at November 14, 2006 12:56 PM

"I am suggesting a changing of targets. Lightly hitting Syria instead of massively hitting Lebanon is a plea to tone down the belligerence and channel what remains in a more productive direction." MJT

LOL. Nothing tones down belligerence like a little light bombing.

Posted by: deleted at November 14, 2006 01:00 PM

Something happened to my blog. I had a post on the main page that disappeared. Argh. Sorry, I don't know what the deal is here...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 14, 2006 01:38 PM

O.K., as near as I can recall it, I've posted the deleted comment Michael Smith and Josh Scholar refer to on my blog. However, Blogger is running really slow at the moment.

Posted by: Solomon2 at November 14, 2006 02:38 PM

Hey, everything will be good in a few months.

"Fuck the Jews" Baker is now in charge of U.S. foreign policy.

Don't worry, be happy! All problems will be solved.

Sleight of hand, it is called.

Posted by: ItwillbeOK at November 14, 2006 02:45 PM

mike4678@hotmail.com, your post wasn't deleted. Obviously they're having trouble with the server and restored the database from a backup that was an hour old or so.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at November 14, 2006 02:48 PM

Agreed, no deletion. The 11/14 entry re: new friendly neighbor blog was also lost.

Posted by: mike4678 at November 14, 2006 02:53 PM

I wonder if my car will run on vodka, sigh.
If you are concerned about the supply of oil, what do you advocate that we do to prevent more of it from falling under the control of our mortal enemies in Tehran?

Posted by: Michael Smith at November 14, 2006 02:54 PM

I recommend we get to the moon as it were, and create a program to replace crude oil with organic chemicals from other sources. I think even manure could be converted if it were dry.

When we don't have any dependency on middle eastern oil we'll have complete freedom of action and won't have to respect our enemies anymore.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at November 14, 2006 03:27 PM

It will be good to be ahead of the curve on replacing crude. It's running out anyway, and this way we'll know for sure that there won't be any economic disruption from depleted oil...

Posted by: Josh Scholar at November 14, 2006 03:30 PM

was wondering what happened to the friendly neighbor post. it showed up on my live bookmark, but when i clicked it the page wouldn't load (and then the link disappeared altogether). michael, can you repost it?

in terms of the rest of the ME retaliating to strikes against syria: since bashar's speech slamming several arab leaders during the war this summer, relations have been cooling between syria and the rest of the arab world. i hope the west capitalizes on this alienation and does what it can to further it before everyone forgets what they were upset about in the first place.

properly isolating syria from not only the west, but its own region as well might be a fairly good "stick," so to speak, and would certainly provide some insulation if action against syria is in the cards.

Posted by: carine at November 14, 2006 03:58 PM

Hi Carine, nice to see you again.

I don't know what happened to the Good Neighbors post. That and many of the comments here vanished into the bit bucket because of some glitch. (I promise everyone that I deleted no comments.)

I'll repost it tomorrow. The comments, unfortunately, are lost forever. So is my post, actually, so I will have to retype it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 14, 2006 04:13 PM

I returned from Israel trip last week (including Kiryat Shemona and the Golan). It is my impression from talking with the locals that Olmert is toast. They are very upset with Olmert and IDF leadership and will not be seen as weak again. The Middle East is a tough neighborhood and being seen as weak invites problems. Everyone kicks the poodle. Nobody kicks the pit bull. I fully expect UN forces to find an excuse to leave as happened in 67 and 73.

Posted by: Strabo the Lesser at November 14, 2006 04:17 PM

"Terrorism is sort of notable for its continuation in use despite its demonstrated strategic ineffectiveness. The populations of bombed cities in WW2 weren't cowed..."

This is one of my pet peeves. The problem with this sort of definition of 'terrorism' is that it is so broad as to be meaningless. The bombing campaigns of WWII had almost nothing in common with what we normally refer to as 'terrorism' either in intention or in effect. I'm reminded of a commentator who recalls watching the beginning of the Afghan campaign with some civvy friends, and how they commented that the Taliban wouldn't be intimidated by the US bombing campaign. He replied that the US wasn't trying to intimidate the Taliban, to which the responce was, "Well, what are they trying to do."

"They are trying to kill them.", was the answer.

It's amazing that you'd claim that the strategic bombing campaigns of WWII are 'ineffective'. They were fabulously effective - some of the most effective military campaigns of all time - provided you understand that the intended target was not merely to morale of the enemy population, but the ability of the enemy to make war up to and including the destruction of the enemy population itself. That the citizens of a city might be demoralized after thier city was reduced to cinders was only a nice side effect. The main point was that they'd be too busy trying to survive to make any tanks, bombs, and rifles.

Strategic bombing campaigns carried out as an act of war by one nation against another are not 'terrorism'. The fact that they are not 'terrorism' does not necessarily make them right and moral, but the fact that they are (if you believe them to be) immoral and unjust doesn't make the terrorism. There are many sorts of injustices and evils in this world. Don't impoverish you vocabulary by pretending that they are all the same.

Posted by: celebrim at November 14, 2006 04:57 PM

celebrim: "It's amazing that you'd claim that the strategic bombing campaigns of WWII are 'ineffective'. They were fabulously effective [...] The main point was that they'd be too busy trying to survive to make any tanks, bombs, and rifles."

I'm afraid you're misinformed. The US Strategic Bombing Survey concluded following the war that carpet-bombing had failed both its objectives--it did not intimidate or demoralize the enemy population, and it made shockingly little dent in their warmaking ability. Yes, that's counterintuitive, and I'm not going to go into the reasons. You can still make weapons and munitions in a pile of rubble. Germany made many, many more tanks in the spring of 1945 than in the summer of 1942.

My point wasn't to compare the Allies to Hezbollah, it was to show that indiscriminate attacks on noncombatants didn't and doesn't succeed in intimidating or coercing the victims, only hardening their resolve. Discriminate attacks like the ones you cite in Afghanistan are a different ballgame.

Posted by: Stacy at November 14, 2006 06:37 PM

My point wasn't to compare the Allies to Hezbollah, it was to show that indiscriminate attacks on noncombatants didn't and doesn't succeed in intimidating or coercing the victims, only hardening their resolve.

I dunno about that. We had a hell of a lot less trouble in postwar Germany and Japan than we are having in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I'm getting to the point of thinking "Being nice isn't working. Maybe they'll be more cooperative if they get a taste of what Plan B is."

Assad senior levelled a town once, and everyone was very careful about pissing him off ever since. The lesson I'm getting from that example is that playing by Hama rules works in that part of the world. Maybe we should try it, too.

Posted by: rosignol at November 14, 2006 10:23 PM
Believe me, the only thing preventing Israel from eliminating [carpet-bombing/nuking] Hezbollah—or the Hamas and the like—is Israeli morality."
That is not accurate. Israel is also constrained by its allies.

Actually, in this regard, it is a self-constraint of choice. The alliances Israel has are due to shared morality. Of course to admit as much would ruin the convienent constructs of radical Islam and the Jew-hating west.

Posted by: bains at November 14, 2006 10:28 PM

The alliances Israel has are due to shared morality. Of course to admit as much would ruin the convienent constructs of radical Islam and the Jew-hating west.

Possibly. I think Israel is much more pacifistic, for whatever reason, than any other society, certainly more than the US.

The the world condemns Israeli violence not because any other country would be more passive or nicer than Israel, but simply because Israel is unimportant. Israel has no oil, and some of its enemies do have oil, therefor an Israel that defends itself will always be an inconvenience.

If Cuba (or any other neighbor) ever launched a single missile at the US or allowed a militia on their soil to do the same, there'd instantly be craters from American bombs 100 times as large as any crater that Israel has ever made.

On the whole, Americans aren't at all squeamish - if we were merciful in Afghanistan it's because we couldn't really take Afghanistan seriously as a dangerous enemy, nor could we really hold these poor, mostly illiterate Afghanis responsible, most of them couldn't find America on a map.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at November 14, 2006 11:09 PM

If Cuba (or any other neighbor) ever launched a single missile at the US or allowed a militia on their soil to do the same, there'd instantly be craters from American bombs 100 times as large as any crater that Israel has ever made.

No doubt.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 14, 2006 11:12 PM

I used to have a Vietnamese friend who claimed that the US dropped a fuel-air bomb on the North Vietnamese army as we retreated from Vietnam, killing everyone for miles.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at November 14, 2006 11:33 PM

I seriously doubt that the north vietnamese propagandists would have let such an event pass.

Posted by: rosignol at November 14, 2006 11:42 PM

Since we supposedly did this while evacuating troops, it may be that north Vietnamese propagandists preferred to focus on the positive story of having won rather than on the rather depressing story of their losses.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at November 14, 2006 11:44 PM

Actually his story was more vague that I made it sound. I suppose I should have said that/

Whe he actually said was that the Americans dropped something that killed soldiers for many miles some of whom seemed untouched by the explosion, and I guessed that he was describing a fuel air bomb that would have depleted the oxygen and caused some soldiers to suffocate.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at November 14, 2006 11:48 PM

Sorry, it had been so many years that I'd forgotten that my conclusion was just my own (no doubt ignorant) inference.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at November 15, 2006 12:00 AM

I'm afraid you're misinformed. The US Strategic Bombing Survey concluded following the war that carpet-bombing had failed both its objectives--it did not intimidate or demoralize the enemy population, and it made shockingly little dent in their warmaking ability.

Here is part of the summary conclusion of the US Strategic Bombing Survey for Europe:

Allied air power was decisive in the war in Western Europe. Hindsight inevitably suggests that it might have been employed differently or better in some respects. Nevertheless, it was decisive. In the air, its victory was complete. At sea, its contribution, combined with naval power, brought an end to the enemy's greatest naval threat -- the U-boat; on land, it helped turn the tide overwhelmingly in favor of Allied ground forces. Its power and superiority made possible the success of the invasion. It brought the economy which sustained the enemy's armed forces to virtual collapse, although the full effects of this collapse had not reached the enemy's front lines when they were overrun by Allied forces. It brought home to the German people the full impact of modern war with all its horror and suffering. Its imprint on the German nation will be lasting.
(Full report is here http://www.anesi.com/ussbs02.htm#tc)

Here is part of the summary conclusion of the US Strategic Bombing Survey for the war against Japan:

We underestimated the ability of our air attack on Japan's home islands, coupled as it was with blockade and previous military defeats, to achieve unconditional surrender without invasion. By July 1945, the weight of our air attack had as yet reached only a fraction of its planned proportion, Japan's industrial potential had been fatally reduced, her civilian population had lost its confidence in victory and was approaching the limit of its endurance, and her leaders, convinced of the inevitability of defeat, were preparing to accept surrender. The only remaining problem was the timing and terms of that surrender.
(Full report is here http://www.anesi.com/ussbs01.htm#conclusi)

The Surveys contain plenty of recommendations for doing things better, but it is totally false to claim that they concluded strategic bombing "did not intimidate or demoralize the enemy population, and it made shockingly little dent in their warmaking ability."

The Surveys may well have concluded that “carpet-bombing” was ineffective, but we hardly need to resort to carpet-bombing these days.

Posted by: Michael Smith at November 15, 2006 04:48 AM

If Cuba (or any other neighbor) ever launched a single missile at the US or allowed a militia on their soil to do the same, there'd instantly be craters from American bombs 100 times as large as any crater that Israel has ever made.

No doubt.

I wish that were true, but it didn't happen after 9/11 for many weeks, and even then we dropped food and medicine before we dropped bombs.

Posted by: Michael Smith at November 15, 2006 04:51 AM

I dunno about that. We had a hell of a lot less trouble in postwar Germany and Japan than we are having in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I don't think there is any doubt about it. At the end of WWII, the civilians in Germany and Japan knew beyond a shadow of doubt that their alternative was to do exactly what the occupiers wanted or face extermination.

Contrast that with what the civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq "know" beyond doubt: they know that our military is there to die to protect them and they know that we have agreed to let them form whatever type of government they wish, up to an including a state of semi-anarchy complete with competing militias and death squads. And they know that our military acts only with their permission.

It's a recipe for disaster cooked up in the hope of appeasing the world's pacifists. It will succeed only in helping the pacifists in their twin goal of making the world forget the way we fought in WWII and believe that all military action leads to this kind of result.

Posted by: Michael Smith at November 15, 2006 05:05 AM

"I'm afraid you're misinformed."

Excuse me, but I'm not misinformed. I've read not only the summary report which someone else previously linked to, but the full multi-volumn book form of the report on the effects of allied airpower along with accompanying photographs. You should too, rather that trotting out counter-historical claptrap.

"The US Strategic Bombing Survey concluded following the war that carpet-bombing had failed both its objectives--it did not intimidate or demoralize the enemy population, and it made shockingly little dent in their warmaking ability."

It concluded no such thing. It concluded that the early war night bombing attacks dropped insufficient tonnage to effect its goals. It concluded that RAF style night time city area attacks were effective at sapping moral, but ill-suited to destroying the German industry which was concentrated not in the city center (as in Japan) but in large industrial centers around the city perimeter. It concluded that in 1942 the German economy was not fully mobilized and not fully on a war time footing, and that only after Germany's defeat in Moscow did the German planners begin to utilize thier full resources. It is certainly true that in 1945, Germany was making more tanks than in early 1942, but they were making less tanks than they were in 1944 - to say nothing about how many fewer rail cars, automobiles, etc. they were making.

"Yes, that's counterintuitive..."

You are mistaken. I'm not 'intuiting' anything here. This is tuitive knowledge.

"...and I'm not going to go into the reasons."

That's a shame. I was looking forward to hearing you explain the existance of a conclusion not found in the survey.

"You can still make weapons and munitions in a pile of rubble."

No, you can't. You can make weapons and munitions in an underground factory largely impervious to the aerial firepower of the day, but then you have to go to great expense to make that factory in the first place. And you can make weapons in an untouched factory on the edge of a smoking ruin, but I doubt you'll be happy about it at the end of the day. Compare with the US economy during and post-war if you think that the strategic bombing campaign didn't make a 'dent' on Germany's warmaking capacity.

Posted by: celebrim at November 15, 2006 07:12 AM

Michael,

Please, for G-d's sake, you are really misinformed on so many issues. Al Qaeda in Lebanon would not be a proxy for the Syrians. In case you didn't know (and I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt here), the Syrians for all their crimes against the Lebanese and their own people were NOT in the practice of licensing or funding the al-qaedaesque Salafist groups but rather these groups have been pandered to by the current ruling coalition-- who have licensed some of these parties and also paid them off to get them to cast votes for Hariri in northern Lebanon. This is all well-known, and those same parties were banned while the Syrians were here and only recently allowed to operate, even though they are openly hostile to the Lebanese government!

Posted by: Beirut Jew at November 15, 2006 07:48 AM

Please, for G-d's sake, you are really misinformed on so many issues. Al Qaeda in Lebanon would not be a proxy for the Syrians.

If they were really an al Qaeda spinoff, you'd be right, but it's quite possible that they're a Syrian-backed outfit claiming an al Qaeda affiliation as a way to disguise the link with Syria. If you're going to do something nasty, why not arrange for someone you don't like to take the blame?

The telling bit will be how they get along with Hizbullah. If the two groups are at each other's throats, they're probably really al Qaeda, if all they do is call each other nasty names, it's probably a Syrian group operating under cover.

Posted by: rosignol at November 15, 2006 07:54 AM

celebrim, I am sure the survey didn't just come out and say that all aerial bombing was wasted effort. And as you say, if it did say that it would be wrong. I didn't claim it made no dent, I said it made far less of a dent than anyone thought at the time. It is a fact that Germany's arms production grew massively even under the bombing raids. It may be expensive to build that underground factory, but you can do it and it will work. The Palestinians make their own artillery rockets that way. They may be living like cockroaches, but that still proves my point--only boots on the ground can prevent a population from making war if that's how they choose to spend their resources. Israel and Hezbollah both proved the point again in southern Lebanon. Bombing alone doesn't work for great powers or for terrorists.

Posted by: Stacy at November 15, 2006 09:30 AM

I didn't claim it made no dent, I said it made far less of a dent than anyone thought at the time.

Then you haven't read what the surveys say or even the excerpt I posted, which says in part:

By July 1945, the weight of our air attack had as yet reached only a fraction of its planned proportion, Japan's industrial potential had been fatally reduced, her civilian population had lost its confidence in victory and was approaching the limit of its endurance, and her leaders, convinced of the inevitability of defeat, were preparing to accept surrender.

And regarding Germany:

It brought the economy which sustained the enemy's armed forces to virtual collapse, although the full effects of this collapse had not reached the enemy's front lines when they were overrun by Allied forces. It brought home to the German people the full impact of modern war with all its horror and suffering. Its imprint on the German nation will be lasting.

Sounds like it worked pretty well to me.

Today, of course, we have a thousand times the firepower and the ability to deliver it with great accuracy. We could, for example, eliminate the Iranian oil and gas industry overnight.

Posted by: Michael Smith at November 15, 2006 01:04 PM

Stacy: I can hardly help from seeming to be offensive, so I'm not going to try to beat around this. You're wrong. You're wrong in ways that make me think you read one article written by someone who was trying to sell something, and since that was one of the first 'in depth' articles you read on the subject you believed it and ran with it.

The US Air Force concluded, and it was almost universally agreed on by all the services, that air power had won the war on both fronts. The US did an extensive 'after action' report, surveying the extent of the damage that they caused, from on sight photographs, interviews, and the Nazi records. What they discovered was that many things which they thought they'd done a good job on turned out not to have had that big of an effect - that's probably the basis of whatever information that you've been fed - but that on the other hand, things that they thought hadn't worked turned out to have had a big effect. Almost all US warmaking policy since then has been shaped by the report of the after effects of US airpower. There isn't anything about GWI that couldn't have been seen in the US Air Forces survey after war II. There is a famous image from GWI of hundreds of vehicles smashed along a 'highway of death', and the first thing that struck me about that image was that I'd seen before in black and white.

There is alot of ambiguity in your phrase 'carpet bombing'. To begin with, technically, the US Air Force didn't do carpet bombing in the European theater in WWII. 'Carpet bombing' was more the province of the Nazi's (early war, especially in Poland), and the RAF (early war, before they developed radio based positioning systems). Carpet bombing was conducted by the Nazi's almost as a theoretical study, to determine how many tons of bombs were needed to utterly destroy a particular target. Carpet bombing was conducted by the RAF because they lacked long range fighter escort and quality bomb sights, and so had to bomb at night with an accuracy often no closer than 5 miles (when over Germany). The idea was to saturate an area with bombs in the hopes that at least some would be on target.

In Europe at least, the US eskewed this strategy in favor of daytime high altitude bombing, relying on a high quality bomb sight and longer ranged fighter protection than the options the British had. It didn't always work, but at least in Europe the US was (mostly) bombing factories and not cities (often after dropping leaflets a couple days before warning the workers to not come to work on a particular day). And the RAF gave up 'carpet bombing' not because it wasn't working but mostly because technology let them develop better (in the sense of more destructive) techniques that didn't waste as many bombs. They started doing precision bombing with Mosquitos which were fast enough to evade fighter protection, and they refined thier developed a rather excellent ground based positioning system enough that it let them do 'precision' night bombing.

The Japanese theater was a totally different story. Almost none of the factors that applied in Germany applied to Japan. One of the problems with your whole theory of 'carpet bombing was not effective', is that in order to believe that you have to believe that nuclear bombs aren't effective. That's just nonsense. If you don't think dropping atomic bombs on a city is militarily effective, I don't know what to tell you and we can probably end this discussion, BUT the carpet bombing campaign in Japan was probably even more effective and destructive than the atomic bombing campaign. The reason it took two bombs in Japan was that the Japanese were convinced based on calculations by thier scientists, that we couldn't refine enough uranium to make two bombs. In a sense, they were right, but they didn't know about plutonium bombs. When we dropped the second bomb, it raised the specter of the carpet bombing morphing into saturation nuclear bombing - which in fact was exactly what the next stage of the US plan was - nine atomic bombs to be dropped on the same day. (There was even a study on the table to saturation bomb the entire island Japan with nerve gas, rendering it 'sterile'.) Ken Burn's did a really excellent documentary 'Victory in the Pacific' on how the Japanese/American psychology developed that got America to the point were it was considering such things that I think every American ought to see (and for that matter every Al Queda supporter).

But the atomic bombs were not much really special compared to the scale of the conventional bombing campaign Lemay unleashed on Japan when they decided that precision bombing was ineffective in taking out the highly decentralized Japanese industries. If we'd been able to supply Lemay with enough conventional explosives to meet his demand, we wouldn't have needed Atomic bombs. 'Carpet bombing' would have wiped the island clean with equal effectiveness.

In any event, this is all tangental. Regardless of the effectiveness of strategic area bombing, its not terrorism. One of the most obvious ways that it differs from terrorism is that it always carries a calling card. A strategic bombing campaign fits within the Westphalian international system and within the frame work of war. Terrorism rarely if ever does. Another obvious way that it differs from terrorism is that strategic area bombing is a tactic carried out - and which can only be carried out - by operationally 'strong' forces, whereas terrorism is always associated with armed forces with very limited operational strength. Another factor in strategic area bombing is that it generally follows from a traditional Clauswitzian escalation of force as the end product of a prolonged and increasingly serious struggle, whereas terrorism by its very nature involves force exercised without restraint or limitation right from the start of the conflict. One would never go about engaging in a strategic bombing campaign against a foe which you thought might be clearly more powerful than you, because the reply would be catastrophic. Instead, terrorism involves very intense violence applied on very limited scales (usually by operational necessity) with the tacit assumption that there will be no reply in kind. If terrorists ever do provoke a reply in kind, it generally ends the terrorism in very short order - which is one of several basic problems with the tactic. But no one who is serious about the mater claim that there is an equivalent basic flaw underlying strategic area bombardment. The only limitation there is usually how many children you can stomach killing.

You can argue that strategic area bombing is genocidal and that's another argument. You can argue that strategic area bombing involves disproportionate force under the traditional Western standards of 'just war'. That is another argument. But you can't argue that strategic area bombing is terrorism without rendering that word meaningless.

Posted by: celebrim at November 15, 2006 07:57 PM

PS: All Hezb'Shaitan (I refuse to further associate those murders with God by any name) has proved is that the Israeli's don't have the stomach for killing alot of Lebanese children. But the latest war that Hezb'Shaitan started with there little cross border raid and random artillery barrage did nothing to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of strategic area bombing.

Posted by: celebrim at November 15, 2006 08:24 PM

Celebrim,

About the children.

Alghaliboon, who is usually so careful, said,
**
on the unconstitutionality of Mr. Fatfat the CHILD KILLER at the very least,**
====

Mr. Fatfat [ a name recognized by many], can not have become prominent by killing children. Normally not good for political advancement. Honour, bravery, et al. . .

Were these children of Hez / Amal / Hamas parents? And killed by aim or accident? = TG

Posted by: TonyGuitar at November 16, 2006 10:23 AM

How oil wealth corrupts.

2K$ for fighters, 30K$ per family of fallen fighters.

Shiny new weapons. Growing arsenel of new Nukes.

Plans to extend Persian borders around Iraq, Syria and beyond.

MalMood, Muqtada, and Nasralla, all having a good time. = TG

Posted by: TonyGuitar at November 16, 2006 02:56 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member



Testimonials

"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

"Terrific"
Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere


Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com


News Feeds




toysforiraq.gif



Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button

totten_button.jpg


Tip Jar





Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn