Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Morally suspect, strategically stupid.

Charles Krauthammer blogs on the current situation between Israel and Lebanon. Here is a historical analogy he makes, attempting to argue that Israel's attacks on Lebanon are morally justified.

When the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor, it did not respond with a parallel "proportionate" attack on a Japanese naval base. It launched a four-year campaign that killed millions of Japanese, reduced Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki to cinders, and turned the Japanese home islands into rubble and ruin.

Disproportionate? No. When one is wantonly attacked by an aggressor, one has every right -- legal and moral -- to carry the fight until the aggressor is disarmed and so disabled that it cannot threaten one's security again. That's what it took with Japan.

Is the state of Israel morally justified in this crisis? Even though they were clearly attacked first (kidnapping of two soldiers), I would say no; they do not have the moral high ground. Charles' analogy above is flawed, because the state of Lebanon did not launch an unprovoked act of war against Israel like the Japanese had against the US. It was a rogue element within Lebanon that started this crisis.

Hezbollah is not Lebanon. In fact, I'd say that Hezbollah is more Syria and Iran than it is Lebanon. Hezbollah should have been disarmed, according to UN resolution 1559, but was not. The international community lacked the foresight and the resolve to enforce this UN resolution (strange). Additionally, the Lebanese government didnt have the power to disarm Hezbollah itself. That is because Hezbollah is more powerful than the Lebanese Army, thanks to generous Iranian arms support.

So yes, Israel was attacked first. But by the Lebanese state? No. The Lebanese aren't responsible for Hezbollah's actions. If we want someone to blame, we can look to the UN, Iran, or Syria. Meanwhile hundreds of Lebanese civilians are dead, hundreds of thousands are displaced, and billions of dollars of damage has been done to Lebanese infrastructure. All of this has happened to these people, and they really had no control over it.

The only moral argument Israel has going for it is that perhaps 40% of Lebanese are Shiite Muslim and so they "support Hezbollah", therefore their action is justified. Well, Hezbollah may be popular, but if I had to put money on it, I'd wager that the vast majority of those Shiite Muslims want peace. I'm sorry, wanted peace.

Morality aside, in my last post I pointed out that Israel's actions were strategically stupid. I stand by that. It should be well known to Israelis of all people that their policy in the middle east is inexorably tied to our own. Right now, we the USA are tied up in Iraq, and are still in Afghanistan. The Israelis themselves were/are fighting Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza. We're also trying to contain Iran. We were fighting on four fronts between the two of us. Why would Israel go and open up a 5th front in Lebanon? Do we really need to galvanize worldwide opinion against us at such a crucial time? Did our troops in Iraq really need the majority Shiites all riled up because of what was happening in Lebanon? And what have we learned about unilateral over-reactions in response to terrorists? Apparently, nothing.

And so here we are. Israel certainly doesnt have the moral high ground; its neutral if anything. Strategically, this was the biggest mistake since Iraq. And these are things I would think while assuming Israel would still accomplish its main goal of severely crippling Hezbollah. It is not clear at all right now whether that will even happen. A stalemate here would be a victory for Hezbollah and a defeat for Israel. That would be the worst foreign policy disaster...possibly in Israeli history. Certainly, the peace process...at least what was left of it, was set back 1-2 decades.

Perhaps the Americans and Israelis should stop electing leaders that lack military experience yet are overly enthusiastic about using their nation's military to solve problems. General Powell was the only man in the Bush administration that knew anything about war, and he was against the invasion of Iraq. If only Ariel Sharon wasn't in a coma, Israel wouldn't be in their predicament, either.

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