Monday, July 24, 2006

More on Lebanon ...

The Economist's leader from the latest issue is full of the pragmatic level-headedness one expects from the periodical, also providing some useful historical background:
THE war that has just erupted apparently without warning between Israel and Lebanon looks miserably familiar. The wanton spilling of blood, the shattering of lives and homes, the flight of refugees: it has all happened in much the same way and just the same places before. In 1982 an Israeli government sent tanks into the heart of Beirut to crush the “state within a state” of Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organisation. A quarter of a century later, Israel's air force is pulverising Lebanon in order to crush the state within a state established there by Hizbullah, Lebanon's Iranian-inspired “Party of God”. That earlier war looked at first like a brilliant victory for Israel. Arafat and his men had to be rescued by the Americans and escorted to exile in faraway Tunis. But Israel's joy did not last. The war killed thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, along with hundreds of Israeli and Syrian soldiers. It brought years of misery to Lebanon—and, of course, no peace in the end to Israel. The likeliest outcome of this war is that the same futile cycle will repeat itself.
The editors of the Economist argue that ultimately, it's not clear that Israel will succeed in a military operation against Hezbollah, i.e. in making the outfit incapable of attacking Israeli territory. Ultimately, somehow, Hezbollah should be forced to negotiate, and the US needs to step up its efforts to move things in this direction.
What is needed now is a way for both sides to climb down. Israel must get its soldiers back, Hizbullah's departure from the border area and an undertaking that Hizbullah will not attack again. The Lebanese army or a neutral force should then man the border. Hizbullah needs to be given a way to consent to these changes without losing face. Squaring this will take time, ingenuity and the full engagement of the United States. It will not bring peace to the Middle East but it might silence a dangerous new front. America should start its work at once.
I'm far from being even a well-informed reader about the situation in West Asia, let alone an expert. The question that strikes me is: how does one get a group like Hezbollah, one of whose stated aims is wiping Israel off the map, to actually agree to disarm, and stop what it's been doing for years now? Israel seems to think that the only way is military action, though many (including the Economist) are unsure whether that will work.

Meanwhile, innocents die every day. What a world! Anyway, I spotted this piece in the International Herald Tribune: Why Israel's Reaction is Right is a hawkish piece, from a European perspective. [I'm more used to finding stuff like this in the pages of Commentary] -- bottom line, the military option is the only one. Hezbollah will not negotiate. The article does point out the almost knee-jerk anti-Israeli stance on the Continent:
It has almost become a reflex on the Continent. In 2003, 59 percent of all Europeans pointed to Israel as the country presenting the greatest risk to world peace. On the third day of the current crisis, fully three quarters of all Germans polled were convinced that Israel was overreacting and using too much force in its response to Hezbollah. And since then, the images coming from the war zone have set the tenor: A cease-fire, most believe, should begin as soon as possible.
[snip]
It is terrible to look on while southern Beirut is turned into piles of rubble and to know that civilians on both sides -- as well as Israeli soldiers -- are being injured and killed. Even worse, though, is the realization that Iran could very well emerge as the victor in this war and use the current conflict to justify future attacks.

The pacifist reaction that the Israeli defensive war has triggered in Germany and Europe is not well thought out and is disingenuous. It is also counter-productive. An immediate cease-fire would merely result in a worse conflict in the future. The consequences drawn from Adolf Hitler's World War II -- "Never again fascism! Never again war!" -- were intended to prevent an anti-Semitic war from ever again taking place. Today, that lesson has been forgotten. "Never again war against fascism" is all that remains.
Hmm.

I suspect ... would be unhappy with the US Bishops' statement, which condemns terrorism and Hezbollah, but calls Israel's response disproportionate and indefensible.

I don't know what to do -- like I can really do anything, other than pray.

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