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What the World Needs Now

By Callimachus:

Tom Friedman, walled up like a Poe character behind the NYT’s Internet subscription jealousies, has thoughts on what Lebanon needs:

Even though it had members in the national cabinet, Hezbollah built up a state-within-a state in Lebanon, and then insisted on the right to launch its own attack on Israel that exposed the entire Lebanese nation to retaliation. Moreover, unprovoked, it violated an international border with Israel that was sanctified by the United Nations.

So this is not just another Arab-Israeli war. It is about some of the most basic foundations of the international order — borders and sovereignty — and the erosion of those foundations would spell disaster for the quality of life all across the globe.

Lebanon, alas, has not been able to produce the internal coherence to control Hezbollah, and is not likely to soon. The only way this war is going to come to some stable conclusion anytime soon is if The World of Order — and I don’t just mean “the West,” but countries like Russia, China, India, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia too — puts together an international force that can escort the Lebanese army to the Israeli border and remain on hand to protect it against Hezbollah.

I am not talking about a U.N. peacekeeping force. I am talking about an international force, like the one that liberated Kosovo, with robust rules of engagement, heavy weapons and troops from countries like France, Russia, India and China that Iran and its proxies will not want to fight.

Israel does not like international forces on its borders and worries they will not be effective. But it will be better than a war of attrition, and nothing would set back the forces of disorder in Lebanon more than The World of Order helping to extend the power of the democratically elected Lebanese government to its border with Israel.

Back in Three Days

by Michael J. Totten

Once again, I apologize for not being able to write much right now, especially at a time like this.

I am in a Third World country (to be revealed after I leave). I have limited access to telecommunications, and I have little or no time to write. I also have little or no time to moderate comments, and that is one of the reasons I felt the need to temporarily shut them down earlier. (They’re back now. Please be reasonable. Thanks in advance.) I have not been in a time or place where I can deal with this crisis properly. Please cut me some slack. I’ll be back in three days. Thanks again to Callimachus for helping me out when I really need it.

Some people have emailed and asked if my consulting job is just a ruse, that perhaps I’m in Iran and don’t want to say so. I really am consulting right now, and no I am not in Iran.

I won’t have much material for the blog because I’m not doing journalism work. But I did get a professional photojournalist camera, and I will have lots of better-quality photographs to publish.

The people of both Lebanon and Israel have my deepest sympathies. The Israelis do not deserve to be bombed by Hezbollah, and the Lebanese do not deserve to be bombed because of Hezbollah.

Hezbollah, though, deserves every last bomb that lands on their heads. There is a special circle in Hell dedicated to terrorists who hijack countries and use civilian populations as human shields. Hassan Nasrallah is using some of my personal friends as human shields, and for that I hope he dies twice.

UPDATE: A tiny scrap of good news. Thank you, Lisa.

Turkey and the Kurds

By Callimachus

The latest lede from AP faces both ways:

ANKARA, Turkey – The Turkish military is moving forward with plans to send forces into northern Iraq to clear out Turkish Kurdish guerrilla bases, the prime minister said Wednesday.

But Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said officials were holding talks with the United States and Iraq in an attempt to defuse tensions.

On the Other Hand

By Callimachus:

The idea of proportionate Israeli action in Lebanon, which I advocate, is getting a lot of slagging from some people who are technically on the same team I am.

And one other note: the “disproportionate” meme is an insult to our intelligence. I do not think it is worth discussing. It should be obvious that the best way to deter a bully is to use overwhelming force so that he will never again be tempted to provoke you. Anything less than that is simply an invitation for further troubles down the road.

Or this:

As an American, I recognize my constitutional right to take whatever measures are necessary to protect myself, my family, and my home. If someone comes after my wife and child, tearing him limb from limb would not be disproportionate. If I showed mercy, and subdued him by other means, that would be my prerogative. But I am in no way required to.

The most vigorous arguments along that line often are cast in such terms. But at the risk of doing a Dukakis, I think this is one case where the metaphor of war as a knife-fight with a lunatic to protect your wife doesn’t hold up so well.

There’s also a perplexing tendency to couple a solid argument that Israel has too used proportion and restraint in its attempts to snipe Hezbollah, with a “to hell with proportion” call to set loose the dogs of war.

Proportionate response is just. Justice isn’t always a sure path to physical victory. In this case, the cost of physical defeat is extermination.

Proportionate use of force is not an absolute; it’s a guide. It doesn’t mean civilians don’t get killed. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed if they do.

It doesn’t negate the gunman’s rule that, if you’re going to shoot, shoot to kill. It doesn’t negate the ugly truth that, in many wars, a short-term burst of extreme violence seems to actually save lives in the long run.

You don’t do it because you expect the other side to follow suit. You don’t do it so people will like you. You don’t ever want to do it out of weakness or fear.

Hezbollah wants a fight to the death. With flamethrowers. In a crowded old wooden orphanage. It means you’re not required to do it their way.

Warrior Code

By Callimachus:

I want to take another stab at convincing some of you there’s an important — essential — distinction between a warrior and a terrorist, and it’s not based on the cause they’re fighting for. It’s a theme I’ve brought up from time to time in the blogging I’ve done.

In Greek histories, Spartan mothers sent their sons to war with the commandment, “Come back with your shield, or on it.”

Spartan mothers loved their babies, too — they did not want to see dead bodies of their son brought back, as was the custom, sprawled on their shields. But if a warrior returned alive and unarmed it meant he had broken ranks and run. It meant he had thrown away the shield that protected — not his own life, but, in the old method of fighting in phalanxes, the life of the man next to him. He had broken faith with his comrades; he had forgotten his warrior’s code.

They wanted their sons back alive, but whole in spirit as well as body. They wanted them with honor intact. Everyone today who loves a soldier, sailor or Marine understand this. We want them alive, we want them victorious — and we want them to have lives worth living when their battles are over.

Modern armies sweep into their ranks hundreds of thousands of people. Not all are fit to be soldiers. Those who are not, when discovered, should be weeded out and sent home, and if they have committed crimes in the meanwhile they should be punished for them.

But this is not a matter of good soldiers and bad apples. Certain kinds of combat, or duty, wear down the military codes of honor. The warrior’s code frays, then the seams fall apart. Then horrible things begin to happen.

Warrior codes, whether in Sparta or in West Point, distinguish soldiers from murderers. Warriors have rules that govern when and how they kill. Learning them is part of the purpose of military training. We give soldiers the power to take lives, but only certain lives, in certain ways, at certain times, and for certain reasons.

The purpose of a code “is to restrain warriors, for their own good as much as for the good of others,” writes Shannon E. French, an assistant professor of philosophy and author of “The Code of the Warrior: Exploring Warrior Values Past and Present.” “The essential element of a warrior’s code is that it must set definite limits on what warriors can and cannot do if they want to continue to be regarded as warriors, not murderers or cowards. For the warrior who has such a code, certain actions remain unthinkable, even in the most dire or extreme circumstances.”

Yet the greatest danger of crossing that thin, sharp line that separates warriors from murderers is not in a war not among great powers, evenly matched. But it lurks when well-equipped armies are pitted against weak but merciless foes who hit and run and hide among civilians. It lurks in the places where people blow up public buildings to make a political point. There is no warrior code in that; a terrorist is a terrorist, however he justifies himself.

It is not the justness, or lack of it, in a war that makes this happen. Japanese soldiers, brutalized by experience in China, massacred and mutilated surrendering American soldiers in the Pacific in World War II, and Americans did it in turn to the Japanese when they found out about it. Tennessee soldiers who fought with honor and discipline at Shiloh in 1862 turned into murderous bushwhackers by 1864. Many soldiers in Hitler’s army behaved to the end with utmost military discipline. Some of the Soviet troops who defeated the Nazis raped and pillaged their path halfway across Europe.

When warriors and murderers clash, the murderers risk nothing but death. The warriors risk more. “Their only protection is their code of honor,” French writes. “The professional military ethics that restrain warriors — that keep them from targeting those who cannot fight back, from taking pleasure in killing, from striking harder than is necessary, and that encourage them to offer mercy to their defeated enemies and even to help rebuild their countries and communities — are also their own protection against becoming what they abhor.”

[That's something written three years ago, thinking of the U.S. in Iraq. I could make the same point again in fresh words, with references to the current situation in the Mideast. But here it is with nothing tilted or spun for the sake of the case in view.]

Force in Proportion

By Callimachus

One of the most interesting and in some ways infuriating books I’ve read recently is A.C. Grayling’s “Among the Dead Cities,” a book by philosopher that argues that much of the Allied air war — British bombing of German cities and the U.S. bombings of Japanese cities, including the A-bomb attacks — was an unjustifiable moral crime. I wrote about it (extensively) here but here’s a short version, focusing on the salient points.

Grayling’s central precept is that “the means used to conduct the war must be proportional to the ends sought.” This notion is not entirely accepted today, he acknowledges, but he shows it to be the essential quality of a just war, as that concept has evolved since Aquinas.

He is not concerned here with war crimes law so much as morality. Grayling’s non-pacifist stance allows him to invoke the doctrine of double effect: “No wrong is committed by the belligerent if the harm he does to innocents is an unaviodable ancillary to military operations — even if such harm can be foreseen.” In other words, if the primary goal is good and legitimate, the negative secondary effect, even if foreseen, is — not good, but not wrong.

This, too, is a controversial notion and one rejected outright by strict pacifists, for it legitimatizes some collateral damage. Grayling says the proportion doctrine applies:

Take the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: if these were claimed to be attacks on targets of military value, assuming there to have been industrial units or military barracks in these cities which ‘military necessity’ demanded should be destroyed, dropping an atom bomb on them is the equivalent to chopping off a man’s head to cure his toothache, such is the degree of disproportion involved.

He lists the large arguments in favor of such bombing, then pushes them back. Was area bombing worse than what the Germans did to the Jews or the Japanese did in Nanking? Certainly not. But “the fact that a wrong is less than a competing wrong does not make it a right.”

Did bombing civilians hasten the end of the war and thus spare the Allies greater battlefield casualties? Some say so. But saving military lives by substituting civilian ones is, Grayling says, like using civilians as human shields on the battlefield.

What’s left among justifications are the lesser ones of whether the bombing did in fact have a military objective important enough to justify the civilian deaths and wanton destruction of culture and property. Grayling enlists the many historians who have argued effectively against this conclusion.

Grayling declares precision bombing aimed at specific military targets as legitimate and morally acceptable. This exempts most of the raids by the American air forces in Europe from his indictment, since they targeted German oil facilities and similar targets. The American bombing campaign “proved highly effective” and “was proportionate and pertinent; it could also legitimately claim to be a necessary part of the effort to defeat Germany. The area bombing of civilian populations was not necessary.”

But this has problems, too. The Americans, in avoiding the heavy concentration of anti-aircraft fire around military targets, dropped from high altitudes and often with little ability to really aim for what they were after. The fact that such military targets as rail junctions and large-scale processing and manufacturing industries tend naturally to be surrounded by dense blocks of homes meant this tactic could be, and often was, as lethal as deliberate city-bombing.

And how do the ethics of air power apply to a ground war? The U.S. Army pushed through central Germany in the spring of 1945, with the German military before it mostly reduced to small ill-trained units, but when the Americans met any sustained resistance they pulled back, called in artillery, and blasted whatever was in front of them, whether it was a wooded ridge or a farming village.

The experience of Neuhof in the Frankenhöhe was typical of hundreds of other small German towns. The 92nd Cav. Recon Squadron reached it toward evening on April 15 and ran into a battle group of young SS soldiers north of the town. The Americans held off and pounded the town with artillery all night. In the morning, they waited for the fog to lift, then blasted Neuhof with phosphorous shells, setting everything ablaze. They attacked again at noon with infantry and tanks, but they still met resistance, so they poured more artillery and tank fire into the town. They finally took it at 5 p.m. that evening.

By that time only a few buildings still stood intact in Neuhof, most of the ancient village having been reduced to a glowing pile of ash and shattered stone. Cries from the wounded, strewn about with a dozen or so dead, intermingled with shouts for help from those still fighting fires and the occasional shots from American tanks to create a Dantesque atmosphere. [Stephen G. Fritz, "Endkampf," p.170]

In measuring the “proportion” and “double effect” rules, a philosopher can be content with images of cutting off heads to cure toothaches. A military commander in the field has to deal in more tangible material. Am I more responsible for protecting the lives of the men in my command than I am for those in the enemy’s ranks? Yes. What about their civilians? If I kill 50 enemy soldiers and 1 civilian, is that proportionate? Are 10 civilians? If we have a 60 percent chance of killing Hitler if we bomb a certain city of 20,000 on a certain date without warning, is that legitimate?

These are questions more pertinent to the modern face of warfare. But Grayling’s book is mute on them. In the end he’s shone such a narrow shaft of illumination that “Among the Dead Cities” doesn’t add much to what Billy Sherman said about war and hell.

My question is, how does this apply to what’s going on now between Israel and Hezbollah and the Palestinians? One obvious point of departure is that World War II was fought in a time when only nation-states had the ability to rain death from the air, and thus the responsibility to consider questions of proportionality and double effect. That’s no longer the case.

Hezbollah Flexes its Missiles

By Callimachus:

NYT reports:

The power and sophistication of the missile and rocket arsenal that Hezbollah has used in recent days has caught the United States and Israel off guard, and officials in both countries are just now learning the extent to which the militant group has succeeded in getting weapons from Iran and Syria.

While the Bush administration has stated that cracking down on weapons proliferation is one of its top priorities, the arming of Hezbollah shows the blind spots of American and other Western intelligence services in assessing the threat, officials from across those governments said.

American and Israeli officials said the successful attack last Friday on an Israeli naval vessel was the strongest evidence to date of direct support by Iran to Hezbollah. The attack was carried out with a sophisticated antiship cruise missile, the C-802, an Iranian-made variant of the Chinese Silkworm, an American intelligence official said.

At the same time, American and Israeli officials cautioned that they had found no evidence that Iranian operatives working in Lebanon launched the antiship missile themselves.

But neither Jerusalem nor Washington had any idea that Hezbollah had such a missile in its arsenal, the officials said, adding that the Israeli ship had not even activated its missile defense system because intelligence assessments had not identified a threat from such a radar-guided cruise missile.

But it was Friday’s successful launching of a C-802 cruise missile that most alarmed officials in Washington and Jerusalem.

Iran began buying dozens of those sophisticated antiship missiles from the Chinese during the 1990’s, until the United States pressured Beijing to cease the sales.

Until Friday, however, Western intelligence services did not know that Iran had managed to ship C-802 missiles to Hezbollah.

Officials said it was likely that Iran trained Hezbollah fighters on how to successfully fire and guide the missiles, and that members of Iran’s Al Quds force — the faction of the Revolutionary Guards that trains foreign forces — would not necessarily have to be on the scene to launch the C-802.

At the same time, some experts said Iran was not likely to deploy such a sophisticated weapon without also sending Revolutionary Guard crews with the expertise to fire the missile.

One wonders what else they have we don’t know about.

No Easy Answers

The National Council of Churches wonders, why can’t everyone just get along?

Is there ever to be an end to violence in the land we call holy? What has violence solved these last 60 years? What has violence solved these past weeks?

Maybe I’ve been in the cynical newspaper business too long, but isn’t that rather simple-minded? “Give peace a chance” feels good when you chant it, but shouldn’t we expect more hard thinking from theologists? What has chanting matras of peace from a safe distance solved these past 60 years other than making the chanters feel good?

What’s odd is that after describing the all around mess and chaos of the present Middle East, the NCC calls upon “our own government and all governments, recognizing the success of former peace initiatives ….”

Well, it’s a bit hard to recognize them amid the smoke and flying shards and collapsing apartment blocks, isn’t it? If it doesn’t stick for more than a few months, is it really success?

The NCC statement is absolutist pacifist. That’s probably (but not certainly) what Jesus Would Have typed up in a press-release, right?

But maybe a better step, for serious thinkers about religion, would have been to take notice of the fact that not all the faiths involves have the same scriptural foundation. Or to consider the doctrine of just and appropriate use of force as it has been shaped by men and women of faith over the centuries since Augustine.

Resistance?

By Callimachus

syria.jpg

The caption currently accompanying this Associated Press photo, both online and on the AP media wire, is:

Syrian men touring Damascus streets on Sunday, July 16, 2006, in their cars, waving the flags of the Lebanese Hezbollah Party, in a show of solidarity with the Lebanese resistance. A picture of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, is seen in the rear window of the front car.

Emphasis added. That strikes me as a politically loaded description of Hezbollah, and a word choice that’s … unfortunate, to say the best for AP.

War Stories

By Callimachus:

Some quick looks around the Web:

Stratfor says the next likely scenario is an Insraeli invasion of Lebanon. And the likely collateral casualty will be Beirut.

1. Israel cannot tolerate an insurgency on its northern frontier; if there is one, it wants it farther north.

2. It cannot tolerate attacks on Haifa.

3. It cannot endure a crisis of confidence in its military

4. Hezbollah cannot back off of its engagement with Israel.

5. Syria can stop this, but the cost to it stopping it is higher than the cost of letting it go on.

It would appear Israel will invade Lebanon. The global response will be noisy. There will be no substantial international action against Israel. Beirut’s tourism and transportation industry, as well as its financial sectors, are very much at risk.

* * *

The Independent tells the story of a survivor of one of the Haifa rocket attacks:

Yossi Amergi, a 46-year-old mechanic lay in the emergency ward of Haifa’s Rambam hospital, tubes sticking out of his arm, raw skin showing through a bandage on his right leg.

A few hours earlier eight of his workmates were killed by a rocket that burst through the corrugated iron roof of their railway maintenance depot, sending arc lights crashing, splintering carriage windows and covering the concrete platforms with gore.

… “I heard a boom,” he recalled. “My ears were bursting; blood was spurting from my leg. I lost friends, Jews and Arabs who worked together.”

* * *

Some blogs are pointing to a news release by Lebanese Foundation for Peace, an organization of Lebanese Christian exiles, praising the Israeli attacks.

“We urge you to hit [Hezbollah] hard and destroy their terror infrastructure. It is not [only] Israel who is fed up with this situation, but the majority of the silent Lebanese in Lebanon who are fed up with Hezbollah and are powerless to do anything out of fear of terror retaliation.”

Be that as it may, the press release begins with a very unfortunate preposition:

For the millions of Christian Lebanese, driven out of our homeland, “Thank you Israel,” is the sentiment echoing from around the world.

I suspect they meant “from,” or “on behalf of.”

* * *

An L.A. Times piece (subscription required) paints the picture in other Arab capitals:

In Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, governments with ties to the United States have guardedly denounced Hezbollah for the attack on Israel that triggered the fighting — even as the people began tacking up posters of Hassan Nasrallah, the bearded, turbaned cleric who heads the Shiite militia group and has vowed to bring “war on every level” to Israel’s door.

The disconnect between the broad range of public support for Hezbollah and the unease felt by many Arab leaders is one of many reasons that Arab governments have been largely unable to mount an effective diplomatic response to Israel’s 5-day-old bombing campaign.

Over the weekend, for example, the Arab League, meeting in Cairo, was able to agree on little more than a statement that urged all parties to avoid actions that may “undermine peace and security,” appealed to the United Nations for intervention and unsurprisingly declared the Middle East peace process “dead.”

On one level, the divide pits Syria and Iran, long-time backers of Hezbollah, against Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, whose Sunni-led governments fear the rise of Islamic militancy and the influence of Iran.

“The resistance will win, and the Israeli aggression will fail,” said Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal in a statement Sunday, pledging a “firm and direct response” if Syria is hit. “The resistance has hit deep inside Israel, and the enemy did not expect this.”

Iran, meanwhile, threatened that Israel would suffer “unimaginable losses” if it widened the conflict with an attack on Syria.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei on Sunday rallied behind Hezbollah, describing Israel as “an evil, cancerous tumor” in the midst of the Islamic world.

Turkey and the Kurds

By Callimachus

The Middle East this morning faces many possible next steps to Hell. Certainly one of them is a flare-up of fighting between Turks and Kurds, which would take place in a region Michael has criss-crossed several times and written about eloquently.

Now it looks like that possible next step is a step closer. Here’s the AP version:

Turkey said Sunday that it was weighing an escalation of its fight against Kurdish rebels after the guerillas killed seven Turkish soldiers and a village guard.

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, wants autonomy for Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated southeast. Its Saturday ambush, which Turkish officials said was launched from neighboring northern Iraq, drove the number of Turks it has killed since Thursday to 13.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed outrage, signaling that Turkey could step up its battle against the rebel group. And high-ranking military, civilian, police and intelligence officials held an emergency meeting of Turkey’s High Anti-Terrorism Council to discuss possible new measures against the guerrillas.

Here’s the Al Jazeera version.

[I'm going to leave comments open here, but please don't use them to continue grudge matches begun elsewhere.]

My Friend is a Refugee

by Michael J. Totten

My friend Lebanon.Profile at the Lebanese Political Journal once guest blogged for me while I was in Egypt. He is one of the most open-minded people in Lebanon when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and I have linked to some of his posts in the past on this very subject. Israel has lost him. And he has lost his country.

You’ve made this country unliveable for the people fighting to disarm Hezbollah.

Guess what? I’m leaving. Yep. Me.

Where am I going? Syria. Didn’t want to, but I have to. The people we marched against are the ones you sent us begging to. The people who assassinated our leaders, kept us from having an operating democracy, and who armed Hezbollah are laughing it up because they’ve won the game because of you.

Bashar Assad said Lebanon would be destroyed if he left. I didn’t know the Israelis would play into his game. It’s not surprising that Syrian-allied Hezbollah started the mess, but you guys are just vicious.

All my Hezbollah supporting friends are sticking around. They call the rest of us cowards. I guess we are. We want to do scientific research. We want our children to learn how to play the piano. We want to watch our stock porfolios burgeon. We can’t do that here any more.

I tried to sympathize with you. I didn’t support Hezbollah, and if you look at the posts before this conflict began, I was maligning the political parties that oppose Hezbollah for not doing enough.

I even gave you guys the benefit of the doubt at the beginning of this, as did most Lebanese. Even the Shia, Christians, and Druze in South Lebanon understood your position. Not any more.

Oh, well. I’m a refugee.

Comments are Closed, and Some Clarifications – UPDATED BELOW

by Michael J. Totten

Insulting my personal friends while they are driven out of their homes as war refugees is not acceptable. My old neighborhood is under attack. My friends are terrified and in danger. How on earth do you expect me to feel about this right now? If you can’t factor these things into account before bloviating in the comments, then you do not get to comment. Comments are closed until further notice.

In the meantime, allow me to clarify a few things so (some of you) can stop thinking I’ve decided Israel is the enemy or that Hassan Nasrallah deserves anything but a headstone or a war crimes tribunal.

Obviously Hezbollah started this and Hezbollah is the main problem. Not only did they drag my second home into a war, the bastards also threatened me personally. So I hardly see the point in telling you what I think about them right about now. I’ll get to them later.

I sympathize one hundred percent with what Israel is trying to do here. But they aren’t going about it the right way, and they’re punishing far too many of the wrong people. Lord knows I could be wrong, and the situation is rapidly changing, but at this particular moment it looks bad for Israel, bad for Lebanon, bad for the United States, good for Syria, and good for Iran.

There is no alternate universe where the Lebanese government could have disarmed an Iranian-trained terrorist/guerilla militia that even the Israelis could not defeat in years of grinding war. There is no alternate universe where it was in Lebanon’s interest to restart the civil war on Israel’s behalf, to burn down their country all over again right at the moment where they finally had hope after 30 years of convulsive conflict and Baath Party overlordship.

The Lebanese government should have asked for more help from the international community. The Lebanese government should have been far less reactionary in its attitude toward the Israelis. They made more mistakes than just two, but I’d say these are the principal ones.

What should the Israelis have done instead? They should have treated Hezbollahland as a country, which it basically is, and attacked it. They should have treated Lebanon as a separate country, which it basically is, and left it alone. Mainstream Lebanese have no problem when Israel hammers Hezbollah in its little enclave. Somebody has to do it, and it cannot be them. If you want to embolden Lebanese to work with Israelis against Hezbollah, or at least move in to Hezbollah’s bombed out positions, don’t attack all of Lebanon.

Israel should not have bombed Central Beirut, which was almost monolithically anti-Hezbollah. They should not have bombed my old neighborhood, which was almost monolithically anti-Hezbollah. They should not have bombed the Maronite city of Jounieh, which was not merely anti-Hezbollah but also somewhat pro-Israel.

Israelis thinks everyone hates them. It isn’t true, especially not in Lebanon. But they will make it so if they do not pay more attention to the internal characteristics of neighboring countries. “The Arabs” do not exist as a bloc except in the feverish dreams of the Nasserists and the Baath.

UPDATE: I hate closing the comments, and I’m sorry for having to do that. I just simply will not stand seeing some of my dear friends insulted — some of whom are Americans as well as Lebanese — while their neighborhoods are on fire and they’re being driven to Syria — Syria! — as war refugees.

The following comment, sent by email from Shalom Deen, is what I would like to see if I could stand to keep comments open.

Guys- This is one of the greatest blogs for honest analysis of what goes on in the Middle East, so let’s try to maintain civility and understanding here as heated emotions are sorted out (which, admittedly, might take a while). Obviously, both Israel and Lebanon are very close to the hearts of many of this blogs’ readers and

writers. The current situation is going to introduce some strong feelings, and since most participants here are reasonable, intelligent, and informed people, let’s just be careful about things getting too heated.

LP certainly has the right at this point to rant, as does Michael. Lebanon is obviously getting the short end of the stick at the moment, and it remains to be seen whether Israel’s actions are responsibly calculated for the desired result–and most of all, whether they succeed–or if they’re just looking to inflict damage. None of us really know the answer at this point. So at the very least, no matter what our opinion is regarding Israel’s operations, we should be understanding of the fear and frustrations of those who are affected–especially when they’re *the good guys*.

For Lebanon it’s not just scores killed and hundreds wounded; it’s sweat, blood, tears, and money invested in an infrastructure and a fledgling economy that will now take months or even years to rebuild. Whatever the fault of the Lebanese government (and reasonable people can argue the extent of it), it is not the time to berate those who have been passionately committed to peace and dialogue for being very angry at the moment.

I pray (my agnosticism notwithstanding) for the safety of all, and for the successful elimination of those vile Hizbullah murderers. Hopefully, some good will come of this in the end.

War!

by Michael J. Totten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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