Strong opinions, weakly held

Israel, Lebanon, and Syria

Yesterday I read a 2004 article linked to from the comments at Jim Henley’s blog that explained how Hezbollah observes fairly specific rules of engagement in its war against Israel. Hezbollah’s attacks are generally responses to specific provocations, and Hezbollah does seem to understand proportionality. Indeed, yesterday Billmon noted that Hezbollah suspended its rocket attacks when Israel declared a 48 hour moratorium on its aerial bombardment of Lebanon.

I’m not eager to give Hezbollah credit, and obviously the world would be a better place if an armed militia in southern Lebanon were not attacking Israel, but I think there’s something to consider here. If there were “rules of the game” being played between Hezbollah and Israel up until the two Israeli soldiers were captured on July 12, what caused Israel to suddenly change the rules and launch an all out attack?

It occurred to me this morning that the difference is that Syria’s military no longer occupies Lebanon. Israel wasn’t willing to start a war with Lebanon if it meant starting a war with Syria as well, but now that Syria has been forced to leave, Israel can blow up Lebanon with impunity. Has Israel (backed by the US and UK) taught Lebanon that it was more secure when it was occupied by a foreign dictatorship than it is as an independent democracy? It sure looks that way to me.


  1. Hezbollah attempted to find a new means of deterring Israel from these actions. It began gradually to lower the trajectory of its antiaircraft cannons, which brought about casualties and property damage in the north. In August 2003, an antiaircraft missile killed a young boy, Haviv Dadon, in Shlomi.

    Proportional. You conduct intel flights, we aim to kill innocent civilians.

  2. Nobody said that Hezbollah doesn’t kill innocent civilians. So does Israel. So does the United States. So does al Qaeda.

    I think there’s a meaningful distinction to be drawn between actors who respond proportionally and those who do not. Hezbollah clearly measures its use of violence. al Qaeda does not. Even though both groups are problems, that is a difference that matters.

  3. “Nobody said that Hezbollah doesn’t kill innocent civilians. So does Israel. So does the United States. So does al Qaeda.”

    This comparison I find problematic. There is a clear difference between intentionally targeting civilians (Hezbollah and Al-Queda) and killing a civilian when attempting to target the enemy.

    I would even go one further to say that the combatant who launches rockets from within dense civilian populations is much more at fault for the civilian deaths than the army attempting to surgically remove the threat to themselves and their population.

    Israel is essentially using only 5% of their air capabilities. They are trying to remove a serious, unchecked threat without too much damage to Lebanon. They are exercising restraint and morality, at the cost of their soldiers and civilians. Meanwhile Hezballah continues to shield itself with Lebanese women, Lebanese children, and UN observers. I’d hardly say that Hezballah is playing by “the rules of the game.”

  4. Well, it’s a new game now. In any case, I’m not trying to praise Hezbollah, which isn’t deserving of any praise.

    Intentionally targetting civilians is evil. Using civilians as shields is evil. Dropping bombs that you know are going to kill civilians is evil. Nobody gets absolved here.

    I find the use of words like “surgical” to describe the bombing of Lebanon to be self-discrediting.

  5. I still have trouble with the comparison. Any collateral damage is certainly regrettable and tragic for most nations. I ask however in modern warfare is there any way to 100% avoid the loss of innocent life? I don’t see it. Some unwilling participant will always be caught in the crossfire. If you know that to be the case, do you believe a nation should ever go to war? And if one does go to war, are they to be critized as evil no matter what?

  6. War is evil. Sometimes it’s a necessary evil, but it’s still evil. Seems to me that the longer any war goes on, the less regrettable and tragic “collateral damage” becomes. Heck, surf the ‘net a bit and you’ll find plenty of people on any side of any war who have a “the more the better” attitude toward the slaughter of noncombatants.

  7. Comments aside, I think your post is dead on, and something echoed by Tim Bray yesterday. This isn’t about Hezbollah at all – of course independent militant organizations comprised of reactionary fundamentalists (or not) are “bad” – this was about Lebanon, and its emerging stable democracy whose citizens expressed valid critiques of Israel as a pretty brutal apartheid state. Lebanon’s rapidly approaching “legitimate global influence” thanks to rebuilding and the Lebanese diaspora was a major threat to Israel’s continued impunity in all things Palestinian. Now that the Lebanese are back to being “terrorists”, it doesn’t matter what happens, as far as Israel and the US are concernd. That’s about the only way I can explain what’s going on; every other way is too cynical or attributes to much ignorance to the leaders. Though there is that quote about malice and stupidity…

  8. Kyrre Nygård

    October 11, 2006 at 9:06 am

    I would recommend people to watch this http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7828123714384920696 before voicing themselves.

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