Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Michael Totten is Right - Mostly

Michael Totten has this to say:
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.
And he's right. The price Lebanon would have had to pay to keep her obligation to disarm Hizballah would have been massive. The price of ignoring her obligation seemed minor in comparison – the lion's share of that burden seemed to fall on the Israelis instead. It was clear where Lebanon's interests lay, and had I been the Lebanese PM I'd have done the same.

But that's part of the point of the current Israeli exercise – to raise the price to Lebanon of inaction, and thus to make it in Lebanon's interest to do the right thing. Because that was the deal under which the world demanded that Israel withdraw from Lebanon. Israel kept her side of the bargain, but Lebanon decided that it was just too hard to keep hers, and nobody was going to force her, so she just let it slide.

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.
That sounds like it would have been a good idea – provided that Lebanon agreed. If Lebanon was not able or willing to clean out the south, she could have washed her hands of it, and withdrawn her sovereignty. She could have placed her borders to the north of this area, and policed that border, and invited Israel to re-invade the newly created terra nullius, or to do whatever she wanted with it.

But Lebanon didn't do that. Instead, Hizballah remained in control of part of sovereign Lebanon, and a member of the Lebanese government. There was no border between "Hizballahland" and Lebanon, nothing preventing the flow of arms and men to and from the south, and Hizballah was allowed to import arms from Syria and Iran, and to maintain headquarters and operations not just in the south but in Beirut and throughout the country. That makes Lebanon responsible for its actions, and now she's paying the price.

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.
This makes perfect sense – if only its implication were true. The fact is that Israel has not bombed Lebanon indiscriminately. Its fire has been directed at Hizballah targets, and at facilities used by Hizballah to wage war against Israel. There may have been the occasional misfire, and the occasional collateral damage, but the vast majority of the casualties and the damage have been on target. If you live next door to a Hizballah facility, and you ignored the leaflets the IDF dropped, warning you to get out, then you can't blame Israel for what happens next.


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