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Lebanon

I haven’t said anything about this, so with a ceasefire looming, I thought I should.

Mike has an interesting post advocating the ouster of Olmert. In it, he cites an article in Ha’aretz:

There is no mistake Ehud Olmert did not make this past month. He went to war hastily, without properly gauging the outcome. He blindly followed the military without asking the necessary questions. He mistakenly gambled on air operations, was strangely late with the ground operation, and failed to implement the army’s original plan, much more daring and sophisticated than that which was implemented. And after arrogantly and hastily bursting into war, Olmert managed it hesitantly, unfocused and limp. He neglected the home front and abandoned the residents of the north. He also failed shamefully on the diplomatic front.

This sounds to me to be about right. Air operations like Israel launched in Lebanon are simply not going to do much to a group like Hezbollah, which has enough support from the population to hide among it quite easily. In doing so, Israel has wrecked southern Lebanon and caused the deaths of many innocent people (873 total Lebanese, I haven’t seen the figure for civilian casualties).

I don’t fault Israel for their actions in a broad sense. Degrading Hezbollah’s ability to fire rockets at northern Israel and retrieving their captured soldiers is a worthwhile goal, but how they’ve gone about it here is a travesty. Nearly a thousand deaths altogether, for what? A slightly degraded Hezbollah? I’m certainly no expert, but how exactly do you defeat a guerilla army from the air?

Hezbollah has become an interesting group. Without an occupation to provide the justification for suicide bombings, they’ve turned into a fairly advanced guerilla army. Guerilla armies are notoriously hard to defeat, but it can be done. In contrast, the other groups attacking Israel use suicide attacks as their primary weapon, which have a solid record of success. I don’t believe Israel can defeat those groups militarily, but they may be able to defeat Hezbollah in such a way. Robert Pape, whose Dying to Win is a fantastic book you should all read, disagrees. I think Pape neglects the fact that Hezbollah has moved beyond suicide bombing in the absence of an occupation, which is one of Pape’s preconditions for a suicide bombing campaign. The lesson we should draw from Pape’s work is that Israel should avoid occupying Lebanon again.

I don’t pretend to have a solution, but I can’t avoid the conclusion that this war was counterproductive and tragic. A ceasefire is the best option at the moment. And I have to agree with Mike, Olmert must go.

That’s my uninformed opinion, at least.

Categories: Israel/Palestine
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