"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Monday, August 14, 2006

And in Lebanon: a tie

I really didn't think it would end up this way. I thought the IDF would push to the Litani River, killing Hezbollah fighters and destroying their weapons caches and rocket launchers along the way. It wasn't an unreasonable expectation: after all, the IDF is battle-tested, professional, tough, and extremely good at killing its opponents. Several times throughout their history, they've taken on all their neighbors, and won. How could a relatively small force of 2000-plus soldiers and a few thousand "dumb" rockets create so many difficulties? The bottom line is: they weren't trying that hard. And the big question is, why?

Part of the answer, I think, lies in some of the lessons learned from the war on terror and our invasion of Iraq. The media factor was, I believe, a big one. The Israeli military and government knew that using all available firepower would a) cause more civilian casualties that b) would not play well on CNN, which c) would be ruthlessly exploited by Hezbollah to win international sympathy and bring diplomatic pressure on Israel to cease operations. So the IDF didn't go all-out (despite accusations by Kofi Annan and others of "disproportionate" force), and thus Hezbollah was left with fewer dead bodies to parade in front of international cameras (not from lack of trying, as Hezbollah frequently used civilians as human shields for their rocket-launching sites, and more than once transported dead and/or despondent Lebanese from one place to another to exaggerate the damage inflicted by Israeli bombs). Thus Israel was allowed to carry out its campaign for a surprisingly long time. International outcry was noticably muted, as only the most wishful thinker could convince himself that anyone but Hezbollah was responsible for provoking Israel's attack.

But by failing to bring all their weapons to bear, Israel left the job undone. A combination of
political and military indecisiveness left the ultimate objective unachieved. Hezbollah has not been eradicated as a force in southern Lebanon, nor have the kidnapped soldiers, whose abduction started the whole thing, been retrieved.

That is not to say that the operation was a complete failure. Hezbollah used up much of its rocket arsenal but inflicted minimal damage on Israeli infrastructure and population. Israeli forces destroyed other rockets and their launchers, killed hundreds of fighters, demolished and embargoed many of the sea and land routes used by Hezbollah to resupply itself, and probably made the average Lebanese wonder if the pride of harboring the "resistance" group is worth the destruction it brings. But as with any conflict involving Israel, anything less than complete victory is seen as a defeat by her enemies. And so, despite the lopsided scorecard, this month-long war was at best a tie, and at worst an inspiration for Hezbollah (with Iran and Syria behind it) to continue its terror operations. It will only be a victory for Israel if even its half-hearted attempt to cleanse southern Lebanon of the bloodthirsty group results in an improvement in her security. I'll believe that when I see it. If the Lebanese army couldn't control Hezbollah before, there's no reason to think it can do so now. And unless the U.N. intervention force is given a mandate that declares "open season" on Hezbollah terrorists and weapons stores, it will prove about as effective as it did in Rwanda.

So it's no wonder that the destruction of Lebanon and much of Hezbollah's infrastructure is being hailed as a
victory for the forces of radical Islam.

But one can hope that the Western world has learned something from this latest battle against Islamofascism. The
Israeli Left is starting to figure out that Hezbollah-types don't care how much territory you give up because they don't care about land: they care about dead Jews (and, wherever possible, dead non-Muslims in general, a lesson many lefties in America and Europe would do well to learn quickly). This lesson was reinforced in a larger sense by the latest thwarted terror plot in Britain (uncovered by many of the counterterrorism tools the New York Times finds so offensive. Perhaps thousands of innocent people incinerated over or drowned in the Atlantic would be less offensive to its editors). In this case, the terrorists didn't care about Britain's non-involvement in the Israel-Lebanon conflict, but they're still sore about Iraq and Afghanistan and probably the Crusades, so naturally the only way to protest these grievances is to kill lots and lots of people who have nothing to do with them. British intelligence managed to cut off this particular head of the Hydra, but the radical ideology remains intact. Will this near-massacre convince the West that its time to eradicate the ideology for good?

Footnote: Joe Lieberman lost the primary in Connecticut and will run as an independent. I hope he wins, because at his core he is a decent person and is able to see the world without the rage-tinted glasses many Democrats are wearing these days. But does this mean that his former party has no place for those who see America as, well,
a fundamentally good country whose values are worth spreading? I suppose if the Dems gain power in the fall, we'll see, but I'd rather not find out the hard way.

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