Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Restraint, Proportionality, and Effectiveness

From the beginning I have not been happy with Israel's response over Hizbollah's attack. Or the Hamas attack for that matter. Israel's right to defend her people from bloody attackers is clear, but I have my doubts about how Tel Aviv is doing it.

While it may certainly be true that Lebanon has an obligation to secure its territory to prevent it from being used to attack Israel, in reality Lebanon does not yet have that power. Attacking Lebanon to punish the government for failing to do what it cannot do is folly. Lebanon without Syrian overt control is better than it was with that control. Are we to undo this progress by giving Syria an excuse to go back into Lebanon to "protect" Lebanon? I bet Syria is hard at work trying to get an Arab League mandate to do just that. And if they can't get that, they'll just try to get their spies back to Lebanon in force.

The excuse I've heard some give for attacking the transportaiton infrastructure of lebanon is that Israel is prepping the battlefield by "isolating" Hizbollah. Israel hitting the Beirut airport and roads to Syria to isolate the terrorists, cut off their supplies and route for retreat is completely ridiculous. Even a massive air campaign could not cut off small groups of terrorists who can flee off roads and whose supply needs in the long run are minimal and whose supplies for the next several months are already in Lebanon.

Our far more massive aerial assault did not completely cut off the far larger conventional Iraqi army camped in Kuwait in 1991 even after five weeks of attack. Several hundred thousand enemy troops ate and had ammo to fight even after our tonnage of bombs dropped. What chance does Israel have of actually cutting off a terrorist group scattered all around south Lebanon and mixed with the population?

If Israel worries Syria might send armored forces into Lebanon, hitting roads into Lebanon makes some sense to slow the Syrians down and leave them vulnerable to air attack. But isolating and cutting off Hizbollah? Not a chance.

Israel should say to hell with proportionality and hit Hizbollah as hard and as fast as they can before Sunni Arab states succumb to public pressure to "do something about Israel" and before our efforts to stall the UN from calling for a ceasefire fail. But Israel should also show restraint and slow down the erosion of tacit support for hitting Hizbollah by avoiding Lebanese targets except in extreme circumstances. Even if they are of use to Hizbollah. The Lebanese are not the enemy.

And remember that in the end, Syria is crucial for supporting Hizbollah and Iran is crucial for propping up Syria.

We have many reasons to destroy the mullah regime in Iran: nukes, terror, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Lebanon and Syria.

UPDATE: Well, if this escalates it won't be because Israel want to. Israel will not take on Syria or Iran:

Israel stressed it did not plan to target Hezbollah's main sponsors, Iran and Syria, during the current fighting.

"We will leave Iran to the world community, and Syria as well," Vice Premier Shimon Peres told Army Radio. "It's very important to understand that we are not instilling world order."

It is all the more important to stop hitting Lebanese targets if this is the case. My main question for this decision is whether Israel is thinking tactically in wanting just to hammer Hizbollah. Because absent any follow-up moves to unroot Hizbollah from southern Lebanon, in time Syria and Iran will reconstitute Hizbollah. Or is Israel assuming we will take out Iran soon so there is no reason to go after Syria? Remember, Hizbollah would not be as potent without Syria providing aid and a transit point for supplies from Iran; and Syria wouldn't be as potent without Iran propping them up. So why limit the fighting to Hizbollah? Is this tactical or strategic thinking at work?