Israeli Conquest of Hezbollah First, Peace Later
The French are certainly signaling they are prepared to surrender again this week, taking the position in the United Nations that a cessation of hostilities and a negotiated cease fire in Lebanon should precede any deployment of a peacekeeping force to form a buffer zone in South Lebanon.
The buffer zone will exist, in fact, as soon as the Israelis establish it through military action. Even as this is written, thousands of Israeli troops are pushing forward in South Lebanon, and the Israelis can legitimately accept a cease fire when their troops occupy the area foreseen as the buffer zone. Then, they can wait to see whether, surprise, the U.N. will be able to actually field an effective peacekeeping force in that territory.
When the Israelis fight wars, they are serious. They have the old-fashioned view that wars can accomplish something, and this will be true here if Hezbollah's capacity to attack Israel, or kidnap its soldiers, is nullified.
But the war will not be a success unless those conditions are met. The courageous Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, has declared, "Israel will stop fighting when the international force will be present in the south of Lebanon. We can't stop before, because if there will not be a presence of a very effective and robust military international force, Hezbollah will be there, and we will have achieved nothing."
Once an international force is established, it must have both more authorized power and simple fortitude than many in the past. Just these past few weeks, a peacekeeping monitoring force in Sri Lanka has largely disintegrated upon the renewal of hostilities between the Sri Lanka government and rebellious Tamil Tigers in the north of the country. The Swedish, Danish and Finnish contingents of the force quit, and only Norway and Iceland remain part of a force reduced to one-third its previous size of only 57. Both Norway and Iceland are not members of the weak kneed European Union, whose reliability when it comes to resisting evil has proved to be very slight.
There have been regrettable civilian casualties in the last three weeks, but it is even more regrettable that Lebanese civilians allowed their homes and villages to be used by an aggressive force to stow and fire rockets, house military forces and hide tunnels and other redoubts. If a true peace can be restored in South Lebanon, the casualties can be justified. If not, and further tests of will and force occur between Israel and Hezbollah, then nothing will have been accomplished.
For once, the Los Angeles Times Op-Ed page this morning has a very good Middle East set of articles. I particularly liked the ones by Max Boot, "Messed up are the peacemakers," and Frida Ghitis, "War, the small screen, and the big picture."
Boot, who is usually not so incisive, writes, notably, "Few peace treaties have achieved much unless preceded by decisive military action. The greatest peacemakers in modern history were generals like the Duke of Wellington, William Tecumseh Sherman, Curtis LeMay, George S. Patton and Ariel Sharon, who ruthlessly waged war on behalf of Western democracies."
Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, points out, "The power of the picture to dominate public debate creates enormous incentives to manipulate the media. It can hand victories to the side that positions and fires its weapons from civilian areas and then invites the media to witness the carnage caused by attacks on those weapons. And it punishes the side that invests in civil defense."
One other thing should be said about the Israeli war effort. It seems at this point far more effective, and dramatically shorter, than the open-ended, never-succeeding U.S. effort in Iraq.
Why is this? It is because the Israelis do not fight gently. They go after their adversaries with great intensity, they continually try to surprise them with daring attacks such as the assault on an Hezbollah installation deep behind the lines in Baalbek yesterday. And they are not afraid to go after civilian facilities being used to hide or even enhance the military forces of the enemy.
U.S. marines did this in Fallujah, where the worst of the Iraqi insurrection took place for a time. But American forces have held back in many other areas, such as Ramadi and the streets of Baghdad, where "civilians" were in the way. The result has been that the war has lasted longer, and casualties, especially from ensuing sectarian strife, have grown exponentially.
Had we been more "brutal" like the Israelis, the war in Iraq would have ended long ago, and civilian casualties in total would have been sharply reduced. An American success in Iraq may even have discouraged the Iranians from taking such an aggressive attitude as at present.
The Israelis learned from the Holocaust that they cannot afford to be gentle with sworn enemies. We need to learn the same thing, or I should say relearn. Sherman and Patton learned this already.