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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

It ought to be disproportionate

In the "other column" in today's Washington Post, Eugene Robinson complains about Israel's "disproportionate" response to Hezbullah's rocket attacks:
Of course Israel has the right to defend itself against Hezbollah's rocket attacks. But how can this utterly disproportionate, seemingly indiscriminate carnage be anything but counterproductive?

Destroying the Beirut airport, blasting communications towers into oblivion and cleansing southern Lebanon of its civilian population are not measures the world will see as an attack on Hezbollah terrorists. The Israeli campaign is so intense and widespread that it is creating more terrorists than it kills. Proportionate military action might have enhanced Israel's security, but video footage of grandmothers weeping amid the rubble of their homes and bloodied children lying in hospital beds won't make Israel more secure. Hezbollah's stature in the Arab world is growing, and its patrons in Damascus and Tehran must be smugly satisfied.
Of course, Robinson doesn't deign to tell us what a "proportionate" response might be. Should Israel limit itself to shooting deadly but inaccurate rockets with the same respective ranges as the Katyusha, Fajr-3, Fajr-5, C-802 and Zelzal, as the case may be, from the same cities hit by them? Should we keep a scorecard saying, "you killed two of ours, so now we will kill two of yours"? Perhaps, Robinson looks at a "disproportionate" response as being like Mr. Justice (Potter) Stewart's famous definition of "obscenity": "I know it when I see it." In other words, one could very well respond to Robinson's article by throwing the gauntlet back and saying "give me a response that you would consider proportionate."

I'm going to go a step further than that. I'm going to concede that Israel's response is disproportionate. Given that a google search of "Israel, Lebanon, disproportionate" just returned 4,680,000 hits, I don't think I'm conceding much. But I'm going to argue that despite the fact that it is disproportionate, Israel's response is correct, because it ought to be disproportionate.

Let's go back for a minute to how this all started. In an unprovoked attack, Hezbullah breached Israel's border with Lebanon (which has been recognized by the entire international community), murdered three Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two others. When Israel attempted to take offensive action to retrieve the kidnapped soldiers, Hezbullah began to indiscriminately rain Katyusha rockets on Israel's cities in an effort to terrorize and kill as many civilians as possible. If Hezbullah had in its possession the kind of precision-guided missiles that Israel has manufactured and developed (in cooperation with the United States), does anyone doubt that they would also be using those to target civilians rather than infrastructure?

The real issue is: what are Hezbullah's goals? On that score, I think there is little doubt: Hezbullah wishes to 'drive the Jews into the sea' - to bring about the demise of the State of Israel. Israel has to respond to those goals, not just to the Hezbullah action taken. The only response that is appropriate to an existential threat is a disproportionate response - one that will make the other side either disappear or crawl back into its cave and find something else to do with its time.

How have other countries responded to similar challenges in the past? During World War II, in the Atlantic theater, the axis powers wished to subjugate all of civilization to the 'superior Aryan race'. The war's end came about because allied carpet-bombing of cities like Dresden caused disproportionate civilian casualties and convinced ordinary Germans that they had no chance of winning the war. That left their leadership the choice of conceding or facing a coup. In the Pacific theater, the Japanese wished to establish dominance over the entire Pacific rim. The US administration correctly calculated that a ground invasion of Japan would cost the lives of thousands of US servicemen. So it responded disproportionately: it dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those bombs cost thousands of Japanese lives, but they saved thousands of other lives. On the whole, the disproportionate response was appropriate. (The last time I wrote this, someone pointed out in the comment section that the Union did the same thing to the Confederacy in the United States Civil War - the Union army brought the war home to the Southern plantation owners who were financing it. The burning of Atlanta - and the accompanying civilian casualties - helped bring about the end of the war).

On a smaller scale, after 9/11, the Bush administration understood that Islamic terrorism orchestrated by al-Qaeda was a threat to the American and western way of life. The President decided that the best way to remove the threat was to remove al-Qaeda's base of operations. If the Taliban government of Afghanistan would not remove al-Qaeda from their midst, they were part of the problem rather than being part of the solution. So the President went after the Taliban and removed them from power.

There's an obvious difference between Israel's situation and the other situations I have cited. But if anything, it is a difference that militates even more in favor of a disproportionate response: the United States is thousands of miles from Afghanistan. The al-Qaeda attack on the United States was not launched from Afghanistan but from airports in Boston and Washington. The United States is thousands of miles from Europe and Japan. In all of World War II, there was no attack on the continental United States, and only one attack on Hawaii.

We in Israel are in much closer proximity to our terrorist threats. Even here, in the relative safety of Jerusalem, we are less than 100 miles away from the front lines. It is much easier for the terrorists to continue to hit us again and again - if we let them - than it is for al-Qaeda to hit the United States or than it was for Nazi Germany or Hirohito's Japan to hit the United States. When the person who is trying to hit you is staring you in the face, you have to hit him even harder to scare him away. If you flinch, he can look into your eyes and see your weakness.

The final question that needs to be dealt with is why Lebanon and why Lebanon's infrastructure. I have made a good case for targetting Hezbullah's leaders and installations, which means that I have made a case for hitting South Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut. But why the airport, why the Beirut - Damascus Highway, why Sidon and Tyre, why Lebanon's infrastructure, and why is it appropriate for Israel to regard Lebanese civilians who get in the way as "collateral damage." For that matter, why Lebanon and not Hezbullah's patrons in Syria and Iran. To answer that question, we have to return to the American response to 9/11.

On September 20, 2001, President Bush addressed a joint session of Congress and explained why he was holding Afghanistan's Taliban leadership responsible for the 9/11 attacks:
The leadership of al Qaeda has great influence in Afghanistan and supports the Taliban regime in controlling most of that country. In Afghanistan we see al Qaeda's vision for the world. Afghanistan's people have been brutalized, many are starving and many have fled.

...

The United States respects the people of Afghanistan -- after all, we are currently its largest source of humanitarian aid -- but we condemn the Taliban regime.

It is not only repressing its own people, it is threatening people everywhere by sponsoring and sheltering and supplying terrorists.

By aiding and abetting murder, the Taliban regime is committing murder. And tonight the United States of America makes the following demands on the Taliban:

Deliver to United States authorities all of the leaders of al Qaeda who hide in your land.

... Close immediately and permanently every terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. And hand over every terrorist and every person and their support structure to appropriate authorities.

Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps, so we can make sure they are no longer operating.

These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion. The Taliban must act and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists or they will share in their fate.
President Bush established the principle that a government that cooperates with terrorists is responsible for the terrorism that originates from its territory, and will share the terrorists' fate. The people who support that government place themselves at risk for 'collateral damage.' Hezbullah is a part of the Lebanese government. It has seats in the legislature and two ministers in the cabinet. Is the Lebanese government any less responsible for not standing up to Hezbullah than the Taliban government was for not standing up to al-Qaeda? Is it any less legitimate for Israel to destroy Lebanon's infrastructure - which is used by Hezbullah with the Lebanese government's consent - than it was for the United States to destroy Afghanistan's infrastructure, which was used by al-Qaeda with the Afghan government's consent? If you think I'm wrong, take the President's speech and substitute Lebanon for Afghanistan and Taliban, and Hezbullah for al-Qaeda:
The leadership of Hezbullah has great influence in Lebanon and supports the Lebanese regime in controlling most of that country. In Lebanon we see Hezbullah's vision for the world. Lebanon's people have been brutalized, many are starving and many have fled.

...

The United States respects the people of Lebanon -- after all, we are currently its largest source of humanitarian aid -- but we condemn the Lebanese regime.

It is not only repressing its own people, it is threatening people everywhere by sponsoring and sheltering and supplying terrorists.

By aiding and abetting murder, the Lebanese regime is committing murder. And tonight the United States of America makes the following demands on the Lebanese government:

Deliver to United States authorities all of the leaders of Hezbullah who hide in your land.

... Close immediately and permanently every terrorist training camp in Lebanon. And hand over every terrorist and every person and their support structure to appropriate authorities.

Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps, so we can make sure they are no longer operating.

These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion. The Lebanese government must act and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists or they will share in their fate.
Sounds pretty close to accurate, doesn't it?

Despite the fact that Hezbullah is supported by Syria and Iran - and Israel may have to deal with that reality sooner rather than later - it is Lebanon that houses Hezbullah and its base of operations. Lebanon - whether through purposeful or feckless behavior in its dealings with Hezbullah - is more directly responsible for Hezbullah than any other country.

Israel's response to Hezbullah's actions is correctly disproportionate and focused exactly where it ought to be focused.

As you may or may not already be aware, members of the Watcher's Council hold a vote every week on what they consider to be the most link-worthy pieces of writing around... per the Watcher's instructions, I am submitting one of my own posts for consideration in the upcoming nominations process.

Here is the most recent winning council post, here is the most recent winning non-council post, here is the list of results for the latest vote, and here is the initial posting of all the nominees that were voted on.

4 Comments:

At 1:18 AM, Blogger Al-Tyrei said...

Is it any less legitimate for Israel to destroy Lebanon's infrastructure - which is used by Hezbollah with the Lebanese government's consent - than it was for the United States to destroy Afghanistan's infrastructure, which was used by al-Qaeda with the Afghan government's consent?

Simple answer? Yes.

You are comparing foreign nationals (Alqaeda) under the protection of unelected warlords (Taliban) and officials elected by the people of lebanon (Siniora government).
I can't deny that Hezbollah has members in the lebanese government.
But as long as Olmert doesn't demand :"They will hand over the terrorists or they will share in their fate." or something similar that holds the lebanese government exclusively responsible for the kidnapped soldiers , you can't make the comparison with Alqaeda and Bush's response.

For the time being a lot of those lebanese civilians are being killed for no apparent military objective.

 
At 7:38 AM, Blogger Fern Sidman said...

THE THIRD FRONT

BY: FERN SIDMAN

While Israel is engaged in heavy fighting with Hezbollah terrorists on the northern front and Hamas terrorists on its southern front, it would appear that Israel's proverbial nemesis, better known as the media, has opened a third front with its incessant assaults on Israel.

While the media may not be launching Katyusha or Kassam rockets aimed at Israeli cities, the rockets that the media launches are instrumental in degrading Israel in the war of public opinion. Case in point would be the drastic difference in the content and modality of reporting between the two major cable networks, CNN and Fox News.

To the average viewer, it would appear that CNN and Fox are reporting the news from two different planets. While it is true that the Ted Turner owned CNN, has its own left wing agenda along with the perfunctory anti-Israel bias that goes with that territory, and Roger Ailes' Fox News has a more conservative, pro-Republican platform, the stark and extreme contrasts cannot be missed. To state that their coverage of the current war between Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas is diametrically opposed would be a gross understatement.

One need only press the button on their television remotes for a period of an hour or so, to gain tremendous insight into the world of media propaganda, distortions and lies. For a truly mercurial experience, just spend an evening with Anderson Cooper and Larry King of CNN and then visit with Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly over at Fox.

The story according to CNN is the following: Israel is murdering Lebanese children and civilians en masse, Israel is not making a dent in Hezbollah's power, Israel is not forthcoming in opening up a corridor for humanitarian assistance to Lebanon, Israel is causing a refugee crisis amongst the Lebanese population, Israel is using phosphorus in its weaponry, Israel refuses to agree to a cease fire, Israel's retaliation against Hezbollah has been "disproportionate", Israel refuses to engage in negotiations with Hezbollah over a prisoner exchange. CNN's conclusion is: World opinion will turn against Israel because of its actions. One can only scratch their heads and ask, is there a pattern developing here???

As we watch Anderson Cooper taking us for tours of hospitals in Lebanon showing the burnt and mangled faces of Lebanese children, while giving platforms to Hezbollah supporters who spew forth their party line which includes accusations against Israel for starting this conflict by occupying Palestine, to scared and trapped Americans who blame Israel for the destruction of Beirut. Repetitive images of Israeli tanks and gun ships shooting missiles into Lebanon fill our screens ad infinitum, while there is never a image of a Hezbollah terrorist shooting a Katyusha rocket into Israel.

If this weren't enough one sided and biased journalism, we are also treated to an hour of Larry King, who gives more than ample time to Hezbollah journalists, Syrian ambassadors, and a whole host of other Israel bashers. King allows them to make hate filled speeches riddled with inaccuracies and grandiose distortions about Israel and her role in this current conflict, while never challenging them in any kind of meaningful and significant manner.

In marked contrast to CNN's coverage of the war, there is a definitely a more "fair and balanced" coverage on Fox News. While far from being totally fair and balanced Fox News takes pains in researching new details from their reporters in the Middle East and presenting a more even handed account of the situation in Israel.

From Sean Hannity to Bill O'Reilly to Greta Van Susteren to Sheppard Smith, one can see that these journalists are dedicated to digging out the truth by ask searing questions concerning the facts of the situation, which are so very often buried under the propaganda and lies of Hezbollah and other Arab spokesmen who are allowed lengthy platforms for their vituperative and vitriolic rhetoric against Israel.

There is no question that Fox News is far from perfect and has on more than one occasion fallen prey to the CNN and New York Times syndrome of making Israel the scapegoat for the world's problems, but by in large, Fox has made a concerted effort, thus far, to reporting the news with a high degree of accuracy.

That is all that we can ask from the media. In general, they always have been instrumental in generating negative feelings towards Israel and have been the biggest asset of the cause of Hamas and Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations in the region. Right now, they represent the third front that Israel must contend with. An enemy that is funded not by regimes predicated on terror but on corporate dollars. It is an enemy that never runs out of rockets or mortars or missiles, for their verbal missiles and subliminal messages are in infinite abundance and these fatal weapons shape a public image of Israel that is more deadly than rockets because they pervade the hearts and minds of their viewers.

For the Jewish people, this is an old story. Since Guttenberg invented his first printing press in the 1600s, words and thoughts have always been published against Jews. The media of today bares little difference to its more in-your-face predecessors. While the facts may be different, today's media is just re-hashing the same kind of Israel hating messages that is has done for close to six decades.

The media is a persistent and resilient foe, almost an implacable one, yet despite this most formidable enemy, we have borne witness to our continued existence as a nation. As with the Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, the Turks, the Nazis, the British, the Soviet Union, the PLO, Hamas and Hezbollah and all the other enemies that I may have forgotten to list, those who sought to vanquish and eradicate the Jewish nation and the Land of Israel, we tell them and the media that they have not succeeded in our destruction and with G-d's help they never will.

Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are one in the same and they are a permanent part of and endemic to our society. With G-d's help, we will deal with the media as we have with our other enemies and may we take comfort in the fact that we are a people who fears and obeys only the Almighty G-d of Israel and does not fear the words of mortal enemies. World opinion will always be against the Jewish nation, and fearing it and cowering over the words and threats of world leaders is a futile exercise and a colossal waste of precious time.

Let us utilize our precious time in appealing to the Holy One Blessed Be He, who girds His nation Israel with strength, crowns His nation Israel in glory and gives strength to His weary nation. For in the end, the media is just another enemy in a huge litany of enemies. Let us turn to Hashem Yisborach at this critical juncture in time, for it is He who marches into battle with us and it is He who will conquer our enemies, if we only recognize His dominion and His glory.

And to the media, we say, just take your place on the back of a very long line. You're not our first enemy and you won't be our last.

May we our prayers reach the Almighty G-d of Israel and may we be zoche to the see our redemption, speedily in our days.

 
At 9:10 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

al-tyrei,

If anything, as a legitimately elected government, the Lebanese government ought to have more control of its own nationals than could be expected if Hezbullah were really "outsiders." Asking Olmert to hand over Nasrallah as a pretext for taking action is a farce. Please keep in mind that this war started with a kidnapping and hot pursuit of the kidnappers. No one was going to stop to ask Siniora to turn Nasrallah over.

We in Israel have no designs on Lebanese territory. We just want Hezbullah gone. If Hezbullah is dismantled, the Siniora government assumes responsibility for your border with us, our soldiers are returned and the rockets stop falling on our cities, the war will end. Unfortunately, at the moment, it looks like Nasrallah is going to escalate the war (I hope to post on that in an hour or so). If he does, then like the Americans say, "you ain't seen nothin' yet." Keep in mind that most of the American weaponry used in Iraq was developed by or in cooperation with Israel.

 
At 3:56 PM, Blogger AbbaGav said...

If the concern is for the photos of destroyed houses and weeping grandmothers, the Hezbullah-approved photographers will come up with those no matter what Israel does, just like they do in Gaza. I'm not denying that there is any grief, but our experience with Pallywood makes Cedarwood not hard to imagine. The fundamental issue remains that Hizballah must be decomissioned or disarmed, and this must be done even as they cower and fire from behind the civilians they claim to protect. In the end, that just makes it all the clearer why it is in everyone's interest that this be handled firmly and completely now, so there is no further idea that such behavior is profitable.

 

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