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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Reading and Misreading Destruction

This article came from Media Backspin, which is Honest Reporting's blog. The real question here is why other mainstream media reporters aren't pointing out (I will assume that they are seeing) what William Arkin is pointing out.

Hat Tip: Soccer Dad

William Arkin, who blogs national security issues for the Washington Post just returned from a trip to Lebanon and Israel. His conclusions about the destruction he saw on both sides of the Blue Line are noteworthy because Arkin didn't see anything that other journalists can't see. Why haven't we seen this kind of assessment in the mainstream media?
What struck me about the bombing, in both countries, was that you could see the destruction and completely misread what it meant. In Beirut, the destruction in reality is efficient and impressive. The destruction in Israel, on the other hand, is random and scattered. When Hezbollah rockets were fired on Israel, landing meant success.

So here is the truth: Israel did not do anything close to what it was capable of doing. Hezbollah did all it could....

On the other hand, Lebanon is shocked. It is not just the destruction wrought but the powerlessness of the owners of the country. The Lebanese government complains of the destruction and the cluster bombs and the environmental devastation, exaggerating what happened to IT because it can not bear to say that most of what was destroyed was Hezbollah’s assets, assets that indeed resided and flourished inside their own country under their own noses with their consent....

Only a very short drive from the neighborhoods of southern Beirut though, you are back to bustling boulevards; a few neighborhoods over and there are luxury stores and five star hotels. Beyond the “Hezbollah” neighborhoods, the city is normal. Electricity flows just as it did before the fighting. The Lebanese sophisticates are glued to their cell phones. Even an international airport that was bombed is reopened....

But the fact that one can drive a short distance from Dresden-like south Beirut and return to modern life itself should signal that this is something very different: Israeli bombers did not fly over Beirut and unleash loads of bombs. Each individual building was the quarry; the intent was there, and the technology existed, to spare the rest.
See Arkin's follow up, Facts and Myths About the Israel-Hezbollah War. Here are a couple of interesting paragraphs from it (I don't agree with all of it):
Israel unleashed a pre-planned military campaign to destroy Hezbollah. I believe it used archaic justification to define legitimate action against Hezbollah, and Israel's reasoning in attacking Hezbollah "infrastructure" -- particularly in Beirut -- was sloppy. But Israel didn’t bomb the Lebanese electrical power grid, Lebanese water or sewage infrastructure, Lebanon’s “refinery,” hospitals or schools. Yes some were damaged in in the fighting, but the fact is, there was some attempt to discriminate, Lebanon wasn’t systematically destroyed.


Israeli military types and political leaders hail their success in eliminating Hezbollah’s long-range missile threat, killing more than 500 Hezbollah fighters, setting back Hezbollah’s military capabilities and infrastructure “two years,” dislodging Hezbollah from southern Lebanon, demonstrating that the country is no longer hesitant to respond to individual provocations, creating a high “price tag” for anyone who attacks Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel did not achieve some of top objectives: the return of the captive soldiers, “annihilation” or elimination of Hezbollah; or destruction of Hezbollah's rockets. U.S. intelligence now believes that Hezbollah possesses about 9,000 rockets, even after the fight.

Hezbollah did not defeat Israel on the battlefield, but they won the hearts and minds of many. Hezbollah’s own narrative as it moves forward will be that it survived the best that Israel could throw at it, that only a few of its fighters were killed, that only civilians were hit, that only it stood up to Israel and was victorious.

Oh, there are facts, and they poke holes in both the Israeli and Hezbollah lines, and demolish most of the unwashed presumptions about the war. It just doesn’t seem that many engaged in the debate are too interested in facts getting in the way.
All in all, I think his assessment is pretty fair. There are points I would pick here and there, but it's worth reading.


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