Israel failed -- commentary
- From: RonB <ronb02@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 18 Aug 2006 06:00:08 +0000 (UTC)
Israel's failed mission in Lebanon
Aug. 17, 2006. 01:00 AM
It seems everyone has won the war in Lebanon. Hezbollah and its
backers, Iran and Syria, have claimed victory. So have Israel and the
United States. That was to be expected.
Far more instructive is the pathetic sight of the president of the
world's largest power feeling the need to compete in a propaganda war
with the leader of a terrorist militia.
George W. Bush is boasting, as he is prone to when things go horribly
wrong, that the latest ruins of his making represent yet another
glorious frontier on the road to redemption.
Israel has indeed destroyed part of the Hezbollah stockpile of rockets
and missiles, killed dozens of guerrillas, driven away the rest from
the border areas, and opened the way for the Lebanese army to patrol a
buffer zone, with a multinational force. But Israel has not won.
Nor has the U.S. Both stand discredited in the eyes of much of the
world. So are the two Western leaders who blindly backed this venture,
Tony Blair and Stephen Harper.
Hezbollah is far from finished after the 34-day onslaught, the second
longest Arab-Israeli war. It can claim that mighty Israel is not
invincible, and that there are limits to military power, as the U.S.
discovered in Iraq.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah lives.
This war began with the Israeli air force dropping tons of bombs on a
site where he was said to be. He wasn't, just as Saddam Hussein wasn't
in the bunker the American cruise missiles hit as the opening salvo of
the 2003 Iraq war.
Some day, Nasrallah may be caught, as Saddam was. Or he may be
assassinated by Israel, as was his predecessor, in 1992. But that may
not make much difference. As veteran Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery
"Our army has killed, among others, Hezbollah leader Abbas Mussawi, PLO
Number 2 Abu Jihad, as well as Sheik Ahmad Yassin and other Hamas
leaders ... The place of Mussawi was filled by Nasrallah, who is far
more able. Sheikh Yassin was succeeded by far more radical leaders.
Instead of Arafat, we got Hamas."
If one aim of the war on Shiite Lebanon was to turn the Shiites against
Hezbollah, the war has had the opposite effect.
They are voting with their feet, returning to the ruined south, despite
Israeli warnings against it. Their cars and caravans are festooned with
Hezbollah flags and Nasrallah's pictures. Surveying the ruins of their
former abodes amid the stench of dead bodies, they are blaming Israel
and the United States, not Hezbollah.
If another aim was to turn Lebanon's minority Christians, Druze and
Sunni Muslims against the Shiites, that, too, has had an unanticipated
result. Churches and non-Shiite neighbourhoods sheltered fleeing Shiite
refugees, breaking age-old communal silos.
Not only that, but the patriarch of the Maronite Catholics, the most
pro-Western of the Lebanese factions, met the leaders of other
Christian denominations, as well as Sunnis and Shiites, and issued a
joint statement condemning Israeli "aggression" and hailing the
"resistance, mainly led by Hezbollah."
The popularity of Hezbollah and Nasrallah has spread across the Arab,
indeed the Muslim, world. Both are hailed even in U.S.-occupied Iraq,
whose U.S.-nurtured prime minister was among the first to condemn the
war on Lebanon.
Seeing the popular trend, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, which had
rightly criticized Hezbollah's adventurism against Israel, have fallen
Meanwhile, the two Israeli soldiers that Hezbollah had captured and for
whose freedom the war was ostensibly waged are still missing.
Grand declarations that Israel and the United States would never
negotiate with a terrorist group seem lost in talks with Hezbollah's
go-between, Nabih Berri, the Shiite speaker of the Lebanese parliament.
As for the UN resolution that brought about the ceasefire, it is not
clear how the call for the disarming of Hezbollah is to be achieved any
more than a 2004 resolution demanding exactly that.
Maybe the resolution is meant only as the fig leaf to end an
undertaking that could no longer be sustained. If Hezbollah had
miscalculated how strongly Israel would react, perhaps Israel ended up
miscalculating even more.
Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Affairs
in Washington said before the ceasefire was brokered that "Israel's
miscalculations have been so serious that its only hope for victory is
to have the U.S. and the international community do for it what it
cannot do militarily, which is to defeat Hezbollah."
These doubts are reflected in the sturdy debate in Israel itself. After
an initial closing of ranks and an expression of broad support for the
war, a majority of Israelis now believe that none or few of the war's
aims have been achieved.
Questions have been raised about the changing goals and tactics (from a
purely air war to an air-plus-ground war; a limited troop deployment to
a major one; the need for a small buffer zone to a bigger one); about
the gaps in intelligence on Hezbollah (its stockpiles of arms, and its
warren of tunnels and caves); and about the promised knockout punch
that never came.
Politicians and the military are trading blame.
All this must be hard to swallow for those, like Harper, who blindly
backed this war. Some are comforting themselves with the notion that
while the morning after the war looks too horrible to contemplate, the
"morning after the morning" may bring the dawn of a new day.
That's what they have been saying about Iraq ? for three years.
Haroon Siddiqui writes Thursday and Sunday. hsiddiq@xxxxxxxxxxx
"There's a story there...somewhere"
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