Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Give War a Chance: Israel Continues Blockade of Lebanon

As I mentioned in my last post on the Israeli/Lebanon conflict, impossible standards are being imposed as preconditions to full compliance with the UN's ceasefire via the withdrawal Israeli forces. But perhaps I shouldn't use the word "impossible" to describe Israel's' terms. It may be better to describe them as so unlikely to be met that one must as to call into question Israel's desire to resolve the matter amicably at all. But that's a little wordy, ergo my choice of the word "impossible". This news item from the Associated Press presents another opportunity to observe this tactic in real time:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that Israel has no plans to lift its air and sea blockade of Lebanon until an international peacekeeping force takes up positions along the Syrian border and at Beirut's airport.

Israeli officials said Olmert wasn't issuing an ultimatum. But the tough stance appeared to be an attempt to put pressure on the international community to send a powerful force willing to disarm Hezbollah, which fired thousands of rockets into northern Israel during 34 days of fighting.


Olmert laid down his position in a meeting with U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, who is in the region to discuss implementation of a U.N.-brokered cease-fire that ended the war between Israel and Hezbollah. Diplomats are still trying to hammer out final details, including the peacekeeping force's precise responsibilities.

"Olmert said deploying the force at border crossings to Syria and at the airport will allow the lifting of Israel's sea and air closure and contribute to the implementation" of the cease-fire, the prime minister's office said.


Israel says Syria is a main supplier of weapons to Hezbollah, and officials said Israel was seeking assurances that arms do not reach the group again. The cease-fire resolution calls for a
halt in arms transfers to the guerrillas, and a 2004 resolution requires the group to disarm.

disarmament of Hezbollah is our main objective. As long as it is not disarmed, we will defend ourselves against their being rearmed," said Miri Eisin, a senior Israeli government official. "To do so, we're going to stop all of the routes that allow the supplies to arrive to Hezbollah — sea, air and land."

There is some contradiction in Olmert's statements as they're presented here. On the one hand he says that simply deploying an international force to the Syrian border would allow them to withdraw -- which even on its own merits must be viewed in the context of their pickiness with regard to what constitutes an acceptable international force. But then he goes on to say that they wont end the blockade until Hezbollah is disarmed. That's a noteable departure. As highlighted above, the UN-brokered ceasefire calls for the halt of new arms transfers to Hezbollah. But Israel is unilaterally augmenting that requirement to include the disarmament of Hezbollah. This, once again, is a case of one side asking that all their demands be met before any talks can take place. The precondition for a ceasefire is total surrender by the other side. In a war where they clearly did not achieve their objectives nor weaken their enemy, this is ridiculous requirement for Israel to impose, seemingly designed to fail.

The full disarmament of Hezbollah was the stated goal of Israel's military campaign to begin with. Their inability to achieve this goal by force is the reason we have the ceasefire. Hezbollah, by their armed resistance to the campaign, has already demonstrated its unwillingness to disarm. Furthermore, after being attacked it has no logical reason to want to disarm. Tat is where the issue stands. That's the heart of the disagreement. For Israel to now argue that it cannot abide fully with the ceasefire until all it is given the victory it could not acheive by force is a non-starter, again, analogous to "Buy the car first,
then we'll negotiate the price."

It should be noted, as it is noted in the above-referenced story, that a previous UN resolution in 2004 required did Hezbollah to disarm. Israel could argue that it is justified in demanding such a precondition on that basis. But that argument is diminished by two facts. First, that resolution was drafted after Israel had largely withdrawn from Lebanon, a condition that no longer holds. Second are the dozens of UN resolutions with which Israel has failed to comply itself. Couldn't Hezbollah insist on the enforcement of those? Well, ask yourself how the world would react if Hezbollah insisted, for example, that Israel must withdraw from all the lands it has occupied since 1967 (as required by UN Resolution 242) before it would honor the ceasefire? I can only imagine the noteable difference we see.

Finally, at the risk of seeming tedious and redundant, I must make mention again of the fact that continually making an issue of Syria and Iran in this conflict keeps fresh the pre-packaged pretext for the larger war this whole affair is designed to spark.


Brian said...

It is true that Israel is in a situation that is not easily won. France, being the weenies that they are, basically is not commiting any troops (the last that I saw anyhow) after they "led" the effort for the ceasefire.

Some heavily Muslim countries are donating troops (can't be a good thing).

It is true that Hezbollah does not want to disarm... this is not a very profound statement seeing that they have been arming themselves so heavily for so long.

"Their inability to achieve this goal (disarmament) by force is the reason we have the ceasefire." I could not disagree with this statement more. Israel politically could not continue the war, it was not because the weren't meeting their goals. With the border cut off from Syria... and enough fighting (maybe another month) Hezbollah would have been done in. Hezbollah would not be able to sustain itself without supplies from Iran...therefore causing the disarming of them.

It seems that the only way to finish this for sure is to say... "look, get troops in here within one week, or else operations start again". To minimize casualities, this will allow time for Lebanese to flee the area. Or, a real force (my definition of real is European or US backed troops, not Indonesian or Malaysian or whatever) come in immediately and show proof of disarming via bi-weekly reporting of successes.

For example, "On the second day of week 49, we entered bunker #5 and confiscated X number of brand B missles and launchers". At least this type of review would have the potential of convincing the Israelis that the forces are doing something besides standing around.

FearItself said...

You're still missing the big picture here. No matter what size the force the UN sends or what it's makeup is, Isreal will deem it inadequate. They will have reason to do so because there will be no feasible way to "completely" seal off the long boarder with Syria. How is that same idea working out in Iraq?.

So when Hezbollah is able to resupply anyway, this will be cited as a reason to continue the offensive. Continued offense leads to continued defense which will translate more support for Hezbollah. Then it will be concluded that the only way to have "peace" is to flood Iran and Syria with bombs. "War is Peace".

I strongly disagree with you about the force needing to be non-muslim force. It's far better to have soldiers on the ground who can communicate with the people they're trying to protect and police, isn't it? An all western force will arrive with an all western bias, aggravated by an inability to speak the language, that the people will see and resent immediately. It will manifest itself in unnecessary killing. How's that same idea working out in Iraq?

Another month of this would not have done in Hezbollah, it would have sustained them, for the reasons I just cited. As they get more support from the people and the government what do you suppose happens to their ability to rearm, does it get harder or easier?

Your plan, in your last two paragraphs, for peacekeeping in Lebanon sounds very familiar to me. It's not as if this idea hasn't been tried before. Isreal did occupy Lebanon for some years in the early eighties trying to do the same thing, did they not? The result was the creation of Hezbollah. Not a good result for them. How is that same idea working out Iraq?

Brian said...

Ultimately, the Israelis are not wanted in the region (I mean Israel, not Lebanon) as a whole by the peoples that surround the country, yes? The peoples that surround the country are in the majority, Muslim.

So, given this to be true, I think we can also agree that the Israelis will not leave peacefully for obvious reasons.

Now, the question really becomes... which people does the land "really" belong to? Islam, as a religion, is not so old... I think the Israelis have this one based on the age of the religion... and this includes basic Christianity in the mix. Who are these newbies to come in and claim the area for themselves? Is this the idea of the grand caliphate coming to overrun Israel? If so, then we better not have Muslim forces on the ground keeping peace, because there will not be any.

Don't you see, Israel plays the moral game, while the others play the immoral one. Yet, people side with the immoral fighters because they think Israeli's do not belong in the region in the first place. How can this be when Christianity and Islam are such "new" religions in relative terms?

What ever happened to principles... and what about war crimes? Accusations against Israel for war crimes? Isn't is a war crime to shoot off a missle at some city when the accuracy of the missile is at best 5km? So, the Iranian missile hits a residential building... and there are no Israeli soldiers probably within 30km of where the missile lands... is this not a war crime since it happens by design? Yet, no one speaks of this.

While I think the whole situation is horrible, I find this defense of Hezbollah and Palestian "baby bombers" absolutely mind boggling. At least when Israel ran military missions, there was a large likelyhood of Hezbollah being at least in the vicinity. The same can not be said for Hezbollah.

Sorry, that got a little off topic ;)