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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Israel’s Fronts and Center

An hour ago a rocket fired from Lebanon hit central Haifa. Over the past few days, I have been following with a heavy heart the multiple bloodshed fronts. Israel is not at war with Lebanon, nor with the terrorist militias of Hezbollah. It has retreated from Lebanon and has no claims in South Lebanon beyond the protection of its Northern border. Israel has also unilaterally evacuated Gaza. The most difficult thing for a state is responding to deadly attacks and abductions when the chains of control of these groups are evasive. Are Damascus/Tehran controlling Beirut which is controlling the Shiites which are controlling Hezbollah which is controlling Hamas which is controlling the Palestinian authorities? Or have the chains flipped? Understanding the chains of control as they evolve in the Arab world is the key to a targeted effective response. 

Posted by Orly Lobel on July 13, 2006 at 03:46 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Yes, all of those things - and more. I had explained my reasons once here in response to Professor Teson's post. He had specifically asked a question about the Iraq war. Prof. Lobel on the other hand, has not asked that question. It would be inappropriate to hijack this post to discuss Iraq. You can find out what I think about it on my own blog if you wish - my name links there.

My apologies to Ms. Lobel. My long comment was not wholly intended as a response to your post, except to point out the similarities between the situations in India and Israel and the difference in the approach of the two countries in responding to the threat. As I said, I do not have an answer as to what is appropriate, since neither country appears to have solved its problems with its neighbors.

My comment really was addressed to all the authors of P.B. I realize that this is primarily a legal blog and not a political one. But I have read P.B. since its inception. Political issues do make it here from time to time. I also understand that it goes against blogging etiquette to question bloggers on what they wish to publish on their blog and why. I was just surprised that a blog post about the Israeli incursion into Lebanon went up within an hour of the event and there was not even a tangential reference (with or without intelligent commentary) to the Mumbai bombing which had taken place just two days prior and involved extensive death, destruction and injury. And also because it resembled the London and Madrid bombings both in its method as well as the nature of the perpetrators. The point I meant to make is that the theater of global terrorism extends beyond the middle east. In fact the bombings in NYC, Madrid, London and Mumbai arose from the same fountainhead of terrorist activity in Afghanistan and Pakistan - not Syria, Lebanon or Iraq. Our government calls India a natural ally since 9/11. Yet our politicians have kept the American public largely ignorant about the origin, spread and reach of the menace of Islamic terrorism, so much so that most Americans have a tunnel vision about what constitutes a terrorist act and who its legitimate victims are. It makes me wonder if that natural alliance with India focuses only on cheap, outsourced IT labor or if it also includes India's security concerns. Now is a good time to ask these questions.

Posted by: Ruchira Paul | Jul 14, 2006 4:30:01 PM

In what way (or ways?) does everyone think Bush's "War on Terrorism" is misguided? I realize this topic has been discussed ad nauseum, and perhaps I still have the blind faith in our military that I developed watching G.I. Joe in the 80's, but have we not accomplished a lot in the last 3 years in Iraq (not to mention Afghanistan)?

An important fact which I feel is often overlooked is that we now have a somewhat stable base of operations in that region, which we may prove useful if the situation with Israel and Lebanon escalates further. Also, our administration has tried to downplay the role of oil in this war, but do we not also have a significant interest in helping set up a government that is friendly to us in such an oil-rich country, as opposed to the one led by a murderous dictator who hated us and who refused to cooperate with the rest of the civilized world? Also, didn't Libya agree to disarm its WMD program and didn't Iran admit to running a nuclear testing program of its own shortly after they realized that Bush was serious about using military force in their region?

Yes, I realize that we have lost over 2500 members of our armed forces and spent tons of money, and don't mean to downplay those losses, but do you consider the war to be misguided because it hasn't been run efficiently? The concept of pre-emptive war? War as opposed to diplomacy? The oil/Haliburton factor?

I realize that this comment is only tangentially related to Professor Lobel's original post, but I honestly would like to see a more clearly expressed explanation of why you consider the war to be misguided. Also, if you disagree with my reasons for supporting the war, please explain why.

Posted by: Paul_Washington | Jul 14, 2006 2:40:42 AM

The airport is supposed to house a large cache of Hizbollah arms. I have wondered if Iran is testing the resolve of the US by proxy.

I would love to see comments and opinions of the readers here on whether they think the Israeli tactics will indeed work. P.B readers and authors, especially Professor Lobel may know more about the Israeli situation than they know about very similar situations elsewhere in the world, where the reactions and repercussions don't quite follow the same pattern.

Just two days ago, commuter trains in Mumbai, India were hit with terrorist bombs. More people died in Mumbai than did during the London subway bombings. The American MSM was on the story for a little more than 24 hours. The blogosphere was clueless. There was some effort on the right wing blogs to run with the story in order to boost the case for Bush's misguided war on terrorism by conflating the two. Their take on the Indian terrorist scene was hilariously riddled with factual and historical bloopers. Interestingly enough, the leftist blogs maintained total and eerie silence.

Many Indian Americans are trying to analyze why the almost same type of incidents in different parts of the world, carried out by people with almost identical ideologies, receive different reactions in the American mainstream and alternate media. Apart from possible crypto-racism that many Indians suspect, I think there is some additional mindset at play here. The average American is indeed very insular in his/her thinking - the blogs are currently devoted to highly partisan local politics and one-upmanship leading up to the Nov 2006 election. Most Americans feel, (even if they don't believe it) that global terrorism began on 9/11/2001 with the warning shots having sounded in the middle east. They know very little about India's repeated brush with the menace in the last decade and the role Pakistan has played in the equation. Kashmir is a total mystery. Beyond Al Quaida and Taliban, their eyes glaze over the rest of the alphabet soup of terrorist subsidiaries operating in the subcontinent. And I have a suspicion that there is also an unconscious equating of the deaths due to terrorism with those resulting from natural and other disasters like earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and train derailments in which large numbers people periodically perish in those parts of the world. What's alarming about a few hundred dying where poverty, disease and disaster takes a toll every day? So 200+ people dying in a particular incident, whether by the hand of god or man, is not unusual news coming from some parts of the world. But it is in NYC, London or Madrid. That's how the thinking goes.

India has reacted quite differently from Israel to terrorism within its borders, refusing even to undertake cross border hot pursuit of terrorists who routinely enter and exit across the India-Pakistan border. In the latest incident, suspicion has also fallen on domestic Muslim groups including the Students Islamic Movement of India, consisting entirely of university students. If that indeed is the case, then the prognosis is much worse than we have feared.

Until the US supplanted everyone else on the Islamic terrorists' list as Satan #1, India was Satan #2 after Israel. Both India and Israel have suffered very similar provocations in the last decade but the shockwave that goes through tiny Israel and vast India are quite different. However, repeated events of this nature is now fraying Indian nerves. The Hindu right wing in India recommends Israeli style overwhelming force. Fortunately, majority of Indians don't. But who knows what the right approach is? After all, neither Israel's iron hand nor India's cautious restraint has solved the problem in their respective troubled neighborhoods. But for the first time in the US major media, the Washington Post asked this pertinent question.

Posted by: Ruchira Paul | Jul 13, 2006 8:28:25 PM

I don't claim to be an expert on such things, but my surface understanding is that Israel wants to cut Lebanon/Hizballah off from Iran. The idea being that Iran is the source of the weapons, and the weapons come by boat and plane.

Relatedly, Hizballah has apparently announced plans to transfer the kidnapped Israeli soldiers to Iran. Perhaps Israel seeks to prevent that from happening (see: Ron Arad).

Mine isn't a normative judgment about whether this approach will work, whether it is "just," or anything else. It is just what I understand to be Israel's tactical purpose for carrying out these particular strikes.

Posted by: Hillel Levin | Jul 13, 2006 6:26:13 PM

Yes, I was wondering about the strikes on the Beirut airport as well. What of that?

Posted by: David in NY | Jul 13, 2006 5:31:53 PM

I'm curious -- as a former IDF person, do you think that Israel's current response will be effective? I'm not sure I see the purpose of airstrikes on Beirut, sealing Lebanon's borders, etc.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Jul 13, 2006 4:03:42 PM

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