Chaos to Disaster
The first stage of Israel's war against Lebanon brought great chaos. While the invader claimed to be fighting only Hezbollah, the casualties were principally Lebanese women, men and children. They outnumbered about 10-1 the terrorists taken down.
Admitting its air force and army were destroying great chunks of its northern neighbor, Israel cited justification not heard since the Vietnam War: To save Lebanon they were maiming and slaying, obliterating the infrastructure and leveling only recently rebuilt buildings, which had been wrecked, in many instances, by Israel's last invasion.
At the same time they demanded the country's army join their forces in chasing out the Hezbollah. That raises the fascinating question: What army?
When the Syrians finally went home, in 2005, they left behind an eviscerated state, especially the military. Coming first (1976) into the country during the bloody civil war, they had hijacked the semblance of government, in Beirut, when Israel pulled back, in 1982.
For those 23 years, Damascus had rendered the Lebanese Army impotent, unable to challenge its rule or Hezbollah, which appeared on the scene as a direct result of Israeli actions; especially the massacres of Palestinians in refugee camps. When international opinion forced Syria's withdrawal, little was done to strengthen the country's armed forces; both Arab countries and the west, notably the United States, were at fault.
Displaying the short-sightedness that prompted today's raids and bombings, Israel was complicit; it certainly had the connections in Washington to launch a campaign to bring Lebanon's army to a status that could have maintained national sovereignty. That way Hezbollah might have been brought under control. Talk now of chasing the guerillas out must be taken as hopeful fantasy.
What never seems to penetrate skulls in Washington and its protégé, Israel, is the meaning of jihad; the modern "holy struggle" consists of ideas not individuals. The worse the state of Muslims the more men, women and even children flock to radical banners. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof underlined this point in Sunday's paper.
Attempts by outsiders to eradicate terrorists by military means have inevitably meant more terrorists. Mr. Kristof points to Britain and Spain as examples for how to handle the problem. Both London's tactic towards the IRA and Madrid's approach to Basque radicals required tremendous patience; in neither instance did either capitol give into cries for massive responses. They avoided anything that could breed sympathy for their enemies, forcing the IRA and Basque independence movement into seeking an accommodation with their governments.
The terrible human disaster from Israeli air strikes and artillery shells has been so extensive that Saudi Arabia has switched sides. Calling initially for the punishment of Hezbollah, Riyadh's royal family pushed the White House last weekend for a cease fire; certainly Egypt, Jordan and the other Arab states that supported the Israeli invasion are now uncomfortable with their choice. Western European and the world's view has never altered.
Washington, apparently, stands all alone in siding with Israeli hawks in preaching the atrocities must continue until Hezbollah is through. One view in Jerusalem would have Israel drive north to Damascus and force Syria to withdraw all support for the guerillas. This flawed scenario would leave in control the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has always been the main sugar daddy for fellow Shiites in Lebanon and Syria.
Any direct assault on Teheran could literally start World War III. When pressed, Iran has the means to launch missiles against Israel; some might be tipped with thermonuclear devices. In the event, Jerusalem would then feel obliged to reach into its weapons stockpile and "nuke" back.
And as I said in last week's TheTentacle.com column, other countries would have to jump in to save a situation that could only lead to more bloodshed and destruction. More terrible disaster could only follow.
In any event, while Western Europe and many parts of the world community remembers, it seems Washington and Jerusalem have forgotten Winston Churchill's dictum: Jaw Jaw is better than War War!
But it's very possible to doubt that this White House has any memory of the wartime British prime minister and statesman.