Archive for July 2006

Enrich This, Punk!

July 31, 2006

The almighty United Nations Security Council has now threatened the Iranian regime with (gasp, monocle-shatter) … more discussions if it does not suspend uranium enrichment by August 31st. Yes, nuke-hungry Iranian theocrats, cower before the awesome prospect of further bickering between the world’s leading powers as to whether to do anything about you. Doesn’t the very thought of crusty foreign ministers seated at the security council table with those little earphones lodged in their hirsute ears cause you to pee the very pants you deny women the right to wear in public? Repent now or feel the wrath of protracted diplomatic haggling.


The Toll on Southern Beirut

July 31, 2006

My Lebanese friend reminds me about the staggering destruction parts of Beirut have been subjected to in the past few weeks. Though we at small-d have little patience for those who think the war against folks like Hezbollah is not worth fighting (though there is wide room for disagreement on tactics) one should not become callous to the incredible cost of doing so.

Quote of the Day

July 31, 2006

“The liberal’s notion that reasoning in the spirit of affable compromise is the only truly human way of meeting one’s opponent overlooks the important part played by force and grace. And his unctuous notion that evil must not be seriously combated because the person who attempts to oppose it may ultimately have to use physical force, and will become soiled by the act of fighting, is a gospel of despair…It means a practice turning the world over to the rule of the violent, the brutal and the inhuman, who have no such fine scruples, because the humane are too dainty in their virtue to submit to any possible assault on it. Now the dangers are real: force does brutalize the users of it; when blood is spilt, anger rises and reason temporarily disappears….Fascism is barbarous, not because it uses force, but because it prefers force to rational accommodation: it deliberately turns mental and physical coercion into human nature’s daily food.”

— Lewis Mumford, “The Corruption of Liberalism,” The New Republic, April 29, 1940.

Political Science, Hezbollah Style

July 30, 2006

“I’m a political science student, and according to international law, as long as one inch of Arab land is occupied, as long as one Palestinian or Lebanese is in an Israeli jail, Hezbollah has the right to strike anywhere in Israel, even Tel Aviv.”

— Ahmad Sabri, 19 year old Saudi Arabian, articulates his recipe for perpetual war.

More About that Bombing…

July 28, 2006

As I wrote a few days ago, there has been widespread outrage in certain precincts about the bombing of a UN observer outpost in Southern Lebanon by the Israeli Air Force. Kofi Annan immediately lashed out with the accusation that the targeting was intentional. Prime Minister Olmert rejected this charge but pledged a full and public investigation into the matter.

A few days have passed, the smoke has cleared a bit, and a picture is starting to emerge. The Ottawa Citizen has a very interesting piece based on an e-mail sent by a Canadian United Nations observer just days before he was killed in the Israeli strike. The e-mail indicates that Hezbollah was using the post as a “shield” to fire rockets into Israel.

“What I can tell you is this,” he wrote in an e-mail to CTV dated July 18. “We have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both (Israeli) artillery and aerial bombing. The closest artillery has landed within 2 meters (sic) of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters (sic) from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but rather due to tactical necessity.”
[emphasis my own].

And from a Los Angeles Times dispatch to the south of Lebanon.

“Hezbollah guerrillas also endanger U.N. troops by systematically setting up rocket launches alongside U.N. bases, either in the hope that Israel will think twice before firing back, or with the cynical aim of generating bad publicity for Israel by enticing it to bomb peacekeeping troops. They had sidled up to the U.N. bases to strike Israel at least four times in 24 hours this week, officials here said.”

Strategic Crossroads

July 27, 2006

Some thoughts from Ze’ev Schiff, long one of the most astute military analysts on the Israeli scene. Schiff writes that after two weeks of fighting it is clear that Israel has still not achieved its strategic objectives. This dynamic has raised the unacceptable spectre that Israel is of strategic parity with Hezbollah.

“Hezbollah and what this terrorist organization symbolizes must be destroyed at any price. This is the only option that Israel has. […] If Hezbollah does not experience defeat in this war, this will spell the end of Israeli deterrence against its enemies.”

Schiff continues:

“Iran is known to be demanding that Syria increase its support for Hezbollah in order to enable it to better resist the pressure from the Israel Defense Forces. Just as the United States would like Israel to defeat Hezbollah, Iran does not want the organization destroyed and is doing everything in its power to prevent this. This shows that the military struggle has still not reached its peak, nor have the diplomatic efforts.”


“This struggle will also determine Iran’s position in the Middle East and its role among the Arab states. Some of the Arab states recognize this fact and do not wish Hezbollah to emerge victorious in this campaign. Their stance does not stem from love of Israel, but from concerns for their own future.”

Strange bedfellows indeed…

Schiff’s diagnosis is indeed disheartening to the concerned observer from afar, and catastrophic for those Lebanese and Israelis intimate with the consequences of this war. But at the moment I see no alternative to Schiff’s clear-eyed analysis of the stakes. This has long ceased being about the fate of some captured soldiers. Though their return is important, it pales in comparison to the regional dynamics at play here. As the chorus for a cease fire grows louder, we would do well to keep in mind Schiff’s words.

“There is a whole generation in Israel that may not recall how many useless cease-fire agreements were signed in Lebanon. The most significant, which followed the 1978 Litani Operation, established UNIFIL. Israel does not need another cease-fire of this sort in southern Lebanon; it needs a new reality that, at the least, will distance Hezbollah’s military wing from this area.”

I know that many would charge that to accept Schiff’s advice is to accept an Israeli perspective on the violence. Well, yes. Guilty as charged. But as I wrote below, decent minds cannot be neutral in a battle between irredentist religious fanatics who fight as a proxy force for an expansionist theocratic regime in Tehran and a liberal democracy defending itself. To write this is not to support every specific action Israel takes in an effort to defend herself, but it is to take a stand. Thoughtful people can differ on the best strategy Israel should undertake in her own defense. But let us at least be clear about who is right and who is wrong.

What to Do?

July 26, 2006

Some interesting thoughts from a retired major general and former peacekeeper, a Canadian no less. He makes particularly intriguing comments about Israel’s supposedly disproportionate use of force, Hizbollah’s use of the bombed UN post as cover, and what an international intervention might look like. He also seems to actually know what he’s talking about (happy to include self in opposite category), which makes for a nice change. (Hat-tip: E to the V.)