Putting recent events in the frame that I described below:
* Kevin Drum notes that Israel may not want to destroy Hezbollah but merely degrade it. This agrees with my understanding of the situation – the political pressure within Israel does not mandate that Olmert make Hezbollah go away entirely, merely that they stop firing rockets into Israel. Hezbollah’s newer Iran and Syria-made rockets require a relatively sophisticated infrastructure to fire which means that Israel has a decent chance of making most (but obviously not all) of them inoperable before the UN is able to impose a truce. Kevin’s correspondent also notes that Hezbollah has built itself an infrastructure that upgrades them from a pure guerilla force to something approaching a regular army, which paradoxically makes them much more fightable with conventional forces. The more that you have built up, the more that your enemy can knock down.
* Israel has already begun invading Lebanon. Either the domestic political pressure became unbearable, the risk of an external peace deal became too immediate or Israel has decided that Hezbollah can no longer resist effectively. Suing for peace now sounds appealing except for two factors: Hezbollah will not stop fighting voluntarily, and I cannot stress enough how damaging it would be for Olmert if Israel were forced to withdraw while rockets kept raining from Lebanon.
* In case anybody was still unsure, Israel has declared that it has no interest in fighting Syria and Iran. Any widening of this conflict would inflict tremendous Israeli casualties for negligible benefit and would distract, at least in the short term, from the goal of ending the Hezbollah rocket fire. Michael Savage can go cry in his Cabernet Franc.
Individuals within the State Department, I am told, have been reluctant to create an impression that the Israeli assault on Lebanon is as bad as it is or that civilian U.S. citizens are being threatened by U.S. ally Israel. If a conflict this severe had broken out in, say, Indonesia, the American embassy would have been shut down the next day and its personnel and families rapidly brought to safety….The diplomatic message sent by shutting down the U.S. embassy in the face of Israeli bombing would have contradicted the U.S. government message of support for the Israeli mission against Hezbollah terrorists.
* I had an illuminating conversation last night about how exactly the factions can deal with this in the mid/long term. It seems to me that Israel needs another occupation like it needs a hole in the head, which leaves basically one option. If Israel demotes Hezbollah from quasi-army back to ragtag guerilla outfit and participates aggressively in the rebuilding of Lebanon and particularly a central Lebanese army, the chances are very good that Lebanon will exert its prerogatives and clamp down on the Hezbollah troublemakers by itself. For one thing the simplest definition of a government may be whoever owns the monopoly on force, and no functioning government can long tolerate an independent entity using force within its borders. Worse for Hezbollah is their sponsor (Syria) who grows increasingly unpopular among the Lebanese. In my view Israel can help guarantee the security of its own government by contributing generously to that of Lebanon.
As always, post your updates in the comments.
* To add, of course Israel must take more care to avoid civilian casualties. Apartments and gas stations can be rebuilt, but you cannot reassemble children.
Twelve-year-old Nour lay heavily bandaged and fighting for her life in a hospital in the southern Lebanese city of Tyre. She is one of many children killed and injured in Israeli air strikes on this Mediterranean port in past days.
More ambulances streamed into the hospital and doctors hurried to treat the victims of the latest bombing. Whatever the Israelis’ intended target, the bomb fell on a small water canal next to the Qasmia refugee camp, home to about 500 Palestinians. Its victims were 11 children taking an afternoon swim in the canal.
People who support Israel should make an extra effort to demand that she avoid handing these PR gifts to her Hezbollah enemy. And yes, Hezbollah’s indiscriminate rocket barrages are no better.