Thursday, August 24, 2006


Michael Totten: Check Him Out

As you probably know already, Michael Totten is in Israel, doing original reporting that would probably earn him a Pulitzer if he was working for the New York Times. (That is, of course, on the assumption that the New York Times would print what he writes. They should; it's a lot better than some of the armchair editorializing they do print.)

The man's intrepid reporting is relevant, to the point, and amazing, if you think about it. On his own volition, on the assumption that blog readers would pay for quality reporting, he set off on his own -- last year to Lebanon, where he lived for six months; then to Iraqi Kurdistan; and now to Israel. When he lived in Lebanon, Hizballah took him on tours of the border with Israel; later he got similar tours from the Israeli side.

And his latest post interviews Israeli peaceniks -- members of the all-but-defunct Peace Now organization. It's interesting, it's highly relevant, it's important -- you get a much better understanding of where Israeli society is by understanding its limits, after all -- and it's not something you're likely to see in the mainstream media.

There was this, for example:
The Israeli peace movment serves in the army. Combat units include members of Peace Now. Israel is the only Western country that still fights wars with people like this as its soldiers. Some of the ultra-orthodox, by contrast, do not serve in the army. So while the U.S. military is more conservative than America as a whole, the Israeli army is slightly more liberal than Jewish Israeli society as a whole.
And this:
“I hope this is not an offensive question,” I said, “because I don’t mean it to be. But, do you ever feel like a sucker?”

“No,” Amichai said. “I think my best interest is not to have an occupied people under my foot and under my boot. I think that affects my freedom when Palestinians don’t have their natural rights to live alongside of me. My desire for freedom is to have an independent Jewish state next to an independent Palestinian state. That will liberate me. And I just hope we can find a partner so there will not be Kassem rockets flying from that state into the Ben Gurion airport when they’re just a few kilometers away.”

“I think the occupation makes people think unclearly,” Yehuda said.

“You mean Israelis?” I said.

“Israelis,” Yehuda said. “And Arabs. Everybody’s playing with matches.”

Please remember: many people continue to believe that Israel is a poisonously bellicose nation, hell-bent on territorial conquest; that Israel attacks its neighbors mercilessly, and visits death and destruction on innocent Arabs; that there can be no negotiation with Israel, because Israel just won't listen.

Such people tend to forget that Israel is the country that, in the name of peace, unilaterally uprooted thousands of her own citizens and abandoned the Gaza Strip to her declared enemies -- and got nothing in return, nothing except a daily barrage of Qassam rocket fire on local villages. ("Territorial conquest", indeed.) Israel is also the country that took Hizballah at its word, accepted that a total withdrawal from Lebanon would bring peace, and most carefully did just that -- and then watched as Hizballah declared that it would not cease fighting after all, resulting six years later in the current conflict.

And Israel is also the country that recruits people like Yehuda and Amichai into its combat units -- and appoints another like them to be Minister of Defense.

By all means, read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Mr. Totten's reporting continues. Writing for Time Magazine (covering for the vacationing Andrew Sullivan), he elaborates on a point he's made before:
Arab tyrants and terrorists have set an absurdly low bar for themselves when it comes to defining victory in a war. Simple survival is good enough for most of them. Saddam Hussein claims he “won” the 1991 Gulf War that ousted him from Kuwait because he lived fight (and lose) again. The Egyptian government built a gigantic war memorial to the “victory” against Israel in 1973, even though they lost, because they managed to surprise the Israelis and had a few tactical victories before later losing decisively. Hassan Nasrallah boasted that he, too, won the war against Israel before later admitting that he never would have started the war if he knew how it would turn out.

The Israeli definition of victory could not be more different. Israelis are, perhaps, the world’s premier perfectionists on this question. Anything less than an instant and overwhelming victory to them is a horror. This comes from the fact that if they ever decisively lose a war against eliminationist enemies, the country might cease to exist.

“Golda Meir was the first Israeli prime minister that got thrown out,” he told me. “She got thrown out because of the 1973 war. I wouldn’t say she was a scapegoat, because if she’s prime minister she’s not a scapegoat. But the trauma of the 1973 war so so deep because for the first time we had a war that we didn’t really win. By the time it was over there was a decisive military victory. But it wasn’t a resoundingly decisive military victory.
This is part of a post that explains just what trouble Mr. Olmert is in with the Israeli electorate: "[your name will] be even more mud than Golda". Read the whole thing.

In another post, he explains carefully what a farce the issue of the Shebaa Farms is -- and why it's a big deal that Hizballah is now, humiliatingly, dismantling its outposts near there.

(Do I think, as Mr. Totten does, that this may be the beginning of the end for Hizballah? No, I'm not that optimistic. Yes, the fight to eject Israel from Shebaa -- which even the UN freely admits has never been a part of Lebanon -- was, post-2000, Hizballah's entire reason for existing. But no doubt they'll find a way to reinvent themselves, and continue their fight against Israel.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006


The Little Ahmadinejad Who Cried Wolf

So much for the heavily-anticipated August 22nd non-event that would, supposedly, light the sky over Jerusalem. With much of the world holding its collective breath, Ahmadinejad... announced he's willing to negotiate again. (Aww. Were his missiles not ready yet? Need to buy a little more time, Ahmad Knee-Jerk?)

On the other hand, he also attacked and took over a Romanian oil rig. The Romanians, it seems, are calling this a "provocation" and wondering how best to negotiate. (Once upon a time, we would have called it "an act of war" -- an unprovoked attack on foreign nationals in international waters.)

You know, one of these days he's going to actually mean what he threatens... by which time, presumably, we will have stopped taking Mr. I'm-A-Dinner-Jacket seriously. Does that sound about right, little guy?

No, we won't stop taking him seriously. Not if Cox and Forkum have anything to say about it:

Smash isn't fooled either.


Sunday, August 20, 2006


What Does 'Disproportionate' Mean? re Israel's oft-cited 'disproportionate response' to the provocations of Hamas and Hizballah kidnapping her soldiers.

Blogger Weary G. wants to know... and suggests, correctly in my opinion, that you can't really discuss Israel's 'disproportionate response' until you agree on what that term means.

My first approximation is this: a proportionate response is one that doesn't escalate. For example, you stick out your tongue at me, and I stick out my tongue right back at you. You insult my mother, and I insult yours right back.

(If this sounds childish, it is... and there's ample precedent for it. Once upon a time, in happier days, it was routine for Hizballah sympathizers to hike down to the Israel-Lebanon border, get the attention of Israeli soldiers on duty there, and taunt them. Israeli soldiers were under strict orders not to escalate the tensions along the border -- which meant that they were permitted to respond in kind, precisely in kind, but no more. IDF printed guidelines were explicit on this, in excruciating detail: if he calls your mother a used dishrag, then, and only then, may you call his mother a used dishrag. If he calls your sister a cow too ugly to wear a cow-bell, then -- but not before -- you may call his sister a cow too ugly to wear a cow-bell. And so on, and so on.)

Why must it be so precise? Because we don't have an equivalence currency for provocations. There's no objective way of knowing that calling someone an ugly cow is worse than calling them a used dishrag; nor can we know how much worse it might be. Even worse -- if you call me a dirty little pazkundyak, it might not bother me at all... while the same insult levelled at you might make you insane with rage. We have no way of gauging that your insult to me was a 0.3 on the provocation-meter, while mine against you got a reading of 17.5... even though we both used the same words. Nonetheless, insulting you with the same words you used against me cannot be called an escalation.

The situation changes if, let's say, you pull a knife on me, and I respond by pulling a gun. That's a disproportionate response. (Please note that a disproportionate response is not by definition the wrong way to go; that's the next discussion. As Weary G. said, it's unfair to presuppose that disproportionate responses are always bad, if you haven't even defined what the term means yet.)

Please note also that a disproportionate response might also be a de-escalation. When Hitler annexed Austria and threatened to invade the Sudetenland, and, in response, was offered the Sudetenland on a silver platter (and, nominally, the rest of Czechoslovakia) if he promised to go no further, that was emphatically a de-escalation. Was it a disproportionate response? I'd certainly say so, given my belief that Hitler should have been opposed vigorously from the start. More accurately, it was a grosly inadequate response.

So. Was Israel's response to the kidnapping of her soldiers disproportionate? If so, was it an escalation or a de-escalation? And is that a bad thing, under the circumstances?

Please let me know what you think. You might want to pay a visit to Weary G. as well.

UPDATE: Well, Cox and Forkum have given their opinion!

So has J.J. McCullough:

UPDATE II: The incomparable Steven den Beste weighs in:
[Hezbollah's] slowing making the transition from hidden guerrilla forces mixed in with the civilian population to more organized and formal units, but hidden forced remained the majority of their force. Then they made the decision to grab a couple of Israeli soldiers.

IMHO Israel botched this war, but that's not the question I wanted to address in this discussion. The question I began with was, why did so many people demand "proportionate" responses from Israel, and condemn Israel's bombing campaign as being "disproportionate"?

It's because Israel refused to play the game. Israel opened up an offensive which ran at a logistically unsustainable rate for Hezbollah, which Hezbollah could not avoid fighting. The code word "proportionate" really meant, "Israel, you have to limit yourself to fighting at a level that Hezbollah can sustain. Otherwise it's just not fair!"

Of course that's idiocy; war isn't about fairness. But that's what they were really saying. Hezbollah did make a major mistake in that attack, because they had developed to the point where they actually presented a target Israel could fight against at a tempo Israel could sustain but Hezbollah could not.
Not sure I agree, actually; it seems to me that many of the people complaining about the "unfairness" of Israel's "disproportionate response" were operating on a much simpler level, e.g. "why did Israel have to invade a sovereign country in response to a measly kidnapping or two?" (Answer: If you don't respond in force to kidnapping, you can expect more of the same.) Or: "why was it necessary to invade Lebanon and make innocent civilians suffer, in response to what a terrorist organization did?" (Answer: the terrorist organization in question, Hizballah, is part of the Lebanese government, and thus an attack by Hizballah from Lebanese territory is an attack by Lebanon. Even were that not true, Israel has every right to hold Lebanon responsible for securing her own border. Either way, Israel had every right to declare war on Lebanon.)

UPDATE III: A distantly-related subject is a different controversy surrounding Israel, involving Israel's controversial policy of targeted assassinations.

Many people have railed against the inhumanity of this policy. (Personally, I think it's far preferable to the alternative. Given the penchant of Palestinian terrorists to use their own civilian neighbors as human shields, what do we prefer? -- That the head honchos be dispatched with lethal force, hopefully resulting in a drastic effect on everyone under them? -- Or that the leaders be considered inviolate, able to recruit new foot-soldiers and plan more attacks, while fighting large numbers of terrorists results in many more accidental civilian deaths? I'll go with option A, if you don't mind.)

Those who criticize Israel for this policy, however, might be surprised to read how very controversial it is among Israelis, including Israeli legal experts and policymakers:
[then-Prime Minister Ehud] Barak also secretly asked Daniel Reisner, a legal adviser to Arab-Israeli peace talks, to determine whether targeted killings were legal. Reisner agonized for six weeks. "It was a feeling of -- what on Earth has happened?" Reisner recalled. "Instead of two states living amicably side by side, I have to write opinions on how and when we kill each other."

Reisner concluded it was legal, with six conditions: that arrest is impossible; that targets are combatants; that senior cabinet members approve each attack; that civilian casualties are minimized; that operations are limited to areas not under Israeli control; and that targets are identified as a future threat. Unlike prison sentences, targeted killing cannot be meted out as punishment for past behavior, Reisner said. In 2002, a military panel established that targeting cannot be for revenge, but only for deterrence. A panelist said it took six months and 20 meetings to reach that conclusion.

"It's not an eye for an eye," Dichter said. "It's having him for lunch before he has you for dinner."
(emphasis added)

Read the whole thing. It has interesting internal details of the planning that goes into this sort of operation, and the feelings of the men who order them (or try to stop them). There are also some interesting statistics:
More than half of all targeted operations have been called off, a senior military source said, because of danger to noncombatants. The current air force chief, Maj. Gen. Elyezer Shkedy, said in an interview that collateral damage had been decreasing from one civilian death per assassination in 2002 to one civilian death for every 25 terrorists killed in 2005. One reason was technology, Yaalon said. At first, Apache helicopters fired Hellfire antitank missiles, he said. Yaalon asked Rafael Armament Development Authority, a Defense Ministry affiliate, to manufacture smaller warheads.

"A person isn't a tank," said Avi Galor of Rafael, who supervises a team that is miniaturizing missiles. Rafael is developing "the Firefly," a warhead the size of a soda bottle.
(hat tip: Solomonia)

Of course, Israel is now being criticized heavily for its alleged role in the destruction of a Red Cross ambulance in Lebanon -- which, according to some, caused so little damage to the vehicle itself because Israel uses small missiles! (Sometimes you just can't win.)


Saturday, August 19, 2006


Beyond Parody

Here's a screen capture from, 8PM EST on August 19. (Hat tip: my lovely wife.)

Okay, so let's get this straight --
  • The IDF says "operations will continue until UNIFIL deploys";
  • Kofi Annan says the UN "won't wage war in Lebanon", because implementation of Resolution 1701 "must be realized through negotiation". (Oh, we realize what you're saying, Kofi, believe us, we do. As Charles Johnson put it, "Peacekeeping Force Won't Use Force To Keep Peace". Hmm, maybe we should call it something else.)
  • The Lebanese army might halt deployment (and blame the IDF for it) -- say, wasn't part of the cease-fire agreement that the UN international force, led by France, would have to work in conjunction with the Lebanese Army to keep the peace? What if they have a cease-fire and nobody comes?
  • But the French are ready to take command, having sent 50 whole troops to Lebanon! (Combat engineers, at that. Just out of curiosity, do they have guns?)
  • Just to add to the fun, Iran is holding major military exercises (with 12 infantry regiments -- ah, but can they stand up against 50 French combat engineers?), and Syrian President Assad is exchanging insults with Arabic newspapers and major Arab leaders. (Some of this is too good to keep below the fold: "If you meant Arab leaders", wrote Salwa al-Sharafi in Elaph, a Saudi-owned online publication, "when you said half men, then please clarify what makes you different from them.")
Israel, in short, remains the only country willing to fight Hizballah with, you know, actual weapons and stuff. Annan wants to talk the terrorists to death (well, if anyone could accomplish that, he could). The French want to take a leading role in resolving this conflict, but are unwilling to commit more than 200 troops, who probably won't fight anyway.

(Update: Jules Crittenden of the Boston Herald goes to town with this, writing:
In recent weeks, France stepped forward to act as a broker of peace in Lebanon. “Act” is the key verb in that last sentence, as it now would seem that the only other verifiable part of the sentence is “in recent weeks.”

To correctly parse that sentence, one must understand that when France suggested it wanted to broker peace in Lebanon, it did not necessarily mean “broker” or “peace” or
Lebanon” in the way we might understand those words. The same is true when France further suggested it wanted to “lead” a “strong” “multinational” “force” there.
. . .
The heady moment of peace brokering having passed, upon sober reflection, the French now say they already have a general and some staff in south Lebanon ordering about UNIFIL, the U.N. monitoring entity there. That’s plenty of leadership, the French suggested: All France needs to contribute now is another 200 combat engineers.

In tactical terms, when it comes to securing a Middle East conflict zone, that can be referred to as “squat.”

The United Nations, which is trying to salvage what is left of its own self-respect after the utter failure of UNIFIL in Lebanon, is now publicly begging European nations to contribute troops.
Glenn Reynolds didn't say "heh" when he linked to this, although he should have. (He did say "read the whole thing" though, and I can't argue with that.)

In the meantime, Syria is feeling its oats, Iran is getting ever more threatening, and the world is holding its collective ears, hoping it'll all be a bad dream.

I swear, you can't make this stuff up.


Thursday, August 17, 2006


Israeli Foreign Minister Meets With UN Secretary-General

Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni met on Wednesday (August 16) with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York. She told the Secretary General, "The fact that the kidnapped soldiers have not yet been released by Hizbullah constitutes a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, and I expect that the international community continue to work for their immediate release." The Secretary General agreed to the request by the foreign minister that he meet with the families of the kidnapped soldiers.
Gee, that's nice of him -- to meet with the families of the kidnapped soldiers. Now that maintaining peace between Lebanon and Israel is his direct responsibility, and kidnapped soldiers is a clear threat to the peace, I wonder what he's going to do about it?

(Nothing, of course. This is the UN we're talking about. But I'm an optimist.)
According to UN Security Council Resolution 1701, Secretary General Kofi Annan is responsible for supervising the implementation of the resolution, in particular the establishment of the multinational force. Foreign Minister Livni 's meeting with the Secretary General focused on the composition of this force. She stressed Israel's expectation that the force will be of high quality, with real military capabilities, and composed of soldiers from appropriate countries. FM Livni also told the Secretary General that Israel expects to see the force deployed as soon as possible. "This force must be capable of implementing the Security Council resolution, backed by the international community, as stated in the resolution," she said.

Personally, I find myself wishing for old-style Israeli diplomacy, which would have gone something like this:

"If you want to install a UN peacekeeping force, go ahead. Just make sure that it solves the problem. If your boys don't solve the problem, ours will."

UPDATE: Brian Dunn wonders if the much-vaunted 'international community', which was so upset at America's 'unilateral' invasion of Iraq, will now step up to the plate, now that a UN Security Council resolution has called for an international force. This is what they've been waiting for, right?

Perhaps not:
France, meanwhile, wants to send a small, purely symbolic contingent to the force, and the United Nations is trying to convince French officials that such a decision would be devastating, a news report said Thursday.

Though France has been widely expected to lead the force, the newspaper Le Monde reported that it planned to contribute merely 10 officers and 200 military engineers.
Shocking! Especially when you consider that that "international test" was written in French and has to be translated into English for us to take it. And France refuses to enforce a UN Security Council resolution? How can this be? Quickly, nurse! Five CCs of nuance, stat!
You know, the man has a point. It would be very nice, very nice indeed, to fantasize about a world community, each nation concerned about the overall good, all willing to put their shoulders to the wheel when help is needed.

But that's all the 'world community' is -- a fantasy. The UN remains what it has always been, a glorified debating society. And, by refusing to distinguish one country from another -- by guaranteeing an equal footing to democracies, dictatorships and theocracies -- the UN is, by definition, a place where moral equivalence rules.

So if you want an organization that is guaranteed to treat the arsonist and the firefighter equally, look no further than the UN. And I still can't believe Israel agreed to entrust her security to the ranting spoiled brats of the UN.


Monday, August 14, 2006


Still Waiting

As I indicated in my previous post, the Israel-Hizballah cease-fire resolution (UNSC #1701) has me waiting: was Israel crazy to accept it, or is Israel crazy like a fox?

The initial news reports this morning don't answer the question yet. For example, this seems nuts:
Defense Minister Amir Peretz, addressing the Labor faction in the Knesset on Monday afternoon, said that "the cease-fire is being maintained, and the government is working on coordinating with UNIFIL on handing over territory. Israel has no intention of getting 'stuck in the mud' of Lebanon."

Senior IDF officers were meeting with officers from the Lebanese army and UNIFIL at the Rosh Hanikra border crossing to discuss the transfer of control in southern Lebanon.
Transferring control to UNIFIL?!? How on Earth can anyone trust them with anything?

This doesn't inspire much more confidence:
Convoys of weapons entering Lebanon from Syria will not be targeted by the IDF under the regulations of the newly brokered UN cease-fire, a high-ranking army officer said on Monday.

According to the officer, soldiers were deployed in Lebanon in defensive positions and would only engage Hizbullah gunmen if they felt they were under immediate threat. Trucks carrying weapons do not pose an immediate threat and therefore would not be targeted.

"The idea is to open fire at Hizbullah only if soldiers are faced with an immediate threat. Trucks carrying weapons do not fall under that category," he said.

The officer added that soldiers deployed in Lebanon were in the position to begin an immediate withdrawal if ordered to do so or to press forward and occupy additional territory.
In other words, Hizballah now has a chance to re-arm, exactly as we feared. From the IDF's perspective, and from Israel's, this is insane.

On the other hand, there's this:
If Hizbullah fired Katyusha rockets into Israel after the ceasefire went into effect, the IDF, the high-ranking officer said, would see itself allowed to bomb targets throughout Lebanon, including in Beirut. "If Hizbullah breaks the ceasefire, we will see ourselves allowed to respond," the officer said.
In other words, Israel is waiting for Hizballah to break the cease-fire by firing rockets into northern Israel, for which the local residents remain prepared. If they do, Israeli gloves come off. If they don't, Israel has quiet on the northern front, which is part, at least, of what they wanted all along.

It seems that Israel isn't above goading Hizballah to break the cease-fire either -- good for them!
Two hours before the cease-fire went into effect, the IAF dropped leaflets on central Beirut Monday, warning it will retaliate for any attack launched from Lebanon.

Addressed to Lebanese citizens, one leaflet said Hizbullah serves the interests of its Iranian and Syrian patrons and has "brought destruction, displacement and death."

"Will you be able to pay this price again?" it asked.

"The Israel Defense Forces will return and act with the required force against any terrorist act that is launched from Lebanon against the State of Israel," it said.
Finally, Israel continues to be dug in throughout southern Lebanon, until (and unless) replaced by an international force:
Late Sunday night, officials indicated that the Navy and Air Force would not lift the siege on Lebanon until its government took action to control access into the country.

So with soldiers holding a line along the Litani River, the IDF is now waiting for 15,000 UN observers to deploy in southern Lebanon, together with the Lebanese army, as stipulated under the cease-fire agreement.

Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky told the Post Sunday that the multinational force was expected to begin deploying in the coming days and that there was a chance that the IDF would begin withdrawing from Lebanon by the end of the week.
All five links, above, come from the same Jerusalem Post article. (Talk about your mixed messages...)

Prime Minister Olmert's office is on record saying that they expect Hizballah to violate the cease-fire. At this point, of course, it is to Hizballah's advantage to stop firing rockets at Israel, resupply from Iran via Syria, and resume when they're ready. (They may also be able to keep their own PR going with the occasional attack against Israeli soldiers still in Lebanon, gambling that this will not be seen by Israel as enough of an excuse to start the war again.)

The Lebanese army is another wildcard. They're supposed to deploy in southern Lebanon; but their commanding general has gone on record, more than once, saying he won't do so if his troops have to confront an armed Hizballah... and Hizballah has gone on record saying they won't disarm.

Theoretically, Hizballah could retreat north of the Litani river, maintaining the fragile status quo -- they can re-arm, the illusion of a cease-fire is maintained, and so on. (If Hizballah remains in southern Lebanon and refuses to turn in its weapons, that in itself is a violation of the cease-fire -- but it's unclear who will bell the cat. Only the IDF is willing, it seems, to actually fight Hizballah.) But would Hizballah leave all of southern Lebanon under the control of Israeli troops and an international force? I doubt it highly -- again, exerting control and confronting Israel are Hizballah's very reasons for existence.

Time will tell. Personally, I don't think Hizballah will hold out very long; sooner or later, a rocket barrage will be launched at Israel. But perhaps they'll surprise me and show restraint, just as Israel surprised them by approving the cease-fire.

So far, the main losers in all this are the three Israeli soldiers held hostage -- one by Hamas in Gaza, two by Hizballah in Lebanon. They are the reason this whole thing started... and they are still waiting.


Sunday, August 13, 2006


Gloria Admits What I'm Feeling

Read Gloria Salt's latest post, which begins: Well, we’ve lost. (Later: maybe not. Read on.)

It looks like the triumph of diplomacy over common sense, yet again. A cease-fire is better than fighting, and compromise is better than its absence, according to those who see diplomacy as the only solution... and so, Hizballah will apparently get time to re-arm, Israel will not get her kidnapped soldiers back, and -- worst of all -- the security of northern Israel will be at the mercy of Kofi Annan, a man who never saw an anti-Israel resolution he didn't like.

(In all fairness to the man, the UN's record with respect to Israel has always been dismal. Today people discuss UNIFIL, the UN Interim Force In Lebanon, which has been there as observers for more than twenty years, accomplishing nothing, watching terrorists set up their rocket depots in schools and hospitals, and getting in the way of Israeli Air Force surgical strikes. In 1967 there was a similarly useless UN force, stationed in the Sinai since 1957 to keep Egypt and Israel apart. After ten years of being useless, the time came for them to do their job in 1967 -- but when Egypt's Nasser ordered them out, they fell all over themselves complying. UN Secretary-General U Thant then had the audacity to blame Israel for starting the war. Can someone explain to me the purpose of a "UN Force" that does no fighting, and melts at the slightest sign of pressure?)

Michelle Malkin doesn't mince words either. Michael Totten, on the scene (and giving far better reportage than I could have done), points out that Nasrallah is bragging that he's "defeated the invincible army"; Michael adds:
the Arab bar for military victory is set pathetically low. All you have to do is survive. You “win” even if your country is torn to pieces.
(Michael also interviews an IDF Spokesman, who speaks realistically and at length about the great damage that has been done to Hizballah. But that's almost beside the point. Nasrallah has his reputation intact among those to whom it matters most; he can rally the terrorists again whenever he wants. What is necessary, at this point, is for Nasrallah to receive the Zarqawi treatment. Then again, it took the United States years to find Zarqawi; Israel was given less than a month.)

We will see what happens next. Perhaps something can be salvaged from this disaster; perhaps the IDF will yet be given the opportunity to finish the job. But if all we get from this is another useless UN force, then Israel will have to do this all over again in a few years, under worse conditions than faced today.

In the meantime, a Hizballah terrorist gets treatment in an Israeli hospital:
A Hizbullah guerilla who was moderately wounded in battle early Sunday morning was airlifted to an Israeli hospital for treatment.

Dr. Daniel Shani, executive director of the hospital in Nahariya, said the guerilla arrived in good condition. "He was brought to us by ambulance at around 5:30 a.m., and his condition was, generally speaking, good. He had an open wound in his right soldier," and other shrapnel wounds elsewhere on his body.

With regards to the type of treatment he was receiving, Dr. Shani insisted that it was no different than that of the average Israeli patient. "The ethnicity of the wounded is not important," he said.
. . .
The guerilla, 27, from the village of el-Hiam, was being carefully guarded by military police.

Consequently, further details about his role in the war were difficult to discern. "We don't know anything about the man," Dr. Shani said. "We are not interrogating our wounded. We are only treating them."
. . .
Reports indicate that this is the first Hizbullah guerilla to be treated in an Israeli hospital. However, there have been a small number of Lebanese citizens that have crossed the border to receive treatment in Israel.
I can only wonder how this fellow feels about the treatment he's getting. I was once an Israeli military policeman, and I spent a good deal of time in hospitals, guarding terrorists much like him; our orders were to keep the peace, and prevent outside interference to the doctors doing their jobs.

No doubt he's surprised to get the same treatment, at the hands of Israeli doctors, than Israeli soldiers do. Perhaps he'll be startled to discover that Jews do not have horns, after all. I wish I could say that I'm hopeful such treatment will make a difference to the general situation... but, of course, it will not.

UPDATE: Captain Ed is considerably more hopeful:
The cease-fire agreement appears to have created a crisis in Lebanon's government, as a Cabinet meeting of Siniora's government has been abruptly cancelled. The Cabinet was supposed to vote on a plan to deploy their army into southern Lebanon and to displace Hezbollah. That has now been indefinitely delayed -- which means that Israel is not bound by the agreement to stop fighting.
(Emphasis mine. Pajamas Media has details of the cabinet meeting in question; have a look.)

Ed's thesis, in short, is that UNSC resolution #1701 is largely advantageous to Israel (in that it requires Hizballah to disarm, at least in southern Lebanon; it requires Lebanon to take responsibility for its own borders, with UN help if necessary; and it permits Israel to stay in Lebanese territory, merely requiring that Israel cease offensive operations). Nonetheless, Nasrallah, speaking for Hizballah, reluctantly agreed to the cease-fire, expecting Israel to reject it. But the Israeli cabinet approved it -- unanimously, no less! -- forcing him to either break the cease-fire (thereby bringing the wrath of the UN, such as it is, on Hizballah, not Israel)... or else abide by the cease-fire, meaning that Hizballah must disarm itself, removing its reason for existing in the first place.

Technically, Hizballah must only disarm south of the Litani river. But it's only south of the Litani that their short-range rockets have any hope of reaching Israel; they could flee north of the Litani with their weapons, but what good would it do them? They also supposedly have long-range rockets, which could hit Israel even from north of the Litani -- but that requires the rockets to be in the air a lot longer, giving Israel a solid chance of bringing them down first.

Could this have been Israel's intention, in going to the UN and voting on the resolution this way? Personally, I don't think Ehud Olmert is anywhere near that shrewd. But I'd certainly love to believe it. Let's watch and see what happens tomorrow.

UPDATE II: My lovely wife comments that, while Olmert is probably not that shrewd, Bush is... and this sort of rope-a-dope is very much his style. Imagine Bush reassuring Olmert quietly: "Just relax, and let me handle this. We'll make the UN resolution come out okay; you make sure your cabinet passes it. Everyone will say you're betraying your country's interests, just like they say about me. Trust me. I've done end-runs around the UN before."

I'm not convinced yet, and I'm all the more wary because I want to believe it. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

If this plays out, though, we may have to learn how to say "misunderestimate" in Hebrew.


Friday, August 11, 2006


It Doesn't Take An Idiot

It doesn't take an idiot to be idiotic.

This may be obvious to some; nonetheless, I think it bears repeating. We are used to thinking of some people as wise, others as being about as intelligent as ourselves, and still others as being idiots. And that's a problem, because it's all too easy to dismiss someone as an idiot, having concluded that everything they say is idiotic and unworthy of your attention.

But it's not so. People can be wise about some things and utterly clueless about other things. That's where the stereotype of the Absent-Minded Professor comes from: a genius in his field (which may be Ancient Sumerian Runes or some such), who isn't clever enough to come in out of the rain. We see a different side of this phenomenon nearly every time a movie star starts talking politics, forgetting that pretending to have been wise -- in a movie, with someone else putting words in one's mouth -- doesn't make it true.

I found myself thinking about this the other day when Ned Lamont, fresh from his primary victory over Joe Lieberman, suggested that Israel negotiate a cease-fire with Hizbullah on the principle of land-for-peace. This is idiotic on several levels. First, only a first-rate starry-eyed idealist could believe today in land-for-peace, a concept never tried in history before the Arab-Israeli conflict, and one which has brought no peace to the region in the last thirty years. Second, for Israel to negotiate with Hizbullah at this point, having failed thus far to achieve the initial objective -- getting two kidnapped soldiers back alive -- would be to make such kidnappings an effective tactic for the future. And finally, Israel has no territory to give back to Hizbullah! Hizbullah is a Lebanese terrorist organization, which has long stated that their one and only goal was to eliminate the Israeli presence in southern Lebanon. Israel did indeed withdraw from all of Lebanon in 2000, and took the extra step of getting the UN seal of approval for having done so. That Hizbullah did not then disband, but instead spent the next six years arming itself to the teeth, culminating in an unprovoked border-crossing and the kidnapping of another country's sovereign citizens, shows them for the liars that they are.

To give Hizbullah something valuable that they never asked for, in return for a cease-fire, is sheer idiocy. But that doesn't make Ned Lamont an idiot. It merely makes him utterly clueless on the subject of Middle Eastern politics. Time will tell if he is similarly clueless on other subjects.

Wisdom is where you find it -- and it's always in desperately short supply. We can't afford to dismiss it, simply because we think the speaker is an idiot in other matters. And oh, how I wish that the Bush-haters across America -- who universally dismiss the President as an idiot -- would think about that.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Home Again

My wife and I are once again back home in the United States. (Her daughters are still on vacation; their father is taking them through Eastern Europe.) Many thanks to the friends who expressed concern for us; we're all fine.

I'm sorry, but I don't have much of a head for blogging yet; I'm still heavily jet-lagged, and getting caught up at work must take top priority for now.

If you've enjoyed reading this blog so far, please stay tuned. There's more coming.


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