Krugman on Lebanon

A great column by Krugman.

Shock and Awe

For Americans who care deeply about Israel, one of the truly nightmarish things about the war in Lebanon has been watching Israel repeat the same mistakes the United States made in Iraq. It’s as if Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been possessed by the deranged spirit of Donald Rumsfeld.

Yes, I know that there are big differences in the origins of the two wars. There’s no question of this war having been sold on false pretenses; unlike America in Iraq, Israel is clearly acting in self-defense.

But both Clausewitz and Sherman were right: war is both a continuation of policy by other means, and all hell. It’s a terrible mistake to start a major military operation, regardless of the moral justification, unless you have very good reason to believe that the action will improve matters.

The most compelling argument against an invasion of Iraq wasn’t the suspicion many of us had, which turned out to be correct, that the administration’s case for war was fraudulent. It was the fact that the real reason government officials and many pundits wanted a war ¢â¬â their belief that if the United States used its military might to “hit someone” in the Arab world, never mind exactly who, it would shock and awe Islamic radicals into giving up terrorism ¢â¬â was, all too obviously, a childish fantasy.

And the results of going to war on the basis of that fantasy were predictably disastrous: the fiasco in Iraq has ended up demonstrating the limits of U.S. power, strengthening radical Islam ¢â¬â especially radical Shiites allied with Iran, a group that includes Hezbollah ¢â¬â and losing America the moral high ground.

What I never expected was that Israel ¢â¬â a nation that has unfortunately had plenty of experience with both war and insurgency ¢â¬â would be susceptible to similar fantasies. Yet that’s what seems to have happened.

There is a case for a full-scale Israeli ground offensive against Hezbollah. It may yet come to that, if Israel can’t find any other way to protect itself. There is also a case for restraint ¢â¬â limited counterstrikes combined with diplomacy, an effort to get other players to rein Hezbollah in, with the option of that full-scale offensive always in the background.

But the actual course Israel has chosen ¢â¬â a bombing campaign that clearly isn’t crippling Hezbollah, but is destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure and killing lots of civilians ¢â¬â achieves the worst of both worlds. Presumably there were people in the Israeli government who assured the political leadership that a rain of smart bombs would smash and/or intimidate Hezbollah into submission. Those people should be fired.

Israel’s decision to rely on shock and awe rather than either diplomacy or boots on the ground, like the U.S. decision to order the U.N. inspectors out and invade Iraq without sufficient troops or a plan to stabilize the country, is having the opposite of its intended effect. Hezbollah has acquired heroic status, while Israel has both damaged its reputation as a regional superpower and made itself a villain in the eyes of the world.

Complaining that this is unfair does no good, just as repeating “but Saddam was evil” does nothing to improve the situation in Iraq. What Israel needs now is a way out of the quagmire. And since Israel doesn’t appear ready to reoccupy southern Lebanon, that means doing what it should have done from the beginning: try restraint and diplomacy. And Israel will negotiate from a far weaker position than seemed possible just three weeks ago.

And what about the role of the United States, which should be trying to contain the crisis? Our response has been both hapless and malign.

For the moment, U.S. policy seems to be to stall and divert efforts to negotiate a cease-fire as long as possible, so as to give Israel a chance to dig its hole even deeper. Also, we aren’t talking to Syria, which might hold the key to resolving the crisis, because President Bush doesn’t believe in talking to bad people, and anyway that’s the kind of thing Bill Clinton did. Did I mention that these people are childish?

Again, Israel has the right to protect itself. If all-out war with Hezbollah becomes impossible to avoid, so be it. But bombing Lebanon isn’t making Israel more secure.

As this column was going to press, Israel ¢â¬â responding to the horror at Qana, where missiles killed dozens of civilians, many of them children ¢â¬â announced a 48-hour suspension of aerial bombardment. But why resume that bombardment when the 48 hours are up? The hard truth is that Israel needs, for its own sake, to stop a bombing campaign that is making its enemies stronger, not weaker.

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Bring Back EP at LP
Bring Back EP at LP
15 years ago

Yes I am thinking Israel could be doing the impossible building up Hezbollah to be an even bigger name amongst all Arabs.

The more Israel bomb the more missiles are thrown back at Israel but even more importantly for Arabs Hezbollah guerrilla fighters are showing up the Israel army in terms of skill, resourcefulness and courage.

this could have terrible repercussions re terrorism for the future

SJ
SJ
15 years ago

I really don’t think it’s a case of Israel repeating Bush’s mistake.

IMHO, Bush’s mistake was to repeat Israel’s mistake in dealing with Palestine. That “shock and awe” thing has been going on for decades, and it’s pretty bloody obvious that it doesn’t work.

Ratcheting up a few levels to genocide in multiple countries still doesn’t work. Duh.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

Since I’m not a military strategist (nor is Krugman AFAIK) I can’t express a view with any assurance. Nevertheless, I agree with Krugman that a “shock and awe” bombing campaign without more wouldn’t make any sense. But I’d be very surprised if tht’s all Israel intends. I expect they’re softening up Hezbollah as much as possible prior to a major ground-based offensive designed to substantially eliminate the Hezbollah threat to Israel in southern Lebanon. That will probably take several weeks (if not longer) and I don’t expect israel to stop until it’s achieved (whatever vague noises they may make about ceasefire to deflect the UN and Europe). After that they’ll agree to withdraw only on condition that the Un sends in a substantial peacekeeping force to ensure that hezbollah can’t re-arm and reposition.

Frankly I don’t blame Israel. It’s surrounded by enemies sworn to destroy it, and making itself unpopular in the eyes of others is the least of one’s worries when you see it as a matter of basic survival (as Issraelis manifestly do). They can’t and won’t tolerate a terrorist organisation dug in on their northern frontier with the capacity and will to rain thousands of missiles down on Israel whenever they feel like it (or at the behest of an Iran equally sworn to Israel’s destruction).

The only thing I blame Israel for to date is continuing to conduct its bombing campaign against Hezbollah missile positions in urban areas without first giving civilians in southern Lebanon any realistic chance to flee. But even there Israel is in a difficult position. The current temporary unofficial ceasefire will give Hezbollah the chance to reposition misslie launchers, though still in urban areas using civilians as human shields, so you can see why Israel has been reluctant to agree to that until the Qana tragedy forced its hand. Hopefully all genuine “civilians” are taking this opportunity to get out of southern Lebanon, because I doubt they’ll get another one and Israel will then have no choice but to take out all remaining Hezbollah positions irrespective of their placement in urban enclaves.

meika
15 years ago

Israel is a mistake. (no wonder they feel entitled to keep making more mistakes)

The sooner everyone realises this, the sooner the truth will set us free. We will be able to move forward.

Unless Israel takes up a final solution (like Zionism another German Romantic nationalist idea) there will be no end to it, bombing and building a wall will seal the future off from israel. Without its massive subsidy from the US, it would be another useless East Berlin style crusader fortress which is the best way to think of the religious Disneyland (which is just a couple of years younger.)

Israel would still be a mistake if its enemies sent teddy bears and flowers to the Kibbuutzim.

Israel should disestablish itself and the populaiton of the area sent up a decent human-focussed republican economy. The westphalian model of nation as state are stupid. Israel is a mistake.

meika
15 years ago

that time stamp is an hour ahead of me, where is the server? Norfolk Island?

observa
observa
15 years ago

meika, some of us may think you are a mistake and should be disestablished along with your ilk to some remote republic too. Perhaps to some remote aboriginal community where you can live an idyllic non-Centrelink lifestyle with like hunter gatherers, until you’re ready to join our civilisation.

Israel’s problem here is the same as the Wests generally. We cannot allow fanatical Muslims to administer death by a thousand cuts to us. Israel is rightly not having a bar of such a strategy ie Hesbollah becoming a parasitic mini state within a state. Israel understands that eventually it would kill its host and be looking for another here. It’s only choice is to make those who would dabble with Hesbollah pay the price Hesbollah would extract from them. Basically you can have Hesbollah as rulers of your rubble, just like Hamas. We are coming to that conclusion with Islam now as we spiral toward total war. If you don’t like that you have to suggest a viable strategy to defeat Islam’d ‘death by a thousand cuts to infidels.’ We now face this extra-state faith based terrorist threat to our civilisation.

observa
observa
15 years ago

Sorry Islam’s..not Islam’d

wmmbb
15 years ago

So Ken, you support the policy of ethnic cleansing then?

Furthermore, given the stated beliefs, even “ideology” of the Bush Administration, what gives permission for Israeli government to plan and attempt the execution of the destruction of Lebanese democracy.

And that does not take into account what Israel is doing in Gaza and what it has done in East Jerusalem. No other country would be given this priviledge. What makes the terrorist state of Israel ie one that uses the methods of terrorism, so exceptional?

meika
15 years ago

I think I’ve admitted my mistake ‘observa’, in fact, if I hadn’t you would not be able to sledge me about it, you would then have to draw a different ad hominem tactic out of the bucket of slops that passes for conversation in blogland.

regardless, Israel is an error.

(ps I am a Jewish parasite by the way)

observa
observa
15 years ago

Fair enough meika and I withdraw but the practical problem of Hesbollah remains here
http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/008876.php
and here http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2006/07/milking-it.html

Israel could not stand by idly and suffer death by a thousands cuts from Hesbollah in Lebanon under a rocket/civilian shield, anymore than the broader West can from Iran under a nuclear umbrella. We are faced with hitting Iran in the same way now to prevent that.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

observa’s comment to meika was indeed way out of line, I agree, and didn’t assist debate in any way. Deep civility requirs more. Fortunately meika is far too sophisticated to be suckered by that sort of nonsense. An elegant dismissal.

But even if one accepts that permitting the establishment of Israel was a mistake (assuming there was any choice in the face of the self-help of Stern, Irgun etc and while colonialism was crumbling and everyone was otherwise preoccupied), what does that tell us about what should and could now happen? One might equally argue that the British should never have stolen America from the Indians or Australia from the Aborigines, but launching into a stirring rendition of Midnight Oil’s Beds Are Burning still doesn’t get us anywhere very useful IMO.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

“So Ken, you support the policy of ethnic cleansing then?”

No, I support the right of Israel to efend itself against a terrorist organisation that has equipped itself to rain missiles down on the civilian population of Israel and is doing so while being sworn to Israel’s destruction. And given that Hezbollah is quite deliberately and callously positioning and firing its missiles from the midst of densely populated urban areas in Lebanon, to present Israel with a classic hobson’s choice, I don’t accept that responding by bombing those missile sites can be labelled “terrorism”, at least as long as affected civilians are given a reasonable chance to flee the fighting (as is now belatedly occurring). Labelling it “ethnic cleansing” is also a cheap and false debating technique. Urging civilians to flee an impending battleground is not ethnic cleansing unless the intent is to exclude the civilian population permanently, and no-one seriously argues that that is Israel’s intention.

The above isn’t to suggest that I defend or condone all of Israel’s actions over the years against the Palestinian residents of Gaza or the West Bank, but I certainly defend Israel’s right to take decisive and effective action now against Hezbollah.

WeekbyWEek
15 years ago

CT there aslo the Hezbollah factor – no one within Lebanon bar the Shia (for historical reasons) likes them. see http://weekbyweek7.blogspot.com/2006/07/will-lebanon-soon-be-set-for-war.html#links

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
15 years ago

Compare this relatively civilsed conversation with the vile discourse at Catallaxy. i really wonder why jason chooses to associate with that site.

Ken: I am not sure that giving the cilivian population time to flee makes bombing urban areas defensible. According to that criterion, Hez have given the entire population of Israel fair warning for 40 years to get the hell our of Israel and are now entitled to lob missiles on them.

Observa: “We now face this extra-state faith based terrorist threat to our civilisation.” I just despair when I hear people say this nonsense. This is religious scaremongering which ought to be prosecuted under our racial vilification laws. They ARE a threat to Isreal though. So lets just confine the discussion to the ME.

wmmbb
15 years ago

Ken I believe this one argument is important. The question is: Are the Israeli actions justifiable? I think no. I think they are disproportionate, excessive, or whatever the correct word might be, including criminal.

It is not categorically proven that Hizbullah is a terrorist organization. Some Lebanese, including the Maronite President of Lebanon have seen it as a resistance organization, it has social welfare aspects as well, and it is part of the Lebanese parliament and government. The major accusation that it was responsible for blowing up the barracks in 1993 that lead to the death of American and French soldiers have not been proved. It is the armed forces of the Shiite population of Lebanon who have been the subject of the Israeli invasion in 1982.

No missiles were fired on Israeli territory immediately prior to Israel’s disproportionate response to the original incident, the capture of two soldiers. It is true that Kaytusya rockets are inaccurate and have a limited range and a limited capacity to do damage. Firing Kaytusha’s may constitue a war crime. However there is no equivalence, or proportionality between the destruction and death wrought by Israel and that by Hizbullah.

I simply do not know what proportion of launcheds are launced from heavily populated areas. And I do not believe there is any reliable information on this point. Still in that case there is a requirement for the self-proclaimed “pin-point accuracy” of the Israelis, yet to be realized.

It is a point of fact that Israel has not responded by bombing “missile sites”. As far as I am aware Beirut Airport was not a missile site, nor were the Shiite suburbs of South Beirut, even if the publicd the public offices of Hizbullah. Kaytusha rockets cannot be fired from Beirut to land on Israel. And the bridges, roads, red cross vehicles, and dairy factories were not missile sites either. At best they might be strategic targets, with implications for civilian welfare, not least flight from the nebulous battleground.

You say that nobody is seriously arguing that the intention of the Israelis is to clear the population of Southern Lebanon but when the range of the bombing is considered, together with their past history it does seem to be indicated, and at the very least they are seeking to punish civilian populations for the presence of Hizbullah in South Lebanon and in South Beirut. In fact the punishment of the Gazans, by destroying the power station, may well have been one of the actions that stimulated the events in the first instance.

Given the time that it has taken, and the promise of two weeks more, with the side with the preponderance of military power, unchallenged in the air, it can hardly be called effective in the short term. Whether it will be decisive is another question, embroiled in the punishment of the civilian population, with long term, and probably sad implications.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

Here’s a comment by Patrick that I accidentally deleted (it was in the moderation queue even though it already appeared on the site so I figured it was a duplication, but when I deleted it from moderation it also deleted it from the visible site – weird).

‘ethnic cleansing’? By Israel against the local rabid holocaust fans??? What a tortured semantic journey that involves.
As for ‘It is not categorically proven that Hizbullah is a terrorist organization.'”

wmmbb
15 years ago

Patrick, I agree, after retrospectively looking it up on Wikipedia, that “ethnic cleansing” is in your words a “tortured semantic journey”. However, it is part of the official line of the Israelis to use the expression, “cleansing” when describing their intentions along the Gazan and Lebanese borders, and it means, I think, to ruthlessly with the use of maximum force and destruction to move the civilian population from the immediate border area so as to remove the potential for Qassam and Katyusha rocket attacks. Moreover, I note the phrase was used in a recent editorial in the Beirut Daily Star, who by my reading call for compassion from the descendants of the Holocaust, as for the victims of Israeli bombing.

Perhaps, “terrorism” and “terrorist” are similarly tortured. Words can be used emotionally and to frame the argument. Still Dictionary.Com has a defintion:

The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

And according to The Democracy Diary this may apply to the stated intentions of the Israelis, and perhaps to the outcomes of their actions as well. To anticipate the obvious, I will say that if there is no established international law, there ought to be.

To illustrate that different viewpoints are possible, here is the Maronite President of Lebanon, from Wikipedia:

For us Lebanese, and I can tell you the majority of Lebanese, Hezbollah is a national resistance movement. If it wasn’t for them, we couldn’t have liberated our land. And because of that, we have big esteem for the Hezbollah movement

You will note in responding to Ken I did not use the term “ethnic cleansing” again, given that I recognized that is was somewhat provocative, and given the subject and the emotions generated it is obviously best to avoid provocation. However, I do think that Israel is engaged in some “total war” doctrine, which is crucial to understanding to what is happening. They must think believe will come of it, I don’t.

observa
observa
15 years ago

For Chris Lloyd’s benefit
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060730/wl_mideast_afp/mideastconflictiran_060730202102

‘TEHRAN (AFP) – The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said he hoped the Islamic republic could one day “avenge the blood of innocent people in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan”.
“We have to keep this sacred hatred of the enemies of Islam alive in our hearts until the time of revenge comes,” General Yahya Rahim Safavi was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.

“I hope our nation can one day avenge the blood of innocent people in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said, adding: “I ask God to arouse the dignity of Muslims and destroy America, Israel and their associates.”‘

Funny, as I recall the UN was involved in Afghanistan, presumably murdering all those Taliban and AQ innocents. Beware Muslim’s vengeance then UN and associates.

A pretty fair synopsis of what the Party of God are up to and the choice they’re giving us
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2092-2281184_1,00.html

More fingers in the pie
http://www.nysun.com/article/36557

It might be timely to recall the act of war that lit the fuse again(from Wiki)
“At 9:05 AM local time (06:05 CET), on 12 July 2006, Hezbollah initiated a Katyusha rocket and mortar attack on Israeli military positions and villages of northern Israel, injuring at least 8 Israelis[18]. Afterwards, a ground contingent of Hezbollah militants attacked two Israeli armored Humvees on a routine patrol along the Israel-Lebanon border near the Israeli village of Zar’it with anti-tank rockets, capturing two Israeli soldiers, and killing eight.[19] According to the Lebanese police force and Hezbollah, the Israeli soldiers were attacked and captured on the Lebanese side of the border on 12 July during a mission to infiltrate the Lebanese town of Ayta al-Sha`b,[20] although remains of the Humvees were found in Israel. [21]”

observa
observa
15 years ago

As if Iranian Hezbollah were not enough, where would we be without AlQaeda muscling in on the act? Osama’s right hand man Ayman al-Zawahiri says AQ will join the fight and AQ saw “all the world as a battlefield”

observa
observa
15 years ago

Recall this bit….
‘According to the Lebanese police force and Hezbollah, the Israeli soldiers were attacked and captured on the Lebanese side of the border on 12 July during a mission to infiltrate the Lebanese town of Ayta al-Sha`b,[20] although remains of the Humvees were found in Israel. [21]”

Cameron Riley
15 years ago

Ken No, I support the right of Israel to efend itself against a terrorist organisation that has equipped itself to rain missiles down on the civilian population of Israel

Hezbollah has been acting in a state on state method of violence. Bombing(Rocketing) a civilian population so they capitulate in terror is a form of total war that Douhet argued for in the 1930s. Instead of doing it with airpower they are doing it by rockets. That is consistent with how total warfare was practiced until precision weapons appeared on the scene in the 1980/90s.

Hezbollah also took out nation-state instruments like soldiers, tanks and even a ship. That isn’t terrorism. That is the closest thing to state on state violence we have seen in the Middle East for quite a while. It also suggests that Israel fears it may have soon have a state based rival next door if Hezbollah gets the Lebanese treasury.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

I have deleted the abusive comment from observa which gave rise to Nicholas’s warning above. This thread is still yielding useful insights and productive discussion, but it won’t stay that way unless people exercise a bit of restraint and self-discipline.

Cameron

I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but you’re quite right. Hezbollah is effectively a de facto and almost de jure state in southern Lebanon and is acting as such. Again I’m not sure where that gets us. Its unprovoked attack on Israeli forces within Israel, kidnap of Israeli soldiers and follow-up rocket attacks on Israeli civilian areas would clearly be acts of war in international law if committed by a state actor. Whether that then justifies Israel’s large-scale response is where the debate gets murky and good faith disagreement possible. The first blush response of many has been that, while Hezbollah’s action was provocative and technically an act of war, Israel’s response was disproportionate. It should have acted with restraint and avoided bombing civilian targets. However, viewed in light of the fact that Hezbollah and its Iranian and Syrian sponsors are sworn to obliterate Israel, and that Hezbollah established a massive arsenal of missiles positioned in densely populated areas of Lebanon to make them impossible to hit without killing Lebanese civilians, and has now demonstrated a willingness to use them against civilian targets in Israel, one can then see Israel’s point that this is an intolerable threat to its very existence that must simply be removed or drastically reduced.

observa
observa
15 years ago

‘I just despair when I hear people say this nonsense. This is religious scaremongering which ought to be prosecuted under our racial vilification laws.’

Personally I’m less concerned about about the upfront religious vilifiers like the Bin Ladens, Ahmadinejads and Nasrallahs than I am about the skulking views of the Dr Mahatirs, Mel Gibsons and the Chris LLoyds in this growing clash of civilisations. The last time I looked Islam was a creed of choice rather than a racial identifier Mr Lloyd. Perhaps you’d like to enlighten us all as to the racial characteristics of Islam, starting with the most populous Muslim nation on earth to our North

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
15 years ago

Observa:
I think that racial vilifications laws cover ethnic groupings as well. There was a recent (silly in my view) case in Victoria where some extreme Christians were presecuted for anti-muslim rhetoric. Anyway, I do not really think you should be put in jail so calm down man. I DO think the clash of civilisations theme that you and many dozens of public commentators run is dangerous and irresponsible. There is plenty of room for accommodation with Islam and even ultimately with the Palestinians. We all need to keep a bit of perspective. We are not really under threat from without. And if you think I am some soft hearted leftie you may be surprised to know that I believe that Australian immigration policy should exclude practicing Muslims as far as possible. Even though…here it comes..one of my best friends is a muslim!

Israel is certainly under-threat and while I can see why they react violently I am of the unshakeable belief that bombing the living shit out of a country will do more harm than good to their security in the long term. The shock and awe theory is actually a terrorist idea – see wmmbb’s definition above which mentions “intimidating or coercing”. The idea is to make people too scared to oppose you by the frightening spectacle of your violent response. What it actually does is make people feel helpless and oppressed. On the other hand, it makes the people doing the shocking and aweing feel powerful. Israelis are probably feeling empowered by this crisis. But it is a pretty tough call to name Israel a terrorist state wmmbb. I wonder how Aussies would react if militant indigines started blowing up our trains and firing missiles from the red centre. We have abandoned a whole list of human right standards in response to a very nebulous threat.

I agree with Meika that Istrael was a mistake. Never forget that the Arabs have a legitimate grievance – a more ligitmate one that the Aborigines in my view. And it is in addressing the grievance that hope lies. But this will never happen while the GOP are in power.

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

What a lot of misinformation here – although I appreciate your rethinking wmmbb and it speaks highly of you, your definition of terrorism would cover simply any military action at all. Which suggests that you have taken a wrong turn. It appears you were wrong about the firing of Katyushas as well, no?

Shock and awe is actually a pretty old tactic. I believe it started with cavalry, some 3500 years ago, then graduated to elephants. The colonial English were fans – see Kipling’s poem Grave of a Hundred Head. In its modern form one might attribute it to the Nazis, and they were emulated by the Japanese. But terrorists are few and far between unless we revert to your information-deprived ‘definition’.

Finally on that Israel aren’t engaging in ‘shock and awe’, they were ‘preparing the theatre’ – for the ground invasion that started last week (sometime before master strategist Krugman wrote his column, I believe).

No-one (surely) thinks that Chris Lloyd is a soft-hearted anything. He is an old-fashioned commie, and a more heartless bunch would be hard to imagine.

The GOP are unlikely culprits for Israel’s existence – established by Britain and a Democratic administration, armed by France… It is extremely difficult to work out why they should be ‘responsible’ for ‘fixing’ that region’s biggest success. Other countries in the vicinity suggest themselves as higher priorities.

Finally finally, ‘total war’??? Do you hate English? Do you aspire to remove all clarity from language?? Back to Wikipedia!!

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

Patrick

Could you strive a little harder for civility, please? It’s an interesting debate but in danger of derailment through unnecessary ad hominem abuse.

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
15 years ago

I understand terrorism to be distinct from standard military action in that there is not a clear military objective – of securing territory or removing enemy infrastructure or personnel. The aim of terrorism is to weaken the morale of the enemy by show of force. Since the objective is not territory or infrastructure it tends to involve more civilian casualties.

But high levels of civilian casualities alone does not make an action terrorism in my view. Thus I do not call Israel bombing Hez targets when they know there will be high civilian casualties terrorism. But I do think it is wrong and counterproductive.

Re-reading Krugman’s article, it is really hard for me to see how anyone could get angry about it. I suspect it is just that he is the loathed and detested Krugman. Thanks for the link to Kipling Patrick. I wouldn’t have picked you as a poetry lover.

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

Sorry! I wasn’t objecting to Chris’ definitions, btw.

Nor am I ‘angry’ about Krugman’s colomn, I just think it is silly, and don’t understand why he ruins an apparently very good reputation by writing puffery on subjects that he doesn’t seem to know much about.

As for the poetry, undoubtedly, but I’m sure you would have guessed Kipling if asked ;)

Yobbo
Yobbo
15 years ago

Any discussion of “proportionality” is ridiculous when you are engaged in a fight for your own survival.

Israel could nuke the entire southern part of the country and they would be well within their rights as far as I am concerned.

Or are there still people here who think it was wrong of the US to nuke Hiroshima? (Don’t answer that, I’m sure there are)

Hezbollah and their allies (Iran) pose a far bigger threat to Israel than Japan ever did to the USA.

Anyone who launches an unprovoked attack like Hezbollah did has absolutely no right to whinge about a “disproportionate response”. They deserve whatever they get back and more.

saint
15 years ago

“The question is whether it is right, or even in the Israelis’ interest to have killed and maimed hundreds of innocent Lebanese on the scale they have.”

Well I asked this question on my blog (bearing in mind that every Katyusha rocket is an indiscriminate weapon under international law and never mind that Hezbollah have failed to aim much less hit one milititary target in Israel – and that includes supply lines, command and communication posts, etc)

If someone fired some 2000 rockets at you from a civilian area, and that someone had a few thousand more in their arsenal, with promises of plenty more from countries which are your avowed enemies, and it was a choice between risking civilian casualties to take out the rocket launcher or risking your kids’ lives, your family, your fellow countrymen and women, what do you think you would do?

And what if that someone was Hezbollah?

Israel are not angels, not always. But more power to them in this exchange. They have so far succeeded in eliminating a lot of Hezbollah infrastructure, plus some of their longer range arsenal and now face the difficult task of ground forces taking out the small range yet equally dangerous missiles and rmobile rocket launchers which can only be done from the ground and at probably great cost to IDF lives. And yes the horrible fact about war is that civilians do get killed.

But here’s some proportionality for you: one attack on the WTC killed more civilians than have been killed in Lebanon and Israel in this total exchange.

And the limited Lebanese civilian casualties are thanks to massive efforts by the Israelis to forewarn civilians (they are even SMS’ng!!!!) despite the military disadvantage of announcing targets, and desptie Hezbollah’s cowardly tactics of hiding amongst civilians and at time NOT allowing them to flee.
And the limited Israel casuatlies are thanks to Israel having cared enough to protect their population with bomb shelters, warning systems and the like, Hezbollahs dominant use of Ketyushas which have no guidance systems, and Hezbollah’s absolute love lust for dead Muslim children – because nothing feeds their propoganda machine like there own dead children – even Israeli Muslim kids they killed didn’t even raise a shrug from them.

I’m all for dialogue and peaceful resolutions. But you can’t negotiated with terrorists like Hezbollah.

saint
15 years ago

I know Nicholas, but one has to consider the mentality of your enemy when dealing with the ethics and expedience of the extent of the Israeli response. Military action will not remove the mentality and the wholesale victimology and blame everyone else but yourself attitude (we won’t talk theology) of this lot. But it will eliminate some/most of their arsenal, their infrastructure, yes even kill a few of them, and protect more people than will lose their lives and livelihoods, maybe not forever but at least for a some time and for a longer time than at present. And unfortunately that means people – and sometimes innocent people – are going to die in the process. That’s why we call it war not peace.

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
15 years ago

Up until a couple of days ago, I was evaluating the Israeli offensive as a shock and awe campaign and judging it pretty harshly for reasons previously given. It now turns out that the missiles were a prelude to a ground offensive. So perhaps the Israeli’s do have a clearer plan than appeared last week and probably the US and Britain know what it is and support it. Looks like Patrick was quite correct on this point in his comment 26.

I do not think that the ground offensive is prima face disproportionate when put in the wider context of the ME. It at least carries the prospect of medium term improvement to Israel’s security which the air bombardment didn’t.

Krugman and others are surely correct in observing that this conflict will make Israel more enemies, especially in the ME. This is not by itself a sufficient reason for Israel not to invade. I think it was a sufficient reason for Israel not to just lob missiles into South Lebanon without a follow-up. They now have a follow-up plan. Was the bombing of Beirut a legitimate prelude to the invasion of the South? I cannot see how but let’s face it. None of us are military strategists.

Nick mentioned the end of WW2. It is hard to see how they could have taken the Fatherland with much less loss of life. But I have always believed that dropping the bomb on two large Japanese cities was an act of malice and revenge. It would have been just as effective to drop it on some farming land, or 20kms out to sea, visible from Tokyo harbour. What the allies did do amazingly well though was to completely take over and rebuild both Germany and Japan. They really had a plan to transform those countries so they would never become a threat again. This is precisely what the USA are not doing in Iraq. Certainly, nobody is offering Lebanon a Marshall plan.

Yobbo
Yobbo
15 years ago

“Krugman and others are surely correct in observing that this conflict will make Israel more enemies, especially in the ME.”

How is this even possible? Every middle eastern country and 90% of the members of the United Nations are already Israel’s enemy. They have nothing to lose.

Bring Back EP at LP
Bring Back EP at LP
15 years ago

yobbo,

is it possible to explain how Hezbollah is a greater threat to Israel than Japan was to the USA bearing in mind that the Japs destroyed a lot of the US fleet and actually won battles over the Yanks on some occasions.

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
15 years ago

Yobbo. I said that “Krugman and others are surely correct in observing that this conflict will make Israel more enemies, especially in the ME.”

saint
15 years ago

“Since you brought up the WTC, I might point out that 20 to 50 times more people have died in the Iraq debacle than in WTC.”

Indeed Chris, (and I remain ambivalent about Iraq even if not ambivalent about the current Hezbollah-Israeli clash) and the majority have died at the hands of their fellow countrymen or co-religionists or nationalists or jihadists.

At the same time, the international response to 9/11 was Afghanistan but I would argue that being disproportionate either even if I have doubts about the post war efforts.

saint
15 years ago

correction: I wouldn’t argue

saint
15 years ago

Oh and Cameron, if you have been listening to recent interviews with Lebanese ministers like Fatfat on Lateline the other night, Hezbollah has already got the keys to the treasury. Let’s not get into where is the Lebanese army in all this.

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

Since Chris Lloyd is being so sensible I will agree with him about Israel’s response. I will add that Hiroshima and Nagasaki are actually defensible on a proportionality scale of human cost to effect – after all, far fewer people died than in, eg, Tokyo.

Two things irk me about the ‘proportionality’ being discussed here. One is that it apparently limits Israel to some kind of ‘tit-for-tat’ scale of response, which seems predicated on some moral equivalence between the two. But there is no moral equivalence between Israel and Hizbullah, and morally Israel ought to respond ‘disproportionately’ to terrorist attacks on its civilians, especially when they are launched by a semi-state actor funded by the likes of Iran and Syria.

The other is that Israel is apparently supposed to respond ‘proportionately’ to a couple of Katyushas (fired at civilians! – would it have been ‘proportionate’ to retaliate against civilians only?) and a a kidnapping of their soldiers. But that is nothing to the point really, what they are responding to, ‘proportionately’ or not, is an ongoing credible threat to their very existence. Even if you don’t believe that Hizbullah, or even Iran and Syria, could actually destroy Israel, even constant rocket fire on civilian areas is pretty destructive of a society, an economy and ultimately a country.

So I think both that ‘proportionality’ is misused here, and misapplied.

I do think they might have just flattened Syria, but then again they are sensibly clearing their border – maybe just a prelude? And how the usual suspects would have howled about that!

Bring Back EP at LP
Bring Back EP at LP
15 years ago

No country let alone ant terrorist organisation can destroy Israel.

Bring this hoary chestnut is as silly as alleging the various communist parties aims of nationalising industry in Australia was a possibility.

‘clearing the border’ must involve killing a lot of innocent civilians.

Bring Back EP at LP
Bring Back EP at LP
15 years ago

No country let alone a terrorist organisation can destroy Israel.

Bring this hoary chestnut is as silly as alleging the various communist parties aims of nationalising industry in Australia was a possibility.

‘clearing the border’ must involve killing a lot of innocent civilians.

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
15 years ago

Here is the first evidence of the effects I described at the beginning of comment 41, published in that well know left wing rag the Australian.

saint
15 years ago

Oh the 14 year old boys Chris? The trouble is, these guys don’t need Labanon: they have Palestine, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia…you name it they’ll find some justification to cry injustice and call for war. Except their concept of “justice” demands all land belongs to them and everyone must live under Sharia. Refer Hezbollah charter c.f. Koran, Hadith et al. To do nothing out of fear of jihadi recruits is to simply play into their hand.

kekenidika
kekenidika
15 years ago

observa said …”Funny, as I recall the UN was involved in Afghanistan, presumably murdering all those Taliban and AQ innocents. Beware Muslim’s vengeance then UN and associates.”

Even funnier – I was under the impression that the ALMIGHTY US of A put the Taliban in powwer to defeat the EVIL Ruskies – then bombed them because they flew jet planes into the World Towers AND told the UN to BUGGER OFF….

Even stranger was the fact that the alleged pilots were Egyptian Nationals … and Saidi Nationals …. but the Yanks decided against bombing Egypt and Saudi Arabia because the Egyptians might have fought back … and the Saidi’s … well they wold have cut off their OIL!!

But hang on, that epitome of inteligensia, George W. Bush, had it on first hand intelligence from the CIA, that Afghan was the real culprit and the Defence Department really needed to replace all their old bombs with bright new shiney ones and …… well why not use them against an allied nation that was not a grovelling Ally any more …. just to let the rest of the grovellers know what would happen if they stopped grovelling at some stage.

Now the stupid incompetent cowards are demanding that the Unioted Nations go in and clean up the mess they have made for the rest of the world