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30 days and still waiting for something better… August 7, 2006

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestine, Uncategorized.
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And so we arrive at the eve of day 30 of the current Israeli-Hizbullah conflict. Watching the news there are reports of John Bolton at the UN with ‘zero interest in talking to terrorists’, George Bush pointing an accusing finger at the sponsors of terrorism in Syria and Iran, the Lebanese Prime Minister breaking down in tears at a meeting of the Arab League in Beirut and proclaiming his ‘Arabism’, Ehud Olmert calling for the support of all Israeli’s and Jews worldwide in what he appears to paint as an existential conflict, the UN still impotent, torn between an Arab world still gazing uncomprehendingly at the events and their inability to shape them and a US unwilling to make the necessary distinction between the security interests of Israel and those of itself which are not necessarily coterminous.

One can speak of the danger of civilian leaders, unexperienced in military issues seeking to compensate for that by pursuing unachievable goals. One can speak of those who would gladly exacerbate the situation in order to divert attention away from the failings of their societies. One can point the finger of blame everywhere, the US and Israeli governments, Hizbullah…well actually not everywhere. Not Lebanon itself or it’s people, or the Israeli people. Worst of all though is the clear sense that international structures simply do not exist, or are not permitted to exist, to deal with this sort of conflict. I’ve always supported some degree of so-called liberal intervention, I supported it in the former Yugoslavia as it went down in flames, in Kosovo, in Afghanistan and went some way to supporting action regarding Iraq. But here, if ‘liberal interventionism’ is to have any meaning is a conflict which demands action from the world and yet there is nothing.

Perhaps that’s instructive. Perhaps this is a display of realpolitik. Perhaps this is the way the world actually works, away from the cosy illusions of those of us on the left, right and centre who hope for something better. Perhaps nations, and militias, are untrammeled when they are sufficiently powerful or have sufficiently powerful sponsors. Hizbullah can pour the rockets into Israel and Israel can pour returning fire into Lebanon and because both are supported by greater powers they remain unchallenged, able to sock it to each other until the death. Except they won’t of course be dead because Hizbullah can’t be ‘killed’ in the sense the Israeli’s appear to want to kill them and Israel can’t be destroyed.

Maybe it’s naïve to be surprised by inaction after Bosnia, or Chechnya or Tibet or East Timor.

Meanwhile northern Israel cowers under the (real) threat of missile attack and southern Lebanon shudders under the actuality of Israeli naval and aerial bombardment. And all the while the world looks on as Israel squanders the good-will of many, the US administration jettisons itself of the last remaining vestiges of credibility in international affairs and Tony Blair…does what Tony Blair appears to do best these days which is to assume a magisterial irrelevance to the events at hand.

And most grim is the sense that in five, or ten or fifteen days the only real change will be the numerals at the top of this post.

Comments»

1. Pidge - August 8, 2006

Probably the best blog entry yet on a continuously engaging blog.

*applauds*

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2. ciaran - August 8, 2006

‘Not Lebanon itself or it’s people’
they must be due some blame – they marched to defy and evict Syria and yet they dithered and accepted Hezbollah in government.
I really really really do not envy them having such a monster in the backgarden but you cant just draw the curtains – they were between a rock and a hard place and they decided to sit and hope which in hindsight was the wrong thing to do. In the meantime others decided for them to set things in motion.

The closer we get to the end the more we have to remember the beginning and what needs to be resolved for this to end, Israel now have a chip to bargin away the end of military Hezbollah, boots on the ground, the manner they use that chip will decide if it is acceptable to achieving a solution that ‘we’ want rather than what Hezbollah want.

The world may be horried but Israel will holdout for the solution they want.

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3. smiffy - August 8, 2006

You’re getting into very dangerous territory if you start apportioning blame to the Lebanese people because they haven’t acted strongly enough against Hezbollah.

For one thing, it’s very hard to see what they could actually have done. Unless Syria and Israel support the disarming of the group, all the marching in the world isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference to Hezbollah. Indeed, the last month has shown their indifference to the actual sufferring of the Lebanese people, if it suits their own strategic interests.

More importantly, though, the same arguments could be made against the Israeli people. They’re the ones who voted for a government that breaches international law, that refuses to hand over prisoners (again, contravening the Geneva Conventions) and that engages in collective punishments against civilian populations. Indeed, given the mantra of pro-Israel commentators that it is the only democracy in the Middle East, one could argue that the Israeli people are actually more responsible for the actions of their government than the Lebanese are for Hezbollah’s. And that’s the kind of thinking which apologises for rockets targetted at Haifa and suicide bombings in Tel Aviv.

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4. ciaran - August 8, 2006

…all the marching in the world isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference to Hezbollah…

it might not make a difference to Hezbollah but it would make a difference to Israel…let me explain why-
if the people whose power formed the government rejected Hezbollah being part of that government then this would have degraded their status from what it is now. Israel are attacking a coalition partner that started the war and is still a coalition partner. That has meant that they are somewhat a state actor and the range of ‘legitimate’ targets in Lebennon is seen as wider.
Look at from Israels point of view, far from ostracising the rogue element that spark this, the state actor, has allowed them to retain their status as being a real part of that state.
Of course there are good reasons for this but it amounts to choosing between bad consequences and less bad consequences.

…Indeed, the last month has shown their indifference to the actual sufferring of the Lebanese people, if it suits their own strategic interests…

I agree

…More importantly, though, the same arguments could be made against the Israeli people. They’re the ones who voted for a government that breaches international law, that refuses to hand over prisoners (again, contravening the Geneva Conventions) and that engages in collective punishments against civilian populations…

It depends on what you want to see. I think this government was elected on the basis of Gaza withdrawal, ‘unilateral peace’ and some momentum from Sharon but if someone wanted to see something else they easily could. That however doesnt make them reasonable.

I think I have been reasonable with aportioning some blame with the Lebenese people but that is with the benefit of hindsight, the problem is I dont see how they had any good options – the monster is in the back garden either way.

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5. donagh - August 10, 2006

A portion of the Lebanese people, mainly in the South, support Hizbollah principally because they have shown that they were able to defend their border (and region) against Israel. It was Hizbollah ultimately who forced Israel to retreat in 2000. So, in a sense you are right, some of the Lebanese people are to blame for the existence of Hizbollah in government and Hizbollah’s actions have brought this catastrophy down on the Lebanese people. However, if you’re appropriating responsibility for the existence of Hizbollah in Lebanon, you might as well blame the IDF as well, as they are enhancing Hizbollah’s political status in the country rather than weakening it.

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