Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Middle East NIMBYism

I will confess to not having any certain idea anymore just exactly what the Israeli government has in mind for a war strategy against Hezbollah.

On the one hand is this:

Israeli forces battled Hezbollah guerrillas Tuesday across southern Lebanon as
diplomats at the United Nations struggled to keep a peace plan from collapsing over Arab demands for an immediate Israeli withdrawal. Military planners in Jerusalem said they will push even deeper into Lebanon to target rocket sites.

And, on the other hand, there is this:

Israel is softening its military fight against Hezbollah to allow cease-fire negotiations at the United Nations, holding off for now on a large-scale ground invasion while peace talks take place in New York over the next few days.

While more than 7,000 Israeli troops are fighting house to house in about 20 villages and towns along the Israel-Lebanon border, three divisions, or approximately 40,000 soldiers, are idle in the Galilee, waiting for instructions from Jerusalem to launch the full ground invasion of southern Lebanon that Prime Minister Olmert announced Monday of last week.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz, a former union leader and head of the Labor Party, told the Knesset yesterday, "I gave an order that, if within the coming days the diplomatic process does not reach a conclusion, Israeli forces will carry out the operations necessary to take control of Katyusha rocket-launching sites in every location."

Looks like the Kaditha-ites are still trying to win this thing on the cheap. And in the mean time, they're not decisively winning it militarily, even while claiming that they already have, which means they are decisively losing it politically and diplomatically.

Speed has always been the biggest Israeli weapon in its wars of national survival. At the beginning of this round, the Jews enjoyed a rare situation of real, if muted, international favor. Even "moderate" (and Sunni) Arab regimes, more afraid of Iranian (Shiite) domination than they were hateful of the "Zionist entity," openly opposed Hezbollah (and some still are), rooted for the sort of quick, crushing IDF victory that the world has come to expect.

But it hasn't happened because of the half-hearted way the regime of Ehud Olmert has prosecuted the anti-Hezbo counter-assault. First relying upon air power as a substitute for significant numbers of boots on the ground, then a "one-toe-at-a-time" gradual ground forces buildup, the Iranian irregulars have been spared quick and murderous destruction and have instead been given pretty much the conflict they wanted the Israelis to fight - restrained, reluctant, and lengthy. Whatever actual damage the Hezbos are taking - and it is reportedly extensive - they have survived longer than multiple combined Arab armies have in previous attacks on the Jewish state, and because of anti-Semitic propaganda in the Western press, the global perception is that they have fought the IDF to a standstill.

I think that's a lot of why the Bush Administration is succumbing to the siren song lure of a premature, inconclusive diplomatic settlement. I give them credit for giving the Israelis diplomatic cover to finish the job in Lebanon, but the quid pro quo from Jerusalem's end needed to be an all-out invasion that crushed Hezbollah at a stroke, no matter the casualties on either side and how far into Lebanon the IDF had to go. Instead Olmert and his bunch have taken the "hokey-pokey" approach, giving every indication of simply not be serious about what is, indeed, a matter of Israeli national survival. And the Israeli people are taking pointed notice of it.

Even in the diplomatic realm Kaditha leaders can't seem to make up their minds what they want to do. Ten days ago they rejected another UN "human shield brigade" as a (non-)buffer in southern Lebanon. Given how utterly useless the last one (UNIFIL) was, it is astonishing (okay, not really) that such idiocy was actually (re)proposed. One can just imagine what foreign troops would participate in it - Islamist Indonesians, Islamist Pakistanis, a panoply of Arab nationalities, with the alternative being....the mighty Lebanese army! My, wouldn't that be the pillar of cloud and fire to make Israelis sleep securely at night?

But last week, Prime Minister Olmert did buy into the notion of a NATO "peacekeeping" force, with (oh, they irony), Germany as a leading member of it:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he would welcome German troops participating in an international force in southern Lebanon, according to a newspaper interview published Friday. ...

Olmert said he told [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel that Israel has "absolutely no problem with German soldiers in southern Lebanon."

"Why should German soldiers shoot at Israel? They would be part of the force protecting Israel," Olmert was quoted as saying in the interview with the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

"There is at the moment no nation that is behaving in a more friendly way toward Israel than Germany," he added. "If Germany can contribute to the security of the Israeli people, that would be a worthwhile task for your country. I would be very happy if Germany participated."

There's just one itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny problem: Merkel doesn't want to send German troops to southern Lebanon. Neither do we. Or Canada. Or the Brits. Perhaps the Italians and French might, at the head of a panoply of Indonesians, Pakistanis, Arab....well, you get the point. The reason why isn't very difficult to discern: while the Germans don't want to shoot Jews, they don't want to shoot - or be shot at by - the Hezbos, either.

Make no mistake, the various and sundry governments at this table aren't really snowed under by the relentless Hebrophobia crackling through the global airwaves. They know what Hezbollah is and what regime it represents. They know that if they send significant numbers of soldiers to do what would be necessary to actually keep the peace - i.e. disarm, dismantle, and disband Hezbollah - they would quickly find themselves fighting the very same war they now insist that Israel stop fighting. And they know that doing so would make them even bigger targets for Iranian-ordered terrorist reprisals in their home countries.

The EUnuchs are already doing everything they can to appease the mullahs and (futilely) minimize their exposure. You do the math.

Nevertheless, we and our bons amis have introduced a pair of UN Security Council cease-fire resolutions that some are calling a "major Israeli victory" by virtue of their recognizing Israel's inherent and inalienable right as a sovereign UN-member nation to defend itself if attacked by Hezbollah after the cease-fire is in place - which, when you think about it, would simply be a repeat of what happened a month ago that has led to these twin UNSCRs in the first place, begging the question of why we don't simply keep out of it and let the IDF finish the war Hezbollah started.

Anne Bayefsky has some lesser-discussed details on this "major Israeli victory" that make it look more like a slower neoHolocaust instead:

The draft resolution on the current crisis says the Security Council “expresses its intention…to authorize in a further resolution under Chapter VII of the Charter the deployment of a UN mandated international force to…contribute to the implementation of a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution.” It calls for renewed involvement of UNIFIL, the U.N. troops that stood and watched Hezbollah rearm and plan its deadly assault on a U.N. member state for the last six years [I thought the Israelis had specifically rejected that "suggestion"].

Such an international force is to be authorized under the first-ever Chapter VII resolution — a legally binding resolution that can be implemented through sanctions or the use of force — in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In other words, Secretary Rice has approved of a U.N.-authorized and monitored force that has its sights set on Israel too, coupled with a claim that Israel is currently engaged in “offensive” operations. The very U.N. that accuses Israel of murder and heinous violations of international law is now to be charged with judging compliance with a legally binding instrument purporting to define the terms and conditions of Israel’s self-defense.

In addition, the draft resolution fails to call in its operative section for the immediate release of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers; introduces the notion that settling the issue of all Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel — regardless of their crimes — will be the quid pro quo for the Israelis’ release; speaks of financial and humanitarian assistance only to the Lebanese people while ignoring restitution or aid resulting from the one million Israelis in bomb shelters over the last three weeks and the 300,000 displaced; lends credibility to another manufactured grievance, the return by Israel of “remaining maps of land mines in Lebanon” — though Israel has already returned maps of old mines years ago, and no mention is made of Hezbollah providing the U.N. with maps of its newly laid landmines; enhances Kofi Annan’s authority to judge Israel by extending an open-ended invitation to inform the Security Council continually about any action he believes “might adversely affect the search for a long-term solution”; fails to mention “Hezbollah” or terrorism even once, let alone stating that Hezbollah is directly responsible for the Lebanese civilian casualties it cynically promotes; [and] omits entirely any reference to Iran or Syria, as if the address of the arms suppliers and bosses of their Hezbollah proxies are too sensitive to include. [emphases added]

Incredibly, Israel leaped out of its collective shorts to embrace these resolutions. Or maybe not so incredibly, since the Olmert regime doesn't seem to be all that keen on taking care of its own business, and is still, jaw-droppingly, committed to retreating from the entire West Bank after this particular chapter of nastiness is over.

However, that adjective does apply to Hezbollah's Arab cheerleaders, most especially Lebanon, which categorically rejected the Franco-American (No pasta jokes, please) resolutions out of hand on the grounds that they don't simply rubber-stamp Hezbollah's terms, which require them to do nothing and the Israelis to do everything from pre-emptively withdrawing from Lebanon to releasing all Hezbo prisoners to coughing up Shebaa Farms. And, as you might have imagined, France's congenital appeasement reflex is already kicking in, prompting them to want to "renegotiate" the resolutions to make them more palatable to Israel's enemies.

Frankly, I'm not sure what to make of all this confusion. My optimistic guess is that this is all diplomatic game-playing by Condi Rice, Big John Bolton, and the Foggy Bottom braintrust to tie up the "international community" in their own rhetorical entanglements and keep the green light on for the IDF to finally crush the Iranian Hezbollah division once and for all. My pessimistic guess is that we're trying like the devil to give away the Jewish store and the Islamists are so carried away with their own delusions of manifest Caliphate destiny that they won't take it in installments but demand to have it in one lump sum.

Eventually, the Israelis will rout Hezbollah. It's just a matter of time. The questions remain how much of that precious commodity we can keep supplying them, and how much of it they will continue to squander.

On such non-chalance does the future of God's chosen people teeter.