Monday, August 07, 2006

Mixed Signals

Read this response from a top Israeli general to head Hezbo Hassan Nasrallah's threat to launch missiles into Tel Aviv and then tell me what part of his answer sounds out of place:

If Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah makes good on the threat he issued yesterday to launch missiles at Tel Aviv, Israel will respond with massive force against Lebanon, a top Israeli general told NewsMax [last Fri]day.

"At some point, the Lebanese have to decide," Major General [res.] Yaacov Amidror said in an exclusive NewsMax interview. "Are they a sovereign state, or under the umbrella of Hezbollah?"

Figured it out yet? No? Here's a hint: does Hezbollah get its weapons, including the Zelzal missile to which Nasrallah implicitly refers, from Lebanon? Does Nasrallah take his orders from Beirut? Was this little skirmish initiated by, or the idea of, the Lebanese government?

Rhetorical questions, all. The answer to all three, of course, is Iran, via Syria. It has been suggested that Israel's "red line" for escalating its end of the war is precisely what Nasrallah threatens, the bombardment of Tel Aviv. The implication of that is that the Israelis would engage Syria at minimum. But... Lebanon? Isn't the IDF already going all-out now to eradicate Hezbollah? How much more could they ratchet up hostilities there other than to attack non-Hezbollah targets? And how would that help them politically or militarily?

I can understand the reluctance of the Jews to take the mullahs' bait, up to a point. But what's the point of making this kind of threat that is far more an admission of weakness? And how does that deter Hezbollah from gleefully making good on Nasrallah's threat?

On the other hand, another top Israeli general declared today that there will be no cease-fire until the international community meets the Jewish state's preconditions for it:

Israel will not agree to a cease-fire in Lebanon until Hezbollah is completely disarmed and no longer can operate as a militia force, top Israeli officials said today.

Their statements upped the ante in the diplomatic game now being played out in Arab capitals and at the United Nations headquarters in New York over the terms of a U.S.-brokered settlement to the ongoing fighting in northern Israel and Lebanon.

"If Lebanon does not agree to disarm Hezbollah, there is not going to be a cease-fire," said Brigadier General Yossi Kupperwasser, a deputy director of Israeli military intelligence whose term ended last month.
This is to say that Israel will not agree to a cease-fire, period, because Hezbollah will never allow itself to be "disarmed," and if anybody could do it, the Lebanese government sure as the devil isn't among them.

And yet General Kupperwasser couldn't resist mixing his signals as well:

Nevertheless, Israel is still hoping for a diplomatic solution, "because a military solution is too costly," he added.

For Israel to completely vanquish Hezbollah on the ground would require a massive ground invasion of the country and air strikes that would inevitably kill large numbers of civilians, he said.

"That is not the goal of this operation," said Meir.

Well of course it isn't. But for this operation to produce the strategic result Israel must achieve, that will be the inevitable result. How can it not be when the Hezbos (1) refuse to wear uniforms and (2) insist upon hiding behind Lebanese civilians? Their whole point of doing so is to (1) discourage the Israelis from attacking them and (2) demonize the Jews before the world for the civilian casualties that the terrorists themselves make inevitable if the Israelis do fight back.

It appears that General Kupperwasser wasn't working his listeners on the IDF's chronic reticence, as the latter announced it was scaling back its tactical war objectives (via CQ):

After completing the creation of a security zone in southern Lebanon and with diplomatic pressure mounting, the IDF, senior defense officials revealed Sunday, did not plan to move ground troops northwards towards the Litani River - a line initially named as the IDF's final destination in this current ground incursion. ...

While the IDF initially had planned to send troops north to the Litani River - a line from which officials said it would be easier to prevent rocket attacks - high-ranking military sources told the Jerusalem Post on Sunday that due to the mounting diplomatic pressure the plan had been deferred for the time being.

An incursion up to the Litani - some thirty km from Israel - would require, a high-ranking source in the Northern Command said Sunday, the insertion of an entire new division into Lebanon. The IDF already has eight brigades on the ground in Lebanon made up of 10,000 troops. The source said that it would take several days to reach the Litani. [emphases added]

"Mounting diplomatic pressure" can only mean pressure from the Bush Administration (evidently behind the scenes), because that's the only pressure apart from threats from Israel's Arab neighbors that should have any traction with the Israeli government. And if this interview that the New York Times' David Brooks had with "a [Bush] policy maker," is any indication of where the Bushies are going with this, I have no problem believing it (via Powerline):

DB: Has Israel at least degraded Hezbollah militarily?

P: Not enough to give them the sense they’re being defeated. In any case, we’ve worked out an arrangement with France that should stop the fighting early next week. This may sound odd, but U.S. relations with France have hardly been better. We’re working remarkably closely across a whole range of Middle East issues because we have the same understanding and goals.

In Lebanon there will be a truce that will leave the current armies in place (which the Israelis won’t like). Then we can insert an international force. We won’t be able to disarm Hezbollah but we may be able to help the Lebanese Army secure the border. [emphases head-shakingly added]
If I didn't know better, I'd think that John Kerry had implanted the Bush national security team with mind control devices. This isn't just reining Isreal in; it's clotheslining them, then crumpling them up like an empty soda can and tossing them in the nearest waste receptacle. There will have literally been no point to the entire Israeli action. All the military losses, all the civilian casualties in Lebanon AND Israel, will have been for absolutely nothing. Hezbollah will still be in Lebanon, undefeated, still armed, and utterly triumphant; Israeli cities will still be under siege; and the Jews will have been betrayed by the only true ally they have left in the world.

How can an Administration that has understood and took on the global fight against Islamic Fundamentalism like no other before it possibly countenance forcing Israel to accept total defeat at the hands of Iran's chief terrorist proxy? How can an Administration that was stabbed in the back by the French now be their most bosom buddies?

It doesn't get any better as you read on. Further down in the interview the "policy maker" as much as concedes that Hezbollah will not honor any cease-fire and that Israel will "then" be ranted "greater freedom to act." So why rein them in now when the job is comparitively easier?

And then we arrive at this:

The wider situation is that most governments around Israel no longer want war. But the governments are weak, so terror armies can form within those states. If Israel tries to attack those armies, it ends up weakening the central governments it is trying to bolster. That’s the dilemma.

The U.S. and Europe would like to strengthen those central governments. We don’t have a policy of externally imposed regime change. We’re trying to create conditions to allow those governments to make better decisions and make slow progress toward freedom. But Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah want to hollow out those moderate governments from within. [emphasis added]

We don't have a policy of externally-imposed regime change??? Well, I'm sure the mullahs and Bashir Assad are greatly relieved. Now they can be even more confident that they can drive us out of the Middle East and Israel into the sea without so much as a peep of resistance. We've just told them precisely the tactic to use - a Hezbollah in every "moderate" Arab country, and a stockpile of nuclear missiles just in case we ever come to our senses - and that no matter what they do to us, we will never move against them.

War is a bad choice by definition. But if it is chosen for you by your enemy, the only worse choice is to flinch from fighting it all-out to as swift and decisive a finish as you can. You hope it can be done with a minimum of collateral damage, but the prospect cannot deter you from doing what is necessary. Otherwise you might just as well pre-emptively surrender and be done with it.

Besides, it's not as though Israel is earning any grudging plaudits from the "international community" for its conscientious restraint in Lebanon anyway. The latter has, ironically, put the former in the position of having nothing to lose by "letting it all hang out."

Yet behold the bitterest irony of all: the "cowboy" American president, he who once said that the world had a choice - "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists" - now throwing in America's lot with the terrorists of Hezbollah, as though this most blatant manifestation of Islamist aggression yet can somehow be set apart and compartmentalized as somehow "different" and "not part of the same war" for which we, it appears, no longer have the stomach.

Just as the Jerusalem Post's Caroline Glick takes apart the Kaditha regime of Ehud Olmert limb by limb for its weak, feckless prosecution of its war of survival against Hezbollah (and by extention, Iran and Syria), so the Bushies deserve to be ripped from rectum to belly-button for what the "policy-maker" (thought by some to be Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) may as well have dubbed the "new Bush Doctrine:"

We’re not going to be spending as much blood or treasure as over the past few years. We have to make up for it with diplomacy backed by a hint of steel.

Diplomacy is irrelevant when you're already at war. This White House seems to have forgotten that fact. Which means that, both for the Jews and ourselves, we'll be spending far more blood and treasure than over the next few years - hell, next few months - than they remotely realize.

We can only pray that those needless losses will not, too, be in vain.