Thursday, July 13, 2006

Israel's Napoleonic Conundrum Expanded

On June 29, I posted Israel's Napoleonic Conundrum, how its vastly superior military force and regional staying power had failed to convince its neighbors and opponents that it would be time to reach some sort of modus vivendi.

Now, the incursion into Lebanon does threaten a wider regional conflagration. It also, to my mind, marks the end of any lingering Oslo sentiments about economics gradually paving the way for Israel's tentative acceptance in the region (e.g. through economic corridors from Egypt and the Mediterranean to Jordan and the Persian Gulf, from Turkey through Lebanon to Israel). Israel is going to continue to laager up and retreat behind fortress walls.

It also demonstrates once and for all the utter folly of the statement that the road to Jerusalem runs through Baghdad--and, sadly, confirms Senator Hagel's observation that taking our eye off the Israel-Palestinian conflict as we did was a strategic mistake.

It will be interested to see how the Gaza/Lebanon crisis plays out at the G-8 as an unscripted addition to the agenda; whether the nuclear issue joins with Iran's support for Hamas and Hizballah; and whether this puts energy security (rather than democracy) back front and center on the agenda.

The magazine will be doing an event tomorrow in St. Petersburg--a pre-summit briefing with Graham Allison, Robin West, Dimitri Simes and myself--offering our advice and commentary on what should transpire at the G-8. Details will be posted here at TWR as they are available.

Israel is facing a Yalu or Cambodia moment--its foe can retreat to bases or locations in areas where the costs of attacking can be quite high yet which prevent Israel from dealing the knockout blow. If hostages are moved to Iran, what next? Israel can attack airports but arms and supplies can still move by land; are they going to try some sort of interdiction process in hostile territory as the US tried to prevent the Sandinistas from sending arms to El Salvador?
Good points, but I am not sure about the "keeping our eye off..." part. External entities are unlikely, as they have in the past decades, to have much influence.
I look forward to your reporting on the G-8, but in addition to what participants say on the record, it would be interesting if you have a chance to find out what the Russians are thinking privately about the long run.

Conservative Realist asks the right question about Israel, but the current flare-up looks an awful lot like an effort by Tehran to take advantage of an opportunity to distract attention from the nuclear issue. I agree with Subodh Atal that it is hard to see what we could do or have done to avert this by not being in Iraq, although it certainly doesn't help to be tied down there.
Alhtough the "road to Jerusalem runs though Baghdad" was an overly broad statement, it was partially true to the extent Saddam was a major supporter of Palestinian terrorists. Thus, I wouldn't call the statement false but, rather, incomplete.

I don't agree that the White House took their "eye off the Israel-Palestinian conflict." I think that the White House took Israel's side in the conflict.
I don't see how this reduces Jerusalem through Baghdad to folly - not saying J through B was right just that I don't see how current situation proves it wrong: all it really proves is J through B PLUS a something else. I mean, how would things look now if Saddam were still around? Worse? much worse? or possibly better in sense of Baghdad restraining Israeli actions? Don't know - but things WOULD be different, which must mean J through B had some legitimacy.
What is America's interest in all this?

Does that make the flow of jobs out if US slower?

Does that address the cost of health-care in US?

Does it help any one in US?
Let me offer an alternative to the Napoleon Conundrum, based on a true life experience.

Many years ago when dogs could run free in Ohio, I had a neighbor with an obnoxious canine. This creature would stand at the edge of the road and bark a challenge at my dog, who would eventually respond. After two or three days of this, my dog--a strong terrier--would rush across the road and savage the other animal.

A few weeks would pass without incident while the neighbor's dog limped around licking its wounds, then the scenario would replay. It was always the same: neighbor dog would challenge mine until it had had enough, they would fight, my dog would prance back quite pleased with itself, and we would enjoy a few weeks of peace.

The problem, of course, and the only way to eternally prevent this would have been for either me or my dog to kill the neighbor's dog, something my dog was instinctively dis-inclined to, and that I would not do because of friendship with the neighbor. Peacemongers will undoubtedly mention the possibility of chaining both animals, but that would have simply meant continuous barking, albeit at a distance.

In the matter of Israel versus the terrorists someone--either Israel or the US--must kill the dog. Punishment must be so condign that the various terrorists will no longer receive support by enemy populations. Too horrid to consider? Let me refer you to our practices during World War Two.
richard donley:

What you suggest requires killing between 5 to 7 per-cent of the Arab populations. This is about 100,00 souls in the Gaza Strip, 140,000 in the West Bank, 250,000 in Lebeanon, 490,000 in Syria, 4,900,00 in Iran. I am not even counting Iraq whose pacification requires the death of 20% of the population; 4,000,000.

These many people, as was so ably demonstrated during WWII, would require years of killing (unless one is prepared to use nuclear weapons).

I do not believe this approacj either feasible or possible.

Also, thank you for stating clearly that Arabs in particular, and Muslims in general, are just dogs to you.
Dear Annie Onymous:

I don't know where you come by your figures but neither do I care. The idea is to use the level of force necessary to pacify the terrorists and their helpers; the numbers and percentages are not important in the long run.
The alternative is to spend decades in fear of attacks by irrational thugs.

Restraint on our part is wasted upon those who do not recognize and return it. You might feel differently, but I have no desire to sacrifice a small number of Americans—or Israelis—in order to obtain a relative level of peace. You tell me: how many American lives would you be willing have annihilated in order to avoid all-out war? Frankly, I thought we had settled this during the Barbary Pirate conflict.

It is Muslims in general, and Arabs in particular, who are in conflict with their neighbors in every part of the globe. Despite American actions in aid of Muslims--Somalia, Kossovo--the response is never gratitude but always hostility. Biting the hand that feeds them seems to be an ingrained Muslim trait. We are now engaged in an experiment in Iraq as to whether that attitude might be changed in the most advanced of Arab states. Good luck to us and the decent Iraqis.

Your suggestion that I have compared Muslims to dogs is simply distortion, and shows the weakness of your criticism. My example happened to be true, but it would have been just as accurate had I changed the identities to cats or kangaroos.
Richard Donley

You're entitled...
Richard Donley,
You vile crock of shit. What you are advocating is nothing less than collective punishment on civilians on a massive scale. You're talking about killing unimaginable numbers of people to achieve what you call peace, but what is really the annihilation of all others. The Japanese army (and occupying armies everywhere) had a way of dealing with guerillas and assailants they can't catch -- they'd go to the village the suspect is from and shoot ten random people. Never mind individual culperability or innocence. Israel is essentially using the same strategy -- they're muslim and they have failed to be their brother's keeper. Good enough. Let's start killing.

You don't like anonymous' numbers? If anything, I think they are conservative. You would have the Israelis, aided and abetted by America, instigate another holocaust to defend the country Europeans gave them out of guilt for the Jewish holocaust. Except the land wasn't theirs to give. That would be ironic.

By the way, I'm not questioning Israel's right to exist. No people really have a right to their land if you go back far enough. We took America from the Native Americans, but then the Native tribes we displace probably took the land back and forth from other tribes among themselves. What's done is done. Israel is a fact on the ground and their neighbors need to acknowledge that. Just as Israel need to acknowledge that it's long-term (I'm talking next 100 rather than 20 years) depends on it coming to terms with its neighbors diplomatically.
battlepanda (and what a sweet alias it is):

Your use of invective and exaggeration illustrates the inherent weakness of your arguments. My original statement was “kill the dog” not kill the dog’s owner, puppies, past love interests, or ten neighboring dogs. Your idea of imitating Japanese tactics in WWII is not mine. But it is useful to consider American responses and tactics at that time.

The war against Japan (and Germany) was total war. Instead of attempting to capture and punish Yamamoto and Tojo, we attacked the Japanese military wherever we found it, demolished Japanese resources and infrastructure, and destroyed the cities in which war production was taking place. And all this was before the use of nuclear weapons.

In other words, we recognized that the entire Japanese population was warlike, and needed to be brought to accept surrender. We didn’t treat the attacks on Pearl Harbor, The Philippines, Wake Island and so on as individual criminal actions but the concerted efforts of a hostile people to dominate us. The amazing thing is that brutal and thorough as our response was, it took the additional use of two atomic bombs to convince the Japanese that they ought to surrender, and even then they tried to get the Soviet Union to negotiate on their behalf. Yes, despite the fact that Japan had no navy or air force, that its army was largely destroyed or stranded on the other side of the China Sea, that its cities were smoking ruins, that it was reduced to arming civilians with sharpened stakes, it was only Stalin’s refusal to interfere that finally brought Hirohito to take the action that ended the conflict. And you apparently think that punishing a few terrorists will end this conflict!

The overt Muslim war against the US has been going on since at least the Hezbollah attacks in Lebanon, and covert acts go much further back. Too many Americans have failed to understand that this is war, and even the 9/11 attacks only partially and temporarily convinced most of us.

We are now technologically able to wage war at less cost to non-combatants, and all agree that this is a worthy goal. But let’s be realistic: non-combatant does not necessarily mean friendly or innocent. Many of the people in Iraq and Afghanistan that we consider ourselves to be protecting are, in fact, quite hostile, and more than willing to assist others more actively combative. We don’t do ourselves any favors by engaging in the fantasy that diplomacy without force will be effective in dealing with aggressors whose very religion encourages attacks upon “non-believers.”

In general your post is utter bilge and does a poor job of interpreting my thoughts. The last paragraph shows some realism in acknowledging (insofar as you do) that every existing nation is based upon conquest--some earlier, some later--but each and all established by invasion and force at one time or another. In Israel’s case the occupation of Palestine started as a movement similar to Mexico’s present attempt to reclaim our Southwest. Open war was forced upon the Israelis, and has never ceased, although the type and level of conflict has altered from time to time. Israel has so far conquered, and the losers would be wise to accept the verdict; but they are not. A huge majority of Palestinians favor Israel’s destruction, and “innocent” families continually suffer from the deaths of loved ones due to terrorist actions.

I consider it quite easy to choose the righteous side in this conflict but many have difficulty doing so, falling for the propaganda put out by Arabs and defeatist Westerners. Sixty years of diplomacy has failed to quell the Palestinian grievance; do you truly feel that another century will do the trick?

As for me, I am unwilling to accept the idea that my countrymen, neighbors, friends, or family must accept the constant threat (and actuality) of attacks for the next several generations. I am unwilling to accept the possibility that the airplane in which I’m flying is subject to being blown out of the sky or flown into a building. I am unwilling to accept the idea that members of the American government can be safely attacked or kidnapped in a foreign land, or that our military must be subject to assassination.

Is your attitude so different? If so, shame on you.
Richard Donley,
Your ignorance is breathtaking. You seem to concieve of Lebanon as a monolithic religious, cultural and ideological block like Japan, when no country in the Middle East could be further from that. Not only are their Sunni and shiites, the country is 20 percent maronite christians, along with Greek Orthodox christians, Armenian Orthodox christians. There are even Catholics. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if the Israeli attack has caused the death of people from every one of those groups. A real tragic irony in this series of catastrophic events is that many of the places the Israelis bombed were very anti-Hezbollah to begin with. However, as Israel keep pounding civilian targets and killing innocent people, the mood in Lebanon is paradoxically shifting away from Israel's intended direction. The Lebanese are doing what people who are attacked externally have always done -- they have closed ranks. Israel have driven a divided, but mostly anti-hezbollah closer into the arms of the terrorist organization. Congratulations.

But of course, Richard, all this means nothing to you. If the Lebanese haven't broken yet, it must be because we haven't killed enough of them. "We" have not even killed 150 Lebanese yet. That's hardly enough to destroy a nation's spirit. Oh, and don't feel bad for the children -- they were only going to grow up to be America-haters anyhow.

You, sir, are a disgrace to humanity. Your ability to talk of the suffering and potential suffering of Israelis and Americans suggest that you are not a complete nihilist with no sense of empathy, but your inability to extend that empathy outside of that in-group makes you a bigot.

You persist in superimposing your distorted notions upon my general principle. Try not to do that if you wish to discuss matters in a rational fashion. I have never stated that Israel should kill Lebanese, much less specified what percentage of each religious type should go down. Argue on the basis of what I write rather than what you imagine I must be thinking. Setting up a straw man, as you are doing, is a rather low propaganda technique.

To restate, it is necessary to defeat an enemy to end a war. During the Civil War, Sherman's march through Georgia and Carolina was as important to the ultimate pacification of the South as Grant’s victory over Lee, and Lee’s determination not to continue an irregular war.

Consider World War One: The Allied failure to fully defeat Germany, combined with the punitive French-inspired peace treaty, led directly to WW II, which is the one we did pretty much right. Consider the recent Balkan conflict: Although Clinton’s handling of it was grossly inept, it is a fact that punishing the Serbs is what brought the Bosnian Serb genocide to a halt. Consider Vietnam: The American military, despite restraints, was totally victorious in the field. But because of the moral weakness of Lyndon Johnson, Strange Robert McNamara, and the Democrat-controlled Congress, the struggle was lost.

Victory in war consists of overcoming the enemy’s will to resist; lasting victory (what we call peace) requires a thorough job to be done. History gives countless examples of this, both negative and positive. In the Middle East, Israel’s restraint has brought about nothing but a continuation of Muslim attacks. Allowing Arafat to live, retreating from Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, prisoner releases: all these actions taken from a position of strength have been interpreted as weakness by the Muslim terrorists. Hezbollah, Hamas, and their backers and sympathizers consider these as victories.

And strategically, they are. Israel wins battles but fails to break the enemy will. That is why the war has lasted nearly sixty years. They are now directly attacking Hezbollah but also trying to force Lebanon to act like a sovereign nation. Will they be successful--who knows? But it’s a legitimate goal.

Now let me return your mind-reading favor and try to analyze you. The approach to war you seem to advocate reminds me of Bob Newhart’s description of the Revolution. The American and British captains are brought together, a coin is tossed, and the Americans call it correctly. Therefore the Rebels are allowed to don any uniform and to fight behind trees, while the British must wear red and march in straight lines.

In other words, you conceive of this as all a big game where the West has evidently lost the coin toss. The Muslims are allowed to attack targets of opportunity, torture and behead prisoners, kill men, women and children of whatever persuasion--Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Animist, Shia or Sunni--fake surrenders, hide among civilians, lie and propagandize endlessly. We, on the other hand, must only attack ‘combatants,’ respond ‘proportionally,’ follow the Geneva Conventions, avoid ethnic profiling, only punish ‘the guilty,’ and never ever mislead the public. Sorry--that’s not war.

You’ve characterized me as ‘a disgrace to humanity’ and a ‘bigot,’ among other things. My response is this: you are posting to the Washington Realist, but with your views you should start your own blog, naming it the Utopian Dreamer. Maybe you should read a bit more history, too.

This is my last look-in to this thread, but perhaps we’ll cross swords somewhere else. Till then, farewell and good mental health.
I'm not distorting anything you said or reading your mind. I'm simply stating the simple logical consequence of the course of action you're advocating. "Overcoming the enemy's will" seems so positive and inspirational. Well, history tells us that to do such a thing, to look at the Japan example you brought up yourself, might incinerating all the urban areas at the very least. Do you recoil from that scenario? Good. It means you're still a human being, albeit one with a big disconnect between the what you want and the consequences of what you want.

I have to say it's a bit rich, you telling me to read more history. If you know about the history of the region we're talking about, you'll know that Israel has always replied three tats for every tit. Has it made them safer? Let's not forget the first time Israel moved into Lebanon and turned it into a war zone for years. Think about how well that worked out for them. Here we are decades later, and now they've got to contend with Hezbollah as well as Hamas. That's the thing about Terrorism. It is not some kind of staring competition where the first one to blink loses. Israel have walked the path of violence, destruction and no negotiations for decades. They've tried your approach. It doesn't work. And all the explanation you can come up with for why it doesn't work is -- well, they haven't gone far enough.

As for your attempt to make Israel look like the victim, I'm sorry. They've killed too many people for that to fly. And yes, Hamas is worse. Hezbollah is worse. Those are terrorist organizations. Israel is an ally. I expect more from our ally than from terrorist organizations.

You say that I am a utopian dreamer. Well, nothing can be further from the truth. I have a very dark view of human nature that is borne out by the continual escalation and counter-escalation we see in the Middle-East. Too many people, Richard, who cling to the comforting illusion that we can get everything we want through the barrel of a gun.

To tell you the truth, I'm glad you're signing off on this one. Frankly, I don't think this is a productive conversation. You believe the reason we lost in Vietnam was because Macnamara didn't supply enough cannon fodder. I'm a member of the reality-based community.

Let's hope that the next time we meet we'll find a bit more common ground.
We are dealing with contentious issues here. I realize emotions can run high; my only request to posters is that we avoid profanity and any ad hominem attacks (arguments, of course, are far game).


Sorry Nick, my bad.
Curiously, in the story about the neighboring dogs, no consideration is given to any other alternatives such as a fence or keeping the dog indoors and on a leash/tie-up when periodically outdoors. The lack of alternative considerations which preserve the dignity and integrity of the dogs and the neighbors is reflected in the conclusion that the only solution to the Middle East conflicts is to kill a certain number of the Muslims.

This is such a gaping hole.
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