For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind – Hosea 8:7
The new American-Israeli proposal for peace in Lebanon is a NATO-led force with a “strong mandate” rather than UN-led blue helmets. “NATO” in this case is a code word for European troops under effective US command, since it must be presumed that American forces are about as welcome in Lebanon as the IDF, and Israel is unlikely to tolerate a strong international force under any independent authority.
It would be an incredibly stupid idea for Europeans to go along with this. The “strong mandate” of such a force would no doubt be the suppression of Hezbollah. Let the Israelis do their own damn dirty work. They lost a war in Lebanon once already, let them lose again. I see no reason why Europeans should have to back Israel up in its campaign of collective punishment against the people of southern Lebanon. “Israel has the right to defend itself” – this has been the mantra of Israeli governments for decades, evoked in defense of every atrocity it commits. So let them defend themselves. Why should Europe intervene in support of a state that targets civilians?
I don’t blog much about Israel, in part because any position less than 90% in Israel’s favour leads to being labeled as anti-Semitic. But this proposal to send in NATO affects my life directly. I should disclose that I have a vested interest in this, or at least a bigger vested interest than most people far from Lebanon. For reasons that some of my readers know but which I do not disclose on blogs, sending a NATO force to attack Hezbollah puts my life and the lives of those I care about at substantially increased risk. I see no reason why I should take risks for Israel’s security.
Make no mistake – deploying an international force to Lebanon, or at least any international force likely to have US and Israeli support, is backing Israel. The only grounds under which I would support it would be if it also had a mandate to defend Lebanon against Israel – to bomb Israel if Israeli planes or ground forces cross the border no matter what Hezbollah does.
There are reports that this attack was planned far in advance, and that the justifications given for it are little more than pretexts. This SF Gate article is making the rounds. Worse still, if true it suggests that no one briefed Bush on it – or at least that’s what his little open mike gaffe suggests. To send in NATO now would turn the alliance into nothing more than an arm of US foreign policy. It would make our nations no different from Britain – America’s lapdogs.
And, according to the NY Times, Israel has no real intention of ridding south Lebanon of Hezbollah. Israel’s ambassador the US on Face the Nation: “What weâ€™re doing now inside of Lebanon is really mopping up, […] Itâ€™s going to be in-and-out operations, and weâ€™re not going to stay in Lebanon, not at all.” This means that even if Israel has managed to destroy a few Hezbollah rocket launchers, they’ll just get more from Syria and Iran. Hezbollah needs only to survive this conflict to claim victory. They can say that they stood up to Israel, just as they did after the 1982 invasion, and survived. They can claim to be the only force in the Middle East capable of attacking Israel and scoring points. That’s victory for them. So, Israel cannot even justify its assault on civilians by claiming that it’s likely to work.
To send Europeans in to win (or more likely, lose) a war planned by Israel and the US but which neither is willing or able to fight will not lead to any enduring peace and will only embolden the worst forces in Israeli, American and Middle Eastern society.
One of the things this conflict should make plain is the emptiness of arguments about the laws of war. Terrorism clearly kills fewer civilians than “legal” warfare, and Israel’s “legitimate” right to self-defense is undoubtedly worse for civilians than Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel. It is disheartening to see American newspapers publish articles claiming that Lebanese civilians aren’t really civilians, since they support terrorism. This is identical logic to the claim that Israelis aren’t civilians, since they support the occupation and IDF aggression. Why should I support an Israel that targets civilians over a Hezbollah that does the same, especially when Israel is the more effective killer?
The NY Times is also reporting a lot of reticence on the part of NATO members to going along with this plan for an international force. Good. They claim, according to the article, that NATO is already stretched thin in Afghanistan, Bosnia and possibly soon Darfur. I have reasons to suspect this is true, even if it is also a convenient excuse.
Considering the deflation of Israel’s stated goals in Lebanon over the last few weeks – from “crush Hezbollah” to “get Lebanon to crush Hezbollah” to “stop Hezbollah from firing rockets into Israel” to the current “reduce Hezbollah’s arsenal by up to 50%” – they’ve clearly bitten off more than they can chew. Ehud Olmert is the first Israeli prime minister in a long time who was never an IDF general. He also appears to have as much sense for military strategy as George W Bush. If Palestinians can be punished for voting for Hamas, I see no reason to spare Israel the consequences of having voted for this fool.
If Europe bails Israel out by fighting Hezbollah on their behalf, we will do neither Israel nor Lebanon any service. I’ll stand for massive and unconditional aid for rebuilding Lebanon, but not for sending in Europe’s armies to fight Hezbollah.