Screwing Up In Lebanon


Michael Totten (whose excellent report from Kurdistan you could be reading in the August issue of Reason if you'd just subscribe already) does not share my confusion over Israel's goal in Lebanon. But he knows someone has blundered:

I sympathize one hundred percent with what Israel is trying to do here. But they aren't going about it the right way, and they're punishing far too many of the wrong people. Lord knows I could be wrong, and the situation is rapidly changing, but at this particular moment it looks bad for Israel, bad for Lebanon, bad for the United States, good for Syria, and good for Iran.

There is no alternate universe where the Lebanese government could have disarmed an Iranian-trained terrorist/guerilla militia that even the Israelis could not defeat in years of grinding war. There is no alternate universe where it was in Lebanon's interest to restart the civil war on Israel's behalf, to burn down their country all over again right at the moment where they finally had hope after 30 years of convulsive conflict and Baath Party overlordship.

The Lebanese government should have asked for more help from the international community. The Lebanese government should have been far less reactionary in its attitude toward the Israelis. They made more mistakes than just two, but I'd say these are the principal ones.

What should the Israelis have done instead? They should have treated Hezbollahland as a country, which it basically is, and attacked it. They should have treated Lebanon as a separate country, which it basically is, and left it alone. Mainstream Lebanese have no problem when Israel hammers Hezbollah in its little enclave. Somebody has to do it, and it cannot be them. If you want to embolden Lebanese to work with Israelis against Hezbollah, or at least move in to Hezbollah's bombed out positions, don't attack all of Lebanon.

Israel should not have bombed Central Beirut, which was almost monolithically anti-Hezbollah. They should not have bombed my old neighborhood, which was almost monolithically anti-Hezbollah. They should not have bombed the Maronite city of Jounieh, which was not merely anti-Hezbollah but also somewhat pro-Israel.

In a separate incident, Totten makes the mistake of showing some sympathy for an acquaintance who has now become a refugee, and the anti-idiotarians or whatever they call themselves these days give that a Rupert Pupkinesque "Better luck next time, suckers," prompting Totten to do to his commenters what Israel is now doing to Lebanon.

As noted, I am genuinely puzzled by Israel's strategy in Lebanon, so I can't say I agree or disagree 100 percent with its actions (beyond being 100 percent opposed to war in all its forms). But if you're going to claim total agreement on a goal, I'll have to refer to my hero Col. Mathieu from The Battle of Algiers (quoted from memory): "The only question that matters is: Are we going to stay in Algeria? If you answer yes, you must accept all the consequences." The only wrong move in war is the one that makes you lose. That fact doesn't change just because this time people you love are paying the price.