No Surrender

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big picture stuff, Bush Administration, Iraq War, Middle East, Terrorism

“We are at war with an ideology, and pounding it frontally just disperses it. It’s like trying to smash mercury with a hammer.” — Eugene Robinson, “The War Bush Isn’t Fighting

I came across this post yesterday, which IMO exemplifies why righties are living in a pre-9/11 world. The blogger is trying to justify the deaths of children in wars against “enemies” — I notice the blogger doesn’t call ’em “terrorists.” In a nutshell, the blogger argues that because killing the enemy is of paramount importance, and because the enemy chooses to surround himself with children and other civilians, then “we” must harden our hearts to the killing of children. And this is, he says, for the children’s own good. My favorite part (the post is written as a conversation between the wise and virtuous blogger and a bleeding-heart, presumably liberal, woman):

“It must be,” I tell her sadly, “Here: That we pursue war without thought of the children. That we do not turn aside from the death of the innocent, but push on to the conclusion, through all fearful fire. If we do that, the children will lose their value as hostages, and as targets: if we love them, we must harden our hearts against their loss. Ours and theirs.”

Now, I believe that some military actions are necessary, and where there is military action people are going to get killed. There is no weapon that can discriminate between the flesh of enemies and that of innocents. But the blogger is making a huge mistake if he thinks the wholesale killing of “enemies” must trump all other considerations. And it’s this muddled and outmoded thinking that is costing us dearly in the Middle East now.

A few days ago I wrote about fourth generation warfare, a.k.a. 4GW, and why it differs from the “total war” waged in earlier conflicts. Very simply, in “total war” political considerations are put aside in favor of military considerations. The object is to hurt “the enemy” in any way you can so that the enemy — the nation you are at war with — surrenders. And then when the enemy surrenders there’s a cease fire and formal ceremonies and agreements signed, etc., and the nations that had been at war enter into a new and entirely different relationship. In “total war,” if the bombing of civilians hastens surrender, then bombing civilians is militarily acceptable.

However, in our more recent “asymmetric” wars — usually, these days, pitting the conventional military power of a nation against a stateless ideological faction — there will be no surrender. Because ain’t nobody gonna surrender. Surrender isn’t the point. The enemy faction will not surrender even if all their strongholds are overrun and their leaders killed. Instead the survivors will disperse and find new strongholds (possibly virtual ones) or break into scattered cells. If the Cause still has supporters, new leaders will emerge; new followers will be recruited. Eventually a new enemy will arise from the ashes of the old one. And the war will continue.

At the same time, the enemy’s objective is not to get us to surrender to them. They don’t want our surrender, except in a metaphorical sense. They don’t want to occupy our territory or run our government.

So if they’re not going to surrender to us, and it’s out of the question that we would surrender to them, what is the nature of this war? What would “victory ” look like? Why is the enemy fighting us? Why are we fighting them? And how does this relate to killing children? The answers to these questions must be clearly understood if we are going to adopt effective strategies and tactics. Unfortunately in Iraq and Lebanon they are not well understood at all; most especially, they are not well understood by the very people most interested in promoting military solutions to our foreign policy problems. Instead of clarity, from the hawks we get empty slogans and rationalizations.

Righties are so terrified of the ghost of Neville Chamberlain they seem to think that even trying to understand what the enemy wants amounts to “appeasement.” Thus the vacuous nonsense about “they hate us for our freedoms.” But understanding what the enemy wants isn’t just about negotiation or appeasement, but understanding who the enemy is. This is vital when the enemy is a stateless faction, because what they want is what defines them. It’s what sets them apart from other people who might live in same region and share the same ethnic and religious heritage, but who are not necessarily our enemies. If we don’t understand clearly who, precisely, we are fighting, how can we develop effective tactics and strategies? How can we efficiently direct our resources to strike the people we most need to strike?

Last night on Hardball I saw some rightie — I didn’t catch his name — claim it is absurd to argue that our presence in Iraq is making more enemies. We weren’t in Iraq when terrorists killed 283 U.S. Marines in Lebanon, he said. No, but we were in Lebanon, said Chris Matthews, perplexed. You know someone’s gone off the stupid scale when even Tweety notices. Later in the program a right-wing radio host — I didn’t catch her name, either — sounded the same note. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in Iraq or not. They all hate us, anyway, she said. Who’s “they”? Tweety asked. It was clear she meant all Middle Eastern Muslims, and the other guest, Amy Goodman, took her to task for it. But the rightie, in so many words, denied she had said that all Middle Eastern Muslims are terrorists, just that they all hate us and wish us dead. Brilliant.

As I wrote in the last post, Osama bin Laden’s beef with the U.S. began in 1990, when U.S. troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia in preparation for the Gulf War. At that time Bin Laden was living in Saudi Arabia and working in his family’s construction business. Bin Laden was outraged by an infidel army within the nation that is the birthplace of the Prophet, and he also turned against the Saudi government for allowing this sacrilege. In 1991 the Saudis expelled him from Saudi Arabia. He moved to the Sudan, where he made connections with other exiled Muslim radicals. The following year he claimed responsibility for attempting to bomb U.S. soldiers in Yemen. This was followed by successful strikes on the U.S. military in Somalia.

I bring this up to emphasize that al Qaeda started out as a radical fringe group, and by 2001 it was still a radical fringe group, albeit a well-financed one, with only a few thousand followers. It’s true that other Muslims disliked Americans; the Wahhabist sect of Sunni Islam, which influenced bin Laden, comes to mind. But it is simply not true that the entire Muslim population of the Middle East was seething with rage against America and thought exactly as bin Laden thought. Yet somehow, in the name of striking out against the perpetrators of September 11, we’ve got the whole Middle East in an uproar. And a whole lot of people who weren’t all that worked up about us before would like to do us harm now.

Some righties still talk about fighting “terrorists” in Iraq, as if everyone in the conflict is either “coalition” (us) or “terrorist” (them). But it isn’t that simple. I understand that fewer than 10 percent of the fighters in Iraq are with al Qaeda or an affiliate. The rest are with a number of other warring factions that are fighting each other; some of these factions are also fighting us, and some are not. Yet. We invaded to liberate the oppressed Shi’ia majority from the regime of a ruthless Sunni Baathist dictator. Today the Shi’ite militias, armed by Iran and sometimes operating out of the “unity” government President Bush is so proud of, are slaughtering Sunnis wholesale. U.S. troops are sometimes put in the position of rescuing former Baathists — and former Saddam supporters — from the Shiias that we liberated. Note that neither the Baathists nor the Iraqi Shi’ias had a bleeping thing to do with al Qaeda or were in a position to harm America before we invaded Iraq.

Yet we are fighting “them” there so we don’t have to fight “them” here. Who are “they,” exactly?

And what about other terrorist organizations in the Middle East, like Hezbollah? I urge you to read this article by Lisa Beyer that appeared in the August 7 issue of Time. Highlights:

Bush two weeks ago likened Hizballah militants to the terrorists who last summer bombed London subways. That implies that Hizballah has the same mind-set and agenda as the global jihadis of al-Qaeda and its imitator groups, but they are not the same. Hizballah’s military mission is principally to defend Lebanon from Israeli intrusion and secondarily to destroy the Jewish state. As an Islamist group under Iran’s sway, Hizballah would like to see Islamic rule in Lebanon. The global jihadis think much bigger. They are Salafists, radicals who seek to revive the original and, to their minds, pure practice of Islam and establish a caliphate from Spain to Iraq, in all the lands where Islam has ever ruled. The Salafists are Sunni, and Hizballah is Shi’ite, which means their hatred for each other is apt to rival their hatred for the U.S. Al-Qaeda’s late leader in Iraq, Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, used to say Shi’ites were worse than Americans and launched a brutal war on them in Iraq.

Of course, Sunnis and Shi’ites do sometimes cooperate. Ali Mohammed, a former Green Beret who pleaded guilty to being an al-Qaeda agent, testified in 2000 that he had provided security for a meeting in Sudan between Hizballah security chief Imad Mughniyah and Osama bin Laden and that Hizballah had provided al-Qaeda with explosives training. If there was cooperation, it seems to have been short-lived; the two groups certainly aren’t allies. Lebanese police in April arrested nine men that Hizballah officials claim were al-Qaeda agents plotting to assassinate their leader. In a recently published interview with the Washington Post’s Robin Wright, Nasrallah slammed al-Qaeda. “What do the people who worked in those two [World Trade Center] towers … have to do with war that is taking place in the Middle East?” he asked. Bin Laden’s deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri last week released a videotape about the fighting in Lebanon, but at least in the excerpts released by al-Jazeera, he conspicuously failed to encourage Hizballah in its fight against Israel or to so much as mention the group. Instead, al-Zawahiri spoke of the jihad–that is, al-Qaeda’s jihad–being the one that would liberate Palestine.

The Bushies and Neocons are doing a great job of establishing the United States as the common foe of all Muslims, unfortunately. Where once only the most extreme, radical fringe of Islam wanted to take jihad to American soil, someday mainstream Muslims may decide they’ve had quite enough of us and unite against us. As I wrote yesterday, one of Osama bin Laden’s long-term goals was to draw a western power into attacking and occupying a Muslim nation. This would incite Muslims from many sects and nations to unify in jihad against the common foe (guess who?). It is unlikely such a jihad would unite under bin Laden’s leadership, but in every other way the Bush Administration has exceeded bin Laden’s fondest hopes.

Bush Administration has a one-size-fits-all policy for combating all Muslim militants and terrorists, as if they all came out of the same box. This is stupid. Smart would be to take differences and distinctions into account when crafting policy; policies for a group with purely local or regional interests should be different from policies that deal with al Qaeda or other global terrorist organizations. Most important, our policies should drive wedges between groups, not inspire diverse groups — some of which have been antagonists for centuries — to unite against us. The reverse of Julius Caesar’s famous military axiom — divide, and conquer — is unify, and lose.

By remaining ignorant of the historical, social, cultural, and political realities of the Middle East; by our ham-handed and disastrous “occupation” of Iraq; by knee-jerk support of Israel, right or wrong; we are fanning the flames of jihad, not putting them out. Today we might be sowing the seeds of many wars yet to come.

Christopher Dickey
:

Most of the terrorist attacks since 9/11 were carried out by people who were or would be suicide bombers, and their numbers seem to be growing in number every day. Is this merely some contagious madness? When Al Qaeda planners Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Youssef plotted attacks on 11 American planes flying from Asia in 1995, their idea was to leave bombs on board hidden in life jackets after stopovers. The scanty information released thus far about the British plot suggests that teams of people, fully aware that they would die, were going to take components for the bombs on board separately, then assemble them to kill themselves and everybody traveling with them.

There is no excuse for those who would carry out such atrocities, but there are reasons that keep pushing recruits to take up the suicidal cause of attacking the United States. To blame “Islamic fascism” that “wants to destroy those of us who love freedom” dodges responsibility for making those reasons more abundant, and making them worse, over the last five years. What’s at work in the heads of those who would kill themselves to slaughter Americans is less Al Qaeda’s ideology, such as it is, than a pervasive sense that Muslims are under attack: their lands occupied; their men, women and children victimized around the world. The Iraqi slaughterhouse, besieged Gaza, wasted Lebanon are all examples in the minds of those who convince themselves that suicidal terror is the only way to fight back. While partly blaming Israel, their frantic logic finds easier targets among the people who elected the invaders of Iraq, the backers of Israel, George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The American failure to limit these scenes of carnage in the Muslim world, or even to understand them, has combined with shortsighted military policies to create a kind of breeder reactor for explosive terrorism. Today we are looking at a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, even as Osama bin Laden and his ideologue Ayman Zawahiri remain at large. Iraq is in the midst of an intensifying civil war that will only grow worse after today’s ghastly bombing in Najaf, which killed at least 34 people. Lebanon has become a cause that can cement ties among radical Sunnis and Shias against the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel. Iran is cooking up nukes and the inflammatory issue of Palestine is farther than ever from resolution.

To those who say Bush’s policies must be working, because Muslim radicals haven’t achieved a terrorist attack in America in the past five years — remember, eight years separated the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and September 11, 2001. By rightie logic, Bill Clinton must’ve really been tough on terrorism.

Back to the dead children. As I said above, if you are trying to force the surrender of an enemy government, then the bombing of civilians, including childen, might be an acceptable tactic. But if your enemy is a cause, and not a country, the last thing you want to is gain them the world’s sympathy. In a very real and tangible sense, we are fighting for the moral high ground in the world’s eyes. Ignoring that reality not only strengthens our enemies and weakens us; it also could have long-term repercussions in our relations with the other nations on the planet for years to come.

Over the past several days the righties have complained that Hezbollah and Israel are expected to play by different rules, and it ain’t fair. But William Lind argues that’s how 4GW is; get used to it.

The fact is, both sides don’t get to operate by the same rules in 4GW. While the very strength of the intervening power means it must be careful how it applies its strength, that is much less true of the weaker forces opposing it. This is an aspect of what Martin van Creveld calls the power of weakness. Viewed from the moral level, a weak force can get away with tactics that damn its vastly stronger enemy. Its weakness itself tends to justify whatever it does.

Suicide bombing is itself a tactic of the weak (which does not mean it is ineffective.). The United States bombs from aircraft, where the pilot operates in complete safety against 4GW opponents, with rare exceptions. At the moral level, that safety works against us, not for us. In contrast, the fact that 4GW fighters often have to give their lives to place their bombs works for them. Their combination of physical weakness and apparent heroism leads civilians from their own culture to excuse them much, including “collateral damage” they would never excuse if the bomb came from an American F-18.

Does this mean that al Qaeda and its many clones can ignore the deaths and injuries they cause among fellow Islamics? No. They have to be careful not to go too far, as al Qaeda clearly did in Jordan. But they can still get away with a great deal we could not get away with. The same rules do not apply to all, and much stricter, more disadvantageous rules apply to us than to them. Is that fair? Of course not. But who ever said there was anything fair about war?

It’s one thing to hunt down and and imprison terrorists who threaten to harm the U.S. But “When the United States drops bombs from aircraft or otherwise dumps firepower on Iraqi cities, towns and farms, it alienates the population further,” Lind says, and causes more Iraqis to join the insurgency — the insurgency that didn’t exist before we invaded Iraq and which was no threat to the United States. And when photos of dead Lebanese children are all over the world’s newspaper, but Israeli children remain unharmed, Israel becomes the Bad Guy in the eyes of the world. Whether this is fair or not is beside the point; it is what it is.

Here’s something I wish the hawks would think about: What does “victory” look like when your enemy is not a government with the authority to surrender? What tactics do you adopt when your military offensive against the enemy wins it sympathy and recruits? You’ll never kill all of the enemy, and even if you did, public outrage would likely cause another group to organize and take its place. Can there even be a “victory” in any meaningful sense of the word against such an enemy? Or is a cessation of hostilies the best we can hope for (in which case, escalating war would seem to be counterproductive)? Righties? Anybody?

See also: “Know Your Enemy: Who Are We Fighting In Iraq?

Also also: What Wes Clark says.

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27 Comments

  1. moonbat  •  Aug 12, 2006 @3:53 pm

    The “moral high ground” is indeed what we should be fighting for, if we are serious about winning the fight against terrorists. It should be the “why” we use our various military assets, if we use them at all. I suspect many in the Pentagon and CIA know this.

    It’s obvious to me that the neocons don’t want peace per se, they are using terrorism as a cover to gain control of the region and its oil, as well as control of the institutions in this country. They call it “spreading Democracy” which really means using our military, our tax dollars, our boys and girls lives, to make the place safe for American corporations to operate there and extract the region’s wealth. Peace, in the neocon view, is a by-product after we rearrange the landscape to our companies’ liking. There’s more to it than that, but lust for oil is at the root of their actions. The American Way of Life (TM) being non-negotiable and all that.

    The neocon philosophy is based on “might makes right”, as opposed to subordinating oneself to some externally defined and universally knowable and agreed-to “moral high ground”. I’ve listened to Bush faithful, authoritarians, who believe with every fiber of their being that the world should fall down before America’s might. They really believe this because that’s how their own psychology operates, it’s a projection. It’s what they themselves instinctively do. And so it’s easy for them to believe that the neocon “might makes right” is workable and makes sense and that peace will naturally ensue. They have little or no concept of an external “moral high ground” except to deride it as liberal nonsense.

    And so they can justify the killing of children or nuking a city or any hideous deed, since the only morality they perceive operating in their lives is what might creates. Might must be allowed to operate and create peace on its terms, in their view. Then we’ll be safe, is how they think.

    This has a lot to do with the notion of understanding your enemy. You correctly point out that righties view this as somehow being sympathetic to the enemy, which is of course wrong. We only need point to Sun Tsu, he stressed the importance of knowing your enemy. This is all part of the righties’ characteristic lack of being able to connect with others empathically. Empathy is not sympathy, it is understanding others at an emotional level. Righties completely miss this, and so their plans inevitably end in disaster, because their understanding of the world is so pitifully limited, and enemies (such as Osama, as you wrote earlier) easily play them for fools.

    Because righties lack empathy, or the ability to understand others, their conceptual universe is small and they cannot conceive of a moral high ground that is outside all the participants, is concerned for the well-being of all participants, and is knowable by all of them. They lack the vision and understanding to see that this high moral ground, instead of short sighted domination games, is ultimately the only way we’re going to have peace.

    It’s amazing to me that technology, military strategy and geopolitics have all conspired in this particular conflict to render powerful countries such as ours worse than impotent in the face of “high moral ground”. Makes me both scared and hopeful that maybe we’ll start to grow up as a race.

    Side note: Dave Neiwert at Orcinus has a guest blogger, Sara Robinson, who is doing a fantastic series on the authoritarian personality, in part based on John Dean’s “Conservatives Without a Conscience”. I’ve been urging her to post it more widely (DKos?) as it’s well laid out and many more people need to read it.

  2. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 12, 2006 @5:39 pm

    Maha and Moonbat,
    Perfect. Spot on!!! Unfortunately…
    But those who do not listen, cannot hear. Those who refuse to look, cannot see. Those who are afraid to touch, cannot feel. Those who’ve are afraid to get close, cannot smell. But any imbecile can shoot his mouth off… No taste, whatsoever, is required! No brains, either…
    These are the problems with this adminstration, their supporters, the MSM, pundits, etc. Talk is cheap. Logic, reason and thought are “hard word!” Read “Coturnix on Politics” on http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/ to understand the right wing psychology. Fear drives what they do. And, God knows, they’ve spread enough of that – all over the world.

    Maha and Moobat, I’m afraid it’s past the “sown the seeds” part, though. The sprouts of terror that Bush has sown are growing fast in the fields of war. They thrive on blood. The Grim Reapers, to whom we’ve given sharpened scythe’s, are ready, willing, and able to harvest the first crop of hydra-headed horrors. The scythe’s don’t kill the the sprouts, they strengthen them and spread more seeds..
    Our only hope is a Democratic Congress, quick impeachment’s and a 180 degree turn-around. Try to convince the rest of the world that this was some frat-boy anamoly. Not much, I agree. But, it may be our only hope…
    The havoc created over the last 5 1/2 years will take decades, if not centuries, to correct. If it can be corrected, and I doubt it.
    This is what happens when the media makes people feel they’d rather have a beer with a dry-drunk, than talk to a real intellectual (pick either Gore or Kerry).

  3. Swami  •  Aug 12, 2006 @6:31 pm

    Great piece of work, Maha.. It’s a bit depressing to read the truth and realize that for the most part it will go unheeded by a population so engrossed in stupidity and self that they can be satisfied killing innocents under the guise of promoting freedom.
    I can’t find words toxic enough to express my disgust for what Bush and Company have done to America..He’s dragged us, as a nation, into the gutter.

  4. Swami  •  Aug 12, 2006 @9:54 pm

    Try to convince the rest of the world that this was some frat-boy anamoly.

    I got a feeling that the world already knows. That’s my hope.

    It’s the proverbial “they” that has stripped us of our constitutional rights by way of Jose Padilla. Transgressions so terrible that they can’t be spoken or viewed in the light of American justice. Was it Jesus who used to say…If ya done it to Jose, ya done it to me?

  5. Donna  •  Aug 12, 2006 @10:07 pm

    So…family values/compassionate conservatism = killing of children is justifiable in ‘winning’ a war……..” to love them, we must harden our hearts at their loss”

    Why am I suddenly reminded of the nazis?

  6. erinyes  •  Aug 12, 2006 @10:19 pm

    Great post and excellent comments.
    Now what? I wish I had the answer.
    I was encouraged to hear my daughter say her history teacher told the class Bush is a terrible president And the class agrees.
    Every epic journey begins with one step, got to keep moving.
    Good night all……….

  7. Marshall  •  Aug 13, 2006 @9:10 am

    Hmm… WIlliam Lind. Check out On War # 177.

    Of course, like all real conservatives, I am a monarchist.

    But not just any monarchist – he prefers the Hollenzerns :

    As both a cultural conservative and an historian, I realize that the last chance of survival our Western, Christian civilization may have had was a victory by the Central Powers in World War I.

    And, of course, what’s a true conservative without a good dose of pessimism :

    …events in the Middle East today may mark the beginnings of the 21st Century and, not so much the death of the West, which has already occurred, but its burial.

    There is so much wrong packed into this short essay that unpacking it would probably require an entire book; of course, none of this negates his military analysis, but as far as his mental outlook concerned it is as illuminating as a flash of lightening on a dark night.

  8. maha  •  Aug 13, 2006 @9:27 am

    Marshall — yeah, Lind is a piece of work, no question. But I’m in agreement with Billmon

    As regular readers know, I have a great deal of respect for Lind’s analytical skills — even though his cultural politics are just plain weird. (To Lind, the western world has been going to hell in a handbasket ever since Kaiser Wilhelm’s army failed to take Paris in 1914.)

    Still, Lind is generally recognized as the leading U.S. theorist of non-conventional, fourth generation war …. This certainly doesn’t make him infallible, but it at least means he’s operating in the same theatre as reality, instead of attacking straight into the jaws of delusion, which appears to be the preferred military manuever these days.

    Billmon linked to the same Lind piece I just linked to. But Lind is far from the only authoritative source on 4GW. There’s a lot of good information on this site, for example.

  9. Swami  •  Aug 13, 2006 @12:01 pm

    It looks like the US military is reverting back to it’s tried and true practice of kicking in doors and arresting or killing anything that doesn’t move in Baghdad…based on tips?. It’s the perfect formula to alienate the population. Forrest Gump was right..Stupid is what stupid does.

    We’ve passed the 2600 mark…But that’s still not enough young lives snuffed out that America should care. As long as it ain’t one of my children getting killed for a lie, I say..bring it on!

  10. Donna  •  Aug 13, 2006 @12:42 pm

    Swami, maybe the death-to-others door-kickers are actually ‘scared-of-death’ wimps who feel strong and/or alive only by hiding behind a gun and enjoying the panic-diverting killing.

  11. Marshall  •  Aug 13, 2006 @1:17 pm

    Re:

    . But Lind is far from the only authoritative source on 4GW. There’s a lot of good information on this site, for example.

    … and also on this one.

    Regards

  12. didier  •  Aug 13, 2006 @5:16 pm

    These questions regarding Lebanon are very well understood.

    http://www.menapress.com/article.php?sid=1479

  13. maha  •  Aug 13, 2006 @6:19 pm

    These questions regarding Lebanon are very well understood.

    Possibly, but not by whoever wrote that thing you linked to.

  14. Madison Guy  •  Aug 13, 2006 @11:44 pm

    Unfortunately, at looks as if today’s present is just a prologue to something much nastier:
    Does Lebanon foretell World War III as Spain did World War II? Is it a dress rehearsal where the future combatants can test their tactics and try to intimidate each other? The perfect neocon wet dream? Seymour Hersh’s latest story in the New Yorker suggests that may be the case. It’s pretty spooky — and as Hersh has noted before, it could easily go nuclear.

  15. didier  •  Aug 14, 2006 @2:43 am

    The world seems upside down these days:

    Editor in Chief of Arab Times, Kuwait:
    http://www.arabtimesonline.com/arabtimes/opinion/view.asp?msgID=1242

    San Francisco:
    http://www.zombietime.com/stop_the_us_israeli_war_8_12_2006/

    Good night.

  16. maha  •  Aug 14, 2006 @6:31 am

    Didier — First, I regret that a couple of your comments got dumped into spam where I can’t retrieve them. This was not intentional.

    Second, you don’t seem to understand what my post above is actually about. I’m not writing about who the good or bad guys are or who is justified to bomb whom. It is about tactics and strategy in war, such as addressing the differences between total war and fourth-generation war and why applying a “total war” philosophy to the Israel-Hezbollah situation is a losing strategy for Israel. The sites you link to are not relevant. They do not address the questions I asked in the post. This would be true whether I agreed with the POV beng expressed in the linked pages or not.

    Once you grasp the essential questions addressed in the post, you may be able to grasp the point that I oppose Israel’s actions not because I support Hezbollah, but because I don’t. Because Israel hasn’t clearly answered the questions I asked in the post, its actions in Lebanon are counterproductive; they are hurting Israel and helping Hezbollah. Israel is making a big mistake by bombing Lebanon not because it is or isn’t morally justified or because Israel doesn’t have a right to defend itself, but because what it is doing is bad for Israel.

    For more on why this is true, read some of my earlier posts on the conflict, such as this and this.

    As Larry Johnson wrote, Israel took a stupid pill.

    In the long run, especially if Lebanon becomes a failed state or a satellite of Iran, Israel’s actions will hurt Israel and the U.S. for many years to come.

  17. didier  •  Aug 14, 2006 @11:20 am

    Good morning and thank you for your kind response to my concerns. I understand points that you make very well. I agree with some of what you say are results to this war. What I do not know is what people think Israel should have done. Hezbollah was gathering strenth all this time, with help of Syria and Iran, and the world did not care enough to be strong against them.

    Israel has much military strength but it is a very little country. Hezbollah pretends to be charity organization and political party – but look at what it truly is. A formidable army that has hijacked the country of Lebanon! Hezbollah has excellent public relations organization but now the world knows who Hezbollah is and how powerful it has become. The world knows how much involved is Iran and Syria. The world was looking the other way to this before. If Israel did not act now, situation would come up later after Hezbollah gained even more strength.

    My comment before was asking why the world and UN did not listen to Israel about 1559 and that Kofi Annan says he regrets this very much. I listened to his speech at UN and he admits the world did not do enough to help Israel. It took Israel’s action to make the world wake up. If Israel only acted a little bit, the world would soon forget again.

    Israel knows it looks bad, but it had to respond to this threat. Please tell me what you think Israel should have done. Remember that Ahmadinejad laughs at the West. He wants power and glory – that is all he cares about. He laughs at Arabs who follow his advice to go to martyrdom. He is happy for this. How can the world bargain with such a man?
    http://www.scottishtorymeps.org.uk/ReturnSpeechesDate.asp?id=34
    I think the world does not have an answer yet.

  18. maha  •  Aug 14, 2006 @1:09 pm

    What I do not know is what people think Israel should have done.

    First, pay attention to the fact that a majority of Lebanese (about 60 percent) were not sympathetic to Hezbollah before Israel started bombing (that may have changed since). A majority wanted Hezbollah to disarm. The Lebanese government wanted Hezbollah to disarm. However, Lebanon was too weak to make Hezbollah disarm. Also note that a large part of the Lebanese population is pro-Western and pro-democracy.

    Now, what do you do??

    (a) Bomb the shit out of Lebanon, destroy its infrastructure, piss off enough citizens that they turn against the West, and leave the nation in a weakened condition so that it becomes either a failed state or a satellite of Iran; or

    (b) Help the sovereign and democratic government of Lebanon build up its resources so that it can keep Hezbollah in check and eventually force it to disarm. In the meantime, Israel certainly is within its rights to aggressively repel Hezbollah militants near its borders.

    I’ll let you think about that one.

    Essentially, your entire argument is that Hezbollah is bad. Yes, they are. But this is not strategy.

    For further reading: H.D.S. Greenway, “Israel’s Misguided Strategies.” Note:

    The key to disarming Hezbollah has always been, first, convincing Lebanon’s Shi’ites that they no longer need a militia and would be better off without one, and second, building up the institutions of the Lebanese state to the point where the Lebanese government can exert its authority. Unfortunately for Israel, bombing apartment buildings and whole Shi’ite sections of Beirut have strengthened Hezbollah’s prestige among Shi’ites. And the destruction of Lebanon’s economy, which was just getting back to normal, will give terrorists a stronger foothold in that unhappy land than they might otherwise have had

    .

  19. didier  •  Aug 14, 2006 @1:21 pm

    Sorry, too many questions still.

    a) Possible. But now maybe there is more hope for this now than there was before.
    b) Agreed – now. However, how would you have disarmed Hezbollah before when it was growing bigger and more entrenched every day? This sounds like your pie in the sky until Israel took steps. Now we hope for peace.

    It is confusing to know if you mean a & b before this war, or after? I agree for after, not for before. We will see.

    Thank you for your thoughts.

  20. maha  •  Aug 14, 2006 @1:50 pm

    didier:

    But now maybe there is more hope for this now than there was before.

    That pooch is already screwed. Even if the cease fire holds (I have doubts) the damage done to Lebanon and to Israel’s cause is not going to be undone for many years.

    However, how would you have disarmed Hezbollah before when it was growing bigger and more entrenched every day?

    Clue, genius: Thanks to Israel’s bombing, NOW it is bigger and more entrenched than ever before. Bombing Lebanon was to Hezbollah like pouring gasoline on a fire. It got bigger. It got more entrenched.

    The problem was manageable before. Now, it isn’t.

    It is confusing to know if you mean a & b before this war, or after? I agree for after, not for before. We will see.

    No, no, no, no, no, no, no. I say again, NO! Focus: I gave you two alternatives of what to do BEFORE BEFORE BEFORE the war. Got that? BEFORE. Israel chose “A.” This was the wrong choice.

    Choice “B” is no longer possible.
    Choice “B” is no longer possible.
    Choice “B” is no longer possible.
    Choice “B” is no longer possible.

    Do I need to repeat that a few more times?

    You are living in the same stupid hole the Bush Administration lives in. You assume that aggressive military action is the “strongest” solution. But this often is not true in an asymmetric war situation. In fact, aggressive military action just makes your position weaker and your enemy’s position stronger. That may seem counterintuitive, but it’s a fact.

    I am not saying Israel made the wrong choice out of a sense of compassion for the people being bombed. I’m saying Israel made the wrong choice for Israel. If it keeps doing stuff like this it’s going to destroy itself eventually.

  21. didier  •  Aug 14, 2006 @2:16 pm

    My apologies for you thinking I am stupid. My English is not good enough for this I suppose.

    However, you say problem of Hezbollah is bigger, more entrenched. I say we will not know this for awhile. I disagree there is no hope. I think there is more hope.

    You say b) before, but I say to “eventually force it to disarm” through diplomacy” was not an available choice. A pie in the sky choice. You think Hezbollah cares for a carrot? You think Lebanese government could get rid of it? You still do not tell me how. This was my first question and still you do not say how. Many in Lebanon understand this. We will see how this plays out. Maybe you are right, maybe you are not.

    You say, in asymmetric war aggressive military action just makes your position weaker and your enemy’s stronger. And this is a fact. I disagree. Many disagree. I have read your way many times by others. I think it is flawed, but I do not mean to make you angry. You may chose to disregard this, if you please.
    I will go elsewhere.

  22. maha  •  Aug 14, 2006 @2:48 pm

    I say to “eventually force it to disarm” through diplomacy” was not an available choice.

    I didn’t say diplomacy.
    I didn’t say diplomacy.
    I didn’t say diplomacy.
    I didn’t say diplomacy.
    I didn’t say diplomacy.
    I didn’t say diplomacy.

    I hope that’s clear. Diplomacy with Hezbollah would be, as you say, pointless.

    You have a very rigid and limited mind. You have already made up your mind there are only two options, which are “total war” and “diplomacy.” BUT I NEVER SAID ANYTHING ABOUT DIPLOMACY.

    What could Israel have done? Considering that a majority of the people of Lebanon, and the government of Lebanon, wanted Hezbollah to disarm, one solution would have been to help the people and government of Lebanon get strong enough to force Hezbollah to disarm. They might have offered to give some kind of aid, financial or otherwise, to help Lebanon’s military and police forces get up to speed. And at the same time find ways to persuade the Shiias in Lebanon that they didn’t really need an armed militia any more. This would not diplomacy, but public relations. The point is not to get some leaders to sign an agreement, but to change the minds of the supporters. Again, Israel should have worked with the government of Lebanon on this.

    One of the most essential lessons of assymetric warfare is that the only way the “big” power can win is if it can deprive the “little” power of its base of support. Admittedly one way to do that is to bomb the hell out of its base of support, but that only works if the base of support is confined to a geographic area. If not, that’s not going to work. And Israel has been bombing parts of Lebanon that are NOT strongholds of Hezbollah, including Sunni and Christian communities, which is insane.

    I will go elsewhere.

    Please do.

  23. didier  •  Aug 14, 2006 @2:54 pm

    Ah, finally I get an answer from you.
    Thank you for your time.

  24. maha  •  Aug 14, 2006 @3:29 pm

    Ah, finally I get an answer from you.

    Asshole. All of that information was either in my post or in the links to the post that you were too lazy to read. I had to hold your hand and show it to you. I hate people who have to have things explained to them five times. Get lost.

  25. Preston  •  Aug 14, 2006 @3:54 pm

    No comments per se on this topic, but just wanted to break in to say that I am gagging through another of GWB’s unbearable speaches re the Middle East and that GW Bush has got to be the dumbest, stupidest, most ignorant son-of-a-bitch ever to reach the White House. He has no idea, not even a clue, to what’s going on in the world around him and what he’s doing to it. It is positively sickening.

  26. maha  •  Aug 14, 2006 @4:31 pm

    Preston — I don’t turn on the TV during the day, as a rule. Thanks for the head’s up.

  27. ironranger  •  Aug 14, 2006 @10:09 pm

    “You know someone’s gone off the stupid scale when even Tweety notices.” So funny & true. Now if we can just get the 29 percenters to notice….

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