Friday, July 21, 2006

What Might Be True

I'm not interested in writing about what I think, my opinion or what I think is true. Currently, this would not be a good use of my time. What I care about is what I don't understand, what I need to learn.

Right now, when I read of the Israeli incursion into Lebanon, there are some things I worry might be true--the main one is that people in the U.S. government will ride this current crisis to a larger war.

Like the U.S., it seems Israel is not doing nearly enough to prevent civilian casualties. Preventing civilian casualties requires some refusal to bomb or fire upon possible threats. It often requires putting one's soldiers in harms way since bombs dropped from the air are more likely to be indiscriminate than ground attacks. It requires a very measured military response--e.g., prohibition against firing upon civilian targets that provide support to fighters. This is something the U.S. does not do enough of and this is why they can be blamed for many of the deaths they cause. The 'shock and awe' was a perfect example of a failure to take sufficient care to protect civilians. The bombing of Serbia and Kosovo had similiar problems. The bombings in Vietnam were horrific.

Wars against insurgents or guerillas tend to create much larger numbers of civilian casualties because insurgents hide in civilian areas and they depend upon non-military bases of support. The thing is that the attackers--those with planes, for example, have much greater firepower. They are, in a word, more powerful. Thus, the invaders are usually doing the worst things. It generally doesn't matter for just war theory (for issues of jus in bello) but in Iraq, for example, the U.S. has options. We are not defending our families and schools and hospitals and food supply. This makes the civilian casualties even more unacceptable. (If more unacceptable makes sense--since killing civilians deliberately or through disregard is always unacceptable.)

I don't think the same thing is entirely true for Israel right now. They do not have many good options but may have better options than the ones they are pursuing. I don't know about the jus ad bellum arguments. But it seems to me that the response is disproportionate and it seems clear that the Israeli military is not doing enough to prevent civilian casualties, even if they are justified in being there in the first place. Now they may invade Lebanon.

It really seems that there are factions that want to stamp out the threats by using disproportionate force. As in, this is our chance, let's take it. They gave us a pretext, now they will see the mistake they made. I wonder what it means that I find this idea tempting: Wouldn't it be cool if one side in this ongoing conflict was so weakened it pretty much eliminated the conflict? Except I know that, like a lot of other things that involve killing human beings for the betterment of society, it requires horrifying means and almost never works.

Hizbollah--I don't understand what they are up to (why now?) but their aggression might be thought an attempt to stay relevant, to justify their continued existence and influence. I think they welcome these civilian casualties. Anything that makes Israel look illegitimate in its response benefits them.

Historically, it appears to be the case trying to stamp out one's enemies doesn't work well in the middle east. People who are just as bad or worse rush in to fill the vaccum. It works sometimes, in other contexts. Usually, it involves massacres of innocents and other immoral action.

The world's sympathies seem to be turning quickly to the people of Lebanon and against Israel. This is understandable--the Lebonese are dying in large numbers, dying horrifically, cast out of their homes, terrified, deprived. Once again, Israel may feel misunderstood. Israel has a right to defend itself but the extent of that right is what is being questioned by many. (Some people do question the right of Israel to exist but I am not one of them.) Is the price of being Israel a constant low level of devastating violence? Is that the inevitable price? I can see why some find that unacceptable--but what if that is just the price unless Israel engages in immoral and near constant warfare? What if there is nothing better than that? Until, by some miracle, the two state option gets revived and implemented correctly. After the death of many, many innocent Lebonese, will Israel be safe, finally? Will things somehow be better? I doubt it. So I think perhaps the views one has about Israel's right to defend itself are a distraction unless you are thinking of something beyond the right to self-defense; something more like the right to punish, the right to retaliate, the right to total and utter safety by the decimation of your enemies and whoever else lives near them? I don't know. I question whether a widening of the conflict will make Israel safer in the long run. You aren't going to get a pro-Israel Syria.

Reflexively blaming Israel also seems like a distraction of sorts. Everyone is rushing to that bandwagon.

I say this without knowing whether a cease fire or agreement will work to keep Hizbollah from sending bombs into Israel. I think, if this ends with some kind of buffer zone with international troops that prevents Hizbollah from firing into Israel then some Israeli response might have been unavoidable. But what do you say about all the civilian casualties? They can't be justified.

See, that's what I don't even know--how much space is needed for a buffer zone? What do you have to create geographically to protect Israel? (I mean--reasonably--Israel is obviously under threat of weapons all around it--but from Hizbollah, right now?) Does Israel have to invade Lebanon and wipe out Hizbollah to prevent the rockets from firing into Israel? And how extensive will the invasion have to be? If it does, then this again becomes a tragic situation. I fear it isn't just tragic. I fear Israel and then the U.S. are going to exploit the situation no matter what better options are available. Then it will be tragic for a different reason. I hope this doesn't happen butt I fear it will.


Post a Comment

<< Home