July 26, 2006


Israeli 'Doves' Say Response Is Legitimate: Support for Campaign Bridges Political Divides (John Ward Anderson, 7/26/06, Washington Post)

Two weeks into a war that began after a cross-border Hezbollah raid captured two Israeli soldiers, Israelis have shown extraordinary unanimity in backing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's military campaign to inflict a punishing and perhaps lethal blow to the militant Shiite group, despite a rain of rockets into northern Israel and hundreds of civilian deaths and widespread bombing destruction in Lebanon.

This singularity of purpose, which bridges Israel's weary center, dovish left and hawkish right in a way rarely seen here, is all the more striking coming just six years after Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the self-declared security zone it held in Lebanon for nearly two decades, ending a painful experience that inflicted deep wounds on the national psyche and might have made some wary of reentering the Lebanese morass.

"Lebanon was Israel's Vietnam, and when we went there in 1982, it was really a march of folly, it was wrong morally, it was wrong strategically, and we paid dearly for that grave mistake," said Ari Shavit, a dovish columnist for Haaretz newspaper, referring to the full-scale invasion masterminded by then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon to drive out the Palestine Liberation Organization.

But today is different, he said, "because Israeli is not the aggressor marching into another land." Rather, the current campaign "is an old-fashioned war where we are right, and we were attacked for no reason whatsoever. This is probably the most justified war in our history."

In a survey published Friday by Israel's Maariv newspaper, 95 percent of those sampled said that attacks against Hezbollah were justified, and 90 percent said that fighting should continue until Hezbollah was pushed away from Israel's northern border.

They're certainly justified--the question is whether they're acting wisely.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 26, 2006 8:10 AM

oj: I don't think they could do anything else. The alternative is appeasement isn't it?

Posted by: Bartman at July 26, 2006 10:39 AM

Even American peaceniks - for the mlost part - would back George W.if rockets were falling in their own neighborhoods.

It's easy to be a pacifist when you are protected by the US Army & Government in your cozy, little safe corner of the world.

Posted by: obc at July 26, 2006 10:40 AM

obc - pointing out that Israel is under rocket attacks doesn't seem to sway the "Israel is wrong" crowd.

Bartman - OJ wants Israel to take out Syria. I agree but given all the anti-Israel stuff out there despite Israel responding to clear aggression by Hezbolluh it's hard to see politically how Israel can go after Syria.

Posted by: AWW at July 26, 2006 10:53 AM

AWW: Agreed. Syria must do something overt in order for Israel to attack.

Posted by: Bartman at July 26, 2006 10:57 AM

AWW - You missed my point. Israeli doves support this military action because THEIR homes are being targeted. When American pacifists have their own homes blown up and their children killed by Islamofascists, they'll jump on the President's band wagon - perhaps while criticizing him at the same time for not preventing the attacks.

Posted by: obc at July 26, 2006 11:05 AM

Which is pretty much what the left in the U.S. did in the days following Sept. 11, when most people thought further terrorist attacks were imminent.

Israel seems to be attuned to the idea of moral high ground here, in that it by giving the Palestinians their own territory, they denied their enemies the ability to claim they were "attacking their own people" if the IDF responds to Hamas attacks out of Gaza, or in this case, Hezbollah rockets out oof Lebanon. Not that the left isn't trying to make Israel into the bad guy here, but as long those Israeli soliders remain kidnapped, the Israelis (and the Bush Administration) can justify the current incursion on moral ground. Any incursion into Syria requires more complicated explanations -- it may be justified, but it can't be paired down into a simple one sentence "They came across the border and kidnapped and killed our soldiers" explanation.

Posted by: John at July 26, 2006 11:42 AM

Don't complain and don't explain.

Posted by: erp at July 26, 2006 11:45 AM

Israel can hurt Syria, even depose the regime, but they lack the manpower to go in on the ground, clean out weapons sites and establish a new government.

Since Syria may now have WMD - either obtained from Iraq in the lead-up to the war or donated since by Iran - an attack on the regime without an immediate and sizable ground presence would likely lead to terrorists acquiring those stocks, plus other weapons.

The aftermath probably wouldn't play well with the voters in either the U.S. or Israel. Therefore, Israel wants to attack Syria with the U.S., so that U.S. troops can provide the ground presence they now provide in Iraq. But the U.S. can't undertake another Iraq while leaving the 900-pound gorilla, Iran, to sponsor terrorism against us in both Iraq and Syria. So the U.S. needs to take out Iran before Syria.

The trouble with taking out Iran is they have nukes, and there's no political support for a dangerous war. So, the U.S. strategy is to try to weaken Iran's proxies, contain their terrorism, isolate the regime, and encourage the Iranian people to change the regime, primarily by creating a successful democracy next door.

Thus, the U.S. wants Israel to take on Hezbollah, and is increasing its investment in Iraq by going back into Baghdad to take on the Shi'ite militias.

Iran tried to frustrate this strategy, which threatens to strangle them, by broadening the war. The only way they can broaden it further, without going to war themselves, is to get Syria to go to war. But Syria is reluctant.

So, a standoff. But is it stable? Eventually the tension has to be broken, perhaps by a victory by one side or the other in Iraq.

Posted by: pj at July 26, 2006 11:57 AM

OBC - you missed my point - I know people who would still be anti-Bush/anti-US even if USA was under attack. To them the US is never right.

Posted by: AWW at July 26, 2006 12:40 PM

They may change their minds, AWW, as the swords descends upon their outstretched necks - then again - maybe not even then.

Posted by: obc at July 26, 2006 1:08 PM

Unless something foundational changes, there aren't going to be any 'combined' US-Israeli operations in the Middle East. One provocation would be the use of chemical weapons against Israel or US troops in Iraq. Another would be an open Iranian incursion into Iraq, but that is something that even Ahmadinejad won't dream about.

There is already enough out there for the US to finish off the Ba'athists in Syria. As the man says, faster.

Posted by: ratbert at July 26, 2006 1:17 PM

The US could have taken out Syria anytime w/in the first 2 years after 9/11, and no one would have batted an eyelash. Now, there's no chance that we'll do anything directly against them, without a causus belli. A new one, I mean...

Posted by: b at July 26, 2006 1:41 PM

ratbert - It's true that the US and Israel won't combine operations on a single battlefield, but there's nothing to stop the US from taking on Syria while Israel takes on Hezbollah in Lebanon.

As for an open Iranian incursion into Iraq, that depends on your definition of "open." Some would say that the flagrant recent attacks by Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, which takes direction and funding as well as ideology from Iran, are an open Iranian incursion into Iraq. They needn't send Revolutionary Guards as long as they have the Mahdi Army (although the military leaders of the Mahdi Army are mostly "illegal immigrant" Revolutionary Guards).

Posted by: pj at July 26, 2006 2:05 PM

btw: since no one, acc to my brief scan of the comments, has pointed this out:

The article grossly distorts the history of Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The PLO had been operating out of southern Lebanon at that pt for, what?, 4-5 years. They repeatedly launched deadly attacks into Israel from their bases there. Therefore, if anything, the earlier invasion was more justified than this one. It indeed may have been a mistake in the long run, but to say that it was unjustified morally is a joke.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at July 26, 2006 2:42 PM

Jim: How about this--if Lebanon really was "Israel's Vietnam", then I suppose that means that, as in Vietnam, withdrawal was the truly immoral act, in that it involved abandoning the people of Lebanon to Hezbollah domination. Of course, the analogy isn't perfect, but blame Mr. Shavit for bringing it up...

Posted by: b at July 26, 2006 3:27 PM


Not at all. Take out Assad.

Posted by: oj at July 26, 2006 8:01 PM


There's no such thing as a pacifist, nor does thinking Israel is behaving foolishly make you one..

Posted by: oj at July 26, 2006 8:02 PM


You see WMD in your sleep. No one has them nor can deliver them and they'd not be a big deal even if they could.

Posted by: oj at July 26, 2006 8:03 PM