July 17, 2006


Attack Add: WHY ISRAEL SHOULD BOMB SYRIA (Michael B. Oren, 07.17.06, New Republic)

Back in 1966, Israel recoiled from attacking Syria and instead raided Jordan, inadvertently setting off a concatenation of events culminating in war. Israel is once again refraining from an entanglement with Hezbollah's Syrian sponsors, perhaps because it fears a clash with Iran. And just as Israel's failure to punish the patron of terror in 1967 ultimately triggered a far greater crisis, so too today, by hesitating to retaliate against Syria, Israel risks turning what began as a border skirmish into a potentially more devastating confrontation. Israel may hammer Lebanon into submission and it may deal Hezbollah a crushing blow, but as long as Syria remains hors de combat there is no way that Israel can effect a permanent change in Lebanon's political labyrinth and ensure an enduring ceasefire in the north. On the contrary, convinced that Israel is unwilling to confront them, the Syrians may continue to escalate tensions, pressing them toward the crisis point. The result could be an all-out war with Syria as well as Iran and severe political upheaval in Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf.

The answer lies in delivering an unequivocal blow to Syrian ground forces deployed near the Lebanese border. By eliminating 500 Syrian tanks--tanks that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad needs to preserve his regime--Israel could signal its refusal to return to the status quo in Lebanon. Supporting Hezbollah carries a prohibitive price, the action would say. Of course, Syria could respond with missile attacks against Israeli cities, but given the dilapidated state of Syria's army, the chances are greater that Assad will simply internalize the message. Presented with a choice between saving Hezbollah and staying alive, Syria's dictator will probably choose the latter. And the message of Israel's determination will also be received in Tehran.

Any course of military action carries risks, especially in the unpredictable Middle East. But if the past is any guide, and if the Six Day War presents a paradigm of an unwanted war that might have been averted with an early, well-placed strike at Syria, then Israel's current strategy in Lebanon deserves to be rethought. If Syria escapes unscathed and Iran undeterred, Israel will remain insecure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 17, 2006 1:00 PM

The amateur who wrote the article does not know what the expression "hors de combat" means.

He simply translated it and is using it to mean, "out of the fight," by which he means "neutral.".

No. It is a term of art, meaning "no longer in the fight," legally, having been disabled, as by wounds.

In these days of topical interest in Law of War issues being an old judge advocate is like being a biologist in a room full of laymen discussing Darwinism.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 17, 2006 3:05 PM

No, Israel should not attack Syria.

We should.

Posted by: b at July 17, 2006 3:24 PM

Israel, having contorted itself into a pretzel for decades to gain world approval, should now do whatever she thinks necessary and we should step aside or assist them, but stop giving advice.

Posted by: erp at July 17, 2006 7:26 PM