The Ranting Kraut

19.3.2006 – 27.9.2010

Overreaction or not – does it work?

Posted by rantingkraut on July 27, 2006

In the current war in Lebanon, attacks on civilian infrastructure and residential areas have been justified as strategic necessities in an attempt to destroy Hezbollah. The question –aside from the intractable legitimacy issue- which now arises is whether this works. Ze’ev Schiff in Haaretz and Matthias Küntzel in ‘der Spiegel’ have made the point that Israel has no alternative to defeating Hezbollah. Neither Israel nor the West in general can afford to settle for a solution that allows Hezbollah to re-remerge strengthened from this conflict in the long term.

In the view of recent news about casualties, and according to this report as well as this one it looks as if such a long term problem could be a likely outcome. Hezbollah could be let off lightly in a ceasefire deal or could simply involve Israel in a drawn out guerrilla war. Either seems possible, and either looks almost equally damaging. A ceasefire which credibly demands Hezbollah’s disarmament and which is enforced by a credible contingent of UN backed military could offer a way out if for some reason an international force was better placed to disarm hezbollah.

Küntzel argued that a multinational force would not stand up to Hezbollah. That depends on the nations involved. I can see the US having the stamina for it. When the US withdrew from Lebanon in the1980s they were serving abstract strategic interests in a remote place. Now they are in the front line in the war against islamo-fascism and have been directly attacked by it, that should make a difference.

The problem should not so much lie in the US’ commitment but elsewhere: in Iraq. That’s where not only the USA’s but much of the West’s firepower is currently tied up. It is worth remembering that this wouldn’t be so without the avoidable war on Iraq and it is worth noting that one need not be a radical pacifist or Muslim to have opposed Iraq’s invasion. An effective threat of overwhelming force could have a stabilising influence in a situation like this. Clearly visible evidence of being overstretched might do the opposite.

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