Friday, August 11, 2006

Is it "disproportionate"? Doesn't matter now

Talk of whether the Israeli response to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers and continued rocket attacks against northern Israel by Hezbollah is "disproportionate" is really about whether Israel is committing war crimes ("disproportionality" is one of the predicates for war crime prosecution -- Articles 51(4) and 51(5) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions makes a "disproportionate" or "indiscriminate" response a war crime). To me, such talk seems counter-productive at this time. Of far greater concern is the galvanization of Lebanese of all stripes toward Hezbollah and against Israel. From Dahr Jamail at TomDispatch:

While the coming years also brought it [Hezbollah] more significant political representation and respect, the Druze and Christian populations continued to distance themselves from or oppose the group.

Now, the staggeringly disproportionate Israeli response to the detention of two of its soldiers and the killing of others in mid-July has changed even this. In a sense, the Israelis are accomplishing the previously inconceivable -- uniting the otherwise hostile power centers of the country behind Hezbollah. Last week, the Israelis actually began bombing key bridges in the Christian part of the country for the first time -- a clear statement that no Lebanese are to be spared their attentions. Most of the Druze and Christian leadership have by now condemned the Israeli response. Many have even gone so far as to state that they believe Hezbollah is working to defend the country's sovereignty.

Aside from protecting ourselves from attack (which is only the beginning), we have twin goals in the war against terrorism: first, marginalize extremists by stabilizing the legitimacy of secular moderates, and, second, create interdependence in the region based on a non-petroleum economy (see the Israeli economy for an example of how this works).

On both these counts, Israel's offensive against Lebanon has already utterly failed, and by generating new grievances it sets up the preconditions for further failures.

Until we can look critically at how we're waging this war and how we might modify our approach, and until we can get over our Vietnam-era and McCarthyite hangups about who's anti-war and who's not, this is going to go very badly.

Too bad the adults aren't in charge.

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