Sunday, November 12, 2006

Lessons of the Hizbollah-Israeli War II

The last posting on this subject discussed the evolution of techniques by Hizbollah which are indicative of what I call the Western Alliances have to look forward to from that and other groups opposed to America and its allies. Some of those techniques are

- using missile technology to attack their enemies

- using civilian shields to arouse international anger against the West and
taking advantage of our own aversion to killing civilians as a method to
prevent us from fighting their hardest

- using non-governmental organizations like Hizbollah to prevent military
action against allied States.

- using the internet to portray alleged Western war crimes or atrocities,
and to declare real or imagined victories.

Some recent articles in the media have shown the increased use of these tactics in the middle east, including in the Palestinian territories and Iraq.

Although we might continue to try to prevent the dispersal of military technology, good luck to us, as explained in the last posting. But we can do something about the rest of these techniques because the solution is attitudinal on our part.

The most important of these problems is the one which may be the hardest to conquer and may even seem cruel and unlawful at first blush -- that is, the anathema attached to the killing of civilians.

To be absolutely clear, I am not advocating abating our efforts to avoid killing civilians, and we can slap ourselves on the back for trying. It is not only required by any Nation that has subscribed to the Geneva Conventions in many cases (although the Bush administration was right; common article three's proscriptions against harming civilians expressly does not apply when fighting groups like Al Quaeda or Hizbollah), but it is also, in my book moral and wise.

Instead what I am suggesting -- not to our governments, but TO THE PUBLIC AND THE MEDIA is that we stop beating our breasts when our military forces cannot avoid killing innocent civilians or it happens accidentally. It saps the morale of the public and the military, which are mutually dependant on each other for support.

Let's use the most recent example. On November 8, 2006 Israeli missiles seeking to kill Palestinians militants who fired rockets into Israel, slammed into buildings killing 18 Palestinians, mostly women and children. Similar events occurred in the Hizbollah-Israel War. The reaction from the territories and the Arab world was outrage, and the same came from much of the world. But it also came from many Israelis, including the prime minister, who seemed to buckle at the knees. He apologized and practically begged the Palestinian president to meet with him and added that if he did, he would be very surprised at what Israel was wlling to do for him. The meeting did not occur, at least publicly.

On November 11 Israeli peace activists joined by three Nobel Prize winners called for the Israeli Supreme Court to ban Israel from targeting missile attacks. I am not sure what they expect Israel to do -- fire indiscriminately on civilians like Hizbollah? Probably not. Stop fighting? Probably more like it.

They were probably addressing the right entity. A few years ago the Israeli Supreme Court banned the use of Palestinian human shields to the military. Not surprisingly, using Muslims as human shields has increased among Muslim militias, because they see the great effect it has upon the Western Alliances.

President Bush expressed his sorrow of the loss of life, but stated clearly that Israel had done nothing wrong. This attitude seeks to place blame on the entity at fault for the reaction and the possibility of mistake. Although with less at stake, his reaction was superior to the Israel prime minister's reaction.

Much of the rest of the world seemed to disagree. On November 11, 2006
a resolution came before the U.N. security council condemning Israel, although restatements called upon the Palestinian Authority to find a way to make a sustained effort to end the rocket attacks on Israel. If only. It was vetoed by the U.S.

Among other changes, France proposed other language calling for "an international mechanism for the protection of civilians". Leaving aside the "mechanics" of doing so, or why it is needed in addition to common article three, who would obey these new restrictions? Not Al Quaeda, not Hamas or Hizbollah. Not the Tamil Tigers, or FARC or the Taliban or Chechyan Black Widows, that's for sure.

Israel did much better when it opened fire on women sent to protect terrorists that were surrounded in a mosque. If Israel buckled under the use of women to defend men they are trying to kill, then it would have been repeated again and again. I doubt unprotected women in Palestine will try that real soon again, and I believe that ultimately it saves women's lives if they are discouraged from participating in this fashion.

Another tactic the West Alliances should adopt is to identify countries supporting hostile groups and make them pay a price for it. The prime example of this was our attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan as a result of 9/11. But in the Hizbollah-Israeli War it was seen as wrong to identify Hizbollah with Lebanon, although the government and people overwhelmingly supported the militant group. Because of this manner of thinking, additional pressure was put on Israel to stop its bombing before the job was done. Lebanon itself is now paying the price for this. They are faced with a still powerful organization, the only one armed in the country, which is now seeking by threats to take control of the government. This would almost certainly doom Lebanon to a far more punishing war with Israel in the future.

Had Israel's bombing, which despite the number of dead, was designed not to kill civilians, been allowed to continue even another week, it is difficult to believe that the Lebanese people would have continued to support Hizbollah, and undermined the group's popular support. Even as it was, Hizbollah's leader acknowledged after the war that he would not have captured the Israeli soldiers had he known the severity of the reaction. Exactly. EXACTLY. The world media reacted with surprise and interest, but no one was interested in the lesson.

The premature end to fighting as a result of modern Western values and natural sympathy for the Lebanese non-combatants (which ironically includes the Lebanese military) allowed Hizbollah to make a senseless claim of victory, weakened Israel's morale and kept it from trying to win, another peculiar affect of the enlightenment beliefs the Western Alliances so highly value. Yet this reluctance to let any powerful country win a conflict (I am not talking about genocide)simply prolongs conflicts. It has prolonged the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (despite world wide condemnation, Israel's self restraint is unusual in the history of conflicts -- the number of Palestinians who have actually died from military attack by Israel is actually quite low). The same failute to win more forcefully has left the United States in a difficult, if not impossible position in Iraq.

In fact, one only need to consider the effect on the world if the Allies in WWII had been forced to fight under 21st century notions that total victory is not permitted if civilians are suffering or dying. No rebirth in Germany, no rebirth in Japan, both which became essential to the world economy and world peace.

Without going on forever in this vein, consider all the ways that terrorist groups are able to fight, as opposed to the ways we are permitted to fight them.

They can (and we cannot) deliberately

kill enemy civilians

kill their own civilians

torture their captives and enemies

summarily execute captives and enemies

use propaganda without self doubt and criticism

openly use our schools, businesses, technology,and
media to train and propagandize

indiscriminately use nuclear, biological and
chemical weapons when they acquire
them

fight to win no matter the
consequences

It is one thing to try and maintain your values in time of war. We must always make that effort. It is another thing to so hamstring yourself with values that you will lose everything. This is something the generation that won WWII understood and we do not. It is not that we should adopt all of the tactics that our enemies do, which are squarely against our values. Far from it. But we should not cripple our ability to fight in trying to remain moral such that we cannot win or win efficiently.

To those who believe that this is hyperbole and an exaggeration of our risks, they should return to part one where it is explained that peoples we may foolishly condescend to because they do not yet possess our technology, will some day, sooner than later, possess our most dangerous weapons. They can already shoot down our planes with our shoulder held heat seeking missiles, and shoot more powerful missiles into neighboring countries. But the Western Alliances must consider a near future when non-governmental entities hiding among civilians over a broad geographical area swimming with innocent human life can target and fire thousands of missiles at once into our countries.

It might happen to Israel first, but then it will be Europe and then the United States. The thought is almost to frightening to contemplate. It is more frightening to consider that some or all of those missiles might contain nuclear explosives, or chemical/biological weapons. It is one reason we need political solutions, which are only possible with a showing of superior strength.

A fair analogy to this situation is found in the often quoted warning of Justice Robert Jackson, an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court:

"This Court has gone far toward accepting the doctrine that civil liberty means the removal of all restraints from these crowds and that all local attempts to maintain order are impairments of the liberty of the citizen. The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact". Terminiello v. Chicago (1949)

Frankly, at least with 20/20 hindsight, Jackson was dead wrong in Terminiello, where he stood against the right of a truly despicable person to speak freely in public, as he was in a number of his opinions where he suggested the court was going too far in protecting individuals from the state. History has proved anarchy does not increase with greater expression of antagonistic beliefs. But that doesn't mean the general principal is wrong in civil rights or warfare when rightly applied. It is better suited to the doomsday situation described above for which I will restate it here:

"This country and our allies has gone far toward accepting the doctrine that protecting civilians from casualties in war means the end of fighting to win. The choice is not between protecting civilians and winning. It is between protecting human life as much as possible while winning as quickly as possible. There is a danger that, if this country does not temper its most decent values with a little practical wisdom, it will convert its military rules of engagement into a suicide pact".

Have a good sleep.

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .