July 26, 2006
Slowly, Slowly into the Morass We Return (Updated)
The agonising replay (is it farce this time or tragedy?) of 82 continues. The New York Times article Israel Finding a Difficult Foe in Hezbollah amply illustrates the idiocy that is this Guns of August replay.
It is hard to decide what is most depressing. The predictability of the slow, inching back into the morass only exited in 2000, the delusional commentary from America which seems to have utterly abandoned critical thought, or the certainty of nasty blow-back as time goes on in this utterly (except for Hizbullah) Pyrrhic battle.
From the NYT, unsurprising note:
A week ago, Israeli officials said their military had knocked out up to half of Hezbollah’s rocket launchers and suggested that another week or two would finish the job of incapacitating the Lebanese militia. That talk has largely stopped.
Hezbollah is still launching 100 rockets a day at Israel, nearly as many as it did at the start of the war. Soldiers return from forays into Lebanon saying the network of bunkers and tunnels is more sophisticated than expected. And Iranian-made long-range missiles apparently capable of hitting Tel Aviv remain in the Hezbollah arsenal.
“Two weeks after Israel set out to defeat Hezbollah, its military achievements are pretty limited,” lamented Yoel Marcus, a columnist and supporter of the war, in the daily Haaretz on Tuesday.
Such was the warning by everyone with a fair degree of knowledge about southern Lebanon, the 82-00 morass, and current dynamics that the boastful talk of the past two weeks was bound to be wrong.
The problem is not that IDF is not going to push back Hezbullah eventually, but rather that the unrealistic, indeed borderline delusional goals announced in the first two weeks have set up Hezbullah to win, regardless. IDF is not going to 'crush' them out of existence, they are going to continue to appear to punch above their weight, and Israel's continued and utterly foolish bombing of all of Lebanon in some utterly idiotic and misguided effort to turn the rest of Leb Land against Hezbullah (or in short, re-ignite civil war, such as Saad Hariri (hero of the 'Cedar Revolution' as the silly American blogophere whankers like to style it) comments had it earlier) will continue to be a PR disaster with fairly trivial impact on Hezbullah (relative to cost - rather tending to reinforce rather than weaken).
However, this is possibly the most depressing item:
At the Pentagon, senior military planners cast the conflict as a localized example of America’s broader campaign against global terrorism and said any faltering by Israel could harm the American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Continued action by Israel harms US interests (and its own) in the context it created for itself. This is quagmire with no proper exit, and worse IDF and US military are trapped in fundamentally myopic tactical thinking that will inevitably lead them deeper into the morass, slowly slowly - always just one inch more to secure just a bit more security.....
By the way, for those who said 82 would not be replayed, well there is this:
Yuval Steinitz, who heads the defense preparedness subcommittee of Parliament’s Foreign and Defense Committee, is critical of the current pace, arguing that the air war has not been sufficient. A ground war should have started sooner and should be prosecuted more energetically, he said, occupying southern Lebanon northward at least to the Litani River, some 15 miles from the border.
Why, that sounds familiar.
Wonder if any fundamentally stupid Maronites are around to play Indian Scout to the Israeli cowboys this time?
Meanwhile, with respect to US interests, this AFP arty also adds to my depression, Democrats assail Maliki [Iraq] for criticism of Israel, failure to denounce Hezbollah as I can think of few things more damaging to the US backed Iraqi leadership than being forced to publically kow-tow to idiotic, myopic domestic American political fellatio of Israeli Likoudnik thinking in the midst of this crisis.
Finally let me link to this blog post, AA Tale of Two Mayors, or Maybe Three by a retired military analyst and MENA specialist that rather nicely captures the content of the apparently inevitable incompetence of the US administration in its MENA and global foreign policy.
Returning, however, for a moment to undertake a bit of analysis provoked by an earlier post by the same author: More Tribalism that captures in its own way a blind spot on the Israeli side that is not generally analysed dispassionately (when mentioned it's usually in the form of Arab whinging on about "racism" on the part of Israel - a bit of pot calling kettle black, but that is the human condition.
In general, there is a certain disingenuous quality to the statements made by many Israelis to "outsiders" concerning their real attitudes toward the Arabs. Having been on the scene by chance a few times while the IDF "shot up" rock throwers with steel cored riot ammunition and then "ball" ammunition I can only say that indifference to maiming and severe injuries inflicted on the "natives" seems to be a "motif" of Israeli exercise of power in the "territories." On one occasion I heard an IDF officer in command of troops in the field tell a foreigner who had given first aid to a dying teen aged rioter, "you are lucky, we usually shoot people giving them first aid." He was an honest man. On the other side of the scales, I would have to say that I rarely meet Muslims who are in any real way resigned to the long term existence of Israel. They, also, are relentless in their refusal to accept the legitimacy of any sort of "rights" on the part of the "other."
I forget where, but I recall reading an article on 40s and 50s Israel that characterised Israeli attitudes towards Arabs as more or less similar to British attitudes towards black Africans. Having been in Israel and the Territories for business and the like, I can say that this rang true. Not that this makes Israelis evil; one can easily understand the genesis of the attitude (given European Jewish elite origins, sophistication relative to Palestinian and other Arab peasantry, etc; plus the unexamined imprint of Euro-racialist thinking....), its continuation.
However, I would suggest that in terms of Israeli dealings with neighbours and with the Occupied populations, the unconscious disregard for their capacities and a vague sense of contempt (again, not without basis, to be frank) leads to misestimation of the range of dealings they can have, and an a priori assumption - a la Imperial UK - they can reorder the primitives according to their own, superior fashion.
The Israeli prediliction for frankly Quislingish leaders as the only "real" counterparts rather falls into this area. It strikes me the bizarro-world conditions that Israel has set up re the Lebanese govenrment effectively expelling Hezbullah, etc. derives from this.
In the end it is futile and self-defeating, even if it is understandable at some level.
As this Roula Khalaf arty in FT, which requires further comment, suggests Hizbollah may be winning battle for hearts and minds, or in shorter form, perverse outcomes - rather the exact opposite of the results the Fabulists in Washington imagined. I also refer readers to Khalaf's In Beirut it almost feels like the 1980s all over again.
I should also perhaps note my personal comment that merges with this one, Despairing of sense: MENA and an increasingly unmoored America.
I note my references throughout the past two weeks to blank cheques and Austrians, etc. are all about Guns of August and the mechanics of mechanical escalation against all interests.
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You know I thought I was the only one to remember Tuchman's book "The Guns of August". Gaza/Lebanon shoot at Israel; Israel goes to war footing; invades both; Syria says we will defend Lebanon if it is invaded; then Libya says we will stand with Syria!!!!!! Ye Gods-1914 all over. The only thing that might end this war is the rate of ordnance/consumables is frightening-that might end it.
Glad I found your blog, nobody else had made this connection.
Posted by: Alan at July 26, 2006 11:54 AM