August 13, 2006
15 ways of looking at a ceasefire
With the Israeli and Lebanese governments officially approving the ceasefire (as of 8 AM local time tomorrow), and Hizbullah indicating that it will respect ("with reservations") its outlines, the question arises, "who won?" Let's ask the blogosphere.
Asad Abu Khalil thinks the resolution is terrible for Lebanon, focusing (1) on its blaming of Hizbullah for the conflict in the first place and (2) on its unequal language, calling on Hizbullah to cease "all attacks" while only asking Israel to cease "offensive military actions". Billmon, on the other hand, sees the difference between "all attacks" and "offensive actions" as "a meaningless distinction designed to avoid the appearance that Hizbullah and Israel are being placed on an equal footing," and sees the resolution as a thorough victory for Hizbullah, which gets everything it wants in exchange for some utterly unenforcable paper provisions on its redeployment and disarmament. In this he agrees with a widely blogged Jerusalem Post column by Caroline Glick, who seems to somehow think that a UN resolution that called for the execution of every single Hizbullah fighter as well as immediate nuclear war on Iran was somehow in the offing, but was given up by treacherous left-wing appeaser John Bolton. Hassan at From Beirut to the Beltway sees it as a diplomatic victory for Fouad Seniora and his government, which got almost everything it wanted in its seven point plan, although some of that plan has been put off until next month, while Steve Clemons at the Washington Note gives the victory to the French.
(UPDATE: Forgot to mention Jonathan Edelstein's read, which sees it as a classic "no victors, no vanquished" deal where everyone gets something that they can call a victory.)
As for me, I still think it's early yet to say, since the two sides have not, in fact, ceased to fire yet. It mostly depends on what exactly Hassan Nasrallah means when he says he reserves the right to attack Israeli soldiers on Lebanese territory, and on how broadly Israel interprets its right to launch non-offensive military actions.
That said, here's three possible scenarios for how things could develop, from most to least optimistic:
1 - Hizbullah and Israel both respect the ceasefire - most Israeli troops withdraw, leaving a token force in place to hand over to the UN troops scheduled to arrive in 10 days or so. In the meantime, aid & sundry manages to get through to various southern villages, and all is right in the world, at least until it becomes clear that Hizbullah has no intention of actually disarming, and Israel has no intention of leaving the Shebaa farms area at least until Hizbullah does disarm. Right now, this looks like the most likely scenario to me.
2 - Either (a) Israel decides that "defensive military operations" include busting & rooting out Hizbullah defensive positions near where its army is already positioned, or (b) Hizbullah decides that its dignity is so shattered by the continued presence of Israeli troops in southern Lebanon even for a week that it just has to keep attacking (but refrains from lobbing further rockets into northern Israel). With continued skirmishes between IDF and Hizbullah troops, the UN forces take one look and say, "call me when you guys are done." The result is a replay of the 1991-2000 period, with continued fighting in the south, but a return to near-normality in the rest of Lebanon and Israel, albeit with the continual possibility of explosions in either direction.
3 - As 2, except after a week of exchanges, Israel disowns 1701 entirely and returns to all-out war footing.
One positive element in this ceasefire is that, unlike the situation in the occupied territories, there are no freelancing micro-cells of militants. If Hizbullah decides to honor the ceasefire, it has the command structure and discipline to make sure that no local commanders decide to go off on their own.
Posted by tomscud at August 13, 2006 10:41 AM
Filed Under: Levant
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Tom, I would first say Asaad is an unrealistic whanking loon who represents the typical worst of Arab whanking on (but then he does represent the classic failed Arab secular Left who only manages to piss away any advantages they had in the past 40 yrs, so par for the course) and Billmon despite being a Left whanker, has it right.
As for the end games, I think you adequately sketched out the core options, but I don't see (2) holding, it would slide to (3) almost automatically.
In effect, a binary option, either (1) where the interest to pretend wins out, or (3), everything slides to hell after a pause (presuming Israel doesn't go directly for (3) without any pretences).
Posted by: The Lounsbury at August 13, 2006 12:58 PM
Israel has no intention of leaving the Shebaa farms area at least until Hizbullah does disarm
Israel's keeping Shebaa has nothing to do with Hizbullah. And HB disarming is even less of an incentive for Israel to leave the farms.
And I definitely don't see this resolution, if implemented as is, to be a victory for HB. I fail to see how deploying forces in southern Lebanon that would de facto constitute a shield for Israel's northern security and render HB ineffective is anything but an Israeli victory.
The deployment is a fiction. I don't see any multinational force engaging Hezbullah, and nor does it seem rational to think the Shia soldiers in the Lebanese army (or most ordinary soldiers regardless of denomination) fighting Hezbullah for Israeli interest.
Fictions, all polite fictions.
It rather looks like a fine resolution for Hezbullah. Get to claim with no small reality to have fought to the Israelis head to head with more success than most actual proper armies, and more UNIFEL fig leaves for their round 2 preps.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at August 13, 2006 03:09 PM
Shaheen - at the moment, there is no specific requirement in the resolution that Israel leave the Farms. I strongly suspect that they will refuse to do so, or will try to tie any withdrawal to a full disarmament of Hizbullah, or some such.
L - see this post on Pat Lang's web site. The HA people will agree not to wave their rocket launchers around (too much, for now) in the UN/southern zone.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at August 13, 2006 04:43 PM
Very useful recap.
Posted by: Chris at August 13, 2006 04:46 PM
wonder if this will grow into a stab in the back myth for the Israelis. The comments on Caroline Glick's artcle seem to suggest so, that the reason Israel 'lost' is because they held back, or had incompetent leaders. And not because stamping out a guerilla force that has massive local support is impossible, unless one uses genocidal means.
Posted by: Klaus at August 13, 2006 05:19 PM
Oh, but Mr. Scudder, are you not forgetting the perspective of the Ordinary Lebanese Non-Sectarian Woman With No Particular Scores To Settle?
I think you are, you leftie moonbat you. Fortunately, there is always CNN.
Posted by: alle at August 13, 2006 08:45 PM
I agree that the "all attacks" vs. "offensive military actions" isn't significant. It's either meaningless, or a pragmatic recognition that an IDF withdrawal is a large military operation with various possible complications requiring securing areas while retreating (lest Hizbollah find an irresistable opportunity for mischief), or maybe even simply a comment on Hizbollah's relatively loose militia organization compared to the IDF. After all, an "offensive military action" is an attack by another name.
It's a minor point in any case. There are obviously bigger problems, not related to the fine points in the wording of a ceasefire.
Posted by: zurn at August 13, 2006 10:58 PM
" that the reason Israel 'lost' is because they held back, or had incompetent leaders. And not because stamping out a guerilla force that has massive local support is impossible, unless one uses genocidal means."
These statements are not mutually exclusive.
It is exceptionally difficult to suppress a popular insurgency though not impossible. And Israel's entire campaign made little sense from a military standpoint ( while the IDF was engaging Hezbollah, it was not engaging in counterinsurgency warfare).
Posted by: mark safranski at August 14, 2006 01:05 AM
you obviously haven't read my blog post on the subject of that woman: "and you people thought that irshad, ayaan, and wafa were the only ones ...".
tsk, tsk, tsk.
Posted by: raf* at August 14, 2006 10:22 AM
UNSC Resolutions have an obscene ring about them in the context of Israel and the Middle East. As for how the resolution 1701 will turn out, I have no idea, even if I option 2 seems the most likely. Concerning the political fall-out, the geniuses in Jerusalem, Washington and London have managed - not that it was that difficult, given Nasrallah's impressive political acumen - to entrench Hezbollah as folk-heroes of the Arab world - here in Morocco, they might even get more votes than in the Bekaa valley. And the Saudi bastards (I refer here to the leadership) with their Egyptian and Jordanian minions really have an uphill struggle in fuelling a sunni-shia war of religion in the Middle East, except for Iraq.
The incompetence, dishonesty and stupidity of the Israeli-US duo is especially funny when considered against the backdrop of the orientalist/essentialist crap of "Arabs only understand force", "Arabs have a difficult relationship with reality and truth", etc...
Nasrallah must certainly prey that Olmert, Halutz, Bush and Cheney stay in charge as long as possible...
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at August 14, 2006 08:04 PM
Haven't bother looking for an English version of this article but this line really caught my eye:
Sayed Hasan Nasralá (...) añadió que Hezbolá comenzaría de inmediato a reparar las casas dañadas por los ataques israelíes y pagaría una renta durante un año y otros costes a los propietarios de las aproximadamente 15.000 viviendas destruidas.
Translation: Nasrallah said Hezbollah would immediately start repairing the houses damaged by Israeli attacks and it would pay a rent for a year as well as other costs to the owners of the 15000 homes destroyed.
- If you were looking for some real direct Iranian involvement, this one is probably your best bet. Yes, Lebanon is going to be much closer to Iran now than it was.
- Don't bite the hand that feed you. You can say all you want about Nasrallah and his buddies. But you have to grant them something: they understands politics better than probably anyone around in the region.
Posted by: Shaheen at August 14, 2006 10:58 PM
Eh, how hard is that, anyway? All it amounts to is, if you feel a little domestic pressure building up, attack Israel, so they attack you, and the whole reason for the domestic pressure suddenly up and disappears.
Not exactly brain surgery.
Posted by: pantom at August 14, 2006 11:21 PM
Not exactly brain surgery.
Definitely not pantom. But everything being relative, there has been so much moronic behavior around that I felt compelled to take notice of at least one political behavior that made sense.
One of the problems is that HB is getting its way too easily, politically, because especially the US and the Israelis insist on underestimating them.
Large portions of the public are totally convinced, along with media and politicians and military, that Hb simply a smallish group of criminal terrorists led by a maniac terrorist leader, which is a very unwise position to take given it's actually a very well organized and disciplined (para-)military group led by a very adroit politician - so, when Hizbollah makes steps like this, Israeli and Western politicians are apparently taken off guard because they've been prepping their own audiences to regard HB as a bunch of loonies.
Hizbullah may actually be responsible for much of the damage inflicted on Lebanon as a whole, but Israel's stupid overreaction and the passivity of the surrounding world will make them look like the only ones who really care about their people (unlike Nasrallah, Olmert definitely will not be strengthened by this conflict).
Maybe it's just a simple repetition of a very old lesson - never underestimate your enemy.
Posted by: Carsten Agger at August 15, 2006 04:13 PM
Carsten, I don't really see how one can say that Hezbollah are responsible for the carnage in Lebanon. Israel had a choice, and had previously reacted very differently when their soldiers were captured (witness the three soldiers captured in 2000). Seymour Hersh's article in The New Yorker seems to indicate that Israel had prepared this some time in advance, and the pretext was of no real import. Btw, you may remember that the pretext behind Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 was the failed assassination attempt against its ambassador in Britain.
It is a bit as though someone kidnapped my two daughters, and I reacted by destroying that person's neighborhood - no court would find that the kidnapper was responsible for that destruction.
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at August 16, 2006 11:56 AM
it is true that Israel's response was exaggerated, unjustified and criminal. HOWEVER, Hizbullah did nothing to alleviate Israel's actions by firing their Katushyas at Israeli targets - Israeli civilian targets, at that.
By attacking Israel as it has practically never been attacked before, Hizbullah created a strong case for the "self-defense" argument, especially within Israel - because a valid response to everybody alling for Israel to back out completely would be: "And how do we know Hizbullah will stop their Katushyas"?
And, after a ceasefire, how would they know they wouldn't do it again - what are all these missiles for, anyway?.
So, while Hizbullah cannot really be held responsible for the initial destruction in Lebanon , they can't really be absolved of any responsibility for the continuation of this destruction.
Posted by: Carsten Agger at August 16, 2006 01:38 PM
Carsten, I certainly agree that Hizbollah has a responsability in the ensuing war of agression against Lebanon. On the other hand, seeing the Israeli army's record in Palestine and Lebanon (pre-2000), I confess to having some sympathy for Hizbollah's view that Israel might as well taste some of its own medicine. It should furthermore be stressed that whereas Hizbollah violence killed mostly military personnel, Israeli violence killed overwhelmingly civilians.
As for Israel's sense of beleaguerment, it really doesn't need much to be heightened: a few teenage stone-throwers would probably do the trick, as in 1987, or Arab spouses wanting to rejoin their Israeli Arab spouse in Israel proper, or Lebanese fighters hitting back in kind (it is OK for Israel to bomb foreign Arab towns, but the reverse is viewed as an existential threat). It seems that anything except abject submission à la Moubarak or Abdallah II suffices to make Israel shiver - I wonder if it is not time for it to "pack and go" (see http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=750500), in spit of the unconditional US support it enjoys (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1843882,00.html )...
Interesting blog you have btw, even if my Danish needs some improving...
Posted by: Ibn Kafka at August 16, 2006 02:41 PM