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The Israel-Hezbollah War and the Demand for Israel’s Defeat

Sunday, July 30, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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The tragedy of the deaths of children and adult civilians should not obscure that every day the Hezbollah terrorists send barrages of rockets into Israel, each one of which is intended to kill civilians and in far greater numbers than died in Qana. The incompetence of Hezbollah’s munition makers is somehow obscuring the scale of its terrorism.  If the 9/11 attacks had only killed 300, would the U.S. not have invaded Afghanistan and later Iraq?  Hezbollah has tried for three weeks to inflict a 9/11 on Israel, but Israel is being damned because its defensive measures have led to civilians held hostage by terrorists. This is an insane inversion of the laws of war and customary international law as well as of common sense. Hezbollah began this war and is responsible for the deaths of everyone on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border.

Each day of the war Israel struggles to minimize harm to civilians. Each day Hezbollah tries to kill them and uses Lebanese civilians as hostages.

Yet Hezbollah’s tactics are condemned in passing by Kofi Annan, and only Israel’s mistakes summon the Security Council to its labors, which is why Kofi Annan is a joke, a cartoon of an international leader.  Annan and the UN are legitimizing a terrorist organization and its tactics.  They are demanding, in essence, that Israel accept a defeat.

While the world should be horrified that this war has claimed many more innocents, its diplomats and representatives ought to have been denouncing in a single voice the invasion of Israeli territory by Hezbollah and the murder and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and the use of terror tactics against civilian populations as well as the use of civilian populations by Hezbollah as shields

The West must not acquiesce in the elevation of Hezbollah to the status of state actor, in the non-condemnation of its tactics, or in anything remotely like a return to the status quo which would allow Hezbollah to resupply and deepen its hold on south Lebanon.

Yoni is worried that the 48 hour pause in bombing is the beginning of the end of the Israeli attempt to destroy Hezbollah.  He also worries that The U.S. has delivered the message that the war must end.

I think he is wrong on both counts, and we will know in a relatively short period of time. The two day pause seems to me to be yet another attempt by Israel to save the civilian population that Hezbollah is so callously using.

Breaking off the war at this moment or anytime before Hezbollah is crippled beyond repair would be as though the U.S. had suddenly withdrawn from Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul but before the capture of Khandahar and the flight of the Taliban and al Qaeda into the wilds. (Civilian deaths in the Afghanistan campaign were at least 1,000.) The defeat of Israel in such a fashion would have consequences to the global war on terror almost too terrible to imagine. Hezbollah would become Lebanon. And it would do so under the protection of the UN.

The crucial distinction between Israel’s strikes and Hezbollah’s attacks:

Customary international law also prohibits the use of indiscriminate weapons. An indiscriminate weapon is one that cannot be directed at a legitimate military objective. The V-2 rockets used by Germany in World War II were indiscriminate weapons, in that they could not be directed at any target smaller than an entire city. After the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. Department of Defense reported to Congress that the SCUD missiles used by Iraq (which were not very much more accurate than the V-2) were indiscriminate, and that their use constituted a war crime. Similarly, the balloons carrying incendiary bombs, which the Japanese launched into the jet stream toward the United States in 1945, were indiscriminate weapons. The Japanese government hoped they would cause forest fires in the western United States, but the balloons could not be controlled enough to fulfill even this function.

A weapon is not indiscriminate merely because it is highly destructive. Nuclear weapons, for example, are not indiscriminate in this legal sense. They can be effectively directed against, and destroy, military objectives. The legal issues raised by nuclear weapons are whether they will cause civilian casualties and environmental damage disproportionate to the value of the military targets they destroy.

Whatever works is repeated.  Condemning Israel for the deaths of civilians living near terrorist missile launchers will only result in the placement of more terrorist missile launchers near civilians. If the world wants to end this war, the UN should join Israel is demanding the international community organize a fighting force to take over from Israel the necessary work of removing Hezbollah as a threat to the civilians on both sides of the border and should rush sanctions on Iran and Syria for their supply of indiscriminate weapons to non-state actors.

The longer the world delays in recognizing that terrorists and their state sponsors are leading us all to conflagrations on a scale far beyond 9/11, the greater the likelihood that we will awake not to the awful news of dozens of dead children but the news of hundreds of thousands of dead, or millions.

Look at the deaths of civilians in World War 2. No matter how you count, more than 30 million civilians died in that conflict. These deaths happened because Hitler and Imperial Japan were not stopped when the costs of doing so would have been far lower than they eventually became.

If someone can point me to a plausible projection of how allowing Hezbollah/Syria/Iran to win in Lebanon leads to a result other than far worse wars with far greater casualties, please post a link in the comments section. At least Hitler pretended from time to time to be satisfied before he launched another attack. The “leaders” of today have no such fig leaf. President Bush has shown zero inclination to switch to an appeasement policy. Nor do I believe a majority of Americans will vote for appeasement Democrats.

As appeasement reached its inevitable and disastrous conclusions in Europe in the late ’30s, some its proponents recognized their folly and turned on it, most notably Anthony Eden, who resigned as Foreign Secretary in February of 1938. “Is the new policy to come to terms with the totalitarians Powers in the hope that by great and far-reaching acts of submission,” Churchill asked the still adamant-for-appeasement government in Parliament days after Eden’s action, “not merely by sentiments and pride, but in material Factors, peace may be preserved?”  He added:

I predict that the day will come when at some point or other, on some issue or other, you will have to make a stand, and I pray God that when that day comes we may not find that through an unwise policy we are left to make that stand alone.

Acquiescence in Hezbollah’s terror tactics and condemnation of Israel’s self-defense will hasten a day of widespread warfare and civilian casualties on a vast scale. Israel is an ally, and is fighting a just war and deserves support, not condemnation.

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