Thursday, July 13, 2006

Setting Realistic Goals

In the past 24 hours, I have heard a number of commentators refer to the need for a new "strategic framework." This has meant, among other things, holding the state of Lebanon responsible for the actions of Hizbullah, an organization which has ministers in the cabinet and controls the south of the country. The bombing of non-Hizbullah targets in Lebanon is supposed to exert pressure on the Lebanese to finally implement UN Security Council Resolution 1559 and disarm the terrorist organization. Unfortunately, I am not sure this is a realistic goal.

I think it is fair, at this point, to call Lebanon a failed state. Is it really possible for Lebanon to disarm Hizbullah? Perhaps the military force exists to do this, but the problem is political. It seems very unlikely that such an operation could take place under the current political constellation. Thus, I don't think it's realistic to see the de-militarization of Hizbullah as an operational goal. However, we should not forget that not too long ago a much more formidable political and military force operated in Lebanon - the Syrian army, and its intelligence network. Unless I am badly misinformed, it was widespread popular opposition to the Syrian presence, which erupted in mass demonstrations after the assassination of Hariri, combined with international pressure, which ultimately forced the Syrians out. It seems highly doubtful to me, however, that Israeli air strikes will convince the majority of Lebanese to kick Hizbullah out. The Shia and the Palestinians feel as triumphant as ever and are rejoicing at Nasrallah's latest coup. The remaining groups are either too fanatical in their hatred of Israel or too divided to act against the terrorist group, despite all the suffering it has brought upon their country. Nevertheless, I don't think Israel has a choice - the current strikes against Hizbullah and Lebanese targets must continue if Israel wants to protect its citizens. However, the goal of the current operation should be clarified and the bar should not be set too high. The IDF should focus on removing Hizbullah from the border. Israel has waited far too long since its withdrawal from Lebanon to do this. And if forcing the Lebanese government to disarm Hizbullah is an unrealistic goal, it is perhaps slightly more realistic to push back Hizbullah so that its rockets are (at least for now) unable to strike Israeli targets. Once this is accomplished, the Lebanese government must be made responsible for preventing Hizbullah from assuming its previous positions. This is an achievable goal - politically and militarily - even if it does not accomplish the complete disarmament stipulated by the UN resolution. I think that the Lebanese people grasp far better than the Palestinians that their real interests do not lie in supporting terrorist acts against Israeli civilians.


Noah Kaye said...

Is it realistic to expect a third front to open up? What would it take? Just "taunts," as one of Haaretz's commentators put it? claims that the Iranian national security advisor (and chief nuclear negotiator incidentally) has posted up in Damascus.

It sounds like there are just so many voices of analysis in Israel right now; it must be bewildering...Are people weighing the humanitarian/collateral damage costs of doing most of this cleaning up from the air vs. the risk of putting ground troops in a combat zone?

I think that something that this has to underscore for casual observers of the Middle East is that Hezbollah really is a different animal altogether than Hamas. Though perhaps George Clooney made that clear in Syriana...

Noah Kaye said...

I'm not sure if this is the guy John was talking about before, the ex-pat opinion editor for the Daily Star in Beirut, Michael Young, but he's doing a live chat on right now (9:51 PST) that's worth checking out.

Amos said...

Yes, as always, the IDF, contrary to popular opinion, is weighing the humanitarian costs of doing this from the air. I don't think a ground operation is out of the question, but it was certainly not an option in the first few days (except for a few special forces inserted behind enemy lines). Anyway, I find, frankly speaking, perverse for someone like the Russian FM to call the response "disproportionate," given what the Russians did to Grozhny. Although Israel has attacked civilian infrastructure in Lebanon, it has been fairly selective until now. Power plants, for example, have not yet been targeted. Most of the targets are strategic - bridges, roads, airports, and of course Hizubllah bases and missile silos (a number of which have been successfully destroyed).

Israel has no choice but to make it clear to the Lebanese that it will not tolerate missile attacks on its cities from Lebanon's territory.

How long do you think it will take until they are able to hit Tel Aviv? I think 1 year is a long estimate.