Solving Israel’s proportionality problem Posted by: Jon Henke
on Wednesday, July 26, 2006
There's been substantial debate recently over the proper and proportional Israeli response to Hezballah's rocket attacks from within Lebanon. Reasonable people can disagree where that line should be drawn, though I think we can all agree that (a) Israel has a right to defend itself militarily, but (b) it's possible to respond in a disproportionate and inappropriate manner — e.g., nuclear, obviously. convential warfare cannot win the geopolitical propaganda war The problem for Israel is how to respond to assymetric warfare with their conventional military in a manner that renders assymetric warfare unproductive. This is very difficult, because — as the old saying goes — these groups win simply by not losing. As long as Hezbollah exists, they can claim some sort of victory, and that propaganda will carry a lot of weight in the Arab world. While Israel will certainly win the convential war, convential warfare cannot win the geopolitical propaganda war.
I've a modest proposition to get around that almost-certain propaganda campaign, though.
But first, a historical anecdote: in the 1970s, Henry Kissinger gave national security briefings to, inter alia, Ronald Reagan. In Diplomacy, he wrote of one of those briefings...
During the Middle East War of 1973, I told [Reagan] we would replace Israeli losses in aircraft but were uncertain how to limit the Arab reaction. "Why don't you say that you will replace all the aircrafts the Arabs claim they have shot down?" Reagan suggested — a proposal which would turn the wildly inflated Arab propaganda against its originators.
The modest proposition: Israel should tell their neighbors, "we'll keep fighting until you agree we've defeated Hezbollah."
Israel should tell Arab governments that the conflict with Hezbollah and intrusion into Lebanon will end when all concerned Arab governments officially and unequivocally state that Hezbollah has been defeated. Should Hezbollah strike again, or should an Arab government decide that Hezbollah is still engaged in a military struggle with Israel, then Israel will accept the judgement and restart the conflict. Israel should tell their neighbors, "we'll keep fighting until you agree we've defeated Hezbollah." Doing so would put the key to conflict resolution in the hands of Israel's enemies, making it very difficult for them to criticize Israeli engagement. Arab States would be forced to choose between dealing Hezbollah a propaganda defeat or acknowledging that Israel is legitimately engaged.
In the medium-term, of course, the optimal step for Israel is, as David Ignatius writes, "to build a strong Lebanese state; any lasting solution for this conflict will be political, not just military". In the short term, it might help to turn the Arab propaganda campaign against them.
I think Isreeyul could solve it’s problems by accepting the Right of Return and end it’s Apartheid State Oppression of the Palestinians, plus putting it’s Gays to death, putting its women in potato sacks, and ending education for women.
No Tom, that’s NOT a requirement... we all know that the Jooos aren’t going to be allowed into Heaven ’cuz they kilt Christ...and realistically their neighbors are Arab Muslims, not Baptists from Georgia.
Jon, the problem I see with this proposal is one of motivation.
- What motivation does Israel have to stop the offensive prior to neutralizing Hezbollah?
- What motivation does Iran or Syria have to bring about the end of this conflict?
- What motivation does Hezbollah have not to fire rockets at Haifa next month?
I think your proposal starts with the premise that the parties involved in this conflict want peace, when in reality they want victory. Neither side feels it can afford to deescalate first – or else it wouldn’t have escalated to this level in the first place. So long as there are non-state entities involved as major players, I don’t see how Reagan’s excellent reply to the 1973 situation can be made to fit the modern conflict.
The problem with Jon’s suggestion is that it is modeled after something that doesn’t make any sense... in what way did Reagan’s suggestion/quip solve Kissinger’s worry that the Arab countries would get mad at the US resupplying Israel? If Sadat was going to get pissed at the US sending Israel one replacement jet, he wasn’t going to go ballistic over the US sending Israel more than that?
As for the particulars of Jon’s suggestion, let me simply say it reminds me of the old saying: you can put a dress on a pig, call it your date, introduce it to your parents and take it dancing, but at the end of the night, you’re still sitting next to a pig (maybe I don’t quite have that right?)
What good does it do Israel if neighboring Arab countries were to pretend that Hezbollah was defeated? Is Hezbollah going to go away because they were ’officially’ declared dead? Are the Israelis who would be killed by Hezbollah rockets not really dead because the group firing those rockets had been, by all accounts, defeated? And what is to prevent the Arab countries to simply declare now that Hezbollah was defeated, thus putting the pressure on Israel to stop their attacks? And, in the future, when this defeated group launched more attacks against Israel, what would prevent the very same Arab countries from declaring again that Israel had defeated Hezbollah, thus putting pressure on Israel to end its attacks?
I applaud your desire to think outside the box... but sometimes the box has all the answers and one doesn’t need to go outside. Israel needs to combine continuing to (1) hammer Hezbollah so as to degrade Hezbollah’s ability to attack Israel, (2) establish a buffer zone in Southern Lebanon which would make it more difficult for Hezbollah to reach Israel, and (3) by putting pressure, militarily if necessary, on those who support Hezbollah, such as Syria, Iran and a good part of the Lebanese people, to end their support.
There’s nothing new there, no original thinking. Just a straightforward approach... and one that will work.... but ONLY if Israel has the b***s to see things through. If they do... which means ignoring the Kofi Annans and the Chiracs and not worrying about the collateral damage to the supposed civilian population and to Lebanon’s economy (see point #3, above), then they can have, while we’re talking about Kissinger, peace in their time.
I think your proposal starts with the premise that the parties involved in this conflict want peace, when in reality they want victory.
Precisely and as you’ve intimated, none of them have any motivation to stop right now. We have to remember that Hezbollah has declared that it isn’t fighting Israel to gain sanctions or land. It is fighting Israel with the goal of destroy it utterly. And Iran and Syria are willing to fight Israel to the last drop of Hezbollah blood.
I think the idea has merrit. Its kinda like the school bully who beat up the small kids and was idolized by his buddies until one day he loses a fight and is no longer cool simply because his friends declared him the loser. It doesn’t stop the bully from reengaging but if his friends are always declaring the little guy the victor then eventually he gets tired of losing face.
The only time terrorist actually win a battle is when people give up fighting them. By giving up you are accepting there ideology or at least their right to and implementation of their ideology regardless of who it hurts.
I know some would like to take my analogy and say that Israel is the bully but you don’t see Israel specifically targeting noncombatants. When Israel had tanks firing into Lebanon how many rockets were fired at the military positions? Few if any but more than a thousand were fired into the cities of Israel. So it’s impossible to say that Israel is the bully.
The whole phony debate over "proportionality" is a load of cr*p designed to put the onus of villany on the Joooos once again.
As the attacked party, the proper "proportion" is whatever they think is necessary to achieve their goals.
Since some of their goals are geopolitical and humanitarian, they’re not just using wholesale indiscriminate slaughter (despite what MKKK would have you think). Israel- and Israel alone- determines the proper weight of their response. Kofi, Jacques, the left, and the collective "arab street" can go scr*w themselves if they ever think differently.
As for your proposal, it is tragically flawed since it basically allows Hezbollah a free shot at Israel of their time and choosing. That said, you’re onto something I believe. It’s something that Secy. Rice is also trying- trying to get the local arab govts in the area to acknowledge Hezbollah as the problem, and for once admit that the solution is their defeat (either declared or actual)
Israel should tell their neighbors, "we’ll keep fighting until you agree we’ve defeated Hezbollah."
More seriously, if that were the be the formula, Israel’s Islamist inclined neighbors would say they’ve defeated Hezbollah right now. Israel packs up, and tomorrow the rockets start again.
"Israel should tell Arab governments that the conflict with Hezbollah and intrusion into Lebanon will end when all concerned Arab governments officially and unequivocally state that Hezbollah has been defeated. Should Hezbollah strike again, or should an Arab government decide that Hezbollah is still engaged in a military struggle with Israel, then Israel will accept the judgement and restart the conflict."
Unless this ropes the concerned Arab governments into policing Hezbollah—permitting Israel to consider an act of aggression by Hezbollah as one committed by all those Arab governemnts—then this buys Hezbollah time to rearm and reposition. It provides nothing to Israel.
I honestly can’t understand why you think this would be good strategy for Israel.
Israel should tell Arab governments that the conflict with Hezbollah and intrusion into Lebanon will end when all concerned Arab governments officially and unequivocally state that Hezbollah has been defeated.
Oooh, so close. Israel should tell Arab governments that the conflict with Hizballah will end when Hizballah accepts a conditional surrender that stupulates Hizballah will dismantle it’s armed wing. Israel can even provide a missile cruiser on which to hold a signing ceremony. Until then, Israel should continue to blow them to pieces.
I fully believe in sovereignty, so with that said I believe that Israel has the right to defend itself, but I also believe that Palestine has a right to defend itself as well, with sticks if it has to.
We are talking about two states that are fighting for their own survivial. I know that if Israel loses they’ll cease to exist, but If Israel wins, Palestine is just as much in danger of being wiped off the map.
Personally, when dealing with armed conflict talking about who has more of a "right" to exist, either historically or divinely is completely bogus and shouldn’t be factored into who is more justified in blowing up homes (either Israeli or Palestinian).
It’s for this reason, I lean my support over to the Palestinians. Israel, doesn’t believe that Palestine should have sovereignty to defend itself. It seems to me that Israel believes that Palestine should be grateful to Israel for allowing it to even exist. Israel honestly isn’t any better than its Arab neighbors that wish for its annihilation. If Israel could destroy Palestine today I believe it would.
Israel believes that Palestine and its Arab neighbors should just "get over it" and accept their existance. That is not a rational mindset, espeacially since Israel doesn’t have the artillary or the level of international support to force submission of this idea. If Israel wants to slug it out with Palestine, fine. But don’t make Palestine out to be the bad guys because its fighting for their own self-preservation. They have that right.
The rights of life, liberty and property (Locke) isn’t only extended to Israel, and they should recognize that. They aren’t exempt from fighting with intergrity just because they’re a people with a horrific past. No one should feel sorry for them now with their stable economy, shiny tanks, western investors, and established military. This is a mess they got themselves into, they are going to have to fight to keep what they took, no one is going to roll over and accept defeat, just because they’re Jews.
PS-Colonization isn’t only an American phenomenon, reservations aren’t only for Native Americans. Sorry if I don’t feel sorry for the colonists, who make and break treaties with the "new" red man.
This new "Berlin" wall, will not come down under the same joyous and friendly circumstances, I hope Israel still has friends in the White House when that day comes.