Defining the enemy Posted by: McQ
on Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Richard Cohen reviews the Israeli/Hezbollah fight in a column today. Much of what he says really doesn't resonate with me. He seems to be taking the opportunity to talk about that fight as a way to take shots at the Bush administration which seem to be a stretch at best, especially given his final few paragraphs.
This zealotry, this ideology, this religious fervor is not something we in the West — and that includes Israel — know how to deal with. The sheer scale and number of suicide bombings in Iraq was once considered inconceivable. Iraq, after all, was extolled as one of the more secular Arab states, which was among the reasons why some otherwise sane people predicted an easy U.S. victory followed by the national singing of "God Bless America."
This seemingly abrupt shift to the ideological, to the religious, is the most noteworthy and ominous development of recent times. The fight is no longer over territory — the West Bank, Gaza — but over the very existence of Israel. The people who seem to hate Israel most, who will kill to kill it and die for it to die, are not reclaiming ancestral land — no Iranian pines for his lost orange grove near Jaffa — but instead cannot abide the very idea of Israel.
Democracies are in a fix. If your enemy will gladly die for his cause while you wouldn't think of dying for yours (not that you even know what it is: freedom? liberty?) then clearly the fight is not to the swift but to the suicidal. The obvious short-term remedy is cold, lethal technology. But the reliance on high-tech stuff has not subdued Iraq, and it utterly failed in Lebanon as well. These are the realities of the new warfare, and if they are the "birth pangs of the new Middle East," then what is being produced is not some cute, babbling democracies but a hideous monster.
Just wait until he reaches for a nuclear weapon.
I'd quibble a little here ... the fight has never been about territory, not since 1948. It has always been about Israel's existence, never anything else. What has changed are tactics and techniques which are largely immune to the past solution of military might. Additionally what has changed is who is fighting the fight. Unlike Brian Williams, Cohen understands the difference between their fighters and ours. As one of our generals once remarked, and I'm paraphrasing, there is nothing more crude but effective than a suicide bomber. He's the terrorist's answer to a cruise missile. And they're almost impossible to stop.
But the biggest difference between the past Israeli conflicts and this present one is who is has taken up the gauntlet and how they've prepared themselves to fight. Face it, well trained fanatics willing to die for their cause are much more effective than reluctant conscripts in conventional armies.
That doesn't mean the fanatics will win in a toe-to-toe battle as I'm confident the fight in Lebanon will eventually show. But it does point to a different and more difficult fight in which the tactics and techniques of the past are much less effective in protecting Israel or the West.
The fact that Hezbollah wasn't very effective with its campaign of rocket attacks into Israel doesn't change the fact that they were successful in launching them in the first place. Also evident was their total disdain for the civilians in the area, to the point of using them as a method of force protection.
The question is will we understand the lessons from this fight? Will Israel?
This isn't a fight that can be addressed only militarily anymore. The Muslim states of the Middle East now understand that they can fight this war against Israel through their proxie armies of fanatics and have some success conventionally. But because they can't mount a significant enough threat through these proxies conventionally to actually ever hope of destroying Israel, that means they must consider the next step if they ever want to attain that goal.
And that next step is found in Richard Cohen's last line. So while we see, in the body of Cohen's column, a bit of moralizing about "preemptive" and "optional" wars, the one thing that no one seems willing to admit is weapons of mass destruction and the emergence of fanatics willing to die for their cause have forever changed the status quo in the Middle East and around the world.
While it may be popular to look askance at preemption and denigrate efforts to ensure WMDs don't fall in the wrong hands as "optional" it is becoming more and more clear that the changing enemy is leaving us little in the way of options to keep such weapons out of their hands.
Because, you see, any rational person thinking this through to the end understands that if they get them they'll use them and pretending otherwise will eventually be fatal to masses of individuals or particular nations. Suddenly "preemptive" and "optional" aren't such bad things.
The reason that the jihadis, and increasingly the secular tyrants in the Arab world, have turned to proxy warfare is that direct warfare didn’t work for them; they kept being defeated. And the reason that the proxy warriors have turned to terrorism is because it does work for them, at least to the perverse extent of allowing them to claim the moral high ground any time an Israeli or American response ends up with civilians (at least allegedly civilians) among the dead. The mixing with civilians slows and weakens Western responses; it is a tactic designed to fit the various cultural preferences we have, such as not wanting to wantonly kill and destroy.
I think that it is critically important, though, to understand something about the recently-concluded (?) war in Lebanon: Hizb’allah was not using terrorist tactics. Their initial attack was against a military target. The vast majority of their fighting on the ground was against military targets. And while the rockets Hizb’allah fired were aimed roughly at the Israeli civilian population, this was not an attempt to terrorize the population, per se. Rather, it was an attempt to break the population’s will to fight during a conventional war, which is no more terrorism when Hizb’allah does it than when the US and the British did it in WWII.
But there is a way to fight against this, and Israel and the US are in the position to do it, if we only find the political will. Israel should have bombed not Lebanon, but Syria. The US, confronted with Iranian-backed terrorism in Iraq, should attack Iran. (Not necessarily a full invasion, but destroy the terror training camps there, for example.) In other words, if you want to defeat the fanatics, you don’t fight the fanatics, but their logistical systems, funding, arms suppliers and so on. Syria and Iran don’t want a stand-up fight, yet, because they will lose, so they use proxies. If they are made very firmly and clearly to see that using proxies will lead to a stand-up fight every time, they will have to back off and rethink.
Meanwhile, I bet Egypt is silently kicking itself for not having thought of the idea before they signed the peace treaty in 1979.
"...the fight has never been about territory, not since 1948."
Try to imagine, Bruce, how things would be if "Israel" had been established in Hawaii.
Of course, that wouldn’t have been "Israel".
Every time I point out that this thing is, at root, a religious dispute, I get some frantic dolt comes running along to holler that the "Zionist" state is not a religious matter. Just this morning on MSNBC, some Jewish spokesman or other was asked to comment on the Iranian cartoon contest (the call to lampoon the Holocaust), and he rightly pointed out that, as a response to the Danish cartoon flap, the Holocaust-fest is way off-point (seeing as how the Danish thing came from a Christian nation: the Holocaust cartoons are strictly non-sequitur). However, it wasn’t sixty seconds before he was haranguing about how Islam ignores "three thousand years of history" (one direct quote that I can recall) and God’s gift of Israel and all the rest of it. This happens all the time.
It is about "territory". It’s about these two religions trying to live at the same spot because of its theological importance. "Israel’s existence" is important to Islam because of the fact of "territory". If the Jews could see their way to living it up on a beach instead of "Israel" none of this would be a problem. But they don’t, so here we are. Israel claims the "territory" simply because the territory is "Israel". It does no good to dance around this.
If your enemy will gladly die for his cause while you wouldn’t think of dying for yours (not that you even know what it is: freedom? liberty?) then clearly the fight is not to the swift but to the suicidal.
No it isn’t. As is so often the case in the West history began when "I" was born. Does Cohen forget the struggle against the Japanese from 1941-45? The Japanese had the EXACT same view of the US as the Islamists, we’re not "Serious" and in a struggle between their willingness to DIE for their cause and our UNWILLINGNESS, THEY have the advantage. News flash Richard and Nasrallah... the Japanese willing died in the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS, and they LOST. Being determined to die is not a sign of strength nor one of the keys to Victory...Something Jon might have learned in a realted set of postings.
"I still say Jerusalem ought to be made into an International city with no nation or religion laying sole claim to it."
This was exactly the UN proscribed solution embodied in 197. Israel accepted. Jordan attacked and took control over E. Jeruselem and ALL of the Holy sites. Dozens of synegogues were destroyed. The thousand year old Jewish Mt. Olives cemetary was desecrated and the headstones used to pave Jordaniaan roads. The Wailing Wall was turned into a public latrine.
One of the first things Moise Dyan did upon taking the Temple Mount from Jordan in ’67 was to allow the Muslim Wakf ( keepers of the Dome of the Rock Mosque) to retain their role and the sanctity of their house of worship.
So much for a secular approach to sharing the city.
This isn’t a fight that can be addressed only militarily anymore.
On that I agree. But what follows appears to directly contradict it:
While it may be popular to look askance at preemption and denigrate efforts to ensure WMDs don’t fall in the wrong hands as "optional" it is becoming more and more clear that the changing enemy is leaving us little in the way of options to keep such weapons out of their hands.
Because, you see, any rational person thinking this through to the end understands that if they get them they’ll use them and pretending otherwise will eventually be fatal to masses of individuals or particular nations. Suddenly "preemptive" and "optional" aren’t such bad things.
Is that not a prescription for even more military action?
As for "optional" and "preemptive" military actions, I remain exceedingly skeptical and am even moreso post-Iraq. We are already at war with AQ so there would be nothing "optional" or "preemptive" in attacking them whereever we find them. But the idea of the U.S. launching "optional" or "preemptive" military attacks against other Muslim nations or groups sounds like a recipe for even more disaster. Of course, each situation must be judged on its own merits, but if we have learned nothing else from Iraq I hope the lesson has been burned into our brains that unilateral American military might will not solve the probelm of Islamofacism.
Is that not a prescription for even more military action?
If we agree that the war on Islamofascism takes place in many spheres, to include the military (civil, legal, financial, intelligence, etc), then it stands to reason that we may have to be preemptive in those spheres as well, and, since preemption usually means acting before something happens, actions in those spheres might be considered optional as well.
Legal and military activities are going to be the most visible ... but I’m talking about all of them.
Because, you see, any rational person thinking this through to the end understands that if they get them they’ll use them and pretending otherwise will eventually be fatal to masses of individuals or particular nations.
I think i’m pretty rational and can come up with 3 possible scenarios for this statement.
1. Iran launches a nuclear attack on Israel and destroy the country including there precious rock of the dome or what ever its called. U.S. launches counter strike on Iran then Russia launches a strike on the U.S. then the U.S. shoots at Russia and we end with the whole nuclear holocaust scenario.
2. Iran request that Russia launch a preemptive strike on the U.S. in an attempt to prevent retaliation while they launch there attack on Israel. Then U.S. subs launch the attack on Russia and Iran and you are back to the nuclear holocaust thing.
3. A proxy organization such as the hesbos "steal" an Iranian nuclear missle and launch it at Israel allowing it’s sponsor to distance itself from the attack in hopes that the U.S. will be unwilling to attack since they can’t prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Iran was behind the attack.
Scenarios 1 and 2 don’t really seem to give them anything since they would be destroyed along with israel.
Scenario 3 may result in them getting bombed anyway and it may not even complete there objective (A lot of people would definitly be killed). Then there is still the secondary objective of the destroying the U.S. which didn’t get completed.
So assuming the Islamofascist remain as irrational as they seem to be then rationally either scenario is possible.
How does this op-ed jibe w/ the one from a few weeks ago, where Cohen said that Israel was a "mistake"?
It would seem to me that the combination of "They are willing to die to get at Israel" and "Israel is a mistake" leads one to the conclusion that the evacuation of the Jewish population from what is now the state of Israel is the "correct," or at least "logical" solution, at least for Richard Cohen?
Somehow, that would seem to fit Cohen and a number of other Left/liberal observers—-declare the Israeli experiment failed, leave the region (and wash our hands of any Israelis who choose not to leave), and hope that the region is then satisfied.
I suppose that if one were to couple this with a crash program of energy redirection so that oil was less important, then nobody would care about what the locals did to and with themselves.
Of course, if they decided they wanted Spain? Or Vienna? Or India? and were willing to reach for nuclear weapons?
there is nothing more crude but effective than a suicide bomber. He’s the terrorist’s answer to a cruise missile. And they’re almost impossible to stop.
Disengage and put up a wall.
I hope the lesson has been burned into our brains that unilateral American military might will not solve the probelm of Islamofacism.
Diplomacy, engagement, alliance, assistance, sanctions, the UN, internationalism, multilateralism and bipartisan approaches have all been tried at one point or another. The "problem of Islamofacism" has resisted them all. The only thing that came close to working was the dictatorship of the Shah that worked right up until American military backing was withdrawn by Carter. Three choices: continue to fail, try something else - brute military force has never been used in confrontation with Iran or Saudi Arabia - or redefine Islamofacism as not a problem.
Three choices: continue to fail, try something else - brute military force has never been used in confrontation with Iran or Saudi Arabia - or redefine Islamofacism as not a problem.
I’m for the brute force tactic. I’ll notify the pentagon of our new plan you pull the plug on the news agencies and the ACLU and after it’s done we can establish the Exxon-Mobile, BP Amoco, and Connoco Phillips territories.
As is typical for a pundit, Rich Cohen mixes the occasional insight with the occasional load of breathless alarmism.
His good insight is that Israel’s ability to dominate the ME militarily is on the wane. It’s nothing new - said ability has been on the wane since 1967. Hizballah is just as fanatic and/or high in morale/motivation as it was when it formed under Israeli occupation of Lebanon in 1985. What has changed is that Hizballah is better armed. Repeat: Israel’s ability to dominate the ME militarily is on the wane. Read in combination with Richard Cohen’s last three paragraphs, that sounds pretty scary, but it’s not really a big deal. "Not dominate" does not equal "get pushed into the sea". Rich’s last three paragraphs are emotional manipulation - wave-the-big-scary-thing over logical analysis.
Because, you see, any rational person thinking this through to the end understands that if they get them they’ll use them
I’m thinking. More to the point, I’m carefully analyzing past behavior and goals, beyond the level of swallowing every belligerent load of hot air by Ahmedidjad hook, line, and sinker, and I don’t come to the same conclusion.
If Hizballah is filled with such undeterrable maniacs, than how did this cease-fire thing happen?
Are they our enemies? Yes. Have they shown any desire to commit an organization-wide kamikaze act? Not at all. Mac’s flatly unrealistic Russia scenarios aside, using nuclear weapons amounts to organizational suicide for them and not for the US.
Number of terrorist attacks committed against Western civilians in the past 10 years by anonymous Sunni terrorist groups that neither speak for well-defined population groups nor own states: >20, best guess
Number of Shiite terrorist attacks committed against Western civilians in the past 10 years: ~0 (I don’t rule out the possibility of someone coming up with an exception
....anyone willing to consider this fact and incorporate it into their understanding of what is to be done?