Thursday, August 24, 2006

I've been developing a slow ulcer over the recent Lebanon fiasco. Nevertheless, I haven't posted about it simply because I've been under-informed while on the road. Until a couple of days ago, my only source of information was European CNN, manned entirely by clueless Brits with weird accents and weirder first names (Fionnualla?). As a friend of mine from Moscow once pointed out, at least with Pravda, if you had the decoder you could figure out what was going on. CNN is simply an informationless channel.

Anyway, I was predisposed to a particular narrative and, now that I have the basic facts, I think I get it. Two separate wars were fought. The war that was fought by the soldiers on the ground was to free our prisoners and destroy Hizballah. The soldiers were motivated and, in many many cases, downright heroic. Unfortunately, the war they were fighting failed. Israel did not control the timing of the war: the timing of its start, its escalation and its ending were all determined by others. As a result, no orderly progression of intermediate objectives was ever established. In the end, we sued for a ceasefire having achieved none of our ultimate objectives: the prisoners were not freed, rocket fire on the North is merely on hold and the forces who will move in to South Lebanon will hamper us but not Hizballah.

The reason things played out this way is that Olmert et al were fighting an entirely different war than the people were -- they were fighting for European and American objectives, not (entirely) Israeli ones. In the European and American world views, there are two kinds of Arabs: those that are wedded to a dangerous and threatening Islamist ideology and those you can do business with. There are subtleties: the dividing line between the two groups is different for Europeans and Americans. Europeans (think: French) will do business with pretty much anybody while the Americans set the bar slightly higher -- Saudi Arabian monarchs, Egyptian dictators, Iraqi Shiites, Fatah and so forth are the good guys in this narrative but Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizballah are bad. The word "democracy" should not enter your conscousness here; even for the Americans the only question is whether there's anybody on the other end sane enough to talk to. For the Europeans and Americans, the purpose of this war was to strengthen the Lebanese government, who - from this point of view - are the good guys.

Let's not beat around the bush here. Olmert, Livni, Halutz et al all got where they are by ass-licking and horse-trading. Sharon's stroke simply cut out the middle man. From the beginning their objective was simply to do the American's bidding and empower the Lebanese government. In short, for them this war was not even diplomacy by other means -- it was diplomacy, period. They were afraid that executing the war properly, actually fighting to win, could weaken the Lebanese government or diminish the chances that it would quickly replace us in the South. The early reliance on air strikes against infrastructure (an American tactic), the delay in sending in massive ground troops, the subordination of the timing of attacks to diplomatic maneuvers were all consequences of a definition of victory that is unsuited to the proper execution of a war.

In the end, even the American objective of weakening Iran in Lebanon was not achieved. Honestly, I don't now how much this matters. The next round was inevitable regardless of the outcome in this round and in that round Iran and the U.S. won't be able to continue hiding behind proxies.

As for politics, it is very hard to convince MKs to bring down a government if their chances of personally getting re-elected are slim -- and the nobodies in Kadima are almost all in that category. The likeliest short-term outcome is that Olmert will try to strengthen himself by bringing some right-wing parties into his coalition. (They should stay out and let him disintegrate but I doubt they will.) The long-term consequences will be far greater. This war has made all the more obvious how wide is the yawning gap between the patriots who fight for their country and the craven, cynical opportunists who run it. But that's fodder for future posts.

10 Comments:

Blogger MoChassid said...

Ben

You've lost me. Why do you think th eresult in the war in anything more sinister than gross incompetence by Olmert, Peretz, Halutz and Livni, et al.?

Are you suggesting that Olmert acted in anticipation of what the US wanted or was directed by the US? It's hard to see either.

It seemed clear to those of us on the sidelines that Bush gave the US almost a month to wipe out Hezbolah and only got cold feet when Israel botched it up.

I'm confused.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

MoC,


I agree that Olmert et al were grossly incompetent but was trying to explain exactly where they screwed up. This war was launched in cooperation with the U.S. and its objectives were to weaken Hizballah enough to permit the Lebanese government to move into Southern Lebanon. This isn't a bad thing but it's too half-assed a goal to permit a real victory. Competent leaders would have fought the war as if the objective was to utterly destroy Hizballah and worry about diplomacy later. But Olmert blinked on a few occasions because he had his eye on the wrong prize all along.

4:42 PM  
Anonymous sophia said...

Actually it strikes me that Ben Chorin is saying that the mis-management of this war was gross incompetetence in that the war didn't achieve the objectives of strengthening the Leb. gov't.

However, what BC is saying that this goal was not Israel's goal, it was America's. So you had a political leadership class whose job was ostensibly to win a war for Israel (using Israeli bodies), but in reality they were fighting Condi's & Dick's war.

Am I getting your drift? Because I think you are on to something`very big. If true.

2:36 AM  
Anonymous zalman said...

Could we have “won” this war (in accordance with your meaning) with responsible leadership, notwithstanding our lack of readiness?

We were apparently unprepared for this war. And we have lousy leadership. As my neighbor Benzi pointed out to me, under those circumstances, better a lousy ceasefire than to continue to put our soldiers at risk.

2:08 PM  
Anonymous Ben-David said...

I don't think this had anything to do with America - in fact, during those first 2 weeks it looked like the Bush administration was doing all it could to justify a strong Israeli response, and to delay the imposition of a ceasefire.

The shortcoming here was in the "conceptzia" of the Israeli leaders - the perspectives, expectations, and commitment of Olmie, Peretz, and Chalutz. They didn't prosecute "the right war" because they were/are caught in the unreal perspectives that allowed them to carry out previous unilateral withdrawals.

11:22 PM  
Blogger MoChassid said...

Ben

I hear what you're saying; I just don't agree that Olmert et al was doing Bush's bidding. I don't see any evidence of that.

5:48 AM  
Blogger bar_kochba132 said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Ben. The "Israeli" leadership has been bought out lock, stock and barrel by the Americans and Europeans. The only thing the "Israeli" leadership cares about is pleasing their foreign masters. The "Israeli" leadership couldn't care less what either the Arabs or the Israeli population thinks. That is why they carried out act that strengthened Hizbullah and HAMAS and the other extreme Islamic groups by running away from Lebanon in 2000 and Gush Katif last year. The idea that this will damage Israel by encouraging the most extreme Arab elements simply doesn't interest them. As far as they are concerned, if it brings a war that is not really of concern to them. Bush promised the Saudis a Palestinian state and the Sharon/Olmert team planned to give it to them REGARDLESS OF THE DAMAGE IT DID TO ISRAEL. Similarly, Olmert can make a deceitful ringing declaration about how he will never capitulate or give in, blah, blah because Israeli leaders lie all the time to the public (e.g. Sharon's 2003 election promise NOT to destroy Gush Katif) and they are MORE popular for their deceit ("see how crafty they are!").
BOTTOM LINE...there is no longer a "Jewish government" in the so-called "State of Israel"..there are people of Jewish ancestry running the country for foreigners
who are paying them for their services. Just like in the time of the Hellenists. TIME TO CHANGE THE DISKETTE IN OUR MINDS..WE ARE LIVING UNDER FOREIGN RULE AND THERE IS NO LONGER AN INDEPENDENT 'JEWISH' STATE.
Yes, the "Jewish" puppets running things do have some lee-way and yes, they do have to occassionally
take Israeli public opinion into account but this does not change the basic situation.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Americans have been reported to have been expecting a much stronger effort and were pretty angry with the Israelis for not being more aggressive. You have this totally wrong.

6:17 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

The Americans were not angry that Israel was not more aggressive. They were angry that Israel was not more successful.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They were not expecting Israel to pursue the half-asssed strategy they pursued. They didn't expect this policy to be successful, but the Israelis kept assuring them that the ground war would begin and Israel would do more.

2:31 AM  

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