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"An Ill-Advised Temper Tantrum"


Somebody needs to coin a catchy name for an addendum to Goodwin’s Godwin’s Law, which holds that whenever anybody argues against a particular military action, some idiot will mention Neville Chamberlain, irrespective of how howlingly inapt the analology is. (In the meantime, I propose the “Fox News Democrat” law: All columns that begin with the phrase “As a liberal Democrat” are ipso facto bad.)

To state the obvious, invoking Chamberlain isn’t an argument; it remains true that in most circumstances offensive military action is a bad idea. Countries have the right to defend themselves, but what matters is whether the action is prudent. And in this case, it’s pretty clear that the answer is “no”:

Yep. This ‘accidental’ war (as The Economist recently put it) will end up having proved something of a disaster for all parties involved save, perhaps, Hezbollah. Israel will not have eradicated Hezbollah (a totally unrealistic war aim, regardless, Krauthammer and Co’s reckless imbecility aside), the United States has complicated its regional position immensely, and, as Cohen points out, the Cedar Revolution lies in ashes. Was the IDF action worth hundreds dead, thousands wounded, massive flows of internally displaced and refugees numbering in the hundreds of thousands, an environmental disaster unprecedented in Lebanon’s modern history, and the scuttling of Lebanon’s tenuous movements towards emergence from an oppressive Syrian yoke? All for, at the end of the day, a deal on Shaba Farms, the return of the two soldiers (probably in the context of a prisoner exchange anyway), French and other troops on the Lebanese-Israeli and Lebanese-Syrian borders (gee, wonder how porous that latter one will be?), and some (likely mostly chimerical) ‘disarming’ of Hezbollah?

Well no, of course not, this was more by way of an ill-advised temper tantrum than a serious military operation, as Arik Sharon would himself admit, if only he were aware of the disaster underway. Sharon would have recalled previous Lebanese quagmires and would have well understood (aided by the wisdom of years and the lack of any need to prove himself) that resort to airpower, in the main, cannot succeed in this context, with the specter of hundreds and hundreds of civilian deaths earning Israel international opprobrium in every world capital (save Washington), and that there is no real, sustained post-’82 appetite in Israel for a massive land incursion regardless, not least given the ultimate futility of same. No, Sharon would likely have chastised Ehud Olmert for his impestuous over-reaction, one so helpfully fanned on by myopic strategic blunderers and amateurs in Washington, both in policy and journalistic circles.

The idea that a few weeks of air strikes were going to crush Hezbollah when more than a decade of occupation didn’t do the job is self-evidently stupid, and given this Olmert’s actions are not just bad morally but bad strategically. It won’t make Israel more secure, and the great strengthening of illberal forces in Lebanon is bad for both countries. Nothing good comes from this.

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