An Israeli general was interviewed last week several times, saying that it was wrong to view the situation with Hizballah (bad), Israel (half-bad) and Lebanon (victims). I agree with that. At the beginning of the war I saw Lebanon as a country which was taken hostage by a terrorist group. Since then I have realized that it is a willing victim. Hizballah ministers are sitting in the cabinet. The Lebanese leaders show support for Hizballah and openly call them the "liberators" of Lebanon.
Somebody recently asked me how I would have ran the war. The question came in response to my statement that Olmert is extremely stupid. Well, the question gave me pause for thought. How would I have run the war?
For one, I would not have started it. Certainly not without having a very clear idea of my goals. By Olmert it seems that the war dictated his goals. He started off with 'we'll get the abducted soldiers back' to 'we'll crush Hizballah' and 'we'll make sure no rockets threaten Israel' to 'we've shown Hizballah that we mean business' and 'we can never fully protect Israel from the threat of rockets'.
Second, I would not have stated my goals and then gone halfway. If Olmert wants to crush Hizballah, then one of his terms from Lebanon should have been to declare Hizballah an illegal terrorist party and to arrest all its members. That should have been a basic term of any agreement with Lebanon. As long as makes the diffrentiation between Hizballah in the Lebanese leadership and Hizballah as a fighting force, he will not succeed. Let's say he would have killed Nasrallah and wiped out the Hizballah bunkers and weapons. The next day, Hizballah would still be in the cabinet, making decisions for Lebanon.
In one of his speeches, Olmert compared Gaza and Lebanon. I originally thought he was skirting a very important issue regarding Gaza. In Gaza, Hamas are the gov't. He cannot fight Hamas and at the same time try to have good relations with the "Palestinian Authority", since that authority is Hamas. However, I thought that in Lebanon it was different. That it is possible to fight Hizballah and yet have talks with the Lebanese gov't. In fact, I was seeing things from the wrong perspective. Olmert was treating Gaza and Lebanon similarly and in both cases he was skirting the most important issue. In both cases he is acting as though there are two separate entities: a political one and a military one. However, he cannot deal with one unless he deals with the other.
Israel has failed in its war. It has failed to bring security to its citizens and it is setting them up for a more dangerous and much harder war in the not so far future. It has put many of its citizens under risk for no tangible benefit.
I was recently accused on my blog of being "slavishly pro-Israel". I do not think Israel is right in everything it's done. In fact, I think that Olmert is both stupid and dangerous to Israel and that this war is a good example of why this is so. I was asked why so many pro-European blogs feel the need to defend Israel. The question assumes that this blog is pro-European, which it's not really. But even assuming that it is: Israel has failed not only its citizens in this war. It has failed Europe as well. It has given terrorists an immense push, showing them that Israelis (and by extention, Americans and Europeans) are easily beatable. The world feels good with itself now for brokering a ceasefire, but the world will pay dearly for not standing up to a terrorist organization and for not using the opportunity to beat it down.
As is usually the case, I doubt anybody will see the cause and effect.
Just a few months ago I spoke to an Israeli about fighting terrorism. I pointed out that Israel should not have run away from Lebanon six years ago, certainly not without an agreement. "But," he told me, "there's peace and quiet in the northern border now. You can't say it wasn't a good move."
In the past year Hizballah was responsible directly for 70% of all terrorist attacks within Israel itself. However, since the terrorists were not shouting in Lebanese and since the northern border was quiet, Israelis found it easy to think that "there are no problems" there.
Israelis love to fool themselves. So do many other Westerners. It is hard to think of people wanting and plotting to kill you. Israel has failed Europe and I certainly hope Europe will know how to defend itself when the time comes, that it would not follow Israel's very poor example or shy away from going through with a necessary war and that it will not pay too high a price for that.