As Israel’s offensive against Hezbollah terrorists stretches into its third week, several critical points continue to elude Western commentators about the conflict in Lebanon.
First, there is no sign that the West is taking seriously the repeated claim by Hezbollah, Iranian officials and al-Qaeda leaders that they love death more than we love life and that they prize the deaths of civilians above all. Nasrallah and likeminded terror leaders understand that the more civilians die, the better they look, and the more prestige they enjoy among the mobs of the Middle East. This means that Israel and the West must rethink the avoidance of civilian casualties as a goal in and of itself.
Second, the absurdity of taking seriously the notion of a "sovereign" Lebanon is becoming increasingly obvious. A government – if that word can be used to describe the country's unstable regime – that is unable to protect the United Nations’ headquarters in the center of its capital; whose prime minister openly admires Hezbollah; and whose “military” (or what passes for it) openly fraternizes with the terrorist organization, cannot and should not be expected to “impose its sovereignty” over southern Lebanon. Why pretend otherwise?
Third, the "international community," that mysterious ghost that only appears when Israel is on the offensive, has demonstrated again that it is unwilling to learn from past experience and that demagoguery--think of Russia condemning Israel’s “disproportionate reaction”--is far more potent than reason and common sense. The UN, voice of the “international community,” is forever prompt in condemning Israel, but not the people who burn down the agency’s own buildings in Beirut or Gaza. There is no sense in condemning Kofi Annan for his unbalanced criticism of Israel: he merely reflects the attitudes of the “international community” that pays his salary.
Fourth, the tiresome mantra that Israeli (or American) use of force only strengthens Hezbollah, Hamas, and Tehran and makes them more popular on the “Arab street” is a poor guide to the current war. In reality, nothing provokes Arab and Islamic radicals like weakness: Witness the attacks of Palestinian and Lebanese mobs on those, such as the UN and Denmark’s embassies, who forswear toughness in order to focus on the search for “understanding” and the “root causes” of the violence in the Middle East.
Fifth, Israel’s military is mistaken in believing that it can defeat mostly urban terrorists using F-16 aircraft and artillery and by shelling Hezbollah strongholds from the sea. This may, or may not, limit military casualties, but at the cost of leaving more terrorists alive, and hence ensuring more Israeli civilian deaths in the future. Having fought this war for fifty years now, Israel must know that restraint will only guarantee a more protracted conflict.
More broadly, the West must understand that the psychology and mentality of most Arabs in the Middle East is not conducive to peace and understanding. Among Lebanese Shiites, democracy means voting for Hezbollah; among Palestinians, for Hamas. Concurrently, Israeli concessions are interpreted as weakness and Western aid as a "right." The West and its ally Israel, and the Islamists, cheered on by the "Arab street," operate on different moral planets and use different languages. There is no translator in sight and consequently no diplomatic solution.
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