Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Conflict's own momentum

All this talk of a World War Three is premature, though I have engaged in it informally and in comment forums. The characterization, in my mind, is more of an analogy. There will be, however, no massive mobilizations of reserve, volunteer, and conscript forces within the next month. A very prominent Israeli raised this point:
"It is not World War III because there are no armies involved," said Vice Premier Shimon Peres (Kadima). "They must remember that this is an entirely different type of conflict."
Yet, the potential global scope of this developing conflict and the estimations of the belligerent parties trend toward something like a global war. In a sense, to contend that this may be World War III is as equally correct as the contention that this will never be World War III. Note these contradictory estimates.

The Christian Science Monitor:
At this moment, the calculus doesn't appear to have changed. There is no coalition of Arab governments willing to unite militarily against Israel. Syria's military prowess has crumbled since the fall of the Soviet Union - its greatest benefactor - while Iran remains too geographically remote to strike effectively.

The result is a new paroxysm of the proxy war that has existed in the region for a generation - ebbing and flowing as Hizbullah, armed and financed by Iran and Syria, harass Israel without provoking a major Middle East war, military analysts say.

"No state is willing to deal with Israel conventionally," says Seth Jones, a terrorism expert at the RAND Corp.
The Washington Times:
Israel's clash with Hezbollah in Lebanon may just be the undercard bout.

With the rhetoric rising and positions hardening, many in the region fear that the current fighting could easily spiral out of control, pitting Israel and the United States in the main bout against the two countries they accuse of arming and inciting Hezbollah fighters: Syria and, especially, Iran.

"We are clearly on an escalation road," said Shibley Telhami, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

Analysts said the chances of a larger clash have grown because of the new, untested leadership now in charge in many of the key capitals, and because both sides appear to think they have the upper hand.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad both face domestic pressure to hang tough.
The prime source for these different contentions is that difference between a government's will and the population's will. It is correct to assert that Israel's military superiority greatly discourages any government from engaging in a conventional attack. However, it is also accurate to look at the leaders and feel a sense of trepidation. Who can be certain of the motivations behind Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah? Moreover, there is no certainty that normal military logic will play out in the coming weeks, assuming they seek only a limited non-conventional conflict. Israel has stated their terms loud and clear, the Washington Times:
TEL AVIV -- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spelled out Israel's terms for ending its six-day siege of Lebanon yesterday, demanding the return of two kidnapped soldiers, an end to rocket attacks on Israel and the deployment of the Lebanese army to keep Hezbollah away from the common border.
The rockets must be stopped. Those soldiers have to be returned. But the demand on the Lebanese army may not be practical. Israel has also targeted that force twice, CNN:
BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Israeli warplanes pounded Lebanese army barracks for a second straight day Tuesday, killing at least nine soldiers, Lebanese army sources said.

The Jamhour army barracks east of Beirut were one of several targets in airstrikes early Tuesday as Israel's campaign against Hezbollah guerrillas entered a seventh day.

On Monday, six Lebanese soldiers died and 28 were wounded when Israel bombed an army post in Abdeh, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Beirut, the Lebanese military said.
Israel's intent, a sensible one, is to demilitarize southern Lebanon and protect innocent Israeli population centers from further attack. Based on reports that Israeli officials believe Hezbollah has long-range missiles, we can assume that the aforementioned terms are the minimum Israel can and will accept. The momentum of this conflict may already have reached a point of no return. The New York Times reports:
Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, Israel’s deputy chief of staff, told Israel Radio that the army needed more time to complete "very clear goals." He added: "The fighting in Lebanon will end within a few weeks. We will not take months.’’

On Monday, General Kaplinsky told a reporter that Israel thought it would have another week before international pressure built up enough to work out an enforceable cease-fire.


With the Lebanese death toll exceeding 200 and the Israeli count at 24, the increased efforts to turn to diplomacy showed little prospect of an immediate way out. In Lebanon, a vast majority of those killed were civilians, while in Israel about half of the dead were civilians.

In a televised speech to the Israeli Parliament, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed to continue the offensive until Hezbollah freed two captured Israeli soldiers, the Lebanese Army was deployed along the border, and Hezbollah was effectively disarmed. Hezbollah has consistently rejected those terms.
Diplomatic efforts have begun in earnest, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. Israel will have to demand terms that Hezbollah may be unwilling to accept. Time is also a factor, as positions harden.:
Even Iran and Syria, Hezbollah's primary supporters, appeared to join those searching for a way out of the raging 6-day-old battle between Israeli forces and the Shiite Muslim group that has left Lebanon's infrastructure in ruins and terrorized Israelis living under a hail of rocket fire.

The Tehran government called for a cease-fire, followed by a prisoner exchange, and Syria also promised to aid mediation efforts.

More than 200 Lebanese, almost all civilians, have died, along with 24 Israelis, half of them soldiers, since the fighting flared Wednesday. Monday's salvos included dozens of Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israeli communities, including the port city of Haifa, and Israeli airstrikes that killed at least 48 people across Lebanon.


Adding impetus to efforts to resolve the crisis, the Bush administration announced that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would travel to the region in coming days, though without specifying a date.

Israel's apparent softening of its stance on truce terms, which included dropping a demand that Hezbollah be disarmed and dismantled, was conveyed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to his Italian counterpart, Romano Prodi, senior aides to Olmert said. But Israel is insisting that the guerrillas pull back about 20 miles from the frontier.


The Shiite militia has insisted that it will only consider direct negotiations with the Jewish state, and that it will only release the Israeli soldiers in exchange for Lebanese and other Arab prisoners being held by Israel.

Moreover, few Lebanese believe that Hezbollah would ever abandon the Israeli border unless the guerrillas were forced out militarily.

Israel and the Bush administration continued to lay full blame for the confrontation on Hezbollah and its patrons — with President Bush, in an unscripted declaration caught by an open microphone, using a pungent epithet to convey his conviction that Syria must be induced to rein in the Shiite Muslim militia.

Speaking to British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a luncheon at the Group of 8 summit outside St. Petersburg, Russia, Bush asserted that "what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over."
There will soon come a point where Syria and Iran won't be able to tell Hezbollah to stop doing this shit.


Blogger Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

Prof. Juan Cole sums up the situation north of the Sicaric Republic of Phariseestan:

"The death toll late Tuesday stood at 235 people killed in Lebanon and 25 in Israeli. About half of the Israeli deaths were military personnel. Only a handful of the Lebanese deaths have been military, and only a fraction of those have been Hizbullah fighters. In fact, have even ten Hizbullah guerrillas been killed by the Israelis since this fight began? They say it is a fight with Hizbullah. But then they bomb Greek Orthodox churches and milk factories far from Shiite areas. Hmmmm"

8:59 AM  

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