Sunday, July 16, 2006

What is the virtue of a proportional response?

A question posed by Martin Sheen in his TV role as the President of the United States. Israel answered that question, correctly long ago - there is no virtue in meeting an attack on your territory with anything other than overwhelming, punitive force sufficent to dissuade future attacks.

While I would oppose many Israeli security policies, in which Islamic state would you have seen the courts override the executive on humanitarian grounds, such as with their decision on the Concrete Curtain? The pullout from Gaza was widely predicted never to happen because Israel wouldn't stand up to its extremists - yet the landgrab settlements there have been removed.

The proportional response from Hamas was to kidnap soldiers from the Israeli side of the fence. The proportional response from Hezbollah was to continue firing missiles into northern Israel - the fact that their missiles can reach Israeli soil at all being because (a) Israel complied with the negotiated settlement and pulled out of their "security zone" in south Lebanon, (b) Lebanon did not live up to their side of the agreement by taking control right down to the border and (c) the UN and their UNIFIL presence in South Lebanon appear to have done damn all about it, illustrating clearly that the UN instinct to stand by and watch prevalent in their involvements in Bosnia has not gone away, nor has the toleration of ordnance from both the Israeli and Lebanese sides to go screaming over the heads of UNIFIL troops stationed on the Blue Line without repercussion.

Here's what the UN said about the security situation in the six months to January 2006:
Further Secretary-General’s report on UNIFIL was dated 18 January 2006, in which he recommended to extend the Force’s mandate for a further six months, until 31 July 2006.

Describing the political and security environment as still fragile, the Secretary-General pointed particularly to the November 2005 Hizbollah attack, which had led to a heavy exchange of fire with IDF. He also warned that the rocket firing incidents by unidentified armed elements of August and December had significant potential for military escalation. Persistent Israeli air incursions into Lebanese airspace also disrupted the fragile calm.

“The serious breaches of the ceasefire underlined yet again the urgent need for the Government of Lebanon to act and extend its full authority throughout the south down to the Blue Line”, the Secretary-General said. He was encouraged by Lebanon’s commitment to hold perpetrators of the attacks responsible to avoid their recurrence, and he welcomed new steps for coordination between the Government and UNIFIL, however, he stressed that “more needs to be done”.

Here's an interesting tidbit - Jacques Chirac has condemned Israel's operations against Lebanon. Look up the UN's UNIFIL website and see the nationality of the current force Commanding Officer. If Chirac was serious about the situation in Lebanon he would be reinforcing his general right now rather than indulging in handwringing.

It is unacceptable for any member of the United Nations to harbour elements which are firing ordnance across its border and still claim nothing to do with it and to do nothing about it - the UN authorised the invasion of Afghanistan even though there was far less direct linkage than that, never mind the two Hezbollah ministers in the Lebanese cabinet. Lebanon chose the possibility of being rounded on militarily by Hezbollah rather than prohibit their attacks on Israel. In doing so their national infrastructure cannot be regarded as separate from Hezbollah.

Frankly I don't think it matters a damn if Iran or Syria are providing arms - if Lebanon precluded use of offensive operations those weapons wouldn't be of the slightest use. Fix that, fix much of the problem. You don't see this kind of carry-on in Jordan or Egypt or Syria itself.

The problem with a proportional response is that there are still very few Israelis and a very small state of Israel compared to their neighbours - it has not easy to see why they will not suffer to be whittled away especially in opposition to a culture in the countries that surround them which routinely murders its youth by indoctrinating homicide-by-suicide. It is difficult to abide by the norms of international law when the other side refuses to deal with you under that law even to acknowledgement of your existence.

An interesting final note - the anti-ship missile Hezbollah fired at the Israeli navy, impacting the American built INS Hanit, was first thought to be a drone then an Iranian supplied Silkworm. However, now it is thought to be a C-802. However, the Silkworm and the C-802 are manufactured in China, something I have not yet seen mentioned in press reports. I hope the Chinese, in the interests of de-escalating the conflict, are asking their customers (the Iranians) how it got to Beirut.
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