August 14, 2006
An Armed Hizbollah Cannot Be Permitted to Continue
Dear Friend of FLAME:
Virtually all major metropolitan newspapers in the United States---led by The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times, miss no opportunity to criticize Israel. The current situation, in which, most deplorably, many innocents die, gives ample fuel for such criticism---most of it hypocritical and unwarranted. Nonetheless, fortunately, the comments of American newspapers in general cannot compete with the anti-Semitic poison that is standard fare in European newspapers.
The Wall Street Journal is the one laudable exception of all major American newspapers. Their editorial comments and their reporting about Israel are usually free of bias and "right on." The house editorial that follows is straightforward and clear headed. It explains why it is so important that Israel "win" this war against Hizbollah, the "party of God."
Hizbollah, an Islamic-fascist organization, is the proxy for Iran and Syria. Israel is in the unsought and unenviable position of being the spearhead of Western civilization in this struggle, of which this war is only the first chapter and trial balloon. A "defeat" for Israel would be a defeat for everything our country and all civilized people stand for. And "defeat" would mean anything except a complete victory---smashing and fully disarming this terror organization.
The death of any innocent civilians is of course deplorable. But in this war, the Hizbollah are the so-called "innocent civilians." They hide among the general population, wear no uniforms, and stow their rocket launchers in private courtyards. They blend in completely and are protected by the general populace.
This Wall Street Journal opinion paints a clear picture of the terrorist organization that Israel is battling on behalf of all Western civilization. Whether this weekend's proposed cease-fire actually goes---and stays---in effect or not, Hizbollah must be disarmed and, we can only hope, destroyed. It would be preferable to see a coalition of Western forces, all of whom are threatened by radical Islam (a fact they still seem reluctant to acknowledge), do the job. However, despite recent diplomatic "advances," it's still more likely the dirty work will be left to Israel. We can only support her gratefully and encourage our politicians to do the same.
Olmert and Bush: The consequences of an Israeli defeat would be ugly
The deaths of dozens of Lebanese civilians in an Israeli airstrike at Qana on Sunday (July 30) is a tragedy. But tragedies happen in all wars, which is why they shouldn't be fought without good reason and the determination to win. We hope that's the lesson Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Bush Administration are drawing as international criticism reaches its highest point so far in the three-week offensive against Hezbollah.
The initial, muted reaction from most of the major Arab states showed that their leaders were quietly happy that Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons might be dealt a heavy blow. They understand the mullahs' imperial aims, and that Hezbollah's rockets are a foretaste of what they too might expect if Tehran gets a nuclear bomb. But public opinion against Israel in the Muslim world remains strong and hasn't been helped by daily pictures of destroyed Beirut apartment blocks.
It also appears that Israel's bombing campaign hasn't done nearly as much damage to Hezbollah as first thought. Sunday saw more Katyusha rockets (about 150) launched into Israel than any previous day in the war—and Hezbollah is believed to have used up only a fraction of its stockpile. Israeli Defense Forces clearly underestimated Hezbollah's capabilities and overestimated their ability to degrade them from the air.
The question is, what now? One temptation for the Bush Administration, which is under fire from most Arab leaders including Iraq's, will be to rein in Israel quickly. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been talking about pushing a cease-fire through the U.N. later this week, although the timetable seems to have been pushed back. One of the ideas is that a multinational force would then help Lebanon's government disarm Hezbollah. (Editor's Note: While this cease fire has now been approved by the U.N., as well as by Israel and Lebanese governments, it remains doubtful that Hezbollah will agree to be disarmed and whether the fighting will indeed stop.)
But moving too soon, and with Hezbollah still powerful, risks replaying the disastrous scenario that unfolded in August 1982. That's when civilian casualties related to attacks on PLO strongholds in Beirut led the Reagan Administration to demand a halt to the fighting. The resulting events—insertion of multinational forces, the Marine barracks bombing, and U.S. withdrawal—are still cited by the likes of Osama bin Laden as evidence the civilized world has no stomach for a hard fight.
A premature cease-fire now would allow Hezbollah to claim a victory over Israel and emerge as a stronger regional power. Even a best-case scenario would probably see Israel again fighting Hezbollah—at a time of Hezbollah's choosing and as the dominant force in a future Lebanese government. There could also be trouble for Israel with other neighbors, since Israel would have forfeited the aura of military invincibility that has kept it relatively safe for decades in such a rough neighborhood.
Leaders in Tehran and Damascus would also conclude that employing terrorist proxies works. Iran could roll ahead with its bomb program knowing that Europe and the U.S. can be easily intimidated. Lebanon's fledgling democracy would be another casualty. President Bush's entire vision for the Middle East would suffer a severe setback if the current fighting ends with Hezbollah still a credible military force.
Israel does not deliberately target civilians, much less children. They were hit in Qana because Hezbollah operates near civilians to use them as a shield and to exploit such tragedies as to turn world opinion against Israel. Hezbollah has been the consistent and flagrant violator of international law throughout this conflict -- deliberately targeting Israeli civilians with shrapnel-filled missiles, fighting out of uniform, and hiding among Lebanese civilians and helpless U.N. peacekeepers.
If these and other tactics remind you of al Qaeda and the insurgents in Iraq, they should. They are the reality of today's asymmetrical terrorist methods, and their success in Lebanon will only mean the further spread of those methods against others in the Mideast and beyond.
So we hope that, while Ms. Rice pursues diplomatic options, privately Mr. Bush is telling Mr. Olmert that Israel must finish the job he started against Hezbollah—including a ground invasion of southern Lebanon if that's what it takes. American support for Israel's strategy is far from cost-free for Mr. Bush, and Mr. Olmert has to understand that it won't continue if he lacks the will to prevail as rapidly as militarily possible.
There are certainly risks to this strategy, in the loss of more Israeli and Lebanese lives and further global criticism of both the Jewish state and the U.S. But now that the war has been joined, and Israel has pledged not to stop without disarming Hezbollah, a defeat for Israel will mean more danger and far more casualties down the road.