Israel’s recent decision not to expand their hostilities against Hezbollah in Lebanon calls into new question what their actual objectives are. The fog of war affects Tel Aviv as much as it does us sitting here watching our television screens in the United States.
Creating a buffer zone in southern Lebanon by clearing the area and firing on anything that enters the proscribed zone is not a legitimate objective for at least two reasons. First, “shoot first and ask questions later” as a policy is a clear violation of the laws of war. Second, as Hezbollah demonstrated this morning by firing longer-range rockets into Israel, it’s not an achievable objective and any unachievable objective is ipso facto not legitimate. Where will the buffer zone end? The southern quarter of Lebanon? The southern half of Lebanon? The northern border of Lebanon? Damascus? Tehran? The strategy merely incentivizes the use of missiles with ever longer ranges.
If the Israeli objective is to motivate Lebanon to deal with Hezbollah itself, that doesn’t seem to be working, either. Hezbollah appears more popular than it was at the beginning of the hostilities. That’s progress in the wrong direction.
I’m beginning to wonder more and more if what we’re seeing reflects divisions within Israel: between the government and the military, between political factions in and out of the government.
Donald Sensing’s characterization of the hostilities as less a strategy than a spasm is looking sounder with each passing day.
One of the most horrific aspects of the hostilities is the incredible perversity of the incentives. Olmert’s government is, at least at this point, more popular than it was on the day that hostilities began. Hezbollah is more popular in Lebanon (and in much of the Arab world) than it was when hostilities began. If, as one interpretation suggests, the recent Zawahiri tape is a proposal for an alliance between Sunni radicals and Shi’ite radicals to make common cause and cooperate to oppose Israel in Lebanon, that would seem to encourage radicals on both sides of the doctrinal divide. If, on the other hand, it’s merely an exhortation for Sunni radicals to join in the fray, it would merely be stirring the pot.