Tuesday, September 19, 2006

war is bad for everyone

I'm gonna post arkin in full - because - well i'm not really sure. as always with arkin, i'm never sure if he's completely batshit, or clever in a way that mostly escapes me. he may have saved himself with his last sentence.
"Shock and Awe in Lebanon

The southern neighborhoods of Beirut bear a resemblance to some primitive terrain: rubble strewn, broken and scarred

Entire city blocks are devastated. Ten-story apartment buildings are gutted and reduced to concrete stacks.The scenes in Beirut are stark; they invoke Dresden or Tokyo and a certain brutality.

I just returned from a week touring Beirut and southern Lebanon, and from visiting northern Israel.

What struck me about the bombing, in both countries, was that you could see the destruction and completely misread what it meant. In Beirut, the destruction in reality is efficient and impressive. The destruction in Israel, on the other hand, is random and scattered. When Hezbollah rockets were fired on Israel, landing meant success.

So here is the truth: Israel did not do anything close to what it was capable of doing. Hezbollah did all it could.

Because Israel is hyper-modern and it has the technology to exact such a concentrated result, it is capable of creating visible and jarring images.

And, of course, Israel is Israel. That is why the non-aligned countries condemned "Israeli aggression in Lebanon" this weekend, befuddled about Lebanon and Hezbollah: Such an easy target.

I recognize that one can’t analyze what happened in Lebanon in the 34-day, Israel-Hezbollah war without walking into a minefield.

Also, what happened can’t be reduced to 1,000 words. There is complex history, the players are not necessarily as they represent themselves, there are intramural battles going on about military force and politics, there are secrets and there is even the difficulty of reading what one is looking at accurately.

One could reduce the conflict to shock and awe: Success on the one hand in what could be exacted in such a short period of time, failure on the other by Israeli political leaders and commanders’ intent on doing the job on the cheap.

There is no question though that Israel seems in awe of its effort and its precision. Even though a national commission of inquiry begins a bruising and painful analysis today of government and military shortcomings, Israel’s social and cultural demand is for offense and victory. Government officials speak of “annihilating” the enemy: Bush rhetoric that invokes those earlier images of total war and is so jarring to international ears. They will now be assessed on their performance to achieve the goal.

On the other hand, Lebanon is shocked. It is not just the destruction wrought but the powerlessness of the owners of the country. The Lebanese government complains of the destruction and the cluster bombs and the environmental devastation, exaggerating what happened to IT because it can not bear to say that most of what was destroyed was Hezbollah’s assets, assets that indeed resided and flourished inside their own country under their own noses with their consent. By focusing outward, on the “other,” Lebanon conveniently ignores its failures. Yet the government of Lebanon, a bickering alliance of non-war lords, is fully culpable. The shock seems play-it-again-Sam-style, shocked that there is gambling going on in the casino.

The international community meanwhile is also shocked. It equally complains about cluster bombs and levels of destruction, suggesting that there is an alternative military strategy that could have been pursued. One can’t help but be a little cynical that they are really just interested in finding the best arguments to condemn the dominant belligerent. Somewhere in here is an effort to protect the civilian population and the environment from the scourge of war. I wonder though whether the right lessons can be learned to get there.

Hezbollah meanwhile touts its own “divine victory,” bloodied and dislodged from its territory yet opaque enough that it can hide the real wounds. The Hezbollah military, because it is largely invisible, is neither accurately assessed nor is it not really held accountable for the war crimes it committed. Worse still is that Hezbollah believes, as do many on the “Arab street,” that the attacks on Israel and its citizens were justified, justified and no worse than anything Israel did because Israel in its actions preys upon the civilian population.

No worse, of course, depends on the narrative of vengefulness and indiscriminate attack by Israel. Because of Israel’s means, thousands of apartments are gone, selected and meticulously excised by a high-tech military force.

Only a very short drive from the neighborhoods of southern Beirut though, you are back to bustling boulevards; a few neighborhoods over and there are luxury stores and five star hotels. Beyond the “Hezbollah” neighborhoods, the city is normal. Electricity flows just as it did before the fighting. The Lebanese sophisticates are glued to their cell phones. Even an international airport that was bombed is reopened.

An accurate reading of what happened and what south Beirut means might produce a different picture. Israel had the means to impart greater destruction, but that does not mean intrinsically that it is more brutal. If Hezbollah had bigger rockets or more accurate ones, it would have done not only the same, but undoubtedly more.

Israel may have made a grave error in attacking Hezbollah as it did, it may have used the wrong weapons and hit the wrong targets, it may have completely misread the enemy, it may have made its security worse for years to come.

But the fact that one can drive a short distance from Dresden-like south Beirut and return to modern life itself should signal that this is something very different: Israeli bombers did not fly over Beirut and unleash loads of bombs. Each individual building was the quarry; the intent was there, and the technology existed, to spare the rest.

So Israel “won” -- literally a technical knock-out -- and Hezbollah “won” as well.

Hezbollah is weakened and strengthened at the same time.

Israel achieved its military objectives and yet worsened its strategic outlook.

Welcome to post-post-modern warfare."
after that pretzelian journey, here's the takeaway: war is bad for everyone - please solve your problems some other way.

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