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July 27, 2006

Efficacy, proportionality, and Lebanon

Is there any evidence that Israel's attacks on Lebanon are likely to eradicate Hezbollah from South Lebanon? If not, Israel's attacks on Lebanon cannot be just war.

Hilzoy offers compelling reasons to believe that Israel's strategy sucks.

Of course, Israel shouldn't have to "put up" with Hezbollah or rocket attacks on its people. However, it does not follow from the fact that Israel is obliged to do something that Israel is therefore entitled to do what it is currently doing. On the contrary, if the current strategy is likely to make the situation worse, Israel is obliged to change its tactics.


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Israel has already admitted that it can't destroy Hezbollah, yet it has done nothing to adjust its tactics accordingly. To stay their current course in effect says, "We can't destroy Hezbollah, but we can sure as shit destroy Lebanon. If we turn Lebanon into a giant fucking parking lot then Hezbollah will no longer be able to use it as a base of operations, though we admit we still won't be able to destroy them. Thousands of potential deaths, hundreds of thousands of refugees, world-wide anger, and the risk of a wider regional conflagration are all worth this questionable advantage."

And I thought George Bush was the only world leader who thought like this.

"Just war"? Isn't that considered as quaint a concept as is humane treatment of prisoners?

Very recently, in Dublin, a frail, 1200 year old book was found in a bog by a construction site. The bookwas found open to a page describing, in Latin script, Psalm 83, in which God hears complaints of other nations' attempts to wipe out the name of
In the context of today's fighting in Lebanon, and worldwide condemnation of Israel for defending itself, is this frail book, this tiny remnant, a sign?

Well, this strategy makes about as much sense as trying to maintain settlements in the occupied territories. For a country so obsessed with its security, Israel does a remarkably bad job descerning what course of action will actually make it more secure. (Or at least not less secure.)

I suspect, however, that Israel expected the US to step fairly early on and tell them to cut that shit out. It's like that guy at the bar that talks trash because his friends are holding him back. "You wanna piece of me? If it weren't for my friends here I'd be all over you!" Except this time his friend is saying "You want to fight? Go for it. I'm getting another drink."

Phantom, if you're falling back on mystical "signs" provided by a book found in a mud-puddle to come up with excuses for Israel's current actions, you're in even worse shape than I thought.

" is this frail book, this tiny remnant, a sign?"

A sign of what? All I see is that we're all the same stupid savages we've always been, only now we've got TNT instead of rocks. If God truly made us in his image, then we shouldn't be surprised he'd leave lame little "signs" around instead of doing something useful.

LB said:
"Is there any evidence that Israel's attacks on Lebanon are likely to eradicate Hezbollah from South Lebanon? If not, Israel's attacks on Lebanon cannot be just war."

Whether the root metaphor of "eradicate" is dead ("destroy utterly") or alive ("uproot") here, I can't see that if Israel's warmaking is unlikely to eradicate Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, it cannot be just war -- or that its success is all that unlikely. Nor do I see, in the nine paragraphs of Michael Walzer's piece that I could find elsewhere without registering with nosy NR, anything that supports the conclusion that warmaking unlikely to achieve such an end must fall short of just war.

What am I missing? As Walzer notes, "It is an important principle of just war theory that justice, though it rules out many ways of fighting, cannot rule out fighting itself..." Can Walzer be invoked to rule out Israel's fighting Hezbollah in this case?

Walzer is clear: "Until there is an effective Lebanese army and a Palestinian government that believes in co-existence, Israel is entitled to act, within the dialectical limits, on its own behalf." The "effective Lebanese army" could and would deal with Hezbollah and keep the border quiet. Walzer has explained his view of the limits within which Israel is entitled to act :

"When Palestinian militants [and Hezbollah] launch rocket attacks from civilian areas, they are themselves responsible--and no one else is--for the civilian deaths caused by Israeli counterfire. But ... Israeli soldiers are required to aim as precisely as they can at the militants, to take risks in order to do that, and to call off counterattacks that would kill large numbers of civilians. That ... means that, sometimes, the ... use of civilian shields, though... cruel and immoral ... is also ... effective .... because it is both morally right and politically intelligent for the Israelis to minimize--and to be seen trying to minimize--civilian casualties. Still, minimizing does not mean avoiding entirely: Civilians will suffer so long as no one on the Palestinian side (or the Lebanese side) takes action to stop rocket attacks. From that side, though not from the Israeli side, what needs to be done could probably be done without harm to civilians."

Walzer seems to have a lower regard for the the Principle of Double Effect than I do; some of what he says seems intended to rebutt the egregious views of Alan Dershowitz; and he condemns attacks on waterworks and power supply. The rest, efficacy and proportionality, is a matter for judgment calls discerning the mean in vagueness: how many exactly are "large numbers of civilians" that would rule out bombarding this village right now when Hezbollah are preparing to launch a SRBM from it? These calls can be good or bad, as defendants in warcrimes trials may belatedly discover; but good or bad, made they must be, usually decisions under uncertainty, not under risk. made in Geo. Eliot's "dim lights and tangled circumstances” or Clausewitz's "fog of war." As Walzer understands, the undesired, unintended deaths and injuries of non-combatants cannot by themselves qualify acts of war as unjust.

LB said:
" does not follow from the fact that Israel is obliged to do something that Israel is therefore entitled to do what it is currently doing. On the contrary, if the current strategy is likely to make the situation worse, Israel is obliged to change its tactics."

I can't bicker with that, but it may mean different things to different readers. "What [Israel} is currently doing" is in question: many believe Israel is bloodthirsty, deliberately aiming to kill non-combatants -- some believe as many non-combatants as possible.

Yesterday the Cabinet announced that it had, for the time being, decided against a full-scale invasion. But 30,000 reservists have been mobilized, and they could muster or free up enough troops to invade. My guess is that they would insert paratroopers along the finish line and move north to meet them, overrunning what Hezbollah positions they could, and then turn back south, mopping up the Hezbollah survivors and destroying or carting off their materiel. The war has not begun well for Israel, but it may still end well, with Hezbollah eradicated in S. Lebanon (and attrited elsewhere), no more rockets, and a well-guarded, peaceful border.

And now I'll read Hizroy before I'm off to work.


Having won the moral and intellectual arguments on this, I shall be happy to take the added bonus of this sign.

A chara,


Phantom, it might be good to know that the "sign", >isn't quite what people are saying it is.

Different translations number differently, what was actually found says is "Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee, who passing through the valley of Baca [the vale of tears] make[s] it a well."

A central thesis of your book The Fatefull Triangle, is that although the United States claims to be the friend of Israel, the policy it's persuing will ultimately destroy it.

I think that's true. I think it's even more dramatically true of the people who call themselves supporters of Israel. I should say that this view is shared very widely by the small group of Israeli doves. They put things in terms much more extreme and hars than I would use. For example, take Meir Pail, who's the real member of the Israeli establishment. He's a retired colonel, a well-known military historian, formerly a leading military strategist in the army. He was head of the officer's training school in the Israeli army, so straight out of the establishment. He had an article about a year ago in which he was attacking the American Jewish community. I think he was targetting it too narrowly, but what he said was that, the title of the article was "Zionism and the Danger of Cancer." He said that the danger was coming from the American Jewish community, that what they want is an Israel which is a "war god similar to Mars." They get their psychological thrills from seeing Israel, a superman, stomping on people's face.

He went on to say tht the attitude of the American Jewish community and their monolithic support for these tendencies in Israel and their intolerence of any discussion and debate of them are going to create an Israel which "will be a new development in political history, a combination of the worst features of South Africa and Northern Ireland." He virtually pleaded with the American Jewish community to stop what they call support for Israel, which is, in fact, driving it in this direction. As I say, those are terms much more extreme than I would use, and they come from a mainstream Israeli establishment fiture who happens to be a dove. I think he's much too narrowly focused when he talks about American Jewish community. That's what they tend to see. In fact, the support for that ind of policy in the United States is only very partially based on the American Jewish community. It's far broader than that.

-Noam Chomsky. Language and Politics. (Israel the Strategic Asset, 23 March 1985)


Since Phantom was wrong about "the sign", is it possible that his self-proclaimed victory in the intellectual and moral arguments categories might also *GASP!* be in error? Say it isn't so!

I stepped on a cockroach in my kitchen this morning and when I lifted my foot, the remains formed an unmistakeable Star of David.

The only possible interpretation is that the Good Lord wants to see another 500 Lebanese civilians dead, stat.

John L

Lets wait and see, my fickle friend. We have one source that says one thing and another that says something else. I will have the full resources of the Phantom Research Staff work on this later today. Don't you worry.

--I stepped on a cockroach in my kitchen this morning--

I'm sure you did.

Ok, I'm convinced. God really does communicate to us via signs:
Google results for "tortilla jesus" = 430,000
Google results for "tortilla elvis" = 137,000

Google results for "The Phantom" 81,200,000
Google results for "Uncle Kvetch" 46,500

Google results for "The Phantom" 81,200,000
Google results for "Uncle Kvetch" 46,500

John L

Yeah, they've really destoyed the entire nation of Lebanon. I don't deny that many innocents have suffered along with the Hezbo criminals, but let's get real.


I'll refer your last comment to Wolcott:

Yes, the warbloggers have risen to the odious occasion, even the most faux genial among them. In recent days, Roger L. Simon, co-founder of Sickbag Media, has linked to a site purporting to show that 99% of Beirut has been unscathed in the recent bombing. I wonder how big a percentage of New York City was hit on 9/11; yet the impact was, to put in mildly, considerable. If you wreck the infrastructure, as the Israelis intend, you don't need to rubble entire sectors. And the recent footage out of Tyre doesn't suggest a mosquito strike.


Who knew Phantom could get crazier?

John Lucid basically said that they were "destroy(ing) Lebanon", turning it into a "giant fucking parking lot".
Look at Lucid July 27 8:57.

Not to discount the very real damage to Lebanon's economy and the very real suffering of its people, it is the Lucid statements that are completely at variance with the situation on the ground.

Pay attention.

Google results for "The Phantom" 81,200,000
Google results for "Uncle Kvetch" 46,500

It's true, you guys. Phantom's is bigger than mine.

As a matter of fact--and I know some of you don't want to hear this--it's the biggest I've ever seen.

What's that, Phantom? Of course I don't say that to every man! How could you even think such a thing!!

And I thought we had something special.

Eh, thank you, I guess! (g)

John Lucid basically said that they were "destroy(ing) Lebanon", turning it into a "giant fucking parking lot".

No, here's what I said:

If we turn Lebanon into a giant fucking parking lot...

That doesn't mean that I think Israel is actually razing the entire country, pouring concrete on it, smoothing it out, letting it dry, and then painting lines on it for parking spaces. Only a fool or someone being intellectually dishonest would try to take those words and try to say that I meant them in a literal sense. As I already pointed out by quoting Wolcott, you don't need to turn a nation into rubble to make it unlivable. Destryong the infrastructure will accomplish that. Therefore by saying that Israel might try to turn Lebanon into a giant parking lot, I meant that they were making it a giant unlivable space.

I can't believe I actually have to explain this to such a degree, but when someone tries to flagrantly distort what I meant then I'm forced to respond. I'm sure not one other reader here took my "If we turn Lebanon into a giant fucking parking lot..." statement literally, especially since it was couched in a hypothetical thought of the collective Israeli leadership.

Just to be clear I will restate that my "giant fucking parking lot" remark means that Israel's destruction of infrastructure is making parts of Lebanon into a place that can no longer sustain a large human population. Will hundreds of thousands of refugees be able to return to their homes and resume their lives where they left off? NO, because many, MANY of them won't have water or electricity. Sort of like a parking lot. GET IT!?

No, I do not get it. I think that your remarks were overheated and that you were called on it.

The parking lot analogy would be accurate if you were talking of Grozny. It does not belong in any discussion about Beirut.


Your (ever precise ) Phantom

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