Tuesday, August 01, 2006


The Mistaken Qana-n of Air Superiority

Why was the Qana attack a dumb move by Israel?

First, we should consider how to view the innocent civilians in Lebanon.
Jay Tea over at Wizbang sees them as hostages. Whether we view them as innocent is relative, since it is likely they might be sympathetic to Hezbollah's cause. The perfect way to describe southern Lebanon is Stockholm syndrome on a massive scale. Regardless, if they are not fighting alongside Hezbollah, or providing aid to Hezbollah, they should be considered innocent.

If we consider them hostages, how should Israel proceed against Hezbollah? Since most people consider the use of bombs on hostage-takers as bad form (to put it mildly), that means Israel has to use a more precise means of taking out Hezbollah. That means feet on the ground.

Ralph Peters of the New York Post gets to the heart of the flaw with Israeli strategy in Lebanon:
"All efforts to make war easy, cheap or bloodless fail. If Israel's government - or our own - goes to war, our leaders must accept the price of winning. You can't measure out military force by teaspoons. Such naive efforts led to the morass in Iraq - and to the corpses of Qana.

Despite one failure after another, the myth of antiseptic techno-war, of immaculate victories through airpower, persists. The defense industry fosters it for profit, and the notion is seductive to politicians: a quick win without friendly casualties.

The problem is that it never works. Never.

Even the Kosovo conflict - frequently cited as an airpower victory - only climaxed after we threatened to send in ground troops. Prior to that, we'd spent billions bombing charcoal grills the Serbs used as decoy tank engines. (Our sensors read hot metal, and bombs away!)

Without boots - and eyes - on the ground, you just blast holes in the dirt. Or hit the targets your enemy wants you to strike. That's what happened in Qana.

We don't use hand grenades in hostage situations. Why would we use missiles against enemies surrounded by civilians?

Civilian casualties will happen in wars. But the use of air forces without troops on the ground assumes all civilians are expendable. That is Israel's error.

UPDATE from Robert: Since, I'm otherwise occupied, I can't give this topic all the focus it needs. But, it is important to expand a little on Ed's great post. The biggest problem that Israel faces right now is a moral one: Is the seemingly indiscriminate killing of Lebanese civilians a responsible response to the kidnapping (no evidence yet that they have been killed yet) of two soldiers?

Hezbollah are terrorists, but soldiers are "legitimate" targets in war -- civilians aren't. That is true of the Israeli citizens as well -- but when did it get to the point that a civilzed country measures its morality by the standards of the ones it is trying to defeat? Yes, Israel gives warnings when it is launching a strike against perceived Hezbollah strongholds. But so far, hundreds of innocent Lebanese are dead and there is little evidence that Hezbollah's ability to retaliate against Israeli has been seriously impeded.

Furthermore, there is a logical/losgistical problem to be confronted: Israel was unable to disarm and expel Hezbollah during 18 years of occupation of Lebanon. Given that Hezbollah is not only stronger, but a perceived political force in Lebanon now, how does Israel hope to have greater success this time?

And, yes, it goes without saying that Hezbollah is ultimately responsible for the deaths of all civilians -- but that still doesn't solve the moral/political problem that confronts Israel (completely apart from the decision of whether to commit ground troops).

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