Friday, July 21, 2006

Oh, Really?


Writing in The Forward, someone named Jennifer Siegel says, " the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah raged on and conventional media outlets covered the news from the ground, major players in the liberal blogosphere were keeping, by their own admission, decidedly quiet."

That's why I've been reading Billmon and Juan Cole for their analyses of the situation. Both of them have shut down their comments forums permanently rather than continue moderating the highly vitriolic dialogues that break out when you write about the Arab/Israeli conflicts. One thing you can't say about either of them is that they are afraid to speak out on this delicate topic. Both Billmon and Juan Cole have been reliable sources of reasoned analysis of the situation in Lebanon. I recommend them heartily.

And they don't pull punches. Here is Juan Cole, for example:
I repeat, this is nothing less than an ethnic cleansing of the Shiites of southern Lebanon, an assault on an entire civilian population's way of life. Aside from ecology, it is no different from what Saddam Hussein did to the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq, and the Israelis are doing it for exactly the same sorts of reasons that Saddam did.
Pretty harsh, but then I have to agree with his analysis after hearing Rush Limbaugh on his radio show today make basically the same case— except he was praising the Israelis for it, rather than denouncing them.

On the side more sympathetic to Israel, here is Billmon snarking about what passes for military strategy these days in the 51st state:
Confronted with the obvious absurdity of their military strategy, the Israelis are already falling back on alternative arguments -- much like the Cheney administration putting forward its ever-changing reasons for why turning Iraq into a cauldron of anarchy was a good thing. Now we're being told the real logic behind bombing the crap out of Lebanon's infrastructure is that it will induce a political solution. The pain of seeing their recently rebuilt country turned back into rubble will force Lebanon's gang of feuding feudal politicians to rise up and confront Hezbollah -- the best-organized and most well-armed militia movement on the planet -- after which the peacekeepers can move in and gently herd all those meek, pacified Shi'a fighters back from the border.
Look. I don't follow the Arab/Israeli conflict with nearly the attention to detail that others do. I am not an expert on the issues there, and I will freely admit it. That said, there are some things about the Israeli actions in this event sequence that have me genuinely cronfoozled.

For example, would somebody please explain to me the real reason it was necessary to bomb the Beirut airport? I'm not buying the argument that it was to prevent the international transport of the soldiers that Hezbollah captured when this all started. (Oh, pardon me. The soldiers were kidnapped, not captured. My mistake.)

Secondly, is it really in Israel's best interest to grind all of Lebanon back into the technological 19th century? Do they really think this will actually make Hezbollah any less of a threat to their lifestyles going forward in the long term? It's hard for me to see it that way, and I don't understand people who think ten days of Israeli troops fncking up the South of Lebanon will somehow get Israel any closer to peaceful diplomatic relations with all its neighbors.

Lastly, is Israel really trying to rescue its "kidnapped" soldiers? What will they do if, after two weeks of bombing, Hezbollah refuses to release them, and instead insists on negotiating a prisoner exchange? It will be clear at that point the bombing won't have done jack-squat to rescue the soldiers. It might have degraded the Lebanese economy and put a clamp on Hezbollah's budget in the process, but it won't have sprung the Israeli soldiers out of jail. Will the Israelis let their soldiers languish under the tender ministrations of the Party of God at that point, or will they open negotiations for a prisoner hostage exchange?

I doubt answers will be available, even after events have fully run their course. I wish these events made more sense. They don't. Not to me, anyway. So that's why I read bloggers with the guts to write about these issues despite the heated discussion threads they provoke.

Update 1.0: OMG. Billmon just launched perhaps the shortest, nastiest dig at Condoleezza Rice I have ever seen.

Update 2.0: Well, that didn't last long. Apparently, the government minders watching The Whiskey Bar moved in quickly and shut down the server. We'll see what it looks like when/if it ever comes back online.

Update 3.0: And Billmon has returned without any suspicious modifications to the archives. Whew.

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