Saturday, July 22, 2006

Hezbollah and the "occupation" argument

If you look at the wide variety of opinions in the highlighted articles at Real Clear Politics as to how the current Mideast conflict is going to play out, you realize how much disagreement and confusion there is. In truth, we're in the fog of war, and no one knows. Read them and decide what makes the most sense to you, and then watch as events unfold, no doubt in some direction no one quite foresaw.

That's one of the many problems with war; it's unpredictable, and unleashes strong and powerful forces that are destructive to human life, although in the end they can resolve certain issues and topple certain regimes. As Churchill--no stranger to war, and a man who did not shy away from it--said:

Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.

That said, Dennis Ross (former Mideast "peace process" negotiator) has an interesting article in the New Republic about the significance of Hezbollah's actions in this war, and the message it sends to the world, including the Arab world. For decades, the Arabs of the region have presented their animus towards Israel as the result of Israeli "occupation." Although the historical record indicates otherwise--the Arab nations tried to destroy Israel long before there was any occupation--it was a convincing argument for many.

According to Ross:

When Hezbollah was fighting Israeli "occupation," it was untouchable. But the general Arab narrative has been that the violence, meaning terrorism, is driven by occupation: no occupation, no violence. Hamas has already cast doubt on this narrative by launching attacks from Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal, but it is hard for Arab regimes to challenge Hamas's legitimacy. Hezbollah, however, is another story.

Ross goes on to list the many condemnations of Hezbollah's recent actions offered by the Arab countries of the region. He sees the situation as an opportunity--a tricky one, to be sure, filled with perilous traps and the need for delicate balance--to check Iran's rise in the region.

In recent years, Israel has pulled back from the Arab territories it formerly occupied and fortified its borders with the famous defensive fence. These acts had the effect of calling its enemies' bluffs. But this retreat was widely seen by those enemies as Israeli weakness rather than strength. Now Israel is trying to show that perception to be a false one.

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