Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bueller proffers an answer

I have been mulling over something along the following lines for a few days and have rather signally failed to get round to it, but DK has thrown down the gauntlet , and it would be churlish not to pick it and waft it in his face in a suitably provocative manner.

The gauntlet in question is not the prettiest of lacy things ever to have graced a delicate female hand:
So, let me ask you, what would you do to solve this crisis? Would you perhaps pour money into strengthening the Lebanese army so that they could obey UN Resolution 1559 and disarm Hezbollah? Would you look to the UN to help, as it did so effectively in the Balkans and Rwanda? Or perhaps we should invade Israel and "force" this ceasefire that everyone talks about?

Anyone? Bueller?

Having invoked the curse of Bueller in a recent post , I shall pause briefly to sue DK for plagiarism then move on to the matter at hand.

Let's start with a few assumptions. Best to get them out on the table.
Firstly, we'll assume that Israel's response is disproportionate.
Secondly, we'll take Hezbollah at their word when they say that their ultimate aim is to wipe Israel from the map.

Good.

Next, we'll note that there is little debate that Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation. Whatever it may be doing from a humanitarian point of view, I don't think that we need to entertain any notion that it's military wing is subject to any of the constraints of accountability to the executive of a nation state or, whilst we are on the topic, any notion of international law at all really.

Thus, whatever else we may need to do, there is ONE vital task to be achieved, which though arguably not sufficient, is clearly a necessary condition for a stable peace:
Hezbollah must be completely and verifiably disarmed and further that both it and any potential spin-offs or splinter groups or "real-" or "continuity-" Hezbollah follow-ups must be prevented from re-arming at any point in the future.

Nothing else matters whilst Hezbollah is still armed and capable (we will take the "willing" completely as read) of continuing rocket attacks and other incursions into Israel proper.

In fact, nothing else matters pretty much to the degree that the proportionality of Israel's response is largely irrelevant. It may complicate other matters of diplomacy and Israel may have to give substantially greater concessions and/or compensation to other parties are part of a wider peace treaty, but it has absolutely zero bearing on whether or not Hezbollah has to completely, unconditionally and verifiably disarmed.

OK. So our question is now really pretty simple. It is this:
What is the best, surest and least costly (in terms of blood and treasure all round) to disarm and disband Hezbollah, permanently and verifiably?


We can (thirdly) assume that Hezbollah is not going to be in a mood to be disarmed, especially if it has not already been by Israel. In fact, Hezbollah's disinclination to be disarmed will be in exact proportion to Israel's failure to do so before any such peace agreement: they will be wanting to claim victory and will not really want to play the role of the loser and surrender.

I had intended to examine a number of possible outcomes (the bulk of this post was written a week or so ago) but events have overtaken us. The governments of Israel and Lebanon have both accepted the terms but - allow me to contain my surprise - Hezbollah has declared that, although it accepts the ceasefire, it doesn't, apparently, have intention of abiding by its terms.

So I'm confused now. We know four things:
1) Hezbollah must be disarmed
2) Hezbollah does not want to be disarmed and will resist being disarmed
3) No-one except Israel is prepared to put the lives of its troops on the line to disarm Hezbollah
4) Israel was, until the ceasefire, actually trying to disarm Hezbollah.

Remind me. Why did we need Israel to pull out and stop doing the stuff everyone wants done but nobody else is prepared to do?

Whatever the answer might be, it strikes me that the ceasefire is pretty close to being its exact antithesis.

8 comments:

Devil's Kitchen said...

Good post, P-G; I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Apart from the Bueller-sueing: I first used it in October 2005 and Master Worstall has also indulged.

You will be hearing from m'learned friends...

DK

Robert said...

1) Hezbollah must be disarmed
2) Hezbollah does not want to be disarmed and will resist being disarmed
3) No-one except Israel is prepared to put the lives of its troops on the line to disarm Hezbollah
4) Israel was, until the ceasefire, actually trying to disarm Hezbollah.

Remind me. Why did we need Israel to pull out and stop doing the stuff everyone wants done but nobody else is prepared to do?


Wasn't it because while they were trying to achieve (1) via (4), it wasn't working, at all. In fact, by being 'disproportionate' as you graciously concede, they may well have made matters worse.

Couldn't much of what you say about Hezbollah have also been said about the IRA at the height of the Troubles? Both sides over there were pretty zealous and uncomprimising. Why couldn't Israel and its Arab neighbours have a similar thawing... We just need the moderates to prevail over the fundamentalists.

Tim Newman said...

I find the comparison with the IRA pretty weak. The IRA's political demands were to some degree able to be met politically, and having forced their way to the bargaining table by terrorism showed that they were interested in a political solution to the problem.

Not much of this applies to Hezbollah, whose goal cannot be met politically without the complete destruction of Israel. Perhaps politicians should work towards a half-way solution whereby Hezbollah does recognise Israel, but again I really cannot see this happening.

Brituncula said...

The spectacle of the UN mice debating who will bell the cat does seem to be providing balm to the wounded national feelings of Israeli ambassadors worldwide, judging from the various interviews on the Beeb this morning.

james higham said...

"What is the best, surest and least costly (in terms of blood and treasure all round) to disarm and disband Hezbollah, permanently and verifiably?"

Yes, you were doing fine up to this point. So what comes next?

towcestarian said...

Purely for the sake of being contentious, can I ask why the continued existence of Israel is in the UK's national interest?

What bad things happen to us if the Hezzies are allowed to do what they want? Any remaining Islamo-fascism over here can then be quite clearly seen for what it is, rather than being obfuscated by the smoke-screen of the Palestinian issue.

I'm old enough to remember the arguments (pack of communist cards etc) for propping up the Vietnam government in the 60's, none of which actually happened when the government eventually fell. Maybe this is similar - or maybe it is actually a pack of sharia cards?

The Pedant-General in Ordinary said...

Towcestarian,

"Purely for the sake of being contentious, can I ask why the continued existence of Israel is in the UK's national interest?"

A good question. Certainly valid and one that perhaps we will need to defer to James to answer properly.

I don't know that it is DIRECTLY in our national interest, except that to stand by reeks rather of "splendid isolation", which is unattractive at best.

There is also the question that the avoidance of a second holocaust (for that is what the ending of the existence of Israel would mean for its jewish citizens) in the space of 60 years would be, to my mind, a noble cause in which to fight a war.

One could easily make the same argument about WW2: why did it concern the UK as to exactly who governed France? Hitler offered us peace. We could have left him to it. Somehow, it doesn't smell right though and maybe that's the same with the "continued existence" of Israel.

towcestarian said...

P-G

I sort of agree with you on this one. It is a pretty visceral reaction supporting Israel against various assorted hostile Arabs, but not one that I can easily justify intellectually. The Vietnam thing keeps popping into my head; and I am a bit inclined to think that if the Hezzies looked and spoke a bit more "western", then my reaction would be a bit different.