Round One Goes To Them.

By Michael Reynolds | Related entries in Foreign Policy, Israel, News, The War On Terrorism


Bush and Blair call for a cease fire
. Remember me writing about the possibility that at some point we’d have to play the role of the buddy who pulls you out of a bar fight and lets you save face? My guess is that’s what’s happening here. I suspect the Israelis, having waffled on dealing with Hezbollah, are grateful to us for stepping in.

This is a clear Hezbollah win. Dress it up with all the diplomacy you like, Hezbollah threw down with the IDF and walked away with heads held high. This is a watershed. Not a good one.

The Israelis beat the Arabs like a tin drum for decades. 1948, 1967, 1973. After 1967 the Jordanians decided to make peace. After 1973 the Egyptians made peace. Then in 2000 Israel was chased out of Lebanon by Hezbollah. On this go-round they blinked first and Hezbollah will claim a second Jewish scalp.

Meanwhile, on a paralell line the US in the person of Jimmy Carter caved in to the Iranians in 1979. In 1983 Ronald Reagan surrendered to Hezbollah and sent Ollie North to toady their Iranian paymasters. In 1991 president Bush the Wiser kicked Iraq out of Kuwait. In 2001 president Bush the Younger took down the Taliban, and in 2003 he invaded Iraq. Now we are facing a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and losing the war in Iraq to a combination of Baathists, Al Qaeda and Shia militia.

One other piece of historical data: the Soviets were ejected from Afghanistan in 1989.

So, how does this look to our enemies? What conclusion can they fairly draw?

That secular Muslim nations — Egypt, Syria, Iraq — may lose to western powers and western clients, but Islamist forces, (whether Shia or Sunni) particularly unconventional or terrorist forces, win.

This will be a huge encouragement to the Taliban and to Al Qaeda, and a double shot of adrenalin to Hezbollah and Hamas. And there’s this: Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the largest Shia militia in Iraq, may fairly conclude that he needs to commit fully to driving out the Americans. The surest path to fame and fortune in the Muslim world is to brush up on your Koran and attack the west. I wonder if Ayatollah Ali Sistani will be able to keep any sort of leash on his Iraqi Shia now.

A formula is now in place: unconventional Islamist forces vs. western armies = victory.

If this is World War III as Newt would have us believe, we have lost round one.

(cross-posted from Mighty Middle.)


This entry was posted on Friday, July 28th, 2006 and is filed under Foreign Policy, Israel, News, The War On Terrorism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

10 Responses to “Round One Goes To Them.”

  1. Jeff B. Says:

    I think that a cease fire is a “victory” for both sides.

    I think that your historical overview just highlights that the West cannot simply count on the fact that their superior military power will result in victories over terrorist forces. I think that the results are clearly just non-stop casualties and devastation for both sides of the battle, and an increase of tensions which will lead to more fights.

    You point out the ineffectiveness of such a strategy, but still support it. Why do you prefer (apparently endless) bombing and fighting in pursuit of an apparently phantom military victory, despite the horrid consequences for all parties involved?

  2. Michael Reynolds Says:

    No, it’s evidence that a half-assed effort to beat these people is ineffective. I favor a whole ass.

  3. Jeff B. Says:

    Israel started its violent response after an Israeli was kidnaped in Gaza. They escalated things in Lebanon after Hezbollah responded by killing 3 Israelis and kidnaping two more.

    So, you had 3 Israelis dead and 3 kidnaped. Not fun stuff, but now the results are…

    55 Israelis dead
    600 Lebanese dead
    140 Palestinians dead
    200,000 Lebanese refugees
    Massive, massive damage to Lebanese cities
    Increased hatred for US/Israel, which makes more terrorists

    I wouldn’t qualify this as a “half-assed” response by Israel to the deaths of 3 Israelis and the kidnaping of 3 others. And I wouldn’t categorize it as an effective strategy that I would want to pursue indefinitely.

    If this situation, the Iraq War, etc. are a half-assed military response, I would hate to see the results of the response that you support. Based on the empirical evidence from this conflict and the others that you identify, I suspect that the results of your “whole ass” response would be wholly shitty.

  4. Michael Reynolds Says:

    In 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, sank some ships, killed something like 3,000 people.

    We responded by evicting them from all their possessions, killing hundreds of thousands, burning down their cities and dropping two atomic bombs. Then we occupied their country, wrote them a Constitution and forbade them ever to make trouble again.

    A bit disproportionate? Engendering hatred no doubt?

    They’ve been a friend and ally for 60 years, one of the richest nations on earth, and done no one any harm.

  5. Jeff B. Says:

    WWII is clearly a different situation than the never ending war on terrorism.

    If we ever bomb terrorists off the face of the Earth instead of just creating more of them, I will be first in line at the military victory parade. In the meantime I will just watch the military response increase the negative consequences for everyone involved, just as it has for decades.

    I can’t see what positive result has come from this huge military response. You seem to admit that the current response may be disproportionate, had immediate devastating consequences for all parties involved, and probably increased hatred of the US/Israel. This was a relatively minor problem to begin with and a huge military response simply made it a mess. I don’t see how you can draw on this experience and think that a larger military response is the answer.

    Your post points out plenty of times where military muscle failed against terrorism. I guess that if WWII is the best empirical evidence that an even larger military response would lead to positive results in the short term or long term in the war on terrorism, then I am not convinced.

  6. Michael Reynolds Says:

    Jeff:
    The war against Japanese imperialism could have been a never-ending war had we permitted it to be. We could have sniped back and forth across the Pacific for decades. It was a decisive war because we were determined and prepared to do ruthless things. We didn’t worry about proportionality. We didn’t worry about civilian casualties. We didn’t have a concern for public opinion. We focused on the single task of destroying an enemy.

    We have not done that wth our current enemies. We’ve been hit and we’ve hit back, but we’ve hit back with restraint. It’s useful to remember that the United States has the power to simply disappear entire nations. Iran, to take one example, could be obliterated, wiped from the map. We choose not to behave this way. We choose limited response. We fight with one finger, not with both fists.

    Terror and asymetric warfare rely on our restraint. We try to find a way to prevail using less than apocalyptic responses. We all hope we succeed in that. But total war remains an option. And if we turn to total war, we will prevail.

    The question then is how long we should allow the pinprick warfare to continue. And whether we should use our real power.

    If the terrorists can be beaten using civilized means, if they can be reasoned with, cajoled, bribed, whatever, then by all means let’s do that. But nothing so far demonstrates that real war is less than efficacious. We haven’t tried war.

  7. Jeff B. Says:

    I don’t what you mean when you say that we haven’t tried war. I’m unsure about the details of your feelings regarding Afghanistan and Iraq, but if you don’t consider our involvement in these countries to be war, then you’ve got a bigger pair of balls than John Wayne, General MacArthur and King Kong combined.

    I think that we are close to being maxed out as far as the war strategy goes. We’re going to be involved in Iraq and Afghanistan for years. I don’t think that anyone believes that we are in the position to start up a third war and occupation.

    I guess that maybe, alternatively, you think that we should have been more forceful in the situations where we have already used force. I don’t know how much more forceful we could have been in Iraq, Afghanistan or Lebanon.

    This isn’t Japan. In defeating Japan, we knew that we could wipe out entire cities of Japanese people, and devastate the country so much that their leader would have to become accountable for the consequences of continuing the war, and admit that the devastation to the people and country was too costly to keep fighting. In the war on terror, there are no cities of terrorists to wipe out. There are no large targets that can result instant devastating consequences to the terrorists. They have shown the ability to disperse, hide, and move around so that massive, instant devastation of the kind in Japan is not really a possibility.

    Instead, any massive attack has been shown to have a far more devastating effect on the civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon that the U.S. is supposed to be helping. The devastation has little effect on the terrorists since they are not accountable to people and are such difficult targets. Israel thought it could wipe out Hezbollah quickly, they went all out in their military offensive, caused plenty of destruction, and realized that they couldn’t just win quickly. We went all out in Afghanistan and Iraq and the results have been similar.

    In any event, I don’t see how an attempt at any even more devastating attack in any particular battle would serve much purpose. Let’s say the U.S. wiped Iran off the map. I would still be skeptical about the impact. In the war on terrorism, there are sixty countries with terrorist connections of some sort, and there are dozens of loosely affiliated terrorist organizations. Their membership would explode in response to any horrendous, inflammatory act like that. Afghanistan has been our biggest success so far in the war on terror, and al-Queda still exists in Afghanistan and worldwide, and terrorist attacks have still increased globally. This isn’t Japan. It’s a hellish, never-ending game of Whack-a-Mole.

    This is a different war than WWII. I don’t think that there is any way to aggressively and effectively go after a couple of targets and end this in a couple of years. I guess that there is no Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki out there to attack. I think that the targets aren’t there for that, and you’re just going to create more crazy people who hate us.

    Maybe you can point out where you think that we should have been more forceful or what few battles we could choose to fight next that would end terrorism. For now, I feel like I’ve seen the results of us pushing ourselves to the limits as far as the military response goes, and I’d much rather spend our time and money on better security measures.

  8. Michael Reynolds Says:

    Jeff:
    Maxed out? In 1943 when we had half our current population and a tiny fraction of our GNP we fielded an army of 9 million and fought a world war. Now we have a population of 300 million and 1.5 million men under arms. We have 135,000 men in Iraq. That is .00045% of our population.

    As for whack-a-mole, yes, some of these groups operate in failed states or weak states that cannot get control of them. But all are being supplied and supported by established nation states: Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Sudan, Lebanon. Those nation states are pressure points. When it makes sense we can use military force against them. Or we could (I hate to shock the modern sensibility) hold Iran and its people hostage to the good behavior of Shia terror groups. I’m not calling for that, understand, but the idea that we have somehow played out our military options is laughable. We could, if we were determined to do it, occupy Iran as well as Iraq. We could target Mecca with nukes and hold that city hostage. We are after all the people who burned civilian cities to the ground within living memory. We are fighting with one finger not both fists.

    As for better security measures, you’d rather turn this into a cowering paranoid police state? You really think the bad guys wouldn’t find a way in? Please. You can still pull off a 9-11 today, security notwithstanding. Palestinian bombers still make it into Tel Aviv. Security measures are an illusion.

  9. Jeff B. Says:

    Sure, we could re-institute the draft and invade and occupy one of the many nations that you listed as sponsors of terrorism. I think that if anybody thought that this would end terrorism, they would be willing to accept the draft and another five or ten years of continued American casualties. I just don’t think that anyone thinks that invading another country would result it an end to terrorism. It would probably just kill more Americans and piss off more extremists.

    Or we could do something inflammatory and wipe out alot of Iranians in a show of force or threaten them with nukes, as you seem to suggest. That would be awful to push the world to the brink of nuclear war or wipe out alot of civilians. I don’t see how this would end terrorism, though.

    If there were a few targets that we could wipe out to end terrorism, or even a few more nations that we could occupy to end terrorism, I bet people would want to do that. I don’t think that that’s the case, though.

    In the meantime, I am fairly opposed to general calls for greater force. That type of mentality has killed about as many Americans in Iraq as were killed in 9/11, and Iraq was not even a threat to us. That approach turned a relatively minor situation in Israel into a current mess for all sides. It seems like lately when we make a call for greater force, we just end up making it easier for terrorists to kill us or our allies, and no longterm progress is made. I am not opposed to all military force. I just think that a “do something/bomb something” mentality has dominated our policymaking to a good degree so far, and I don’t like the results.

  10. Michael Reynolds Says:

    Jeff:
    I don’t think we disagree all that much.

    I’m trying here and on my blog to get people to think (and help myself think) about whether we and/or the Israelis are really at war with extremist Islam.

    More and more I’m getting the feeling that very few people understand what the word war implies, or what it has meant in the past. I think the word was tossed around casually without thought by the president and his supporters, and by opponents as well. I think a lot of heated rhetoric was followed up with little real action. There’s a disconnect — people say this is vital, then behave as if it is no such thing. They say it’s “must win” and when it becomes clear that we’re losing they seem to shrug their shoulders.

    I think we either go to war or don’t. I don’t like people getting killed for no good reason. But if we decide we absolutely have to do a war, then win it, by whatever means necessary. Don’t say “vital” if you mean “kind of important.”

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