OxBlog

Saturday, July 22, 2006

# Posted 10:29 AM by Patrick Porter  

WET BRITANNIA: Spent this afternoon busy battling a flood.

Well, 'flood' is too big a word. My bathroom, which is protected only by a flimsy roof, is flooded and a very kind lady from the college has brought over a giant serpentine machine to suck up the gallons of water.

For what its worth, my own impressions on Israel and Lebanon and things: I'm no ethicist (laughter and jeers from the back) but it seems that Israel has lashed out at the wrong target and targets. I am more sympathetic with Israel's long-term security than many Oxfordians. But this time it has made a moral and strategic error.

If Israel treats Hezbollah and the state and people of Lebanon as one and the same, Israel's punitive raids might strengthen Hezbollah as a political force for the next decade or longer. Israel's long-term interest seems to me to be isolating militant Islam, or at least doing what it can through its own actions to help isolate militant Islam.

Jihadists who are willing to attack civilians and kill themselves will be with us for a long time, but Israel would need to cultivate a population that is willing to not cooperate with them, or even to help moderates and elect moderate democratic governments.

Israel's present actions threaten to do the reverse. A more targeted strategy, with targeted assassinations and infiltration, while dividing Arab militants from the mainstream through territorial concessions, would be a more prudent response.

What's more, Lebanon has a fledgling democracy and fragile coalition government that has little leverage over the actions of militants. Arguing as a sort of neocon, its ultimately in our and Israel's interests to help foster a democratic civil society in the Moslem world. Only then will states lose their monopoly over political discussion and debate and information, making it harder for them to implant and encourage a culture of hatred and misinformation and manipulate their citizens into blaming all of their dissatisfactions and national difficulties on the Crusader-Zionists.

One small episode: this crisis has also unleashed at least one incident of maggotty anti-semitism right here in Oxford.

One of my summer school students, a really nice and bright girl, who is little and wouldn't hurt anyone, bravely decided to argue in a civil way about the current crisis with some 'Stop the War' protesters in Cornmarket street.

A large burly man shouted in her face, 'Fuck the jews.' None of the other protesters rebuked him.

Nice. And such courage.
(5) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
Patrick,

I agree with you largely, though with a bit less condemnation of Israel's actions. What I find interesting so far is that some Lebanese have indeed blamed Hezbollah for the violence, saying they're holding the entire country hostage. But I agree that this number of Lebanese is likely to decrease as the war, and especially a short-term ground occupation, which I belive is now likely, continues on.

I think isolation is the key...the very reason that anti-Hezbollah sentiment exists in Lebanon now is likely largely due to the (relative) economic and political liberalization the country has experienced recently. Israel can best make Hezbollah irrelevant by waiting it out, responding directly to it and not to the Lebanese writ large, and by supporting a strong, central, and democratic Lebanese government.
 
hey charlie,

indeed. hey, can I freely quote that quote from your own blog (about the need to be around mad people)? Its a cracker.

cheers,

Patrick
 
It seems the Lebanese Defense Minister and President have already decided to use the Lebanese national army to fight the Israelis in the event of a ground invasion. Whether Siniori or Saad Hariri agrees is hard to tell, but I could easily see an Israeli invasion forcing non-Shi'ite Lebanese to rally, reluctantly, around Hezbollah and against Israel. There's a reason the post-Cedar Revolution govenrment has not yet disarmed Hezbollah. It fears civil war more than anything. With hot war raging now, I don't see the Hariri coalition engaging in a civil war for the benefit of Israel's security.

The funny thing is that I suspect Israel is aware of this too. They don't want to get stuck in a guerrilla war in South Lebanon, and they know how unlikely it is that the Lebanese government would actually crack down on Hezbollah. But honor is a big issue right now. Suppose Israel just stops the aerial bombardament and declares their mission accomplished, wouldn't that only increase the standing of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Arab world? They held off the Israelis again, alas. Israel has walked into a bit of a trap, it seems, by widening its targets to include non-Hezbollah targets within Lebanon.
 
For those who advocate Israeli restraint, I have a question:

You get 700 rockets over several months and they are starting to hit your main northern population center (Haifa) with every indication of more

Lebanon won't do anything about it.

You don't occupy 1 inch of Lebanese soil, as even certified a body as anti-Israeli as the UN.

The UN laughs at you, as usual while your citizens die. And of course condemns you if you react in any way.

2 soldiers get captured.

OK, without doing what the IDF is doing now, what would YOU do to stop the rockets and get your people back?
 
Ah, Oxford manners in the Cornmarket... among particularly vivid memories of my time up at the University were an Israeli politics D.Phil student muttering under his breath, "we're not American, we can't just strike wherever we like" when, at matriculation luncheon, I tried to show someone how to get ketchup out of the bottle by hitting the 57; and a burly, shirtless man barrelling people over while shouting to no one in particular, "Fucking Yanks. Why don't you all go the fuck home?" The Cornmarket anti-war flag and effigy burnings were particularly efficacious as well. Glad to see some things never change.
 
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