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Assessing the Blame in Lebanon
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. [writer] 8/8/06

On a vacation cruise of the northern European capitols in July, it was brought home to me again how often it is that Europeans and Americans view world events through different lenses. While on the ship, our news sources were limited to CNN and an abbreviated European version of The New York Times. Coverage of the Israeli-Hezbollah war seemed entirely focused on damage in southern Lebanon and Lebanese civilian casualties with only cursory coverage of the indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli cities that largely precipitated it. The English language European newspapers we read ashore featured countless demands for a ceasefire and immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops along with vivid pictures of the suffering in Lebanon.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

Public sentiment seemed to place the greater blame on Israel for overreacting. Somehow, in the news treatment, Hezbollah, a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel, seemed to be elevated to some level of statehood with some European nations urging direct negotiations with it, stating that they would not contribute soldiers to a UN peacekeeping force without the agreement of both sides.

Europeans seem far more willing to negotiate with terrorists than are Americans. But as U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Bolton asked, “How to you negotiate with a terrorist group?” Negotiation involves give and take. A group that prefers martyrdom to capitulation will never concede an advantage to the enemy. Israel and America are their sworn enemies and that, to them, is simply not negotiable. Death would be preferable to living at peace with people they describe as pigs and monkeys.

The liberal New York Times carried two withering commentaries by columnist Maureen Dowd essentially blaming this latest Mid East crisis on George W. Bush. Here we go again. Don’t, whatever you do, blame the perpetrators. Blame ourselves. We are an easy and accessible scapegoat and most of the opposition party will agree purely on political grounds.

But who is really to blame for this latest violence which unfortunately has taken a fearsome toll on Lebanese civilians and infrastructure? It was Hezbollah, after all, that provoked the conflict by violating an international border to kill and kidnap Israeli soldiers and to fire hundreds of rockets at Israeli towns. These rockets were not aimed at military targets. They were loaded with ball bearings and shrapnel material for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill as many people as possible.

Any responsible sovereign nation faced with this provocation would, if it had the capacity, take at least the steps that Israel has in attempting to protect its citizens from these attacks. Why, then, the criticism of Israel and of the United States and Britain for “siding” with Israel? It is truly tragic that innocent Lebanese are victims of this war but are the lives of Israeli victims of the rocket attacks any less valuable? Eventually, a nation must pay a price for allowing terrorist groups who advocate violence and hatred to operate with impunity within their borders and, indeed, even participate in government. Lebanon is now paying that price.

But the blame goes deeper still. There is a long history of UN “peacekeeping” activity in southern Lebanon. In the six years since Israel withdrew its troops from the area, UN observers have stood silently by as Iran and Syria rearmed Hezbollah which is consequently proving to be a far tougher opponent than expected, resulting in more casualties and damage. While the UN and the participants dither over the terms of a cease fire agreement, Israel has no choice but to continue the fight in an attempt to make northern Israel safer from rocket attacks. Why aren’t Europe and the rest of the world, and our own liberal press, blaming Iran and Syria? Because they are busy arguing that Israel’s military action and any support of it by America and the west will only harden Muslim and Arab hatred of the west. I have news for them. Muslim and Arab hatred is has already hardened. Meanwhile, France’s foreign minister recently described Iran as a stabilizing force in the area.

It is naïve to believe that a UN peacekeeping force inserted into southern Lebanon will be any more effective than past UN forces have been. Most UN member states are reluctant participants in this kind of heavy lifting. They are happy to wear those spiffy blue helmets and “observe” but going into harm’s way is quite another matter. Combat is not in their job description. They lack the training, experience and command and control resources to operate effectively together in a combat environment as we have seen repeatedly in the past. A NATO force under U.S. or British command would have a chance but a UN force will be ineffective at preventing further fighting or a resumption of fighting unless Hezbollah disarms voluntarily. Fat chance of that.

Whether it is ready yet to admit it or not, the western world is the target of a jihad by Islamic extremists. Many Europeans and liberals in the United States are still in a state of denial. There are and will be multiple fronts and battles in this war. Israeli is not only engaged in one of these battles, it is literally fighting for survival. The United States and Britain are right to support Israel in this vital struggle. Hezbollah and its patrons, Iran and Syria, must not be perceived as winning this battle. The rest of Europe and our own liberal left should take a break from Bush bashing and wake up to reality. CRO

copyright 2006 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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