Thursday, July 27, 2006

The logic of war

Jeff Weintraub says, 'Furthermore, this time around we haven't seen such an explosion of open hatred against Israel as in previous crises.'

I don't know about this. I can only give a few impressions. Much of the British media is strongly angled against Israel (and beyond it, the US). I'm thinking of Channel 4 News, but also the BBC, to a degree. Yet quite a few people still support Israel's right to self-defence or don't automatically think the worst of incidents like the one where 4 UN observers were killed (which does look bad).

Maybe Jeff's right. It's not so much hatred as a weariness after Iraq, and the feeling is directed more against the US than Israel. Someone on a phone-in said he felt like throwing his Labour Party card in the bin over this. (It's not mentioned in the 'blog', but it was soon after 17:30 GMT).

Much of it derives from the canard that Blair decided from the beginning that there should not be a cigarette paper between Britain's position and the US's. It may be a canard but it's coming from some people in pretty high places: Tony Blair's former foreign policy adviser Sir Stephen Wall (Wall was also interviewed on the BBC WS, World Today, around 7:15 GMT.).

Anyway, as I've said before, the British are unlikely to take part in an international force -.too tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan... (Maybe a token force, but what good is that?) 
For the US, similar considerations would seem to apply: any forces they have available for the region would be better used to deal with the security situation in Iraq. (I heard first that they were merely redeploying forces internally within Iraq to Baghdad, then that they were bringing in 3000 extra from Kuwait.)
Still, I have heard the opinion that the Americans and British should be in the south, the Russians and Turks in the north (of southern Lebanon) ...
It is said that the Germans would not take part either because of the 'sensitivities'. Personally, I wouldn't object to it. (On the diplomatic front, Angela Merkel's government is said to be quite close to the US and Britain's position.)
So, attention has focused on 3 mediterranean countries who are supportive of the US in Afghanistan, but not in the more difficult case of Iraq:  
Spain, who I heard might provide 200 troops (another token force);  Italy;  above all, France.

Philippe Douste-Blazy, French FM on France Inter this morning (27 Jul; Question directe  and Radiocom, c'est vous ). The view that has been put out in the British media (on Channel 4 News), that France is going cold on the idea of an international force, seems to me to be unfounded. Nonetheless, I do find the French position confusing.

On the one hand, they call for the implementation of resolution 1559 (ie disarming Hezbollah) and the immediate unconditional release of the two capured Israeli soldiers. On the other, they call for an immediate ceasefire and for the international force to be UN rather than NATO (this would be seen as a western force, they say).

Hezbollah would accept a ceasefire, at least so the Syrians say, but not the unconditional release of the capured Israeli soldiers. Douste-Blazy thinks that negotiations should include the release of the 'Lebanese prisoners' held by the Israelis (**). So, if a ceasefire were to come into force tomorrow, say, Israel would stay in control of the small area of south Lebanon they have occupied so far, until it can hand over to an international force. This would then have to ensure the disarming of Hezbollah in the rest of the buffer zone, as far as the Litani river. That's the least Israel would accept. Or maybe they would just be assisting the Lebanese army in doing this. But there are considerable problems with this, as previously discussed.

There are a lot of ifs and a lot of contradictions. But there again, as I suggested in the last post, a 'plan' does not have to be logical, if it stands no chance of being put into effect.

(*) canard: this isn't really the right word. What I mean is that it's an argument that is irrelevant to the real issues: the ceasefire, the international force, Hezbollah's agression and the pretexts for it...

(**) The prisoners Again, I can only give my own impressions, but I've heard a lot of the coverage (from France Inter and Europe 1 as well as the British media) and I haven't heard anything that gives the full picture about this. Harry's Place had this:
According to The NY Times: Israel is holding close to 9,000 Palestinian prisoners, though the number of Lebanese prisoners is believed to be small. Many of the Lebanese prisoners were freed in the swap two years ago, which was mediated by Germany. Comment by: Gene at July 19, 2006 05:23 PM
Israel cannot accept any 'linkage' with the Palestinian prisoners issue, since this would concede to Hezbollah the right to intervene whenever it doesn't like anything Israel is doing in Gaza (or the West Bank).

The BBC has this on its website: '... Israel now admits to holding just three Lebanese. Chief among those is Samir Qantar...'

Update 2: Channel 4 News had another interview with Stephen Wall tonight (27 Jul). They also had a piece about Samir Quntar - 'the symbol of the prisoners' (or the one Lebanese prisoner) held by the Israelis. They said that the Israelis refuse to release him because 'he has Israeli blood on his hands'.  Lindsey Hilsum continued: 'The US & Israel did not choose the timing of this war.' The US & Israel did not choose this war full stop.

Another commenter (on Harry's Place) referred to this, on the French position: 'La France solidaire du Liban sans condamner Israël'.


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