Why Invade Lebanon Now?

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Not surprisingly, The New Republic is busting out the pom-poms and cheering on Israel’s latest incursion into Lebanon. Here are two telling quotes:

The attacks [by Hamas and Hezbollah] were unprovoked, except by the attackers’ view of the world. Israel has rightly chosen to regard these provocations very seriously, and so far it has earned the sympathy of decent observers everywhere. …

Hezbollah has always been Hamas’s teacher in the great madrassa of anti-Israeli terrorism. Now the teacher has taken a cue from the student and taken its own Israeli hostages. Israel must now remind its adversaries that it was deadly in earnest when, decades ago, it proclaimed that it would tolerate no such aggression along its northern border.

The first part, sloppy ad hominems aside (i.e., suggesting that anyone who disagrees shares “the attackers’ view of the world”), basically makes a fair point as far as Lebanon is concerned: Hezbollah did launch an unprovoked attack and was wrong to do so. Israel may well have the “right” to respond (although thus far its actual response has been massively disproportionate and completely unjust). But just because they have the right doesn’t mean it’s the smart thing to do.

As many people remember, “decades ago” when Israel “proclaimed that it would tolerate no such aggression along its northern border,” as TNR put it, the end result was an occupation of southern Lebanon that didn’t really solve much of anything. And it’s hard to imagine that going in immediately, bombing a bunch of Lebanese civilians and disabling the Beirut airport, and potentially turning Lebanon into a failed state is going to solve much of anything this time around, either.

That’s especially true given the other options that were available here. The UN has long demanded that Hezbollah disarm and it’s quite possible that a greater amount of diplomatic pressure could’ve potentially been brought to bear on Lebanon by the international community before full-scale war “needed” to be launched. Meanwhile, it appears that the Bush administration’s preferred solution to this crisis is to ramp up tensions with Iran. That should end well, no doubt.

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