So here, this morning, we have news of the IAF attack on the south Lebanese village of Qana, in which more than 50 people were killed, mainly women and children. The fact that Olmert, Peretz and Halutz offered an immediate apology and pledged an investigation tells you it’s probably just as bad as it sounds.
Since Hizbullah doesn’t broadcast news of their casualties, I think the damage Israel is doing to its fighting strength on the ground is likely being understated. But I don’t see how we can argue, at this point at least, that Hizbullah as a movement doesn’t seem strengthened by all this. Hopefully there’s some way out of this in which the underlying problem here can be solved — Lebanon’s lack of control over the belligerent militia controlling its southern border. But it’s hard to find the signs promising at this moment. And for Israel, one number tells the irreducible story. 140 rockets fell on northern Israel today. That’s the highest count since July 12th when the whole thing started. And in terms of how Israel understands its own security, that’s the most damning thing: even using main force, they can’t stop the rocket attacks on their civilian areas.
As I said a couple days ago, the thing about this region is that things can always get worse, much worse.
And along those lines, I wanted to finish this post by flagging something ominous that keeps coming up in the Israeli press. There’s a mix of public and private communications going on between Jerusalem and Damascus. Israel is trying to assure Damascus that they don’t plan or want to expand the war to include Syria. Syria is clearly worried that they will and has their troops on full alert. Israel is also warning in no uncertain terms that Syria getting involved will spark massive retaliation.
But there are persistent signs that the US is egging Israel on to bring the war to Damascus.
Here’s a clip from the end of an article today in the Jerusalem Post …
[Israeli]Defense officials told the Post last week that they were receiving indications from the United States that the US would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria.
And there are other ominous indications of the US pressing for expansion the Israelis don’t seem to want.
There’s more here than the US not wanting a ceasefire before meaningful changes on the ground have happened in south Lebanon. Or at least I fear there is. This started because Israel doesn’t want and won’t tolerate a menacing militia building up on their northern border and lashing out with occasional raids or missile attacks, especially in the context of withdrawals from other areas.
The world has sat by for six years and let Hizbullah’s anamolous position in south Lebanon be Israel’s problem. Whether their response was wise or just, I’ll set aside for the moment. It’s not about totalitarianism or Afghanistan or Iraq, at least not in an operational sense, or dingbat fantasies about Freedom and Terror. But there do appear to be forces in Washington — seemingly the stronger ones, with Rice just a facade — who see this whole thing as an opportunity for a grand call of double or nothing to get out of the disaster they’ve created in the region. Go into Syria, maybe Iran. Try to roll the table once and for all. No failed war that a new war can’t solve. Condi’s mindless ‘birth pangs’ remark wasn’t just a gaffe — or perhaps it was a gaffe in the Kinsleyan sense of inopportunely saying what you really think. That seems to be the thinking — transformation through destabilization.