Saturday, July 22, 2006

Krauthammer's Latest Outrage

This blog will probably criticize Charles Krauthammer on many occasions for no better reason than that my local newspaper carries his column. Although Krauthammer writes interesting columns on medical ethics and is capable of being reasonable on other matters, on questions of foreign policy in general and Israel in particular, Krauthammer is either insane or a shameless liar. His most recent column is a particlarly egregious example.

Writing in defense of Israel's recent all-out war on Lebanon in general and Hezbollah in particular, Krauthammer says, "The majority of Lebanese -- Christian, Druze, Sunni Muslim and secular -- bitterly resent their country being hijacked by Hezbollah and turned into a war zone."

This is true so far as it goes. Christian, Sunni, Druze and secular Lebanese do oppose Hezbollah and these groups, combined, are a majority of Lebanese. But Krauthammer neglects to mention that Hezbollah does have the support of one group of Lebanese, the Shiites. And the Shiites, though a minority, are a plurality, i.e., the largest single religious group, making up about 40% of the population. Hezbollah remains popular with the Shiites of Lebanon, because it drove Israel out of southern Lebanon, because of it gives once-excluded Shiites a place in Lebanese politics, because of the social services it provides, because of its honesty and lack of corruption, and because it keeps the people in the territory it controls in the constant grip of its propaganda. Any country in which 40% of the population support an independent militia outside of government control and 60% oppose it has obvious problems beyond its ability to resolve.

Krauthammer ignores the popularity of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and offers the following recommendation. "Israel liberates south Lebanon and gives it back to the Lebanese. It starts by preparing the ground with air power, just as the Gulf War began with a 40-day air campaign. . . . Just as in Kuwait 1991, what must follow the air campaign is a land invasion to clear the ground and expel the occupier."

Surely he does not believe his own words! Since Hezbollah has the overwhelming support of the people of southern Lebanon, to "liberate" the area from its Hezbollah effectively means "liberating" southern Lebanon from its inhabitants. Expelling the "occupier" is nothing like expelling the invading Iraqi army from Kuwait. Neither will it be like Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, in which it easily expelled the PLO, which was also an alien presence. The Shiites of southern Lebanon so hated the PLO presence that they greeted the Israeli army as liberators and showered them with rose petals and rice. Today, Hezbollah is indistiguishable from the general population, which gives it their support. Expelling the "invader" means expelling the whole population.

And there is ample evidence that the Israelis understand this; hence their practice of dropping leaflets warning the inhabitants to flee, following by bombing campaigns that destroy entire villages. (Touted as examples of the Israelis' respect for life; they warn people to flee before laying waste to the area). Indeed, the evidence is growing that Israel intends to expell everyone south of the Litani River (some 300,000 people) to creat an uninhabited 30 mile buffer zone. But this will still not be good enough. At least, it is my understanding that Hezbollah has rockets with a range greater than 30 miles and will still be able to hit Israel even after being driven back past the Litani River. So what is Israel to do after that? "Liberate" Lebanon from its Shiite population all the way from the border to Beirut? And, if so, who is to move into southern Lebanon to keep Hezbollah from re-infiltrating? I am not suggesting that Israel is contemplating anything so drastic as all that, only that no military action any less drastic will remove the threat of rockets altogether.

Krauthammer says that Israel is the "only country" that can defeat Hezbollah because the Lebanese army is too weak, Europe is too insular, and the United States has had a "Lebanon allergy" ever since Hezbollah blew up a Marine compound last time we intervened. He neglects to mention that Israel's last attempt to defeat Hezbollah was an 18 year occupation and guerrilla war in which Israel eventually withdrew, defeated. Since defeating Hezbollah today will essentially mean crushing and subjugating the 40% of all Lebanese who are Shiite that, too, will be a long, dirty, messy unconventional war of the kind that Israel, too, is "allergic" to.

So that leaves just one other radical suggestion. Try diplomacy. Reasonable commentators differ on whether Syria and Iran are behind Hezbollah's initial provocation. But given the amount of armanents these two countries supply Hezbollah, surely they could rein in their unruly ally. Of course, this would mean actually talking to the governments of Syria and Iran and dropping the stance of "We don't negotiate with evil; we defeat it." Bush (and for that matter, Krauthammer) should give some thought as to why talking to these hostile regimes is so much worse than allowning Israel's destruction of Lebanon to continue. How many Lebanese can Israel drive from their homes before that, too, becomes "evil"?

Oh, yes, and as to the original question as to whether Krauthammer's column is lying or honest lunacy? My bet is on lying.

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